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The Lands of Ferryhill had belonged to the Trinity Friars, who feued them out to the powerful Menzies dynasty.   After the Reformation of 1560, the Lands of Ferryhill became the property of the Crown.

Dr Patrick Dun purchased the Lands of Ferryhill in 1629 for, it would seem, no other purpose than to bequest them, and all property thereon, by his Will, dated 3rd August 1631, to the ‘Toune of Aberdeine’ for the maintenance of 4 masters at the Grammar School.   Dr Dun bequeathed the whole of this extensive property to the Provost, Baillies and Council of Aberdeen for this specific purpose.   He directed that the rents obtained from these lands should be invested until enough money accumulated to buy another piece of land sufficient to yield, along with the original gift, a yearly revenue of 1,200 merks, this sum being sufficient to pay the basic salaries of the stipulated staff of 4 masters, including the Rector.

The Lands of Ferryhill consisted in those days of bogs and whins, fit only for rough grazing, and were described by Francis Douglas even as late as 1728 as amounting to ‘little conical hills over-run with heath and furze … the flat bottoms between them drenched with stagnant water’.  

Ferryhill was created from the 1st half of the 19th century in an area occupied by grand villas such as Ferryhill House, Devanha House, Ferryhill Lodge, East bank, Maryfield and Fonthill. Ferryhill Place was set out by Archibald Simpson from the 1830s and was well developed with Aberdeen City Heritage Trust 12 Baseline Assessment Consultation Draft terraced properties by 1866.

At the time a small number of plots were set out in Marine Terrace. By the turn of the 20th century the Terrace was complete. Significant further expansion continued following the Extension Act of 1871. Ferryhill could be considered as one of Aberdeen’s 1st historic suburbs and an important historic residential area of the city. The 1871 Act also saw the City boundary extended to take in North Broadford, Fountainhall, Mannofield and Broomhill. 19th century expansion was predominantly a result of private sector speculation by the Trades and through the Land Association, later the City of Aberdeen Land Association.

John McPherson Acknowledges with his most Grateful Thanks, the liberal measure of Patronage so kindly extended to him since he opened the above Gardens, and respectfully invites Inspection of his large Collection of Greenhouse Plants and Florists' Flowers, as well as his extensive Fruit and Vegetable Gardens, which are open to the Public every lawful day, where orders given for Fruit or Flowers will receive prompt attention.  Polmuir being situated within a mile of the centre of the town, on a lovely slope facing the River Dee, near the Ferryhill Railway Station, and having beautiful walks all round, is in every way eminently suited for a Summer Fruit and Flower Garden.  J. McP. begs to state that all Orders left at his Stall, No. 165 to 167 (inclusive), Hall of New Market Buildings, on the North Side, near the Fountain, for Fruit, Flowers, or Vegetables, will be executed with the greatest dispatch. Polmuir, 1st June, 1861.

Ferryhill, an exclusive development located above Aberdeen Advocate Captain Arthur Dingwall Fordyce’s 1790’s Dee Village (also known as Potters Creek) and to the south of the Holburn stream.

Dee Village was a self contained little Hamlet at the end of Crown Street.  It grew up at the end of the 18th century to provide low cost dwellings for many of the workers in the nearby Pottery and Brickworks in the Clayhills area. 

This image was taken in 1898 before demolition to make way for a new Corporation Electricity Power Station at Millburn Street.

The village was built mainly from local brick. The photograph shows the back gardens of the properties with their washing greens. In the centre of the image clothes are lying bleaching on the ground. The water supply for the village was via two lion faced pillar pumps located in the back gardens. Note the prominent roofing tiles and chimney pots which had emanated from the Clayhills Potteries.  The Clayhill bricks were re-cycled in the construction of the the Triple Kirks at Schoolhill.

Aberdeen Map - John Smith Survey 1809

By April 1901, the site of the Dee Village had been completely cleared and the foundations laid for the new Electricity Station. By the end of December 1901, the brick chimney which dominated the surrounding area was complete.

(below) Construction of the Corporation Electricity Works following the demolition of the Dee Village.

The extreme upper end accommodated the Clayhills Brick Works, giving access to ships bringing coals for the kilns and to barges and lighters taking away bricks and drain pipes. The Clayhills were high steep banks of alluvial clay on the site of Wellington Road, between Portland Street and Affleck Street.

Potters’ Creek is indicated in Milne’s map of 1789 where it appears as a group of about 10 buildings close to the mouth of the Ferryhill Burn, a branch of which provided the power for their wheels. There is no indication when these clay seams were first exploited but the name ‘Clayhills’ is mentioned from at least the late 14th century.  Near the burn were ‘banks of laminated clay so steep in the face that sand martins tunnelled long holes in them, where they brought out their young in safety’.  Evidence of clay beds was found at 104 South College Street approximately 350m north of the site and clay pits were observed on an assessment at the junction of Affleck Street and Crown Street during a development.

