Inside Scotland's tough House of Correction where a city's women were sent

It was where offenders of the church were sent to cleanse their souls - along with vagabonds, prostitutes and gossips too.

A depiction of a 'harlot' banging hemp in a House of Correction, by William Hogarth. Women made up the vast majority of those sent to the correctional institution  in Aberdeen, where cloth making was undertaken to promote values of hard work and discipline. PIC: Creative Commons.
A depiction of a 'harlot' banging hemp in a House of Correction, by William Hogarth. Women made up the vast majority of those sent to the correctional institution in Aberdeen, where cloth making was undertaken to promote values of hard work and discipline. PIC: Creative Commons.

The House of Correction in Aberdeen was set up in 1636 after city leaders got permission from Charles I to build an institution to reform the morals of the city's less fortunate.

It was set up by the Kirk Session and the Baillies of Aberdeen, with the House of Correction overwhelmingly populated by women.

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Those incarcerated here were put to the manufacture of coarse cloths but there was added punishment too. Records show whippings, with pregnant women were amongst those lashed, Ms Kavanagh said.

Incarceration records give further insight into those put to the House of Correction, in Correction Wynd.

In 1637, Catherine Reid was incarcerated for pykerie - or stealing - and whoredom, according to accounts. She was punished by whipping after attacking another inmate.

Meanwhile inmate Nan Braine, of Old Aberdeen, was described as a scold - or gossip - who was sent to Correction House as a "misregarder of her master".

Ms Kavanagh said: "The majority of cases were referred by the Kirk Session which reflects the moral and sexual crimes that the women were accused of.

"The Kirk Session did have other punishments but my understanding is they were put here as repeat offenders, when other methods of reform haven't worked. It was also used as a means of deterrent."

The production of cloth was seen as an important function of Correction House.

According to William Kennedy’s Annals of Aberdeen, Robert and Nicholas Beaston were brought from Edinburgh "to superintend the work, and to direct the magistrates in the proper mode of conducting it".

Soldiers during the Civil Wars repeatedly pillaged the goods manufactured by the house, Kennedy added.

The House of Correction was expensive to run and closed between 1647 and 1698,apart from a few short spells when it was used as a stocking manufacturers.

The property was sold in 1711 with a plaque marking the spot of this rather dubious place of moral superiority.