The Doric Columns
The North Pier - 1/2 Mile Long
As a lad there was free access to the Harbour and the North Pier and it was quit an adventure to walk it's unrestricted length from Abercrombie's Jetty to the Lighthouse and Raised Head like walking the deck of a giant liner with the sea either side of the Pier. Trapping fingers in dropped Mooring Rings, spinning the Capstans, perching on Mooring Bollards, crawling under the Flag House and shinning the Flag Poles, jumping the shallow and raised walkway with its Chain Lifeline grab on the north side to enable dry access for maintenance men to reach the lighthouse. To finally to climb the steep steps to the V pointed Bulwark beyond the Lighthouse where there were always rod and line fishermen would be casting baited hooks into the ocean beyond the Pier to catch large fish from the prow of our imaginary Ship. A great adventure and quite confidence building for young unaccompanied lads during the seemingly endless summer holidays. Passing Cargo Sips to waive at or watching the Trawler Fleet advance like an armada jockeying its way out into the open sea on a Monday morning with a half sobered crews gathered up by taxis after being dragged reluctantly from their Marital beds. Although it looks quite straight to the beholding eye but it has a distinct bend where it was extended.
THE ERECTION OF THE NORTH PIER
1773, the Bar was nearly exposed at low water, and accordingly, to deepen the
approach, Smeaton proposed building of the great North Pier. This
work was of rubble masonry faced with ashlar, some of the blocks weighing over 3
tons and masses of up to 40 tons being used to protect the foundations. The Pier
was carried out seawards from the original Sandness, on the North side of the
entrance-channel, and at right-angles to the line of the shore, for a distance of
500yds (457m); its breadth was nearly 30 ft (9.1m) and its parapet stood 15 ft
(4.6m) above high-water level. Its objects were to prevent the ingress of sand
from outside the entrance, and to direct the River's deposit into the path of a
tidal current which would carry it round Girdle Ness. It was under
construction from 1775 to 1781, and is shown on the map of 1773 as
a 'design'. In 1789 it was found necessary to narrow the
entrance-channel, Smeaton's Pier having been sited rather too far to the
North, and to this end 'Abercromby's Jetty' was built near its West end.
The extraordinarily prolific John Smeaton was one of the 1st people to call himself a Civil Engineer. He laid the foundations for the profession of Civil Engineering, as well as establishing Consulting Engineering and defining the role of resident engineer. His career mirrored the developments of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. Smeaton's achievements and interests were wide-ranging - from scientific instruments to steam engines, canals to harbours, bridges to lighthouses and mills to astronomy. His most famous work is perhaps Eddystone Lighthouse but he had notable successes with at least 35 other major Civil Engineering projects, including the Scotland-spanning Forth & Clyde Canal, Ramsgate Harbour and Perth Bridge, plus over 60 Mills and more than 10 Steam Engines. Always wanting to know exactly how things worked, Smeaton spent hours making and testing models of his schemes. He recorded everything meticulously in his diaries and produced copious drawings and reports, many of which survive. He was always happy to explain or demonstrate his ideas, pencil or tools in hand. He continually refined his designs and once convinced that he was right about a concept, would stick to it with some determination. John Smeaton inspired people - whether site labourers or learned colleagues - and always led by example, never asking anyone to do something he would not attempt himself. His recognition of the need for a multi-skilled approach to problem solving made him a pioneer of Engineering.
The North Pier was constructed in 3 distinct stages as part of the major series of harbour improvements in the 18th and 19th centuries. The harbour was prone to silting so that only shallow-draught vessels could be allowed entry, larger vessels being required to lie in the 'Gawpuill' or Gawpool on the Torry Bulwark side (which now forms part of the turning basin) at the inner end of the Navigation Channel. The 1st major works were designed by John Smeaton and carried out in 1770-81. The extended pier was 1200ft [365.9m] long and cost £180. It reduced the entry of sand into the Harbour area, and changed the angle of incoming waves at the Harbour entrance. The pier was further extended between 1810 and 1816 on the advice of Thomas Telford. This extension measured at least 900ft [274.4m] in length, and ended among a group of large rocks responsible for at least 5 shipwrecks. The final phase of construction (between 1869 and 1874) extended the pier beyond these rocks into deeper water. It measured 500ft [152.3m] in length, bringing the total length to some 2600ft [792.7m].
Smeaton submitted a report recommending the construction of a granite pier
a natural harbour where ships sailed up a channel of the River Dee to the town
quay. A sand bar had built up outside the harbour, hindering access. The pier
would run along the North side of the river mouth and periodic dredging would be
done beyond the pier head. John Gwyn left the Portpatrick works
to take charge at Aberdeen, Work started in January 1775 and was
completed on 19th October 1780. The scheme increased the depth of water
over the Bar at high tide by just over a metre, but it also amplified wave
action upstream. To combat this, Smeaton designed a
a low-level projection of the
N- and advised reducing the South
Pier to a shorter length. This work was carried out between July 1788 and
December 1790. His professional approach extended to all areas. When
asked to comment on the work of others, he replied that it was "contrary to
the usual practice of Professional men to give their opinions upon each others
work". By contrast, he was happy to recommend his colleagues to clients.
John Gwyn, William Jessop and
Mathias Scott were some of those who benefited
Elevation and plan of a lighthouse at Aberdeen. Illustration from Thomas Telford's (1757-1834) 'Atlas to the Life of Thomas Telford, Civil Engineer', published in London in 1838.
EXTENSIONS OF THE NORTH PIER.
THE NORTH PIER.
Sir Alexander (Sandy) Bannerman 1788-1864 was a veritable fountain of fun, and let nothing escape him. When by a severe storm the pier, then in course of erection, was demolished, he lets his idea be known in a rhyming ballad, saying in it —
Our Pier can
neither firmly stand,
their natural tendencies,
Pocra Quay, Aberdeen Harbour. An illustration shows the navigation channel leading from Aberdeen Harbour into the North Sea, with the North Pier on the right. The Pier was built by John Smeaton in 1781 and extended on several occasions to provide better access to the Harbour. Later to the right of the Round House was the Customs Watch House, part of which has now been converted into a Seafood restaurant, while the remainder is used by the Harbour boatmen who tend to the mooring of Ships. The brick obilisk in the centre is a ventilation shaft for a sewer which emptied into the channel, although a new sewer outfall being constructed may render it redundant. It is popularly known as Scarty's Monument. 'Scarty' was the nickname of William Smith, one of 2 Harbour Pilots in the mid-19th century whose duty was to keep watch from the North Pier during rough weather. Nicknames were often used in the fishing community to distinguish between people of the same surname.
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