Belmont Street ~ 1784
135 Union Street to 55 Schoolhill – AB10 1JE
Belmont Street was open pasture running alongside the Denburn until the 1770s from which point it was feued for Building and quickly developed with a variety of uses and styles in evidence to this day.
Belmont Street is a North-South Street in the Centre of Aberdeen and ran perpendicular to the later built Union Street hence the steep rise to its new level at the South end. Belmont Street originated with the late 18thC expansion of the Town. It was part of Development out of the Town into Suburbs to the West by the Towns richer denizens. For example, Thomas Menzies of Pitfoddels one of Aberdeen’s wealthiest Merchants of the time, moved from his long-standing Townhouse Pitfoddels Lodge on Castle Street (which is now the Site of the North of Scotland Bank to a house now on Belmont Street. This house had been built in the 1770s and thus pre-dates Belmont Street itself, which was laid down in 1784, well before Union Street. The Street overlooked the Valley of the Denburn and was developed on the Vacant ground there in the 1780s, housing there initially comprising the domiciles of the wealthy, typified by large Town-houses with Gardens running down to the Denburn. A few of the Houses from the late 18thC still survive on Belmont Street today, including Menzie’s 5-Bay 2-Storey House (Lizar’s) below. Formerly Nichol Smith & Co. (37 Belmont Street)
Alexander Gordon, 17 Belmont Street, Obstetrician. Born in Peterculter he gained his MA at Marischal College before reading Medicine at Aberdeen Infirmary, Edinburgh and Leiden. He worked as a surgeon in HM Navy prior to studying Midwifery in London. In 1785 Gordon returned to Aberdeen, gained an MD from Marischal College and entered General Practice. Shortly after he was appointed Physician to the Aberdeen Dispensary, Guestrow that had opened in 1781. During the next 9 years, there were 12,925 Admissions for Treatment at this Institution. Gordon’s main interest was Midwifery & Obstetrics and, in addition to a considerable Private Practice, he regularly gave lectures on this subject to the University Students. In 1789 & 1792 Aberdeen experienced serious epidemics of Puerperal Fever (Childbed Fever). Gordon himself cared for 77 such Patients, 25 of whom died, usually around the 5th day. Following this experience, he published his Treatise on the Epidemic Puerperal Fever of Aberdeen in 1795.
The Trades Hall
Tall, substantial Hall Buildings designed to be viewed principally from Union Terrace & Rosemount Viaduct. Architects Alexander Ellis & Robert Gordon Wilson, dated 1896.
Diminutive single-Bay grey Granite Ashlar entrance at 51 Belmont Street: a pilastered & keystoned Arch with scrolled segmental panel dated 1896 over the Parapet. The Arch leads to 6-bay Main Hall: squared grey Granite rubble with tooled dressings; 6 round-headed openings to Upper Hall North & South elevations. West Elevation: Venetian window at upper level; shouldered wallhead Stack above flanked by Corbelled, Domed & Finialed Bartizans at Western angles. A staggered Staircase descends length of North Elevation. Predominantly blacked-out windows, grey slate, piended roof to Main Hall.
Interior: Originally 2 principal Storeys, the Main Hall was converted to a Cinema and divided horizontally at Gallery level; retains some plasterwork.
Situated directly to the rear of 47 Belmont Street, the diminutive Entrance at Belmont Street gives little hint of the large & impressive former Trades Hall to which it leads. Making full use of the different levels of the Site, local Architects Ellis & Wilson designed an impressive Hall which adds significantly to the Streetscape of Denburn Road. Tall & Narrow with clasping Bartizan Towers, it is a distinctive piece of Architecture. Designed for the Trades Council, it was used principally for Meetings of Aberdeen’s newly established Labour Movement.
The ceiling of the Main Hall originally had painted panels, possibly still in existence under the later Tenants paint. The Trades Hall was converted to the Coliseum – New Kinema and eventually the Belmont Cinema and stood adjacent to the Triple Free Kirks. The Roof of the building at 59 Belmont Street, then known as the Trades Hall, was painted to read “Coliseum”.
The Coliseum Cinematograph Theatre was opened on 22nd August 1910 and was run by Messers Walker & Company and 1913 by early Local Cinema Proprietor Dove Paterson. It closed as Cinema in 1952, and the building was converted to a Warehouse. Re-opened as the Belmont in October 2000 after major refurbishments, with 3 Screens seating 268, 146, and 65. (inset – Rear views of the Trades Hall)
Bolton Unity Friendly Society established or absorbed local Lodges early in the 20th century, at which time there were about 59 Lodges in the City. Local Lodges objected to conditions imposed by Bolton Unity’s HQ in Manchester and in 1889 they established an Independent Society, the Caledonian Order of United Oddfellows. The Oddfellows remained important until the 1950s, with an Oddfellows Hall at 15 Belmont Street until 1943. More detail can be found in a good history “Trade Unionism in Aberdeen 1878-1900‘, K D Buckley (Edinburgh 1955).
