The Doric Columns
Union Terrace Gardens
Sir John Cope, having missed the rebels in the north, entered the burgh on the
11th September with over two thousand men and encamped at the Dove
Cot Brae, (where Union Terrace Gardens now are).
Alexander Milne map of 1789
By 1789, the land formed part of the Dovecot Croft or Doocat Croft on the west side of the Denburn. In the 17th century this croft had been feued to the Findlater family In 1740, it was sold to Alexander Cushnie, farmer at Bridge Stone of Ferriehill. In 1758 it was acquired by John Leslie, Merchant and in the same year sold on to James Duff, Advocate on 23 August 1758. Less than one year later, in 1759, James Duff sold the croft to Daniell Cargill, a merchant in Aberdeen and the then Master of the Kirk and Bridge Works. For the sum of £1300 Scots, Duff -“have sold, alienate & disponed to & in favours of the said Daniel Cargill & his successors in office, Masters of the said Kirk & Bridge Works of Aberdeen for the use and behoof of the bridge of Dee charges ......... All & whole that croft taill or piece of land called the Dovecott brae, comprehending and including also the Corbiebrae and the rigg of land at the foot of the brae ..... excepting and reserving the Dovecroft situate on the south end of the said brae ..... bounded as follows viz. having the road commonly called the Summer Road, lying on the north end of the Tenement of Land & yeard, sometime of the saids Mr John, Bessy, & Christian Finlaters, and Alexander Cushnie & now belonging to me the said James Duff at the south, the Croft sometime of Mr. George Bissett, and now of John Martine ffesher …… at the west, the croft sometime of Martine Howison, now of Robert Joyner Taylor in Aberdeen, called the Craigwall Croft at the north, and the foresaid burn called the Denburn at the east parts ..”
From the written description, the croft clearly comprises the low lying west bank of the Denburn, the wooded slopes to the west, and some cultivated ground bounding with the lands of the Hammermen’s ground. The buildings associated with the croft at the south end appear to be excluded from the sale.
John Wood Map of 1828
Something of the
character of the area can be gleaned from the Lithographs
which shows the Denburn valley looking south to the newly completed Union
Bridge, the Bow Brig and the Green. An additional parcel of land was acquired
Martin in March 1759. As the deed states,
Illustration taken from a plate drawn by Sir John Carr, 1807 Showing the Bath House and Bleaching Grounds
The Denburn would seem to have been the most popular of these out-door “laundries” and as recently as the 19th century, the side grassy verges of this stream - then flowing open through what is now Union Terrace Gardens and the Railway-line were the most favoured bleach-greens. Here, the demand for bleaching-space was particularly keen during February for then, after the winter’s snows, the sun’s rays were said to be purer and stronger than in any other month. In those days, Nature provided the only available whitener before chrorine bleaches were introduced.
Daniel Cargill was an Officer of the Town Council and thus, by this disposition of 1759, the Dovecot Croft was now the property of the Town Council and comprised a low lying haugh (the Corbie Haugh) and a wooded slope leading up to what is now Union Terrace. The haugh was used as a public bleaching green. In the 19th century, the Burgh feued land to develop Union Terrace
During most of the 19th century, the haugh was in use as a bleaching green. The new proprietors of Union Terrace were granted a right of servitude and liberty for themselves and their tenants of walking in the wooded slopes and it was declared in their titles that the “plantation” should be used for that purpose alone and that no houses were to be built between the Terrace and the Denburn. These conditions (which were laid down by the Town Council) increased the value of the Union Terrace feus.
1815 the plantation had fallen into a neglected state and the Town
Council entered into a contract with the Union Terrace proprietors and the
proprietors of Belmont Street by which the Belmont Street
proprietors were granted a servitude and privilege of walking in the plantation
in common with the Union Terrace proprietors. It was agreed that the
plantation should be enclosed and that the proprietors should lay out the ground
in a neat and proper manner with paths, planting and shrubberies and maintain it
in all time coming as a pleasure ground for the proprietors. The costs were to
be borne by the proprietors. It was further agreed that should the subjects
again fall into a state of disrepair, the Town Council would have the power to
take action and charge the proprietors accordingly. In 1871, the
plantation did indeed fall into disrepair once more and the Council called upon
the proprietors to undertake the work necessary to tidy the place up. However, a
dispute arose between the proprietors and the Council and, as a consequence a
2nd contract was drawn up in 1872 by which it was agreed that,
The Terrace provides a wide vista over the Denburn Valley worn out over the millenia by what was left of this once Glacial River and now its bed has been usurped by both the Railway and Roads and giving fine sight lines to the Churches of Belmont Street (Bell Mount). Union Terrace Gardens was once an oasis of parkland and Civic pride but has fallen into disuse and yet further plans to create a massive development area which would confirm its burial as a unique glacial chasm in Aberdeen. The Denburn had long since been placed in culverts and sewage drains and only occasionally surfaces in the back street areas of Rosemount. The Union Bridge is a major Architectural feature as a single granite arch and was further widened with steelwork to increase the road width by adding new outer pavements.
