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Former Canal Aqueduct over Bucks Burn, Station Road, Bucksburn, Aberdeen

A Category C Listed Building in Newhills, Aberdeen

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.1781 / 57°10'41"N

Longitude: -2.1705 / 2°10'13"W

OS Eastings: 389787

OS Northings: 809711

OS Grid: NJ897097

Mapcode National: GBR S15.MQ

Mapcode Global: WH9QH.MVM1

Entry Name: Former Canal Aqueduct over Bucks Burn, Station Road, Bucksburn, Aberdeen

Listing Date: 6 December 2019

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407269

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52534

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Newhills

County: Aberdeen

Electoral Ward: Dyce/Bucksburn/Danestone

Parish: Newhills

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

Description

This former canal aqueduct was constructed between 1798 and 1805 and designed by John Rennie to carry the Aberdeenshire Canal and its associated traffic over the Bucks Burn as a navigable aqueduct. It was adapted in the late 19th century to be used a road bridge.

The surviving structure is orientated north-south and measures 17.6m long by 7.5m high from the ground level on the burn side. The former aqueduct is composed primarily of light grey granite with a high stone arch or 'bridge-hole' of 21 voussoirs. Through this arch on the western side a cut-water with concrete walls and stone lined bed funnels the Bucks Burn under the aqueduct. On the eastern side adjacent to the burn, two large wing walls, set at a 90-degree angle to the former canal aqueduct, support the banks of the Bucks Burn. Above the arch are 11 courses of ashlar stone blocks, capped by a course of flat copping stones, slightly wider than those beneath. The voussoirs have a rough tooled surface while the remaining courses have a rubbed finish.

The eastern wall of the aqueduct retains its original wing shape built to accommodate the earthen banks of the canal. The western wall has been removed and replaced or built over by a later retaining wall. The wing walls of the northern and southern approach adjacent to the road have been partially clipped and their ends replaced with a metal fence and a wooden fence respectively.

Historical development

The construction the Aberdeenshire Canal Navigation began with the passing of an Act of Parliament in 1798 which was announced in the Aberdeen Press and Journal in February of the same year (Aberdeen Press and Journal, 1789). Construction work continued for the next 7 years until the canal was opened on 31st May 1805.

The canal ran from Waterloo Quay to Port Elphinstone near Inverurie and this route can be traced through map evidence, along with the crossing over the Bucks Burn. Originally 5.18m wide by 0.91m deep the canal was eventually increased to 7m and 1.17m (Graham 1968,171) and was built for £50,000 (New Statistical Account 1845, 663). The Aberdeenshire canal first appears on James Robertson's Topographical and Military Map of the Counties of Aberdeenshire, Banff and Kincardine, North East Section, of 1822. Here the canal is shown to cross the Bucks Burn at the location of the former canal aqueduct.

The canal's construction was funded mainly by the landholders along its route. By the 1830s these subscribers had still made no interest on their investment (New Statistical Account, 683-4) and the canal was purchased that same year by the Great North of Scotland Railway, which started construction of the line in 1849. During this time parts of the canal continued to be used until it was finally closed in 1854. (Graham 1967-8, 172).

Alexander Gibb's map of 1858 shows that for the most part the railway followed the original line of the old canal, however when reaching the Bucks Burn a crossing further to the east was chosen. It was at this stage that the canal aqueduct was converted into a road bridge.

The 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map 25" surveyed between 1865 and 1867 provides a more detailed view of the crossing arrangement showing two distinct road crossings over the burn; a larger and more substantial bridge to the west and the former canal bridge, carrying a sinuous road over the Bucks Burn before heading north east and under the railway. Between these roads 'Aberdeenshire Canal Bridge – remains of' has been marked. By the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map 25", surveyed 1899, the land to the east of the former canal aqueduct had been built on and between the 1865 and 1899 the retaining wall will have been built.

In the 20th century the former canal aqueduct continued in use as a road bridge. At some point, part of the north and south approaches of the eastern wing wall have been clipped and replaced with fencing.

Statement of Interest

Former Canal Aqueduct over Bucks Burn, Station Road, Bucksburn, meets the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:

Architectural interest

Design

The former canal aqueduct is the design of the prolific Scottish engineer John Rennie (Haynes 2015,16; Graham 1968, 171) who has made a significant contribution to the early canal infrastructure in Scotland.

