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Belmont Street

Belmont StreetBelmont Street was open pasture running alongside the Denburn until the 1770´s from which point it was feued for building and quickly developed with a variety of uses and styles in evidence to this day.

' Copyright image, courtesy of Aberdeen City Council'

Belmont Street is a north-south street in the centre of Aberdeen runs perpendicular to Union Street. 

Belmont Street originated with the late 18th century expansion of the town. It was part of a development out of the town into suburbs to the west by the towns richer denizens. For example, Thomas Menzies of Pitfoddels one of Aberdeen's wealthiest merchants of the time, moved from his long-standing town house Pitfoddels Lodge on Castle Street (which is now the site of the North of Scotland Bank to a five-bay two-storey house on Belmont Street in 1788. The street overlooked the valley of the Denburn and was developed on vacant ground there in the 1780s, housing there initially comprising the domiciles of the wealthy, typified by large town houses with gardens running down to the river.  A few of the houses from the late 18th century still survive on Belmont Street today, including Menzies'.


The Trades Hall

Tall, substantial Hall buildings designed to be viewed principally from Union Terrace and Rosemount Viaduct. Architects
Alexander Ellis and Robert Gordon Wilson, dated 1896

Diminutive single bay grey granite ashlar entrance at 51 Belmont Street: pilastered and keystoned arch with scrolled segmental panel dated 1896 over parapet. Arch leads to 6-bay Main Hall: squared grey granite rubble with tooled dressings; 6 round-headed openings to Upper Hall North and South elevations. West elevation: Venetian window at upper level; shouldered wallhead stack above flanked by corbelled, domed and finialed bartizans at western angles. Staggered staircase descends length of North elevation.  Predominantly blacked-out windows; grey slate, piended roof to main hall.  Interior: Originally 2 principal storeys, the main hall was  converted to a cinema and divided horizontally at gallery level; retains some plasterwork.

Situated directly to the rear of 47 Belmont Street, the diminutive entrance at Belmont Street gives little hint of the large and impressive former Trades Hall to which it leads.

 

Making full use of the different levels of the site, local architects Ellis and Wilson designed an impressive Hall which adds significantly to the streetscape of Rosemount Viaduct. Tall and narrow with clasping bartizan towers, it is a distinctive piece of architecture. 

Designed for the Trades Council, it was used principally for meetings of Aberdeen's newly established Labour Movement.

The ceiling of the main hall originally had painted panels, possibly still in existence under later paint.  

The Trades Hall was converted to the Coliseum - New Kinema and eventually the Belmont Cinema and stood adjacent to the Triple Free Kirks.

Closed as Cinema in 1952, and the building converted to a warehouse.  Reopened as the Belmont in October 2000 after major refurbishments, with 3 screens seating 268, 146, and 65.

Rear views of the Trades Hall

Bolton Unity Friendly Society established or absorbed local lodges early in the 20th century, at which time there were about 59 lodges in the city. Local lodges objected to conditions imposed by Bolton Unity's HQ in Manchester, and in 1889 they established an independent society, the Caledonian Order of United Oddfellows. The Oddfellows remained important until the 1950's, with an Oddfellows Hall in Belmont Street until 1943. More detail can be found in a good history "Trade Unionism in Aberdeen 1878-1900', K.D. Buckley (Edinburgh 1955).


Bath House
Alongside the Denburn and illustrated on the Milne map was a Fine Public Baths served by spring water .
Baths were opened on the east side of the Denburn vale, for which there was a commodious bathing-house, with dressing-rooms and every requisite; they were amply supplied with pure spring water, and, previously to the establishment of those another near the sea, numerously attended. The beach on the sea-coast is a fine level sand, affording every facility for bathing, and is much frequented during the season, by visitors from different parts of the country; bathing machines are in constant attendance, and on the shore are warm salt-water baths fitted up with every accommodation.

1 and 3 Belmont Street: earlier 19th century. 7 Denburn Road: possibly by Archibald Simpson who had premises in Little Belmont Street. mid 19th century. Prominent, internally-linked commercial buildings with contrasting elevations to both Belmont Street and Denburn Road. Situated on steeply sloping ground.

Belmont Street (East elevation): 3-storey and attic, 4-bay, Classical commercial building on gently sloping site. Grey granite ashlar. Base course; band course between ground and 1st floor. Tall round-arched openings to
Public House at ground floor with astragalled, fixed-pane glazing and ornamental cast-iron railings. Steps to slightly recessed 2-leaf door at far right bay with fixed-pane fanlight above. Regular fenestration at 1st and 2nd floors returning to curved bay at SE corner; pair of canted tripartite dormers.
Denburn Road (W elevation): 5-storey, 4-bay flat-roofed addition to earlier Belmont Street building. Roughly squared and coursed granite rubble with irregular Aberdeen Bond snecking; raised cills; projecting band cornice. Pair of broad, round-arched openings at ground floor; round-arched openings at 1st floor; regular fenestration at floors above. Returns to single bay to S elevation. Predominantly blind openings at North elevation.  Predominantly 4-pane timber sash and case windows throughout. Grey slate, pitched roof to Belmont Street with curving ashlar skew to SE corner; Gable end stacks with clay cans. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