Alongside the Denburn and illustrated on Milne’s 1789 Map was a Fine Public Baths served by Springwater. Baths were opened on the East side of the Denburn Vale, for which there was a commodious Bathing-House, with Dressing-rooms and every requisite; they were amply supplied with pure Springwater, and, previously to the later Establishment of those near the Sea, numerously attended.
No.s 1 & 3 Belmont Street: earlier 19thC. 7 Denburn Road: possibly by Archibald Simpson who had premises in Little Belmont Street. mid 19thC. Prominent, internally-linked Commercial buildings with contrasting Elevations to both Belmont Street & Denburn Road. Situated on the steeply sloping ground.
Belmont Street (East Elevation): 3-Storey and attic, 4-bay, Classical commercial building on gently sloping site. Grey Granite Ashlar. Base course; band course between Ground & 1st-Floor. Tall round-arched openings to Public House at ground floor with astragalled, fixed-pane glazing & ornamental cast-iron railings. Steps to the slightly recessed 2-leaf door at far right bay with fixed-pane Fanlight above. Regular fenestration at 1st & 2nd floors returning to curved bay at South East corner; a pair of canted tripartite Dormers.
Denburn Road (West Elevation): 5-storey, 4-bay flat-roofed addition to earlier Belmont Street Building. Roughly squared & coursed Granite rubble with irregular Aberdeen Bond snecking; raised cills; projecting band cornice. Pair of broad, round-Arched openings at Ground Floor; round-Arched openings at 1st-Floor; regular fenestration at floors above. Returns to single-Bay to South Elevation. Predominantly blind openings at North Elevation. Predominantly 4-pane timber sash & case windows throughout. Grey slate, pitched roof to Belmont Street with curving Ashlar skew to South East corner; Gable end Stacks with clay cans. Cast-iron rainwater goods.
No.s 1 & 3 Belmont Street and 7 Denburn Road is a prominent and unusual Commercial Building with 2 distinct & contrasting Elevations reflecting the steeply sloping Site and the different Building phases. Follows the Classical Aberdeen tradition with its Ashlar Granite and round-Arched Ground Floor which survives along with its good quality integral iron-work railings. The later addition at 7 Denburn Road to the rear rises an impressive 5-Storeys with round-Arched openings to the Ground & 1st Floors. It forms a distinctive part of the Streetscape and is visible from Union Street Viaduct & Union Terrace. Reference is made to this part of the building in the Aberdeen Journal on 15th January 1840, regarding necessary additions to the adjacent Aberdeen Hotel (now Victoria Restaurant) by Archibald Simpson. The rubble Build is particularly unusual for Simpson.
Institution for the Education of the Deaf & Dumb, 31 Belmont Street, Instituted 1819,
Patron – His Grace the Duke of Richmond.
President & Convener – The Lord Provost for the time being.
Hon Secretary and Treasurer – James Edmond,
Hon Physician – Dr Angus Fraser.
Superintendent & Teacher – Franklin Bill,
Matron – Miss M E Troup
The 4 Turreted Congregational Church, Belmont Street c.1865. Architect William Leslie, although it may have been designed by James Souttar, since the apse is based on the Lund Cathedral, in Stockholm, where Souttar had been working. Together, these Buildings are located in Aberdeen’s Commercial Heart and are evidence of the success of the expanding City in the 19th century. A stepped Pend, similar to the one at Patagonian Court (below), runs the length of the building’s North Elevation from Belmont Street down to the Denburn below. This is currently blocked off to public access for safety reasons.
Former Congregational Church 33 Belmont Street.
United Free Church Belmont Street
Seven persons belonging to the Netherkirkgate Associate Congregation acceded to the General Associate, Anti-burgher Synod shortly after the Breach in 1747. They met with the Congregation at Craigdam Church in Belmont Street until 1777 when they were formed as a separate Congregation with 40 Communicants. The members were formally connected with Craigdam Church and they walked all the way from the City to be present at the
Communion Sendees there. The Congregation proceeded to erect a place of Worship. On 2nd April 1779, part of the Caberstone Croft, in Belmont Street, was feued. Before the same month was ended the Building was in progress, and by the 1st Sunday of November, it was opened for Public Worship. This Congregation was admitted to the United Secession Church on George Street in 1827.
