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Wellington Bridge  1831

Wellington Suspension Bridge, spanning the Dee at Craiglug in the vicinity of Ferryhill, 1½ mile below the old Dee Bridge, was erected in 1831 at a cost of £10,000, and is 220 feet long by 22 wide.  The designer Captain Samuel Brown RN went on to construct a number of other notable landmarks, including the Tweed Bridge, Trinity Chain Pier in Newhaven, Edinburgh and the Chain Pier at Brighton. He built 8 bridges in all, including Hexham Bridge on the River Tyne, opened in 1826 and replaced in 1903, and the Stockton & Darlington Railway Suspension Bridge over the River Tees, which when it opened in 1830 was the 1st Railway Suspension Bridge in the world. Less successful was the South Esk Bridge in Montrose, which opened in 1829 but collapsed through overloading with the loss of 3 lives in 1830. It was rebuilt, only to be destroyed in a storm in 1838.

Capt Samuel Brown RN, Ironwork and Architect John Smith, Masonry; James Abernethy, Engineer and Contractor; 1829-31, A North Arch was added in 1886, reconstructed in places 1930. 2 battered rough-faced Pylons with round Archways; 2 flat-link chains, with steel suspender rods, on each side supporting steel framed Wooden Deck. Depressed-arched Bridge over Riverside Drive adjoining to West, granite parapet, dated 1886 at centre to South, "Wellington Suspension Bridge Erected 1830 Reconstructed 1930" inscribed on the inside of the North parapet.  The Wellington Suspension Bridge is an interesting example of an early Suspension Bridge. It was built to connect Ferryhill with Craiglug on the other side of the Dee, consequently linking Aberdeen to Kincardineshire, avoiding the longer journey to the Bridge of Dee. It cost £10,000, and is 220 ft long by 22 ft wide. The steel suspenders and bearers were originally wrought-iron and cast-iron respectively (replaced 1930). The Toll House was demolished. Not in use 1999.

A most interesting early Suspension Bridge with flat-link chains supporting a Steel (originally cast-iron) framed wooden deck. The suspender rods (originally wrought iron) were replaced in steel in 1930, at the same time as the Deck strengthening.  The Pylons are tapered, of ashlar construction, with semicircular archways. An elliptical arch on the North Side was added in 1886 Massive masonry pylons, 2 flat-link chains (3 links wide) on each side, steel suspenders (since 1930) and Wooden Deck, originally with cast-iron bearers, since 1930 steel. Span 217 ft (66.2m. Public road bridge.  This Bridge carries South College Street over the River Dee to the South East of the centre of Aberdeen and just West of Queen Elizabeth Bridge

The Wellington Suspension Bridge 
A campaign is under way to preserve the deteriorating Wellington Suspension Bridge of 1829, which was closed in March 2002. The Bridge links Riverside Drive in Ferryhill with the high bank of Craiglug and Torry. It was built with funds provided by the Heritors of the Church of Nigg, replacing the Craiglug Ferry. The Bridge was refurbished in 1930 and was open to vehicular traffic until 1984, when it was closed to all but pedestrians.  The Bridge is a Category A Listed Building and is 1 of only 2 listed Ancient Monuments in Aberdeen, the other being the Brig o' Dee. Engineers finally decided in 2002 that the Bridge was unsafe even for pedestrian use because the wrought-iron chains which support it from its granite towers are corroded, besides which the deck timbers are deteriorating.  Historic Scotland has offered to contribute 25% of the estimated cost of repairs, but ACC is already struggling to finance a £7M. backlog of bridge repair work across the City.

ACC's application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for financial support was refused on the grounds that the application related to what should have been routine maintenance work. ACC take the view that the Bridge, as a bridge, is surplus to requirements since the nearby Queen Elizabeth Bridge of 1983 serves the purpose. A full restoration of the Wellington Bridge would cost 100s of 1000s of pounds and there are other priorities for such substantial funding.  ACC nonetheless want to conserve the Wellington Bridge as a Listed Building and will make another application for Lottery funds on this basis following a meeting of the Environment & Infrastructure Committee in June, subject to a petition on behalf of the Bridge being received.

Plans are under way to enhance the "corridor" of the River Dee by improving pedestrian routes and footpaths on both sides of the River and linking into leisure, heritage and tourist attractions such as the Torry Battery, the Wellington Bridge and the Duthie Park.

The Wellington Bridge provided a useful pedestrian crossing between Ferryhill and Torry, away from the noise of traffic elsewhere, and is itself a feature of considerable interest.

It is one of the 1st things people see when they come into Aberdeen by train and is a structure of considerable elegance which enhances its surrounding environment, unlike so many more recent structures. It would be a pity if it were left to deteriorate further. 
30th April 2003



The Bridge Foundry ~ Ferryhill
James Abernethy
was born in 1809, one of the 3 sons and 5 children of James Abernethy, iron-founder and his wife Anne Harvey. The elder Abernethy had established an iron founding and sawmilling business in partnership with George and Robert Tower of Ferryhill and Alexander Gibbon, an Advocate in Aberdeen. Abernethy Sr., may have been assisted in the business by his brother George.  James jr who was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and Marischal College, and served his articles with his father. He also gained experience as a journeyman in Manchester, Birmingham and London. He returned to the family firm at Ferryhill and subsequently, assisted by his brothers, gradually took over running the business, James Abernethy & Co.  The business of the firm was quite varied at the beginning and included machinery for Mills and processing machinery for colonial tea and sugar plantations and for guano extraction.  Although the firm tried to dispense with the Mill-wrighting side of the business, it still made Mill machinery throughout the 19th century. However after 1850 the main business was Bridges, generally to the designs of others, like Alexander Gibb and James Willet.  Abernethy & Co provided the expertise as fabricators of cast and wrought iron structures. The Bridges were generally for the Great North of Scotland Railway. By 1882 the GNSR had more than 300 under-bridges with cast-iron beams as well as many arch and lattice-girder bridges.  In 1841 Abernethy married Isabella Bathia Wyllie, the daughter of an Aberdeen bookseller. The couple had 2 sons. Abernethy was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1866.
  He died in 1879, his practice being continued by his sons, James Washington Abernethy, born 1845, and David Wyllie Abernethy, born 1848. The business continued until the mid-20th century. Inscription James Slight Engineer

Craiglug Bridge from Ferryhill showing the Old Toll House with Ogilvies Boathouse in the Background and an underdeveloped South Esplanade West and the J Abernethy Foundry Chimney Stack

The added Riverside Drive Cast Iron Arch with a riverside road under so quiet that ladies can cycle 5 abreast c.1900.  Note the heavily wooded South Bank is free of Boathouses.

This is a similar time period and nearer the Victoria Bridge.

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Last modified: 01/09/2013