The Stonehaven Tolbooth is thought to have been founded by George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal (c. 1553–1623), with the original purpose of the rectangular building being to act as a storehouse during the construction of the nearby Dunnottar Castle. In 1600, an Act of Parliament provided that the building become the administrative centre for Stonehaven. After 1624, the town business functions were conducted on the upper level of the Stonehaven Tolbooth, with the ground floor being used as the prison. Currently the museum occupies the ground floor whilst a separate restaurant operates on the upper floor.
The museum has a number of artefacts associated with Stonehaven’s heritage, many with an association with the days when the building served as a prison. For example, visitors can view an original cell door, the Inverbervie stocks (one of the few seven hole stocks in the UK) and the Crank – a punishment device which was weighted down and had to be turned by prisoners. Tightening the screw would make it harder for the prisoner (this is why prison guards are called screws).
The Tolbooth also has a connection with DunnottarCastle, in particular the incarceration in 1748 of three Episcopalian clergy for the crime of holding a religious ceremony to more than nine people.
Display boards commemorate the discovery of the fossil of the first known oxygen-breathing animal (Pneumodesmus newmani) on land at nearby Cowie by Mike Newman. The fossil was initially dated to 428 million years ago but after further research it is now believed to date from 414 million years ago.
Entry is FREE. Everyone is welcome. Donations appreciated.
Summer opening hours - Fri/Sat / Sun/Mon 1.30pm - 4.30pm