Granite City

The planet we live on is made of rock. There are different kinds of rock that have been formed in different ways. Different types of rock are found in different places.  Aberdeen is well known as a Granite City. Many of the buildings in Aberdeen are made out of granite. Granite is a hard rock that is often used as a building material.

There was once a huge granite quarry in Aberdeen called Rubislaw Quarry. Aberdeen Town Council owned the land with the quarry. In 1788 the Council thought it was no good and sold the land. But Rubislaw Quarry turned out to be very good. Hundreds of thousands of tons of granite were quarried.

By the time the quarry closed, almost 200 years later in 1971 it was about 137 meters deep. The grey granite from Rubislaw was used in many of Aberdeen's buildings. Granite from Aberdeen was also used to pave roads in London.

Working with granite required a lot of skill. In the early days of Aberdeen's granite industry, all cutting was done by hand using hammers and chisels. Skilled men could make square blocks with flat surfaces using picks. Pneumatic tools started to be used in the 1890s. Pneumatic tools are tools powered by compressed air. High-pressure air is forced into the holder which holds a chisel. The chisel is forced up and down. This cuts the granite. The tools came from the USA. Air powered tools needed less strength to work, but still required a lot of skill.

Working with granite could be very dangerous, especially in quarries where explosives were used. When granite dust was breathed in it damaged workers' lungs. Breathing in granite dust causes a disease called silicosis. It makes breathing very difficult. Many masons died from this disease.

Rubislaw Quarry Granite Masons

Related Timelines

Local History - Industry


  1. Is your house built of granite? If not what is it made from?
  2. Do you know which rocks have been used to build houses in other Scottish cities? Try to find out.
  3. Look at the picture of Rubislaw Quarry. Try to imagine how deep the quarry is. Think about what would it have been like to work at the bottom of the quarry?
  4. Many buildings in Aberdeen are made of granite. In Medieval times, many houses in Aberdeen were made out of wood.  Think of the differences between wood and granite houses.  Which would last longer?  Which type of building would cost more?  Which do you think would be easier to build?  Can you think of advantages and disadvantages of both wooden and granite houses?