The museum has a number of artefacts associated with Stonehaven’s heritage, many with an association with the days when the building served as a prison. For example, visitors can view an original cell door, the Inverbervie stocks (one of the few seven hole stocks in the UK) and the Crank - a punishment device which was weighted down and had to be turned by prisoners. Tightening the screw would make it harder for the prisoner. (This is why prison guards are called screws).
The Tolbooth also has a connection with DunnottarCastle, in particular the incarceration in 1748 of three Episcopalian clergy for the crime of holding a religious ceremony to more than nine people.
Kitchen and household bygone day's items are on display such as a hand powered washing machine, tattie chipper and spurtle.
Display boards commemorate the discovery of the fossil of the first known oxygen-breathing animal (Pneumodesmus newmani) on land at nearby Cowie by Mike Newman. The fossil has been dated to 428 million years ago.
The Tolbooth museum was operated by the local authority from 1975 to 2011. However, by 2011 the economic downturn was affecting all local authorities and Aberdeenshire Council decided to withdraw all funding from the museum and initiated procedures to effect a permanent closure. The local community protested this decision and a band of volunteers now run the facility on a short term basis. Discussions are ongoing in seeking a way in which to retain the museum as a permanent facility and for the last 4 years the Council has provided encouragement and limited financial support. The volunteers have altered the ethos of the museum from one of a fairly static display to one that reflects the vibrant Stonehaven community. We now have a museum overflowing with artefacts from a bygone era, ghost hunting, a dinosaur hunt for children, videos on the Fireballs and the recent storms etc., etc. – all supervised by enthusiastic local people. Currently we are the most popular museum (as measured by footfall) operating under the umbrella of Aberdeenshire Council Museum Services and are attracting visitors from all around the world. We also host wedding ceremonies.
The museum is very family orientated and we encourage visits from the young generation. One of our main attractions is the free DINOSAUR HUNT where youngest find hidden dinsaurs and receive a token Lucky Dip prize. It keeps them occupied whilst parent study our artefacts at their leisure.
Please come and visit us. We need your support and you will learn more about our magnificent heritage.
We now also operate the refurbished Clock Tower in the High Street and it is open on the same days and times as the museum. We also cater for group visits outside our published timesthese times; if you would like to organise a special visit please speak to our committee via the Contact Us page.
Anyone interested in volunteering at the museum should also contact the committee, please see our Volunteers Wanted page for more information.