Powis is a modification of the Gaelic word "poll,'" a hole full of water, or a
burn. " Poll " is sometimes softened into "pow" a name given lo the deep
slow-running ditches draining the Carse of Gowrie; and the name Pow Brig,
occurring in the Chartulary of St Nicholas, is not a mistake for Bow Brig,
though it was over the Denburn, for it was only the trunk of a tree, and it
means simply the burn bridge.
The Powis Burn rises at the Rosehill quarries and flows along Back Hilton Road,
forming the boundary of the Freedom of Aberdeen till it is met by a tributary
from Downie's Howe, on the north side of Ashgrove. Downie's Howe has a place in
a mysterious tale of slaughter said to have been committed at King's College. In
connection with this it may be noted that Downie is here not a personal name but
a corruption of a Gaelic word, "dunan," meaning small hill or slightly rising
ground. After the junction the burn flows, below ground, along the south side of
Central Park and crosses Great Northern Road at Powis Terrace, where it runs
open for a few yards. It passes under Kittybrewster Station, and there, before
the formation of the Railway, it was joined by a short tributary from the
Railway Bridge at the north end of Berryden. Taylor's map in
1773 shows between
the two burns Kettybrewster's How, with a house and its Well. This name had been
given in the belief that in or near the howe there had once lived a woman named
Ketty, who brewed ale for sale. Tales, wholly fictitious, were founded on this
assumption ; but the name means small broken fold. It had been given to a
for cows, formed by planting upright in the ground tree-trunks close enough to
prevent the cattle from getting through. Such folds were sometimes lined outside
with skins of cattle and sheep for protection against inclement weather. When a
fold fell into decay and could no longer keep in cattle it was sometimes
abandoned and was then called a broken fold. Kettybrewster is a corruption of
the two Gaelic words "cuitan," a small fold, and "brisde," broken. "An" at the
end of a name in Gaelic usually became " y " or " ie " in passing into Scotch,
hence "cuitan" had become " cuity " and this had lapsed into
Ketty. There was
anciently in Aberdeen another fold of the same name at a well at a bend in
Froghall Road, near the march between the lands belonging to the town and those
of St Peter's Hospital. There was also a fold of the same name in Keig at a
Well, but the name had been corrupted into Kittythirst. One of the march stones
of the freedom of the city, which was in the den at Kittybrewster, is missing.
Its site was on the west side of Powis Terrace, opposite Kittybrewster Railway
Station gate. Crossing the railway the Powis Burn runs underground on the south side
of Powis House.
At the hollow it is joined by the Loch Burn, which is first seen near Hilton
Lodge, on the west side of Clifton Road. It crosses Woodside and the
underground, and it then comes to light flowing east along the lowest part of
the hollow. On approaching the Kettle Hills it turns south and drains the bed of
the Loch of Aberdon, called also the Bishop's Loch because it belonged to the
Bishop officially. It crosses Boat-House Brae, drains the hollow below Powis
House and joins Powis Burn, which then crosses Bedford Road. It flows round the
base of what is called Broomhill in Gordon's map of 1661 but now Hermitage Hill,
though the supposed hermitage on the top is only a summer-house built there to
have a good outlook seaward.
James Gordon - Map of Aberdeen
On the right a small addition comes in from the
Firhill Well, once much resorted
to in summer on Sunday mornings, but now quite forsaken. Till about 1770, its
course was through a quagmire and it was from the pools and holes through which
it flowed that it had got its name. It formed the south boundary of Aberdon, and
on the south side of it stood the Snow Church. As it was the only
available water supply for the south side of Old Aberdeen and the
north end of
the Spital the Town Council of Old Aberdeen forbade washing in the burn above
the Powis Bridge where it crossed the road. It now flows underground across the
street and through the corner of the University Grounds. Keeping nearly in the
line of University Road it reaches King Street, where there is a bridge though
it is not readily discernible. Crossing King Street it drives a sawmill,
formerly a meal mill, the only work that the burn does. After crossing King
Street, Powis Burn becomes the Tile Burn, because it passes the site of Seaton
Brick Works where tiles used to be made for the roofs of houses in Old Aberdeen.
Near the end of its course the Tile burn turns north, but before entering the
Don it was joined by the Banstickle Burn, on the right, from the Canny Sweet
Pots. The tide comes up the Tile Burn, and boats and small ships could take in
cargoes of tiles and bricks very near the spot where they were made.
Powis Burn Bridges
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.
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 Brickwork to the Sand Hills or,
sea-side, where the sand required in brick-making was dug. A
wooden bridge has now taken the place of the Ford.
Seaton Brick Works
The red laminated clay at Seaton Brick Works is derived from the
sandstone beds that once existed, on a larger scale than they do now, between
the Dee and the Don on the site of the City. In the glacial epoch the snow sheet
entering the sea between the rivers abraded and carried off the soft red rocks.
As it entered the sea it melted, and its burden of debris was taken in hand by
the waves. Big boulders and large stones had been left where they fell out of
the melting Ice; small stones had been rolled backwards and forwards at the edge
of the sea till worn to pebbles and sand ; the sand from the rough clay
up by the ice had been well washed and deposited in layers on a sloping beach ;
and the washings, fine pure clay, had been carried out into deep water, where it
sank when the tide was at rest at high and low water. When the tide was running
fast, flowing or ebbing, the light clay did not get time to fall,
but only a little heavy sand. Eight layers had been laid down every day, four of
clay when the tide was standing still alternating with four of sand when it was
running north or south. When a spadeful of this clay is dug out of a bed and
dries in the sun it splits up at the sandy layers into thin leaves or laminate..
Since its deposition the land had risen far enough to raise the clay beds above
the sea, though in some clay pits the laminated clay goes down below sea level.
Aulton as I understand it, is from the Gaelic word for a stream, coupled to that
for a farm or hamlet. Like Auldearn, means the water of Erin, or Oldwhat, which
means a slow flowing stream, Altquhat. It was the lack of understanding amongst
mapmakers who only knew English and Lallans, that gave us Old Aberdeen.
The stream and wee loch and boggy ground was Aulton. The stream went on towards
where King Street is and powered a Mill across the road from where now
University Road meets King Sttreet. Hence why our grandparents called
that part of King Street. "Lady |Mill." - the
Loch was long gone by the time I lived in College Bounds in 1942. But we did
have giant mushrooms growing out of the floor under the bed, pushing against the
mattress. So I guess the bog still existed under the house. We were on the
In 1832, after the new Bridge of Don was built, a Meal Mill
was erected on the Powis or Tile Burn on the East side of King Street.
It continued to work till flour became as cheap as meal. Bread almost entirely
ceased to be made from oatmeal, and many once prosperous Meal Mills have been
given up. Among these was Lady Mill - so named from Lady Bruce,
wife of Sir Michael Bruce. It was later converted into a Saw Mill.
During the latter half of the 19th century many large Meal Mills have been
erected within the City of Aberdeen. The Northern Co-operative Company's
Millbank, Berryden Road, grinds oats for local consumption and
supplies its own sale shops. The others dispose of their meal in bulk, and most
of it is exported to England