A place of Worship in Belmont
Street, which was commonly known as the “(Den)Burn Kirk.” It stood just about where the Eastern Pier of Union Bridge now is, and it was opened in 1795. For a few
years, the Congregation were without a settled Pastor, for it was not until 1800
that Rev Lawrance Glass was ordained to the charge. Soon after his settlement, the Church had to be demolished to make way for the erection of Union Bridge and in 1802 another new Church was erected in Correction Wynd.
Fit’s ‘at on i’ Wireless Ma?
Aberdeen was picked by John Reith (formerly of Stonehaven) to be one of the BBC’s 1st Radio stations and premises were sought in the area. The accommodation was rented at the rear of Aberdeen Electrical Engineering’s Property at 17 Belmont Street. Access to the Premises was gained by the narrow Stairway at the rear of the Shop. On the 2nd-Floor were a couple of small Offices and a large Room. The Aberdeen Radio Station was assigned the call sign ‘Radio 2BD‘ and began Broadcasting on 495 metres on a cold blustery evening on 10 October 1923. The Marquis of Aberdeen performed the Ceremony before the Evening’s Transmission began in earnest. His opening address was heard at 9pm, followed by Music from the Band of the 2nd Gordon Highlanders. Among those attending the debut Transmission were Station Director R E Jeffery, John Reith and the Lord Provost of Aberdeen. There, too, was Captain Peter Eckersley, the BBC’s charismatic & eccentric Chief Engineer.
There were several Churches on Belmont Street. The Triple Kirk, a Free Church established in 1844 at the junction of Belmont Street & Schoolhill, was deliberately Sited with the intention of rivalling the established“Auld Kirk” of St Nicholas Parish. A building to house the Unification of the East, South, & West Free Churches of the Town, it was designed by Archibald Simpson. There is now a Pub, the Triple Kirks, on the Site.
The South Church is also on Belmont Street. In November 1779, the United Presbyterians of North Aberdeen moved to a purpose-built 800-seat Church on Belmont Street. The Relief United Presbyterians established a Belmont Street Congregation a little after 1778 when Funds began to be raised for a 1000-seat Church In 1828, the Belmont Chapel of Ease, as it had come to be, became a fully fledged Parish Church.
The Triple Kirks, built to the design of Archibald Simpson, in 1843, to house 3 separate Congregations after the Disruption – East, West & South. Due to lack of funds, 2nd-hand building materials were used (reputedly the dismantlings from the Old Dee Village), and the Spire which was modelled on that of the Katherinenkirche, Magdeburg, is of 18thC Ferryhill Brick.
Aberdeen Journal, 3rd September 1873:
To be Sold by Public Roup 24th September at 22 Belmont St., Aberdeen, 4/64ths of the substantial & fast Clipper Ship Sailing Vessel “Abergeldie” of Walter Hood’s Shipyard, Aberdeen. Registered 2th5 February 1851. One and a Poop Deck; Standing Bowsprit; Male Figurehead (Prince Albert in Highland Dress)
The Gaelic Chapel was Founded in the 18thC in response to the increasing numbers of displaced Highlanders who came to the City in search of work. A large Gaelic-speaking Colony grew up at Printfield (Woodside), and in the Barracks there was almost constantly a large number of Gaelic-speaking Soldiers. For a time there was a steady influx of Highlanders in search of employment at the Public Works in the City and the Granite Quarries in the neighbourhood, their numbers increased to such an extent that it was found necessary to institute special means for supplying them with Religious ordinances. At 1st, they held Services in the East Church of St Nicholas but, in the 1790s, they obtained a feu on what afterwards came to be known by its present designation of Gaelic Lane, between Belmont Street & Back Wynd. but what seems then to have been a Garden sloping steeply to the Green. The building was Founded on 10th March 1795, but before its completion, another change occurred in the Pastorate of the Congregation. Rev Kenneth Bayne accepted a call to Greenock. His immediate successor at Aberdeen was Rev John Mackenzie, who conducted the Opening Services in the new Gaelic Chapel on 30th August 1795. A Register still exists of the subscribers to the Building Fund of the Chapel, and in it, there are to be found the names of some prominent Citizens of the time, such as Messrs. John Ewen & James Chalmers, Alexander Hadden of Persley, of the firm of Moir & Sons; Alexander Webster, Advocate; & Professors MacLeod, Copland, & Hamilton; while the largest Corporate Subscription was from the Breadalbane Regiment of Highlanders, then Quartered in the City. At the Disruption in 1843, the Minister of the Gaelic Church, along with all the other Parish Ministers in the City of Aberdeen, adhered