The Town House, Old Aberdeen
. Once a separate burgh, Old Aberdeen was incorporated into the city in 1891
The Aberdeen area has seen human settlement for at least 8,000 years. The city began as two separate burghs: Old Aberdeen at the mouth of the river Don; and New Aberdeen, a fishing and trading settlement, where the Denburn waterway entered the river Dee estuary. The earliest charter was granted by William the Lion in 1179 and confirmed the corporate rights granted by David I. In 1319, the Great Charter of Robert the Bruce transformed Aberdeen into a property-owning and financially independent community. Granted with it was the nearby Forest of Stocket, whose income formed the basis for the city's Common Good Fund which still benefits Aberdonians.
During the Wars of Scottish Independence, Aberdeen was under English rule, so Robert the Bruce laid siege to Aberdeen Castle before destroying it in 1308, followed by the massacring of the English garrison. The city was burned by Edward III of England in 1336, but was rebuilt and extended. The city was strongly fortified to prevent attacks by neighbouring lords, but the gates were removed by 1770.
The Powis gate Old Aberdeen
During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms of 1644 to 1647 the city was plundered by both sides. In 1644, it was taken and ransacked by Royalist troops after the Battle of Aberdeen and two years later it was stormed by a Royalist force under the command of the Marquis of Huntly. In 1647 an outbreak of bubonic plague killed a quarter of the population. In the 18th century, a new Town Hall was built and the first social services appeared with the Infirmary at Woolmanhill in 1742 and the Lunatic Asylum in 1779. The council began major road improvements at the end of the 18th century with the main thoroughfares of George Street, King Street and Union Street all completed at the beginning of the 19th century.
Union Terrace, Aberdeen, circa 1900
The expensive infrastructure works led to the city becoming bankrupt in 1817 during the Post-Napoleonic depression, an economic downturn immediately after the Napoleonic Wars; but the city's prosperity later recovered. The increasing economic importance of Aberdeen and the development of the shipbuilding and fishing industries led to the construction of the present harbour including Victoria Dock and the South Breakwater, and the extension of the North Pier. Gas street lighting arrived in 1824 and an enhanced water supply appeared in 1830 when water was pumped from the Dee to a reservoir in Union Place. An underground sewer system replaced open sewers in 1865. The city was incorporated in 1891. Although Old Aberdeen has a separate history and still holds its ancient charter, it is no longer officially independent. It is an integral part of the city, as is Woodside and the Royal Burgh of Torry to the south of the River Dee.
Aberdeen was in Pictish territory and became Gaelic-speaking at some time in the medieval period. Old Aberdeen is the approximate location of Aberdon, the first settlement of Aberdeen; this literally means "the mouth of the Don". The Celtic word aber means "river mouth", as in modern Welsh (Aberystwyth, Aberdare, Aberbeeg etc). The Scottish Gaelic name is Obar Dheathain (variation: Obairreadhain; *obar presumably being a loan from the earlier Pictish; the Gaelic term is inbhir), and in Latin, the Romans referred to the river as Devana. Mediaeval (or Ecclesiastical) Latin has it as Aberdonia.