The Chain House at 1 St Peter Street is one of the finest Georgian buildings in Peterhead. Conveniently sited just where the trail was originally planned to start, we were hampered by one teenie wee problem - nobody seemed to know much about the house’s early history. No juicy stories, either. So the trail began just down the road, and the Chain House continued to stand quietly on the corner, avoiding fuss and keeping its secrets.
More than a year later, the question continues to fascinate our curious band of crackpot historians. Then the Scottish Week walks threw out a clue. One of the local history books made reference to a girls’ boarding school that ran from the house from the 1830’s to the 1850’s, run by Miss Gray and her friend Miss Pringle, both from Edinburgh. Time to let our pet genealogist out to investigate this tantalising clue.
The 1851 census showed that Miss Gray and Miss Pringle had run a school, but from a different house. Their establishment was at no.11 (currently occupied by Maskame and Tait). Being in Peterhead, we know a bit about herring, and this one was most definitely red.
British Newspaper Archive to the rescue! In 1861, 1 St. Peter Street was advertised for sale on behalf of Miss Jane Arbuthnot of Willowbank.
The 1841 census shows Jane living with her older sister, Mary in the Chain House, where they filled their time with good works around the town.
By 1851, the sisters had decanted to Willowbank. Mary died in 1859. Jane survived her by 10 years. They are buried in Old St Peters churchyard.
Mary’s death certificate shows that their father was Thomas Arbuthnot of Nether Kinmundy (described as a “landed proprietor”, who died in 1825). Their mother was Thomas’ wife, Jane Buchan. We suspect the Misses Arbuthnot inherited the Chain House, and while we don’t know for certain, it is looking very likely that it was built either for Thomas Arbuthnot, or a relative of Jane Buchan. The search goes on.