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Lesser Bridges

The old road from Aberdeen to Ellon was narrow and hilly ,and an Act of Parliament for a turnpike followino- a more level course near the coast was obtained before the beginning of last century. This led to another Act for building a new bridge near the mouth of the Don, which was obtained in 1825. A design was prepared by Mr. John Smith, city architect, for a bridge of five semicircular arches, each 86 feet span, with a roadway 26 feet wide within the parapets, and 42 feet above the sea level. The design was revised by Telford, and the bridge was contracted for by John Gibb and Son. The foundation was laid in March, 1827, and the bridge was opened in November, 1830, simultaneously with the Suspension Bridge over the Dee at Craiglug. The total cost of the new bridge was £7,000. It was soon found that the bridge was too narrow for the traffic over it; but the opening of the Buchan and Formartine Railway relieved it of coaches and carriers' carts, and there is now comparatively little traffic over it. The Bridge of Don Act says that the
Bridge of
Balgownie was built by King Robert Bruce of blessed memory; but this statement had been taken from Sir Alexander Hay's charter.

In old charters Grandon occurs instead of Grandholm. This name may mean a large river island, but the course of the Don has been greatly altered artificially since the erection of the Grandholm Mills, and there is no island or inche now. The bridge was constructed to accommodate workers at Grandholm flax mills who lived in Woodside. It belongs to the proprietors of the mills and is their private property, but respectable, orderly people are freely allowed to cross the river by the bridge. Being constructed of wood it has required considerable repairs since it was first opened. The flax mills were unsuccessful and were stopped at the time of the Russian War. After a time they were purchased by the proprietors of Cothal Mills and converted into a cloth manufactory.

The erection of Persley Bridge was determined upon in 1888, but it was for a time opposed by the Messrs Pirie, of Stoneywood Paper Works, and it was not opened till 1892. The Town Council of Aberdeen contributed from the Bridge of Don Fund £100 to buy off the opposition of Messrs Pirie, and afterwards £500 to the erection of the Bridge. It was expected that it would be a great benefit to Persley Granite (Quarries on the north side of the Don, but work at these has been stopped, and the bridge is not much used now.

In 1032 the Town Council of Aberdeen ordered a bridge to he built over the Bucksburn, where also they had previously built a mill. In 1603 George Davidson, merchant in Aberdeen, left to the Master of Kirk and Bridge Works in Aberdeen 100 merks for upholding the bridge, which by accumulation provided a new bridge when it was required. George Davidson was proprietor of Pettens, small place, and Ardo, hilly place, in Belhelvie. It is said that he was induced to make provision for a bridge at Bucksburn by seeing a man drowned in crossing the burn. He is commemorated by an inscription in the north wall of the churchyard of St Clement's, Aberdeen.

In ancient Aberdeen the Denburn ran along Virginia Street, full 60 feet below the level of Castle Street, though the distance between the two streets is only 300 feet. It was desirable to get access to the harbour from Castle Street, therefore, it was resolved to divert the Denburn into the harbour and to throw a bridge over the bed of the burn and form it into a street. This new street was called Virginia Street, because in that part of the town were the buildings connected with the important trade carried on with Virginia before the war with the United States began in 1776. In the middle of the eighteenth century Castle Street was closely hemmed in with buildings. Though there were several entrances into the wide open market place they were but narrow lanes. In 1768 Marischal Street was planned. The house and garden belonging to the Earl Marischal on the south side of Castle Street were purchased : the foundation of the bridge over Virginia Street was laid ; the Houses in the line of the street were demolished; and a great embankment was formed between the bridge and the harbour. The new street was called Marischal Street in honour of the Earl,

This is one of the items which made the formation of Union Street ruinously expensive to the town. It could hardly have been dispensed with, for though many of the inhabitants seldom if ever pass under it carters from the harbour find that the easiest way into the town is under Correction Wynd Bridge, and it gives access to the market in the Green. But, perhaps, when it was formed the main purpose in view had been to afford a convenient access from the Green to the East and West Churches. It is said in the " Book of Bon-Accord " that Correction House Wynd was opened about 1636 ; but a vennel on the east side of the churchyard of St Nicholas is mentioned in the " Chartulary of St Nicholas" (II. 137) as the west boundary of the ground of St Thomas's Hospital.

In early times the hollow between the Castle Hill and the Heading Hill was but slight, and no bridge was necessary to connect the two hills. By lowering the south end of Park Lanet, the depth of the gap between the hills was increased, and in 1839 the lane was widened and improved and a bridge was thrown over it connecting the two Hills. From the bridge stone stairs at both ends lead down to the street below, which is now called Commerce Street but formerly (Park Lane or an extension of Justice Street). The latter name was historically the more appropriate because the bridge is probably on or near the spot where the Justiciar of the North of Scotland held his courts. They were usually held in the open air near a small hill or artificial hillock. A court was held near the Castle in 1299 (" Book of Bon-Accord," p. 375). It is from being near the site where the Justiciar's Courts were held that Justice Street derived its name. The bridge rests upon four cast-iron ribs, segments of a circle, from which slender bars rise vertically, supporting a horizontal roadway. The ribs rest upon cornices in the stone piers at the ends. On both sides is the following inscription :-

The old road from the north to Aberdeen came down Clifton Road, but near the bottom of the brae it bent to the west and crossed Central Park. It crossed the Powis Burn at the east side of the park at a place called Kingsford. This name is not derived from the English word king but from the Gaelic word " ceann " meaning head, and the name means a place at the end of a ford. There was another ford on the tributary of the Powis Burn which came from the Loch of Old Aberdeen, but when the Loch was drained a bridge took the place of the ford. It was at the Aloitar Hole at the bottom of Boat-House Brae, and it was one of the stations where custom was collected on St Luke's Fair days. A bridge over the Powis Burn in College Bounds is mentioned in 1531 in Bishop Gavin Dunbar's "Kew Foundation of King's College " in " Fasti Aberdonenses." The Powis Burn separated the college garden from the university buildings. This bridge is mentioned in 1665 as being one of the custom stations on Fair days. The burn was the water supply of High Street, College Bounds, and the north end of the Spital, and in 1689 the Town Council issued an ordinance forbidding washing in Powis Burn above the bridge. It is shown in Gordon's chart of Aberdeen, 1661.

Jacob Gordons Map 1661

The bridge required repair in 1697 and the members of the College presented a petition to the Kirk Session requesting that stones of the Kirk which had fallen and were lying in the Kirkyard should be given for repairing the bridge. The petition was granted, the Session "knowing the usefulness of that bridge and the same lyk to go to ruine unless speedily repaired." When the last bridge over the burn was erected the cost was defrayed from the Bridge of Don Fund, but this bridge was removed when the burn was covered up through the University grounds. The foundations of the bridge were laid bare in 1906 in the course of some sewage operations where the burn crosses College Bounds. When King Street was formed a bridge was made over the burn at Lady Mill. A parapet on the west side of the road marks its position. The lower part of Powis Burn is called the Tile Burn. Near Seaton Brick and Tile Works it was crossed by the Tile Ford, which was on the road from the Brickworks to the Sand Hills at sea-side, where the sand required in brick-making was gathered. A wooden bridge has now taken the place of the ford.

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Last modified: 01/09/2013