Aberdeen City



Aberdeen City as Described in 1834...


The stranger who travels from the south, approaches Aberdeen by a fine bridge over the Dee, more than a mile west from the centre of the town. He enters the city by a long, spacious, straight, and regular way, denominated by Union Street, which, when completed to the utmost of its designed extent, as in all probability it soon will be, must turn out decidedly the finest thing of its kind in the kingdom. Previously to the opening of this way in 1811, the town was entered by a series of narrow tortuous streets, running nearly parallel, but which are now rendered in great measure desolate. Union Street crosses over a deep ravine which happens to intersect it, and through which runs a stream called the Den Burn, by a bridge of one arch; the span of which, 132 feet, with a rise of only 22, is believed to have no equal in the world, unless that of Pont-y-Prydd in Wales, 140 feet in span, with a rise of 35, be considered as matching it.

The most remarkable thing about Aberdeen in the eye of the traveller, is the stone with which it is built. This is a grey granite, of great hardness, found in inexhaustible profusion in the neighbourhood, and of which vast quantities, fashioned in small blocks, are annually exported to London, for the paving of the streets. Though not polished, but merely hewn into moderate smoothness, this forms a beautiful wall, of a somewhat elegant, and at the same time imposing on account of the associations of accuracy and durability to which it is conductive.

In passing along Union Street, the eye is attracted, first by the Bridewell, a large edifice in the castellated style, and then by a splendid Grecian building, (similar in appearance to the Hall of the Royal Institution at Edinburgh,) comprising a series of public rooms for the counties of Aberdeen and Banff. After crossing over the bridge just mentioned, the ancient church of St Nicholas, comprehending two places of worship, is observed, with its extensive cemetery, on the left. At the termination of the street, is a fine oblong square, denominated Castle Street, with a beautiful old market cross at one end, and various public buildings around; this being the centre and cynosure of the city.

Castle Street is the pride, the glory, the boast, the apple of the eye of Aberdeen. It is, indeed, a very fine place. The houses which compose it are old, and tall, and impressive; the town-house on the north side, with its adjuncts of court-house, &c. and its fine spire, is a dignified city like object; the cross, with its stone entablatures, containing portraits of ten Scottish sovereigns, and its graceful column pointing to the sky, is an admirable thing, and not less valuable for its rarity than its beauty. Add to all these considerations that of its being the central point of half a dozen capital streets, and the merits of Castle Street will be completed and acknowledged.

This fine square derives its name from a fortification erected at its eastern extremity by Oliver Cromwell, where there is now a barrack. Descending to the riverside, the tourist finds the port of Aberdeen, formed by the mouth of the Dee, and thronged with shipping. The harbour has recently been improved by a series of expensive works, and by a pier, running out into the sea, to the amazing length of 1206 feet. This pier is constructed of enormous blocks of granite, bound together by strong bars of iron, which are yet found scarcely capable of sustaining the violence of the waves. A canal leaves the harbour, and, extending along the north side of the town, penetrates a considerable way into the interior of the country.

While the new streets and public edifices of Aberdeen claim the attention of most tourists, it must be confessed that equal pleasure is perhaps to be experienced by the antiquarian enthusiast, in roaming through the more ancient streets and wynds - treading, with pride, the fine old place called Broad Street, diving into all the lanes between that and Nicholas Lane, or losing his way amidst the perplexing intricacies of Carmelite Street and the Ship-raw. In some of the streets, and especially in one called the Gallowgate, there are some fine sturdy specimens of the ancient substantial style of building, and one or two houses, exhibiting wooden fronts, decorated in a very antique and peculiar manner. Lord Byron resided in Broad Street, when a boy, under the protection of his mother; the house is the second to the south of the entry to Marischal College, and it was the second flat which the youthful poet occupied. Dr Beattie, moreover, lived a considerable time, and died, in a self-contained house, behind one of these antique streets, now occupied by Mr Lewis Nicol, advocate.

There are twenty-six places of worship in Aberdeen, including three chapels for Episcopal congregations, and one Roman Catholic establishment.


The Picture of Scotland
by Robert Chambers

Broad Street - Showing the
residence of Lord Byron