The Aberdeen Pottery was first mentioned in the Aberdeen Journal of 3rd October 1749 where it declares that he manufactured ‘pan-tile and brick as well as brown earthenware’.  By 1771 it was reported that John Auldjo was making ‘Cream-coloured, Tortoiseshell, Black and Brown Earthen-Ware, Flower-pots, Water-pipes etc.  The site also covers part of the area of the Dee Village built in the 18th century and demolished in the 1890s after it developed into a slum and was bought by the Town Council. In the 1920s it was occupied by the Dee Village Works a steam powered generating station and latterly by Hydro-Electric.

Francis Douglas even as late as 1728 as amounting to ‘little conical hills over-run with heath and furze … the flat bottoms between them drenched with stag­nant water’.   The Lands of Ferryhill had belonged to the Trinity Friars, who feued them out to the powerful Menzies dynasty.   After the Reformation of 1560, the Lands of Ferryhill became the property of the Crown In 1634, the total population of the Royal Burgh of Aber­deen was only about 5,000.   The town consisted of sixteen streets, centred on the Broadgate and the Castlegate.   The lands of Ferryhill – so-named after the ferry across the Dee at Craiglug – were hillocky and marshy, of use for little else but rough grazing by animals.   Land of this kind was abundant and of little value.

Couperstoun or Cuparston was a small hamlet of artisans, approximately one kilometre south-west of the city centre. Fenton Wyness in City by the Grey North Sea attributes the name to ‘cappers toun’ – hamlet of the cappers, or wooden cup-makers. It may more simply have been 'Coopers’ Town, since a brewery sat opposite on the Hardgate for many years in the 18th century. Whichever derivation is preferred, the community was the home of skilled wood workers. Although Cooperstown was a distinct community, it was only a 15-minute walk along the Hardgate, down Windmill Brae and across the Bow Brig to the Green and the heart of the city.

FERRYHILL TRAM ROUTE - Whinhill Road to Castle Street.

Route -  Whinhill Road, Fonthill Road, Ferryhill Road, Crown Street, Union Street, Castle Street.

The route into the City passed through the Ferryhill district, passing along Whinhill Road, where a good view of the Deeside hills could be seen from the tramcar.  At Fonthill Road a 2nd short branch of tramway leads to Holburn Street, passing on the right the West Poor House. The car, after passing down the steep descent of Ferryhill Road, enters Crown Street near the Electric Station. This up-to-date Power Station was erected by the Town Council in 1901, and supplies the electric lighting of the City and also the traction for the City and Suburban cars. Near the other end of the street is the new Central Post Office, erected in the Scottish baronial style at a cost, including
site, of ;£50,000. The car now enters Union Street, and the journey is continued to Castle Street terminus.

Devanha Brewery Co Ltd,
Wellington Road, Aberdeen, Scotland, was registered as a limited liability company in 1910 to acquire the business of Wm Black & Co, Devanha Brewery, Wellington Road, Aberdeen (est. 1803). The company was acquired by Thomas Usher & Son Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1930 and subsequently ceased to brew.

The Original Brewery was near the Craiglug Ferry

William Black Ale  (1849) O.G. 75 

For 1 gallon (4.5lt):

3.25 lb (1475g) Pale Malt    

1.1 oz (32g)    Goldings Hops

Mash grain for 3 hours at 150º F (66±1º C). Raise temperature to 170º F (77º C) for 30 minutes.
Sparge with hot water at 180 - 185º F (82 - 85º C) to O.G. or required volume
Boil with hops for 90 minutes.
Cool and ferment with a good quality ale yeast.
Mature for at least 6 months

Gordon George & Co. Ferryhill Brewery Aberdeen

Devanha House, Ferryhill 

Devanha House, off Polmuir Rd., has been recently converted into flats, which removes a long-standing uncertainty as to the future of this elegant and historic old building.

Devanha House was built in 1813 for William Black on the slopes of south Ferryhill, midway between Ferryhill House and Arthurseat. William Black had fitted out the former Paper Mills by the Wellington Suspension Bridge as a brewery - the Devanha Brewery. His Devanha Porter - a dark beer resembling stout - became famous throughout the UK, the Brewery being conveniently close to the railway halt at the Cattle Bank. The Brewery continued to be run by William Black & Co. until about 1912, after which it was taken over by Ushers of Edinburgh and used as a bottling plant for Usher's own beers and as a distribution centre. The site is currently under development. William Black & Co. also ran the Devanha Distillery, built about a mile upstream from the Brewery in 1825; it went out of production in 1909.

William Black named his new mansion Devanha House, presumably after his Brewery. The Romans knew the settlement at or near the mouth of the Denburn as Devana, which featured in Ptolemy's "System Of Geography" of 146 AD; they knew the Rivers Dee and Don as the Deva and Devona.