Canal aqueducts are defined by their outward-curving wing walls visible on the approach. This example is typical of canal aqueduct engineering of the period and largely retains its original form with original wing walls on its northern face and on the western approach of the southern face. On plan, these wing walls curve outwards to produce an hour glass affect.

The canal aqueduct has been built of light grey granite, characteristic of the Aberdeenshire area, held together with a lime mortar. The later east-west extension is of loosely coursed rubble and field stones capped by dressed whinstone saddle copping.

This canal aqueduct illustrates the employment of technology and engineering characteristic of the period to improve the country's transport network and is part of a wider trend of nationally significant infrastructure projects that would characterise the late 18th and early 19th century.

Setting

The canal aqueduct is situated to the south east of St Machar's Church in the Bucksburn area, a suburb of the city of Aberdeen to the west is a road bridge and to the east is the railway line. It is the only visible physical remains of the canal in the immediate area and has lost much of its original setting.

The canal aqueduct over the Bucks Burn forms part of the same network of historic structures related to the Aberdeenshire Canal but these are not inter-visible.

Historic interest

Age and rarity

By the mid-18th century Scotland had a network of turnpike and highland military roads. However, these roads were often in a poor state of repair and for over one hundred years even in the most populated parts of the country, goods could only be transported on horseback instead of by carriage for most of the year (Haynes 2015, 14).

Canals were believed to be the solution to the unreliable road system and between 1760-1840 a period of intense construction began which would later be dubbed 'canal mania'. The Aberdeenshire Canal was the largest contour canal in Scotland running for 18 miles (Haynes 2015, 16). Contour canals are not deep and maintain their level by following the lay of the land, usually they do not connect with the sea (Haynes 2015, 7), however, in 1834 a tidal lock was added to the Aberdeenshire Canal to provide access to the sea in Aberdeen (Graham 1968, 171). When a canal met a body of water such as a burn or river an aqueduct, such as that at Bucks Burn, would be required to carry the channel and the canal barges over the natural obstacle.

The remains of the Bucks Burn aqueduct is one of only two surviving aqueducts related to the Aberdeenshire Canal and are also a rare surviving element of Scotland's historic canal infrastructure. Along the line of the former Aberdeenshire Canal there were originally five aqueducts (Graham 196, 171) now only two remain: the former canal aqueduct at Bucks Burn and another which crosses the Black Burn at Kinaldie (LB52533) and has also been converted into a road bridge.

Scotland has five surviving canals: The Monkland Canal; the Union Canal; the Forth and Clyde canal; the Caledonian Canal and the Crinan canal. Only two of which are contour canals. (Haynes 2015, 7). Built between 1798 and 1805 the Aberdeenshire Canal sits in the middle of Scotland's 'canal mania' and is one of the seven large scale multi use canals; postdating the completion of the Monkland Canal (1772), Forth and Clyde Canal (1790) and predating the Crinan Canal (1809); Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan Canal (1811); Union Canal (1824) and Caledonian Canal (1847) (Haynes 2015, 16, 17, 31, 48, 66, 84, 94).

Social historical interest

As a direct consequence of the building of the Aberdeenshire Canal and the subsequent Great North of Scotland Railway which follows its route, the country between Aberdeen and Inverurie was opened to the efficient movements of goods and people year-round. In 1845 the New Statistical Account of Scotland highlights the value of this undertaking:

[T]he main cause of the increase and prosperity of Inverury is, without question, the Aberdeenshire Canal, which has conferred on it many of the advantages of a sea-port." (New Statistical Account of Scotland 1845, 683).

However, this was not the only settlement to benefit with its economic value to wider county noted as well (New Statistical Account of Scotland 1845, 663). Hamlets and villages along its route grew as economic opportunities were seized and industries expanded, taking advantage of this new faster, cheaper, means of moving goods and people as well as providing efficient drainage and irrigation of the surround countryside (Haynes 2015, 15-16).

Though perhaps not a directly successful investment for the surrounding landholders the canal had achieved its aim "to cheapen imported fuel and manure, to promote the improvement of land by reducing the amount of labour devoted to peat-cutting, and to encourage the exploitation of quarries and timber." (Graham 1968, 171). The Aberdeenshire Canal also carried granite, lime, coal, bark, agricultural products and passengers (Haynes 2015, 16).

Today, the canal bridge and its associated bridge over the Black Burn at Kinaldie (LB52533) is a tangible link to Scotland's historic canal infrastructure.

Association with people or events of national importance

There are no associations with people or events of national importance.

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