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Bridges Routes

BRIDGES ROUTES - (A) Bridge of Don.

Route 1 - Castle Street, King Street, Bridge of Don.

On leaving Castle Street the car enters King Street, the 2nd of the 2 streets laid out by the Corporation under the Act of 1800. On the left is the 2nd Record Office, now occupied by the Inland Revenue and Excise Departments, and close beside it the Medico-Chirurgical Society's hall, distinguished by its portico, erected in 1818, and containing a library and museum. Opposite is St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, which counts among its treasures a marble statue, by Flaxman, of the Rev. John Skinner, a descendant of the author of " Tullochgorum." On the left the handsome Grecian building with tower is the North Parish Church, built from the design of John Smith in 1829-31, at a cost of i£10,500. On passing the Church a good view is obtained on the left of the Mitchell Hall and Tower, and further along quite a number of granite yards are passed. Shortly after passing the Central Fire Brigade Station the street is carried over the goods line of the Great North of Scotland Railway, which here occupies the course of the old Aberdeen Canal, opened in 1805, and stretching from the Harbour to Port Elphinstone, near Inverurie, a distance of 16 miles. On the right is the Educational Trust Buildings, where over 1,700 children receive the benefits of the Trust, which likewise provides a training school for cookery, laundry, and dressmaking.  Behind is the Trinity Cemetery, laid out by the Incorporated Trades, while on the left the turretted building is the Militia Barracks, erected in 1863. Beyond the barracks is St. Peter's Cemetery, the west portion of which was once the site of a Hospital dedicated to St. Peter. A little further on a fine view is obtained of Old Aberdeen, prominent among its landmarks being the crown of King's College and the towers of Old Machar Cathedral.

The terminus of the line is at the Bridge of Don, a structure of 5 arches, designed by Telford, and finished in 1830, at a cost of £17,000.  Standing on the bridge and looking seawards the narrow sandy mouth of the river will be observed, which accounts for the fact that no serious attempt has been made to make the Don navigable at its mouth like its sister River, the Dee.  Balgownie Links, to the north of the Don, is the private course of the Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, instituted in 1780.  Some 600 yards up the river, and approached by a footpath on either side of the river, stands the old Bridge of Balgownie. The old bridge stands in' a situation of great natural beauty, and when seen in the height of summer embowered in the surrounding foliage, its old Gothic arch is truly romantic.  As to who built the bridge, history gives no clue, while tradition divides the. honour between King Robert Bruce and Bishop Henry Cheyne, 1281-1329. The Bishop, in the struggle for national independence, took the Balliol side, and had to flee into England, and on his restoration by Bruce the revenues of the See accumulated in his absence were, it is said, applied to the building of the bridge.  A bequest in 1605 by Sir Alexander Hay, one of the Clerks of Session, of £2 5s. 8;^d. for the maintenance of the bridge has been so carefully managed that not only was the cost of the new bridge defrayed out of the fund, but the capital sum to-day exceeds ;£26,500.  The bridge is the subject of one of the prophetic utterainces ascribed to Thomas the Rhymer, as follows:-
Brig' o' Balgownie, wight's (strong) your wa',
Wi' a wife's ae son and a mear's ae foal,
Doun ye shall fa'.


Byron, in a footnote to one of the stanzas of "Don Juan" refers to the awful prophecy, and describes the childish delight with which he used to lean over the arch, and peer into the dark salmon pool below.  Returning from the bridge, the old road skirting the policies of Seaton House should be taken till Old Aberdeen is reached at Don Street. On the right Chanonry will be observed,, and passing the old Canons' Lodgings and the New Manse, occupying part of the garden of the Bishop's Palace, the Cathedral of St. Machar is reached.  On the site of 2, if not 3, previous fames, Bishop Alexander Kininmund II, who succeeded to the See in 1357, began to build the present church.  The evidence of his work can still be traced in the remains of the transepts and in the first of the eastern bays of the nave. This portion of the work was executed in old red sandstone, but the succeeding Bishops completed the work in granite. The progress of building was slow, but little by little, under the fostering care of successive Bishops, nave, roof, steeple, and towers were completed. The edifice, scarcely finished before the Reformation, was saved from the reforming zealots by the Earl of Huntly, only to meet a worse fate a century later. During the Covenanting period in the 17th century, much of the fine old carved woodwork and monuments were ruthlessly and wantonly destroyed in the name of religion.

