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 to be used as a storehouse. In 1600, an Act of Parliament provided that the building become a tolbooth text of that act reads: "The shiref of the shiref-dome of Kincardin in all time cum sall sit and hald their courtis at Stanehyve".
After 1624, the town business functions were conducted on the upper level of the Stonehaven Tolbooth, with the ground floor was used as the prison.
By 1685, there are further accounts of the Stonehaven Tolbooth functioning as the seat of justice for all of Kincardineshire (the former shire of this district that was eventually subsumed into Aberdeenshire).
When new county government facilities were built in the year 1767, the Stonehaven tolbooth reverted to its earlier humble use as a storehouse.
In 1963, the Tolbooth was in need of restoration, which resulted in the present day use configuration of a local history museum on the ground floor and a destination restaurant on the above level. The museum holds relics dating to the Iron Age, as well as memorabilia from the eras defined by the Tolbooth’s existence.
It was closed by Aberdeenshire Council officials in March 2011 and all the artefacts were removed as the authority needed to cut £58million from its budget over the next two years.
A group of volunteers from Stonehaven Town Partnership, Stonehaven and District Community Council and the local heritage society revived the facility however and it reopened in May 2011
Pat Deans, of Findon, was the 1000th visitor to pass through the door on 25th June 2011
Despite reaching this milestone the visitor numbers will fall short of 2010 unless more volunteers come forward.
Tolbooth committee member Phil Mills-Bishop said: “We marked it with a certificate and it was good and yes it’s an achievement but we want to do better than that. We want to open at least six days a week and need to double our volunteer force.
“Like in all things there are some issues we have to address. Nothing is as a simple as it appears. It’s only through the work of a small group that things are progressing. That small group can’t carry the burden all the time and we have to get more volunteers in the museum.
“We’re committed to opening three days a week, but that’s not good enough. Look at all the people we are missing when the doors are closed.
“Although we’re doing well on footfall on days we’re open, we’re still going to fall well short of the total that went through the door last year under Aberdeenshire Council and if we’re trying to prove we can run the facility better than they can we have to do better.
“We have to improve the accessibility of the museum and that comes back to staffing and the volunteers.
“We have had a lot of feedback about the fantastic job we’re doing but when we ask people to come and get involved for three hours on an afternoon that’s much more difficult.
“There must be people out there - particularly the young - who find themselves unemployed in the current climate or they are possibly not sure what they want to do, have the summer free, and want to put something on their CV. We can give them that opportunity. Also people who are retired have time and professional skills we can use.”
Mr Mills-Bishop explained volunteers would have the opportunity to gain experience in till work, artefact handling, health and safety practices and interacting with visitors.
“Volunteers with language skills would be particularly useful,” he added.
The museum currently opens from 1.30-4.30pm Friday to Sunday.
Check out Summer Residencies at the Tolbooth
Anyone interested in volunteering at the museum should contact Gordon Ritchie at Connons of Stonehaven on 01569 762971.