1 and 3 Belmont Street and 7 Denburn Road is a prominent and unusual commercial building with 2 distinct and contrasting elevations reflecting the steeply sloping site and the different building phases. Follows the Classical Aberdeen tradition with its ashlar granite and round arched ground floor which survives along with its good quality integral iron-work railings. The later addition at 7 Denburn Road to the rear rises an impressive 5 storeys with round arched openings to the ground and 1st floors. It forms a distinctive part of the streetscape and is visible from Union Street Viaduct and Union Terrace. Reference is made to this part of the building in the Aberdeen Journal on 15th Jan 1840, regarding necessary additions to the adjacent Aberdeen Hotel (now Victoria Restaurant) by Archibald Simpson. The rubble build is particularly unusual for Simpson. 

The four turreted Congregational Church, Belmont Street C1865. Architect William Leslie, although it may have been designed by James Souttar, since the apse is based on Lund Cathedral, Stockholm, where Souttar had been working.

Together, these buildings are located in Aberdeen's commercial heart and are evidence of the success of the expanding city in the 19th century. A stepped pend, similar to the one at Patagonian Court (Inset), runs the length of the building's North elevation from Belmont Street down to the Denburn below. This is currently blocked off to public access for safety reasons.

The Gaelic Chapel was founded in the 18th century in response to the increasing numbers of Highlanders who came to the city in search of work. At 1st, they held services in the East Church of St. Nicholas but, in the 1790s, they obtained ground in the area between Belmont Street and Back Wynd, now known as Gaelic Lane. The opening services in the new Church were conducted on 30th August 1795. In 1843, at the Disruption, the whole congregation followed their minister, Rev. Hugh Mackenzie, into the Free Church. By 1882, the Church had become old and delapidated and needed so much renovation that the congregation decided to move. The property was disposed of and was used as a printing office by G. & W. Fraser for a number of years. The congregation moved to a Church on Dee Street which had become vacant on the disbanding of the United Free Methodists and it was named St. Columba United Free Church. In 1907, they amalgamated with the High United Free Church and moved to their church at the junction of Belmont Street and Schoolhill.


Fit's on i' Wireless Ma?

Aberdeen was picked by John Reith (formerly of Stonehaven) to be 1 of the BBC’s 1st Radio stations and premises were sought in the area.  Accommodation was rented at the rear of Aberdeen Electrical Engineering’s property at 17 Belmont Street. Access to the premises was gained by the narrow stairway at the rear of the shop. On the 2nd floor were a couple of small offices and a large room.

The room was an old Meeting Hall overlooking the main Aberdeen to Inverness Railway line. It was converted into a rudimentary studio by draping heavy black curtains on the walls to deaden the noise from the passing trains. The studio was particularly affected by the vagaries of the North-East weather. The lack of central heating meant the temperature veered between freezing cold in the winter to boiling hot during the summer due to the building being West facing..

Radio was a very young science and the potential strength of transmissions was limited by technology and power consumption rather than frequency allocations. Additionally, the BBC needed to cover the greatest population in the quickest way possible to make the service profitable for the Company’s private shareholders.  This resulted in Citywide coverage for most areas, but little or no rural coverage.  The Aberdeen Radio Station was assigned the call sign ‘2BD’ and began broadcasting on 495 metres on a cold blustery evening on 10 October 1923. The Marquis of Aberdeen performed the ceremony before the evening’s transmission began in earnest. His opening address was heard at 9pm, followed by music from the band of the 2nd Gordon Highlanders. Among those attending the debut transmission were Station Director R. E. Jeffery, John Reith and the Lord Provost of Aberdeen. There, too, was Captain Peter Eckersley, the BBC’s charismatic and eccentric Chief Engineer.


There were several churches on Belmont Street. The Triple Kirk, a free church established in 1844 at the junction of Belmont Street and Schoolhill, was deliberately sited with the intention of rivalling the established "Auld Kirk" of St Nicholas parish.  A building to house the unification of the East, South, and West Free Churches of the town, it was designed by Archibald Simpson.  There is now a pub, the Triple Kirks, on the site.  The South Church is also on Belmont Street.  In November 1779, the United Presbyterians  of north Aberdeen moved to a purpose-built 800-seat church on Belmont Street. The Relief United Presbyterians established a Belmont Street congregation a little after 1778, when funds began to be raised for a 1000-seat church In 1828, the Belmont Chapel of Ease, as it had come to be, became a fully fledged parish church.

The Triple Kirks, built to the design of Archibald Simpson, in 1843, to house three separate congregations after the Disruption - East, West and South. Due to lack of funds, 2nd-hand building materials were used (reputedly the dismantlings from the Old Dee Village), and the spire which was modelled on that of the Katherinenkirche, Magdeburg, is of 18th century Ferryhill brick.

Formerly Nichol Smith & Co. (37 Belmont Street)


                                   Former Church 33 Belmont Street

Aberdeen Journal, 3rd Sept 1873:
To be sold by public roup 24 Sept. at 22 Belmont St., Aberdeen, 4/64ths of the substantial and fast sailing vessel "ABERGELDIE" of Aberdeen.


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Last modified: 01/09/2013