Cromwell's soldiers, quartered in the New Town, following the bad example set them, utilised the squared .stones of the buttresses for building a Fort on the Castlehill in Aberdeen.  The result was that, deprived of its lateral supports and from inattention to repairs, the great steeple, which rose at the junction of the choir and nave, fell in 1688, destroying in .its fall the choir and transepts, and likewise damaging the nave. The bells in the great tower had been previously removed for the purpose of being cast into gun-metal, but fate decreed otherwise, and they lie, so tradition affirms, full many fathoms deep in Greyhope  Bay.  For years the Cathedral lay uncared for, and much damage was done in consequence. Since then, however, St. Machar's Church has had a more kindly fate, and is now the Parish Church, served by 2 ministers. Before entering the church, a look should be taken of the transepts and their contents. The south transept contains all that is left of the once magnificent tomb of Bishop Gavin Dunbar (1518-32), who did so much, not only for the beautifying of the Cathedral, but also in the promotion of works of the greatest benefit to his fellow-citizens. In the north aisle will be observed the ruined tomb of Bishop Henry Lichton (1422-40), who built the greater part of the present Nave. From the transepts will also be observed part of the pillars, with richly carved capitals, which supported the great steeple with its peal of bells.  Entering the Cathedral by the porch, the first thing that attracts attention is the beauty of the western window, with its 7 lights, in striking contrast to the east light, "restored *' in 1885. The roof is the only woodwork now left of the original fittings, and happily it is in a splendid state of preservation. This heraldic ceiling was put up by Bishop Dunbar about 1520, and with its 3 rows of shields, giving the blazons of " Kings, Priests, Prelates, Potentates, and Peers," is probably unique. The Cathedral contains no monuments of note except that to Bishop Scougal (1664-82) and an old tomb built into the wall of the north aisle when it was rebuilt. On the wall of the south aisle is a tombstone, much defaced, but showing in low relief the figure of an ecclesiastical dignitary. This mural tablet is said to be a memento of John Barbour, who became Archdeacon of the Diocese of Aberdeen about 1337. The view of the Cathedral from the west, with the twin towers, is at all seasons imposing, and is a good example of a severe but telling composition. In the Churchyard are several monuments to the memory of men who in their day and generation gave faithful service to Church and State, among whom mention may be made of General Lord James Hay of Seaton, of Peninsular and Waterloo fame; James Augustus Sinclair, 16th Earl of Caithness; Sir William Bacon Johnston, 8th Baronet of Johnston and Caskieben ; Sir William D. Geddes, the late Principal of the University ; and John Forbes Robertson, father of Forbes Robertson, the actor, and himself a well-known London art critic.  

Passing from the Churchyard along the remaining portion of the Chanonry, on the right the small low buildings forming 3 sides of a square is Mitchell Hospital, . This institution was founded by a native of Old Aberdeen for the maintenance of 5 widows and as many unmarried daughters of Merchant or Trade Burgesses of the Old Town. Further along is the Cruickshank Botanic Garden, a gift which has been of great assistance to the study of botany at the University. The Chanonry leads into the High Street, at the head of which stands the Town House a plain but substantial building, on the front of which will be seen cut in freestone the Arms of Old Aberdeen, a bough-pot charged with' 3 salmon fishes in fret proper, and holding as many lilies of the garden, the dexter in bud, the middle full blown and the sinister half blown.  The Town House, built in 1702, stands for a reminder that Old Aberdeen was erected into a Burgh of Barony in 1498 at the request of Bishop Elphinstone, and till its incorporation with Aberdeen in 1891 had a separate jurisdiction and administration of its own.  

A little further along the High Street is King's College, founded in 1494 by Bishop Elphinstone, under sanction obtained from Pope Alexander VI. Three years later King James IV. manifested his interest in the project by confirming the privileges of the new seminary and granting several substantial gifts towards its endowment.  The actual foundation did not take place till 1505, and thus the celebration of the quarter centenary of the Aberdeen University falls appropriately to be held in 1906.  The College was originally dedicated to the Virgin and known as St. Mary's, but owing to the King's connection with its foundation, and in recognition of his benefactions, it was called the King's College. The first Principal was the historian,- Hector Boece, who. came from France to take charge of the College at a yearly salary of 40 merks Scots money, equal to £2 4s. sterling.  The College buildings have been added to at various periods.   Bishop Dunbar (1518-32) gave largely to the work from funds left for the purpose by the founder, while an entirely new work, consisting of lecture rooms and observatory, was built during the middle of the seventeenth century. To this period belongs the tower on the north-east corner of the Quadrangle known as., the Cromwell Tower. During last century much was done in reforming and adding to the buildings. In 1826 the whole of the west front was rebuilt, while from 1860-70 a new library and additional class rooms were erected The oldest portion of the existing buildings is undoubtedly the Chapel, which dates from 1503-6. The carved woodwork still remaining in the interior - stalls and roodscreen - is especially beautiful, notwithstanding that much is damaged and part awanting. The Chapel also contains a pulpit, formerly in the Cathedral, and the tombs of the pious founder, Bishop Elphinstone; the first Principal, Hector Boece; and several others.  Perhaps the most striking feature of the College is the imperial crown surmounting the north-west tower. We read that on the 7th February, 1633, it was demolished by a hurricane of wind, but rebuilt the following year, "little inferior to the first." The museum, the library, with over 130,000 volumes, including several interesting Manuscripts, and the Senatus Room, with its pictures, including a contemporaneous portrait of the founder, are all well worth inspection.  Leaving the College and passing the entrance to Powis House, with its 2 Moorish Towers, there is a small obscure burying ground on the right, within the grounds of the Divinity Manse, which marks the site of one of the ancient churches of Old Aberdeen. The Church of St. Mary ad Nives - St. Mary of the Snows - is defined by a wall enclosing the site of the ancient church, now used as a burying ground by several Catholic families.  A walk along University Road brings the visitor to the car route again in King Street.


