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The Aberdeen Old Burgh Roll of 1317: Case Study

Case Study

Introduction to Aberdeen Archives

The Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives date from the 12th century right up until the present. The UNESCO recognised Burgh registers are truly irreplaceable and hold accounts of what everyday life was like in Aberdeen. Due to the fragile nature of the text, the Archives sought to not only make it accessible on The Stair Society website but also allows them to store the document securely, and still have people be able to view side by side with the translation. We spoke with Phil Astley, the city archivist, about the kind of events recorded in the document, why there was a need to have the document and, ‘the journey’ the document has been on. Some of the stories the that Phil regaled gave us a glimpse into what like was in Aberdeen in 1317.

One such account was about a girl called Ada, and what she had to do to prove her stake on her family’s land. Written 3 years after The Battle of Bannockburn, the document has a letter sewn into the roll issued in the name of Robert the Bruce, that demanded officers in the burgh do their duty justly, in what is described as a succession dispute. Incredible to think that over 700 years later, Workflo was tasked with breathing new like into this fascinating archive.

All pictures are provided by the Aberdeen City Archive

How Workflo Fits In

Workflo document and records management approached this job with a lot of planning and care, measuring 160cm, made of parchment (unidentified animal skins), consisting of four membranes sewn head to tail. The roll is described as being badly damaged reflecting the fragmentary nature of this document, in some parts the text is torn, badly damaged by staining in sections, leaving the reader to make educated guesses as to some parts of the meaning in the next. Workflo’s document and records management approached this task with care and careful planning, holding it in our secure facility for a few days.

After digitising the text Workflo Approached the City Archivist Phil Astley to see if he would be willing to create a video with one of our partners Hey Legal to explore the legal stories in the document and to uncover what life was like in Aberdeen in 1317. The video is due to be released this coming Friday (25/01/2022), and the stories in it give an amazing glimpse into what life was like back then.

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