It should be pointed out that
Devanha House did not originally look as it does now. The original house was of quite plain and austere appearance. But, in 1840, it was remodelled and extended at both ends by Archibald Simpson, perhaps following a fire. It is thought that the purpose of these extensions was to give the house the appearance of a ship, since it was now owned by the Shipbuilder, John Blaikie, who, with 2 of his 5 brothers, founded the Footdee firm of Blaikie Bros., Engineers & Iron Founders.  The effect of the 1840s extensions was to make Devanha House look rather older than it really is, and to turn a fairly ordinary and unremarkable house of its period into something of striking elegance. It consists of two storeys with sunken basement. The exterior walls are of sandstone, rendered in painted stucco - unusual in Aberdeen, although there is a granite base. There is a classical Greek entrance porch on the north side with 4 fluted Doric columns. The extended bow ends to the east and west have Tuscan pilasters, whilst the south side has an attractive trellis verandah.

Dee Village

Aberdeen Directory 1829

Dee Village - from Slums to a Dreaming Spire
The Triple Kirks, at the end of Belmont Street was 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 grand spire which was modelled on that of the Katherinenkirche, Magdeburg, is of 18th century Ferryhill brick.

Dee Village (also known as Potter's Creek - formerly the Holburn stream before it entered the Dee) on the site covered by the Aberdeen Corporation's Electricity Works, Millburn Street. Dee Village was a self contained hamlet located at the bottom of Crown Street. Originally Dee Village had grown up to cater for the workers of the nearby pottery and brick works in the Clayhills. The photograph was taken in 1898 just prior to the demolition of the complete village to make way for the new electricity station at Millburn Street.

Levels of peat and clay were recorded as well as 19th-century wall foundations during Archaeological digs.. The good quality pink clay recorded is almost certainly part of the seam of clay from which this area got its name.

No evidence of clay digging was seen on the site, however. 3 trenches on the frontage of the site contained no archaeological remains, but the sand and iron pan subsoil suggests that the area was flooded at one time. This area may be the remains of a small peninsular named `Pynner Nook', seen on Taylor's map of 1773 of the area.

This peninsular lay between the mouths of the Denburn and the River Dee.  Peat recorded in some of the trenches may have been the remains of buried soils, accumulated during a period when the area was either under cultivation or, more likely, waste ground. The area of this site is probably within an area marked 'marish ground over flowed at evry tide' on Parson Gordon's map of 1661 and this may have caused the formation of these peat deposits.

The area of this site has potential archaeological and historical importance because of its association over a long period with pottery manufacture. It is known that bricks, tiles and pottery were manufactured in this area, known as `Clayhills' from at least the 18th century. 

From archaeological evidence it is clear that pottery and tiles were manufactured in Aberdeen from at least the 13th century, but the orgin and first use of the name 'Clayhills' is unknown. 

James Gordon - Map of Aberdeen 1661

It was part of the Harbour improvement scheme that the Inches should be made up far enough to be above the level of the highest spring tides, and to shut up all water ways between the Dee and the Harbour. Of these there were two, one coming in about Commerce Street, and another farther west. The former took often a large quantity of the river water when the tide began to ebb, and the salmon fishers had to be compounded with before it could be shut up. The other was valued by the Brickmakers at Clayhill, because by it they could get coals brought to the works either by the Dee, or by the harbour at spring tides. To satisfy them the pier was carried as far as Poynernook, with a channel alongside.

Alexander Brown and James Chalmers, papermakers Aberdeen
Craigbeg Mill, Ferryhill 1803-7

Alexander Brown bookseller and his father-in-law James Chalmers, printer and bookseller. The first Mill in Scotland to install a Boulton and Watt steam engine.
Smith of Culter Mill bought most of the machinery. The mill itself was turned into a brewery.  Thomson

Ferryhill Primary School



Ferryhill Mill
This Mill dates from 1667, the year in which "The New Bridge" was made. People often wonder where this bridge is. It was seen that there was sufficient fall for another Mill on the Holburn after leaving the Lower Justice Mill if it could be diverted from Union Glen and taken farther south, through the North of Scotland Distillery, and across the Hardgate. This necessitated the formation of another Bridge in addition to the 1 a few yards farther north at Union Glen. This is the 'New Bridge', which is not readily discernible now that the Mill Lade is covered up above and below the Bridge, since there are no parapets on the bridge. Formerly, after crossing the Hardgate, the lade passed under the foot-walk of the road on the east side, and rounding the grounds of Willowbank entered Ferryhill Mill Dam. At 1st it was a Meal Mill, but after having been accidentally burned and standing long untenanted it was converted into a Thread Glove Manufactory. Recently, in consequence of the formation of new streets, a difficulty arose in the disposal of the water after leaving the Mill, and the water supply had to be withdrawn.

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Last modified: 01/09/2013