to the Free Church. Unlike most of the other Congregations in the City, which split, the whole of the Gaelic Congregation entered the Free Church. Therefore, the Church of Scotland had no use for the building and eventually the Free Church was able to buy it at Auction. At this time, the Sabbath morning Services were in Gaelic and the afternoon Services in English. The opening Services in the new Church were conducted on 30th August 1795. The stated Services on every Lord’s Day were – a Sermon forenoon & afternoon in the Gaelic-language and an optional English Sermon or Lecture in the evening. On these occasions, great Congregations were attracted to the old Chapel in Gaelic Lane. The building was usually packed in every corner, passages & stairs being gladly taken advantage of for either sitting or standing room, and it was no uncommon occurrence for the Minister to have to find his way to the Pulpit from the side door of the Chapel leading from the Vestry by climbing over the seats. Memorable days, which frequenters of the Gaelic Chapel (seating 660) often loved to recall. In 1843, at the Disruption, the whole Congregation followed their Minister, Rev Hugh Mackenzie, into the Free Church. By 1882, the Chapel had become old & dilapidated and needed so much renovation that the Congregation decided to move. The Property was disposed of and was used as a Printing Office by G & W Fraser for a number of years. The Congregation bought and moved to a Church on Dee Street which had become Vacant on the disbanding of the United Free Methodists and it was renamed St Columba United Free Church. In 1907, they amalgamated with the High United Free Church and moved to their Church at the junction of Belmont Street & Schoolhill. (Triple Kirks).
This c.1882 photograph was taken at the junction of Belmont Street, & Gaelic Lane. The structure is a 2-storey Shop – Tenement & Attics with a Classic rounded Horse Carriage friendly corner at Pavement Level and squared off above it to a Streetlamp with the Street Name Signs. The No.4 Shop Sign states ‘George Cowie‘ Hairdresser (Barber but no pole – he too may have been moving) and ‘Reid & Porter‘ heads the single-Storey beyond. Obscure ‘Notices of Moving‘ appear on adjacent vacant Shop windows, the central doorway with the bowler-hatted Gent has a Basement grating & Window at low level is No.12. The adjoining pavement corner recess has been infilled to frustrate nuisance urinator or fornicators and 2 doorways appear to serve the flat-roofed building and the rear Court with another Street Lamp above. A ladder lies in the Gutterway near the Street drain & the Basement Grating. A substantial 4-Bay 3-storey Structure with a sign lies beyond these where the pavement widens due to a distinct angle in building line alignment. This Site was the Gaelic Free Church, as detailed on the 1867 Map of Belmont Street. It was opened for Worship on 30th August 1795 and in time gave its name to the Lane. It was used for the Services of Aberdeen’s Gaelic Congregation until 1882. The Congregation moved and the building was sold to Messrs G & W Fraser, Printers & Stationers, who owned adjoining premises. George Fraser replaced the old Church frontage with the more Business like Belmont Works Sign that can be seen in this Photograph. The Company went on to Publish Postcards under the Trademark Belmont, which continue to be highly collectable. A single-Storey structure lies beyond on the Rise to the Union Street direction linked to a 4-Storey structure. The now demolished South West corner of Gaelic Lane which was later redeveloped as below.
Brown & Watt, Architects – 7 Belmont Street, c.1880. Although very much the Business Partner of the Practice Brown‘s name appears among those who petitioned against the destruction of Greyfriars Church in 1896 and in 1897-98 was one of the Founders of Aberdeen Society of Architects. He died of a seizure in a Tramcar when returning to his home at 101 Fountainhall Road for lunch on 22nd April 1925, by which date the Practice appears to have been at a low ebb in terms of actual building.
No.10 Belmont Street is now the grander 5-Storey redevelopment of the above Corner. This building was occupied by the Aberdeen Temperance Society, (2nd Floor). A Life Assurance Co (1st Floor) The Ground Floor may have been occupied by The Business Case Exchange Co Ltd. The structure is possibly adorned with bunting & flags for the Royal visit in September 1906. Next door is No.6 Stubbs Limited Shop, a ‘basement’ premise called ‘The Zoo‘, and another single-Storey structure with an obscure sign beyond ‘George ****'(?)
Opposite on the East side was the South Church (seating 1500) later known as the West St Nicholas Church now converted to Slains Castle Pub which occupies the Site between Gaelic Lane & Little Belmont Street.