The Doric Columns
For six centuries, the Hardgate formed part of the only direct route into Aberdeen from the South. Visitors, both welcome and unwelcome, had to come over the Brig o’ Dee, up the Hardgate, Past Ferryhill Mill Dam, over the New Bridge at How Burn, down Windmill Brae, across the Denburn and through the Green into the old town. Originally the only entry to the burgh from the south was by way of this steep decline at the lower end of which was a ford and this served until a bridge was eventually built over the Denburn.
This ancient road was called the Hardgate and stretched from the Brig of Dee, which had origins in the 14th century, came below the Justice Mills, named after the Justiciars or travelling senior judges who visited the City to dispense the law directly from the King, past the Crabstane then down by the site of an ancient stone circle, indicated now only by the 'Lang Stane', to the Windmill Brae where a windmill had stood from 1680, and crossed the stone bridge, latterly known as the Bow Brig into Medieval Aberdeen when it was based in the Green.
Captain George Taylors Plan 1773
After driving the lower Justice Mill, the water was used to drive the wheel of Ferryhill Mill; but it was withdrawn from Ferryhill Mill on account of the formation of new streets on the east side of the mill
The only entry to the Burgh from the south was by way of the steep decline now called Windmill Brae, at the lower end of which was a ford and this served until a bridge was built over the Denburn"; this ancient road was called The Hardgate and stretched from the Brig of Dee, which had origins in the 14th century, by the Justice Mills, named after the Justiciars or travelling senior judges who visited the city to dispense the law directly from the King, then down by the site of the stone circle, indicated now only by the 'Lang Stane', to Windmill Brae where a windmill stood from 1680, and crossed the stone bridge, latterly known as the Bow Brig into Medieval Aberdeen when it was based in the Green.
Join us on this leisurely walk, looking at some significant sites from history and travel along the 'Old King's Highway' as merchants and other visitors to the city did in the days long before Union Street existed.
The Hardgate, the main road to the south, ended there at the fords of the Dee. There travellers on horseback forded the river and entered on the approach to the Causey of the Cowie Munth. Causey, as already explained, comes from Latin " calciare," to shoe or protect; and Cowie is from a Gaelic word not yet registered in dictionaries, cognate with Latin " collis," a hill. It is very common in names of hills, as in The Coyles of Muick, Colliehill (both parts of which mean the same thing,) and Glaschoil, the green hill. These names are usually taken from a Gaelic word "coille," a wood, but this is a palpable mistake. Munlh - made also Month and Muneh - is from the Gaelic " monadh," a hill or moor, cognate with Latin "mons," a hill or mountain. After crossing the Dee the road kept upwards along the south bank of the river for half a mile, and then it turned south and climbed the Cowie Munth - that is the Grampian Mountains range. In 3 miles it rose 400 feet, and it crossed a large moss from which peats were long brought to Aberdeen in creels on horseback. In winter the moss was often impassable, and in 1378 Robert ll. gave forty shillings per annum from the lands of Findon to make and uphold a causey or hard road across the summit of the hill. By a letter from John Crab, Burgess of Aberdeen, to his son it appears that the King expected that the money would serve this purpose and also help to make a Bridge over the Dee. The appearance of the bed of the river at the Fords indicates that a solid foundation would have been got there for a bridge, though the current is rapid. The money, however, was insufficient for the upkeep of the road, and in 1684? the burgh got permission from the Privy Council to impose a toll to keep the causey in repair, and to build a port across the road to close it against all who had not paid the toll. The Causey Port was on the old road to Stonehaven, farther west than the modern turnpike road. It was 3 miles from the Dee and intercepted travellers from the south before entering on the Causey.
The Hardgate, the main road to the south, ended at the Fords of the Dee.
Hardgate Well - set in the Strawberry Bank Boundary Wall -there is also a hint of this well in the top 1887 Picture
Strawberry Bank Gardens 1942
The action was fought along the line of the Hardgate, the main road from the South West into Aberdeen. It was fought across mainly arable fields, partly in oats, where the road crossed the How (Hol)Burn and climbed Clay Hill towards the Crabstane. However Mareen suggest the slopes to the east of the burn may have been partly gardens even in 1644. On the sloping ground there were several buildings with walled yards which were held as strong points by the government pikemen. Unfortunately Gordon’s map of 1661 shows very little detail of the area concerned, other than a prospect from the Crabstane towards the town, which shows a very open landscape
The historical interest of this site lies principally in the location of the Hardgate Well. Fenton Wyness (City by the Grey North Sea, 1965, p.179) gives a vivid account of wounded and dying combatants from the Battle of Justice Mills in 1644 being carried to that spot and claims that the well that day ‘ran reid’ with blood. However, the source for those details is untraceable. John Spalding makes no connection between the Well and the Battle (Memorialls of the Trubles in Scotland and in England AD1624-AD1625 Vol II, edited by John Stuart, Aberdeen 1850) while Parson Gordon, who lived through the period, drew the earliest map of Aberdeen and wrote an accompanying description, mentions the Battle, but not the well. The Well seems first to appear on a map at the stage of the first edition Ordnance Survey in 1867. The superstructure of the well was refurbished in 1970, when a plaque was also fitted to it referring to its supposed part in the battle. It is likely that the plaque draws its information solely from Fenton Wyness. Moreover, the Well does not feature in any other works which deal with historic wells in Aberdeen. For example, Milne’s 1911 book Aberdeen does deal, very carefully, with the evidence for other historic wells in Aberdeen. The exclusion of this well may be significant. Although it cannot be ruled out merely an omission it remains fair to suggest that this Well was not of any significant historical importance.
Ironmongers and Bell Hangers - that dee 'athin including Gas Mantles - display windows would provide hours of rapture for wee loons.
Dyers Hall Lane,
Hardgate, 18th century cottages Aberdeen, c.1920
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