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Brig o'Balgownie
River Don, Balgownie Road, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK
Brig o'Balgownie
associated engineer
Richard Cementarius
date  circa 1320
UK era  Medieval  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  NJ940095
ICE reference number  HEW 316
photo  © and licensed for reuse under this
One of the oldest bridges in Scotland, Brig o'Balgownie was known originally as the (old) Bridge of Don, as it crosses the river of that name. It was one of the largest of its kind in Britain when built and carried the only road into Aberdeen from the north until the new Bridge of Don was completed in 1830. Though much repaired over the years it is still in use by pedestrians and cyclists.
Probably, the bridge was built, or at least begun, by Richard Cementarius, a local mason and the first recorded Provost of Aberdeen in 1272-73. Construction is likely to have started around this time and after delays was completed in about 1320, perhaps 1314-18, though Cementarius himself is thought to have died before 1294. It was commissioned and funded either by Henry Chein (or Cheyne), Bishop of Aberdeen (1285-1328), or by Robert the Bruce (1274-1329), later Robert I of Scotland.
The bridge has a single Gothic pointed arch in ashlar bridge, with a span of 21.26m, carrying a roadway 3.35m wide between corbelled parapets. It rises 10.36m above a deep salmon pool. The arch is constructed in sandstone and the spandrels panels and parapet walls are mainly of granite.
The bridge has required a series of repairs, beginning in around 1444. Poor maintenance at the tiem of the Reformation (1560 onwards) led to an almost complete reconstruction by the local Town Council in 1605.
Also in 1605, Sir Alexander Hay of Whitburgh (d.1616) executed a Charter of Mortification (endowment) for its annual maintenance, commemorated in a plaque on the south west buttress. The endowment later became the Bridge of Don Fund. This fund not only financed major repairs but also provided capital for the construction of a number of other bridges in north east Scotland including the new Bridge of Don (NJ946094) to the east.
Repairs continued in 1861 and the approaches were strengthened with buttresses circa 1877. The approaches were widened in 1912. Further repairs were carried out in 1962, 1970 and 1985.
Between May and October 2006, repointing work was done on the central parapet walls and the soffit of the arch. Cement mortar was removed and replaced with traditional lime mortar, which included filling deep voids in the pointing.
Another plaque was placed on the bridge in 1981, recording its importance and describing its history. The structure has been a Scheduled Ancient Monument since 1923 and a Category A listed building from January 1967.
Contractor (repairs, 1861): William Smith
Contractor (repairs, 1877): William Smith and Joh Willet
Repointing (2006): Laing Traditional Masonry
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH SHI

Brig o'Balgownie