This was once a pretty, natural, glacier-made dell; but it has suffered many changes from the hands of man. In 1758, the Denburn was straightened, and small cascades were formed at short intervals.
Brick arches were thrown across the burn and called Chinese Bridges from their resemblance to the bridge on the Willow Pattern plate. Having no parapets these bridges were unsafe and were removed. To the left of the upper illustration a walkway Mutton Brae extended under Union Bridge to the Bow Bridge which linked the Green to Windmill Brae and the Hardgate. May have been a sheep droving lane in its time.
Back in the 17th century, the area where the Gardens now stand was a wood (Den) called Corbie Haugh. The ancient Scots word for crow is corbie and the wood was named after the crows which gathered in the grassy valley and within the bank of elm trees. The elm trees in the Gardens dated back over 250 years to that 17th century wood. An ancient legend, The Curse of Corbie Haugh, holds that when the crows depart, the City will be ruined. Tell that to the the urban Seagulls
In 1843 the Church of Scotland suffered a major upheaval with the Disruption, another split resulting mostly from arguments about patronage. In Aberdeen all 15 ministers seceded into the New Free Church together with most members of their congregations. Many Churches were then quickly erected including the iconic Triple Kirks with a central spire (of brick in a granite city) and three radiating naves for the Free East, Free South and Free West congregations.
Visiting merchants and traders left their horses and ponies to graze in the Corbie Haugh, content in the knowledge that the Blackfriars of Schoolhill had a grand view of the copse and any attempt to interfere with these beasts could be swiftly dealt with. The east bank of the Denburn is dominated by the community of Mutton Brae. A tiny hamlet with its own internal streets, shops and access to the 'Cathedral of the Disruption', i.e. the Triple Kirks,
Mutton Brae was the home of Mary Slessor, who would eventually become the beloved surrogate mother to many poor foreign orphans when she went to Calabar in West Africa as a Christian Missionary. Mary recalled her life in the shadow of the great Kirk and the swift-flowing Denburn; still in the open, the river was prone to spring floods, and had in its time destroyed Andrew Jamesone's double-arch 'Bow' bridge and the old Spa Well in its fury. The banks of the Denburn were used by the folk of Mutton Brae, Denburn Terrace and Black's Buildings as bleach greens. The drying poles were sometimes pulled down by the force of the flooding water on what Mary described as ‘fast days'.
The Denburn Gardens Project
This early proposal illustration
dated 1869 shows the original 3 Free Kirks as fully intact. with
the Foot-bridge extending off School Hill, the Woolmanhill
with its Royal Infirmary and the specially Engineered Rail Tunnel passing beneath
the street. The Cowdrey Hall and Memorial have yet to be
considered along with the Arts Gallery.
To access the bleach greens, the folk would cross the Mutton Brae footbridge down into the valley. This is the bridge we concern ourselves with today - before the new Rosemount Viaduct was built, and even before Rosemount Place was laid out, the crossing over the railway was via this footway bridge. Steel arches decorated with intricate wrought iron trellis panels carried the walkway down into the valley, but not over the river, there was another footbridge nearer the new Union Bridge for that purpose. The Infirmary can be seen in the background and the entrance to the Railway tunnel by Mutton Brae. The footbridge was made redundant, and was transported - in a curtailed form - to Duthie Park and there it remains today as a bridge over the ornamental ponds.
The old Denburn Road from Woolmanhill passed under the viaduct towards the Green and was close to the rear of the Triple Kirks built from the recycled Dee Village Bricks made by their occupants in Clayhills. Adjacent are the old Schoolhill Station Platforms and in the distance the new C&A building dominates the skyline where the old Palace Hotel used to be. To the right is the Union Terrace Gardens better known as the Trainie Park. A long transition from the Bleaching Greens of the old Corbie Haugh. A Gie Steep Brae for wheelin doon on yer bike on the way tae the shipyards or the harbour.
The Road to Nowhere - the urgency to demolish things for traffic reasons lead to this obliteration of the last vestiges of Mutton Brae to create the brief run of dual carriageway following the reduction in the railway line requirements.
A recent proposal to build a three storey concrete and steel superstructure in place of the gardens, part of which will provide a commercial concourse, has proved highly controversial but now proceeds despite Public Opinion.
Brother Robert Burns was Initiated into Freemasonry on 4th July 1781 in St David Lodge, Tarbolton. He remained a committed Freemason for the rest of his tragically short life. This sepia print of Brother Burns shows him wearing the regalia of Depute Master- as indicated by the collar jewel.. He was elected Depute Master of St James Lodge in 1784 and served in that capacity for 4 years.
