The History of 395 King Street
The building was completed and first occupied by the Royal Aberdeenshire Highlanders in 1862. These quarters, which were for permanent staff, consisted of a block of stores, guard room and offices, which surrounded an ample parade ground. In poor weather, the men were provided with adequate shelter within the staff quarter’s basement.
Before long the accommodation was enhanced by converting the ranges of open shelters into barrack rooms, and then a considerable number of men were quartered in the barracks. The permanent staff had however, not long occupied the new quarters when they had to move to other accommodation due to an infectious disease which prevailed in Aberdeen in 1864 and it was deemed unsafe to keep the regiment there. This led to the training of the regiment being conducted at Fort George.
In 1880, the accommodation became insufficient therefore additional barrack rooms were built to house an extra 300 men.
In 1882, the Royal Aberdeenshire Highlanders became the 3rd Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders. At this time the staff based at the barracks consisted of Officers, Warrant Officers and permanent Staff Sergeants. All other ranks lived at home in the local area, and reported to the depot when drills and training were required.
No recorded history of the barracks can be found after 1882, until Aberdeen Corporation Tramways bought the property in 1914.
Aberdeen Corporation Tramways
Aberdeen Corporation Tramways purchases the barracks in King Street with the intention of providing a central depot and repair shop to replace the existing one at Dee Village Road, which was becoming too small to cope with the work of the Transport Department. However, with the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the barracks were again taken over by the military authorities, which put building schemes on hold until it was vacated in November 1918 at the end of the war.
The transport department then set about reconstructing the premises and built accommodation for a number of tramcars once the military authorities vacated the building.
But not all Gordon Highlanders moved out…
In 1915 Captain Beaton, an army officer during World War 1, returned from the trenches in France after sustaining head injuries. After treatment and recuperation he was later transferred to King Street barracks. In March 1918 he received his orders posting him back to France, but Captain Beaton had endured enough. The following morning his body was found hanging in the southeast turret of the building, which at the time was used at the Officers Mess. The Captain has since been known to haunt the building, and has been spotted in full regimental dress by members of staff on several occasions with the latest sighting in October 1988.
1925 to Date
In 1925, a rapid extension of bus services took place, which required an increase in the fleet of buses and extra garage space. This was achieved by purchasing premises at Canal Road, capable of holding 70 buses.
During 1932, a big extension was carried out at King Street workshops, enabling the overhauling of both trams and buses to be centralised.
In 1958, further extension were carried out at King Street to provide facilities for garaging, servicing and repair of the fleet, which with the withdrawal of the trams, consisted of 230 buses. The centralisation of work allowed the department to close the depots at Queens Cross, Woodside, Mannofield, Canal Road, the Beach and Torry.
Grampian Regional Transport remained a department of the Council until 1986 when the Transport Act necessitated the formation of a private company, Grampian Regional Transport Ltd, was initially owned by the council but operated at arms length. In 1989, the employees of the transport company made a successful bid to buy the company from the council and on the 20th January 1989, the company was substantially owned by its employees under ESOP (Employee Share Ownership Plan).
Later the parent company, GRT Bus Group plc, after making several acquisitions, was the subject of a stock market flotation and was soon to merge with Badgerline to form FirstBus, which changed its name in 1998 to FirstGroup plc after acquiring interests in airport and rail operations.
FirstGroup plc is now the UK's largest surface Transport Company, with revenue of over £6.0bn per annum and more than 130,000 employees across the UK and North America.