BRIDGES ROUTES - (B) Bridge of Dee.
Route 1 Castle Street, Union Street, Holburn Street, Bridge of Dee.

This City very much exceeds the rest of the cities of the North of Scotland, in bigness, greatness of traffick and beauty ; it enjoys a wholesome air, and abounds with well bred inhabitants. - Sir Robert Sibbald, 1693.

The route is the same until the top of Union Street is reached, where the car turns to the left and enters Holburn Street. St. James's Episcopal Church is on the left, and a little further on the right is Holburn Parish Church. Almost immediately opposite the Holburn Parish Church is the Justice Mills  the Mills of the Justiciar  of ancient origin and intimately connected with at least one stirring incident in the history of the city." Aberdeen had been noted for its staunch loyalty to Charles I. and its determined opposition to the Covenanting party, until force of circumstances at length compelled the citizens to reluctantly acquiesce in the opinions of the stronger party. The person who, above all others, was instrumental in effecting this conversion of opinion was the Marquis of Montrose, who at the Bridge of Dee, in 1639, used stronger arguments than words.   But time brought changes, and under altered circumstances, on the morning of 13th September, 1644, the Citizens found the great Montrose camped at the 2-mile cross as eager to convert them to their old faith as he had been anxious to draw them from it.  At his tent door, on a drum head, he wrote to the Magistrates as follows:-

Loving Freindes— Being heir for the maintenance of Religion and liberty and his Mas. Just authority and service, thes ar In his Mas. Name to requyre you that immediately upon the sight heir of you rander and give up yr toune In the behalf of his Mas. otherwayes that all old persons women and children doe come out and preseire themselfs and that those who stayes expect no quarter. - I am as you deserve. Montrose.

In the town at the time were a large number of Covenanting troops, with their leaders, and the Magistrates elected to cast in their lot with them, possibly already feeling that the cause of the King was doomed. About 11 o'clock on the September forenoon the 2 armies engaged in the hollow below and on the rising ground around the mills, and for over 2 hours the battle raged fiercely. Montrose, placed on the worst possible ground, so managed his bands of Irish troops as to partially outflank the badly officered force opposed to him, and won the fight. In fulfilment of a promise made to the Irish regiments Montrose allowed them' to sack the city for 2 days, and from contemporary narratives we learn that the licence to plunder was fully taken advantage of.  

On the right is Great Western Road, with a line leading to Mannofield and the suburban system to Bieldside. The route lies along Holburn Street, passing beneath the Deeside Line of the Great North of Scotland Railway, and on to the Bridge of Dee. This bridge was built by Bishop Gavin Dunbar, partly from funds left for the purpose by Bishop Elphinstone, and was finished in 1527, when it was handed over to the care of the Magistrates, along with a fund for its maintenance. The original bridge, with its seven ribbed arches, was much narrower than the present bridge. In 1718-21 the bridge underwent considerable repair, and in 1841-2, at a cost of over £7,000 it was much improved and widened. On the planted piece of ground at the north-east corner of the bridge stood a small chapel, dedicated to Our Lady of Good Success, where the citizen on his travels prayed either for success on his journey or returned his grateful thanks for a safe return. The bridge was the scene, in 1639, of one of the earliest struggles in the fight between the Crown and Parliament. Viscount Aboyne, with a Royalist Force, held the bridge for 2 days against the Covenanters, led by Montrose.  By the demoralising effect of his cannon, fired from the rising ground on the south, and the feint of crossing the river a little above the bridge, Montrose obtained the victory. On this occasion Montrose had the greatest difficulty in restraining his hot-headed associates from burning the City as a punishment for the contumacy of the Citizens.  

A walk should be taken down the River Bank, passing on the way the Ruthrieston Bridge, which marks the route of the old highway to the City from the South, and the Allenvale Cemetery where on the terrace overlooking the road can be seen the grave of Archibald Forbes, the famous war correspondent, who was an alumnus of King's College.  Immediately on passing the Cemetery is the Duthie Park (44-four acres), gifted to the City by the late Miss Duthie of Ruthrieston. The 1st turf was cut by Lord Aberdeen in 1881, and the Park was opened by Princess Beatrice in 1883. The Park contains a small but well stocked Winter Garden, a granite statue of Hygeia, part of the memorial erected to the memory of Miss Duthie and also memorials to the Gordon Highlanders who fell in the Indian Frontier Campaign of 1898, and, near the east gate, one to the officers and men of the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders who died in Egypt, 1882-84. On the bank overlooking the river is a granite obelisk, 70 feet high, erected to the memory of Sir James McGrigor, Bart, Director-General of the Army Medical Department, and several times Lord Rector of Marischal College.  This obelisk stood originally in the Quadrangle at Marischal.  On the low ground behind this monument is one of the reservoirs connected with the city's first water supply, removed here from the Fountainhall district for preservation.  Leaving the park by either the west or east gates a car can be got at Whinhill Road or at the top of Polmuir Road.


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Last modified: 01/09/2013