The portrait was taken from the famous oil painting: 'Inauguration of Robert Burns as Poet Laureate of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning, No.2, 1st March 1787' which hangs in the Grand Lodge of Scotland Museum and Library,
A number of Masonic Lodges call Aberdeen home: One has been housed in the Old Aberdeen Town House on High Street in Old Aberdeen since its construction in the late 18th century. The Lodge occupies the principal room of the building, which was possibly the original council chamber, that occupies most of the top floor of the building and is most notable for its coved ceiling.
Some eleven other Lodges, seven Royal Arch Chapters, and a number of other Orders in Freemasonry occupy the Masonic Temple at 85 Crown Street in Aberdeen, a building devoted entirely to Freemasonry. The building, which has three Lodge rooms, has richly ornamented interior spaces, including such features as the inlaid marble floor featuring the signs of the zodiac.
Still a wooded Den it has seen many changes with the introduction of the Railway and a major trunk Road but remains an oasis of greenery in the Granite surrounds. It is a welcome retreat fro senior citizens and those who wish to sleep it off. Civic pride was celebrated by Bands and Dancers showing their skills to a willing audience. The Chimney stack in the distance is the Hadden Factory
Union Bridge before widening with the old pillar balustrades and the Palace Hotel ignominiously replaced by C&A's Store which itself is now accommodation of another sort in an attempt to restore living people to the Centre of an abandoned Aberdeen townscape. The Northern Assurance Building on the diagonally opposite corner was built on the Site of the old Northern Club which was formerly the Townhouse of Lumsden of Belehelvie
Terrace upon Terrace upon Terrace such was the depth and width of this of this now surmountable chasm as a result of pioneering Civil Engineers such as Thomas Telford. The space is amply consumed by the railway with enough to spare for substantial municipal gardens and a train servicing Turntable. To say nothing of the the original Denburn Road which led up to Woolman Hill. Another local Rail Station was provided on the Rosemount Viaduct adjacent to HM Theatre but fell into disuse.
Union Terrace Gardens was known locally as the 'Trainie Park' with the steaming and shunting of passenger and goods trains.
St Marks - Rosemount Viaduct. In 1892 the congregation of the South Parish moved into the present building, designed by A Marshall Mackenzie and featuring a giant portico surmounted by a drum and high dome, modelled on St Paul's Cathedral. H M Theatre was yet to be built. Initially the United Free South Church, nowadays St. Mark's Church. Part of the great 'Educatlon, Salvation, Damnatiori' trio,
Patagonian Court was just to the front right leading to Belmont Street and ships used to unload here when the river and tides would allow them navigation. Known locally as the Trainie Park
The Bow Brig
New Aberdeen Savings Bank, Union Terrace. designed by William Kelly, 1896. Aberdeen Savings Bank, Union Terrace, Aberdeen. Aberdeen Savings Bank was established in May 1815 'for receiving such small sums as may be saved from the earnings of tradesmen, mechanics, labourers, servants etc'. As the bank became more successful they moved from premises in the Guestrow to a new building in Exchange Street. By the 1890's, the directors decided that a new site was necessary, especially as the population in the city was moving westwards. The design by the architect William Kelly, in 1894, showed the building that was to be constructed at the junction of Union Terrace and Diamond Street at a cost of £11,000. The design is of renaissance style, with the central entrance leading to an inner porch lined with red and grey granite, then a short flight of steps led to the main telling office. This office had a deeply panelled ceiling and dome partially filled with painted and decorated glass. Coats of Arms of the City and Lord Provosts were also displayed. The counter and desks were made of mahogany and oak with wrought iron and wrought copper grills. In the 1960's a large extension was built on an adjacent site, and in 1983 the bank became part of the Trustee Savings Bank in Scotland, and in 1999 became part of Lloyds TSB.
On the upper terrace of Union Terrace Gardens and beneath Robert Burns Statue (always short of his daisy) was the pastime of many a drunk spectator waiting for the pubs to re-open. Auld Mannies playing war games with mere giant draughts (and nae a tammie among em Rab) - note the stacked pieces on the board denoting a potential winner. Chess would have been more appropriate for the University City. This terrace led to the public toilets by the Union St Bridge again a magnificent collection of Green Marble Divisions and surrounds with white glazed Shanks urinals. The Gardens were well laid out in there day with floral representations of the Coat of Arms of the City and many a Pipe Band would march there and give Highland Dancing displays with nimble thigh flashing strappin' lassies showing dexterity of step between Swords. Here's tae Tam o' Shanter's observation of the Witches Reel - Weel Done - Cutty Sark!.
Trainie Park in Steam Days
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