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The Doric Columns


Built in 1880–1881, the new Victoria Bridge connected Torry directly to Aberdeen and helped a large fishing township to grow up on the south side of the River Dee. Among the boats hauled ashore in this painting of the 'Cutting' (the River Dee's new channel), the closest is the 'Morning Star' of the Downies Village.

The natural course of the Southern section of the River Dee estuary lies slightly to the North of its present course. Aberdeen was an increasingly expanding City with its Dockside Trade and Fishing in the 19th century. The original Harbour was deemed to be too small for this expansion and the idea was mooted to divert the course of the River Dee slightly to the South. This would have the effect of enlarging the Harbour area and create a further Docks and Quaysides, which was necessary to accommodate the expanding Trade. The River Dee was therefore diverted in 1868 to its present course and the Albert Quay created. The Council were initially keen to build a bridge to Torry on the Southern side, over this newly diverted River, as this would open up a new area for expansion and allow the building of more Industrial and Residential accommodation. After a great deal of argument, this proposal foundered, but after a Ferry Disaster in 1876, when 32 people died, the idea was taken up again and this Bridge was built in 1881. A plaque on the Bridge notes the Ferry Disaster which occurred in the Harbour Navigation Channel between  Torry and Footdee .

In 1868 a Harbour Act was obtained for the erection of the South Breakwater, the extension of the North Pier, and the diversion of the River Dee. These works involved the expenditure of a large sum of money, which mounted up to £500,000 before they were completed. Mr J W Barclay - the Shore Master - and others wished the Town Council to take in hand also the purchase of Torry Farm as an investment sure to be highly remunerative if a Bridge were made for the new channel of the River, and they proposed that the Bridge should be built before the diversion was effected. The Provost - Mr Alexander Nicol - and others, thinking they had enough in hand, objected to the purchase of Torry Farm, though not averse to building the bridge. The progressive party in the Council purchased half of Torry Farm in a somewhat irregular manner, litigation followed, the purchase was not completed, and the erection of the Bridge was postponed indefinitely.

The Local Foundry Proposals
In 1871 Mr Harper Foundry Owner and Suspension Bridge Designer offered to erect a foot-bridge across the new channel at his own sole risk and expense, in return for a pontage of a halfpence for every person who passed over the Bridge within the 1st year after it was completed. It was feared that the structure would be too slight, and little favour was shown for this proposal. In the same year Mr Harper repeated his offer, proposing to erect a Bridge fit to carry as many people as could find standing room upon it, for a pontage extending over 2 years or amounting to £1260; but nothing came of these proposals.

In 1876 some 32 lives were lost in a Ferry-boat Disaster on the Dee. This gave a stimulus to schemes for erecting a substantial Bridge for wheeled conveyances and heavy traffic. The Aberdeen Land Association, who had purchased Torry Farm, offered £4000 to help with the Bridge. Blaikie Brothers Iron Founders proposed a Bridge with ribbed iron arches, to cost £17,500; James Abernethy Iron Founder proposed one with iron lattice girders, to cost £12,000; and Andrew Gibb, lithographer, prepared a plan for a Bridge of Granite, which was preferred to the iron bridges. The designs were submitted to Mr Willet, C.E., who recommended Messrs Blaikie's Bridge as being sufficient and cheap; but Mr John Fyfe of Kemnay was anxious to see a Granite Bridge put up, and he offered to build Alexander Gibb's Bridge for £17,000. This caused the 3 designs to be sent to Mr Edward L J Blyth, (Edinburgh Engineer) who recommended a Granite Bridge and gave plans and specifications. Mr Fyfe contracted to build the Bridge according to these for £19,000; but before it was completed it cost £25,000, including preliminary expenses for Plans and advice and unexpected difficulties with the Foundations.

The Bridge consists of 5 arches, 60'-6"; 63'-6"; 66'-0"; 63'-6"; and 60'-6" in width. It is 342 feet long and 40 feet broad. There are 4 piers in the River, each resting on 3 caissons which were intended to be sunk to 27 feet below the surface of the River, but owing to the nature of the strata under the River some of them were sunk to 42 feet. The caissons were sunk by weighting them with iron up to 120 tons; the interior was excavated and thrown out; a plug of cement was put in at the bottom to exclude water; and the interior was filled with concrete. Masonry was built upon the top of the caissons, and the 3 small piers were joined together above water by 2 arches, so that the Bridge presents the strange appearance of 2 arch-ways through each pier. This reduces the area of the bases upon which the Bridge stands, but it has shown no sign of weakness notwithstanding the heavy loads it frequently has to bear. It is a beautiful Bridge, but the coping is not "throated," and the piers are stained with iron oxide from the standards of the lamps upon the parapets.

The Aberdeen Land Association contributed £5700 to its erection, Col James Davidson of Balnagask (Laird of Torry) gave £1000, Rev. Mr Morrice of Tullos gave £200, the Harbour Commissioners gave £1000 and the ground necessary for approaches, and the Town Council made up the balance by borrowing from the Bridge of Don Fund, which is under their management.  Some of the Council's part of the cost has not yet been repaid to the Fund. The Bridge was opened on July 2, 1881, with a procession of the Town Council and others going in Carriages from the Townhouse to the Bridge. Before returning, the Council visited the old Bridge of Dee, which was also under their care.

Victoria Bridge, over the Dee's new channel, in a line with Market Street and Cross Quay, is a granite 5-arch structure, opened on 2 July 1881, having cost £25,000.  The Bridge showing tram wire stanchions, lines, gas lamps, heads of various people crossing the bridge. 

Edward L J Blyth (Edinburgh), Engineer, 5-span segmental arched bridge over River Dee. Rough-faced grey granite with ashlar to piers and parapet. Rounded cutwaters with advanced piers with round arched panels above. Coped panelled parapet with decorative cast iron lamp stands to each pier

The banks had stone pitched slopes on North and South side of the bridge, chimney and buildings at the junction of South Market Street and North Esplanade East, timber fence, the archways of the Victoria Bridge, only 4 at the south end are visible.

The bridge also has facilities for carrying water and gas services across the river.

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Last modified: 01/09/2013