Footdee, Aberdeen

Footdee white house

Footdee (pronounced "Fittie") is a small fishing village near Aberdeen harbour. From the beach it’s easy to miss but turn a corner and you're in a delightful square full of dinky little houses gathered round a communal green. Round the outside of the square the buildings are regular - neat rows of granite cottages and townhouses but round the inside they're anything but with shacks, sheds and outhouses jumbled with washing lines, plants, flowers and even a church.

The wonderful thing about Footdee is the randomness of these buildings. They're pretty puzzling. It's hard to tell if they're outhouses, or holiday homes or perhaps mansions for a race of tiny seafaring people. No two are the same and the styles range from miniatures houses with well-kept gardens to ramshackle structures made of found materials that look like only luck is holding them up. The only place I've seen anything similar is at Dungeness. In the details there are lots of seafaring accoutrements - model boats, ships-in-bottles and glass fishing weights. Hanging on one shack, a lifebelt from the Thermopylae, the world’s fastest sailing boat built in 1868 by the Aberdeen White Star Line, is a nod to local nautical heritage.

There are three squares altogether. North and South Squares were designed in the early 19th century by Aberdeen City architect John Smith who also designed Balmoral Castle. Pilot Square, built to a better standard for pilots of the harbour boats was added later. Looking closely, there are some clever design features - the houses are low and face inward to shelter from the sea, the pitched roofs keep the rain off and even the chimney pots are specially designed to keep seagulls away. As the cottages were so small, they were sold with space for an outhouse opposite, which explains the more idiosyncratic architectural elements. For fisherfolk this would be somewhere to keep your nets and other necessary equipment.

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In February 2008

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