Jealous of his brother’s new university, Robert Keith, Lord of Benholm, deliberately sited his new home within sight of Marischal College. Such was their sibling rivalry that Sir Robert took a group of miscreants to occupy the Abbey of Deer which also belonged to his brother. This resulted in an armed standoff which thankfully ended without bloodshed.
By 1595 the two brothers were reconciled without further incident. Robert died in 1616, and ‘Benholm’s Lodging’ as it was known, then passed through a number of owners, including Patrick Dun, principal of Marischal College, and James Pirie, spirit dealer, turned the basement of Benholm’s Lodging into “The Wallace Tower Bar”, while the other floors were let out. The council continued to use it as housing from 1918, as they were desperate to fill the shortage after the Great War, and the pub remained a well-known drinking establishment.
Fast forward to 1964 and retail giant Marks & Spencers, having bought over ‘Raggie Morrisons’ drapery store next door, wanted to expand, right onto the site where the tower currently stood. It looked like the Wallace Tower would be destroyed for the sake of ‘development’! Enter Dr Simpson, historian, who headed the campaign to protect the B-listed property; thankfully he prevailed, and ‘Markies’ offered to foot the bill to move it brick by brick to its new home in Seaton Park.
|Sketch of Netherkirkgate with the Wellhead by Benholm's Lodging|
Confusion reigned as the Doric tongue was dismissed as uncouth, and some proper Victorian thought it must mean Wallace, and thus refer to the Scots hero. The tower has not only lost its name, but its true identity as a nobleman’s townhouse – perhaps it is time to bring it back to life rather than allowing it to disintegrate and disappear forever?