Park Bridge is unique in nature and as such has gained Grade A listed building status, which demonstrates its importance to the built heritage of Aberdeenshire and Scotland.
Arguably one of the most attractive bridges on the river Dee, Park Bridge carries the C35K road over the Dee connecting the villages of Drumoak and Durris. It was built to allow residents from the south of the river to access the railway at Park Station on the north side of the river. Designed by James Willet it was built by James Abernethy & Co (Aberdeen) on behalf of the Deeside Railway Company, in 1854. Travellers would have been charged a toll to cross the bridge in horse drawn carriages. This crossing was still being charged by British Railways into the 1950s, when the cost was 3d (1.2p). The toll was eventually abolished in 1962.
James Abernethy & Co is best known for the fact that they were at one time the world’s leading manufacturer of granite working machine from the 1820s until the 1950s. Aberdeen was at that time the largest granite producing area in the world with 25,000 men employed in the industry and the surrounding area. After their interest moved to bridge construction, generally to the design of John Willet and Alexander Gibb, the bridges were mainly 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.
The bridge is a two span structure. Each span comprises two cast iron open spandrel arches, produced by
Abernethy and Co’s Ferryhill Foundry, Aberdeen. With a total span of 70m, the bridge has a timber deck, one of the very few remaining in the country. The structure sits on a masonry pier and masonry abutments.
In 2008, in an effort to protect the bridge from heavy vehicles a weight restriction of 3t was introduced, and a width restriction of 2m in 2013. A few years later a Principal Inspection Report (February 2019) raised concerns about the condition of the timber deck, which resulted in a temporary closure order of 18 months. The temporary traffic order expires on 14 September 2020, which has led to Aberdeenshire Council initiating a new traffic order (Prohibition of Driving) to prevent the bridge from opening for the foreseeable future
Following closure, in March 2019, the Crathes, Drumoak and Durris Community Council formed a sub- committee to address concerns about the bridge following the community’s clear preference for re-instatement to vehicular traffic, as expressed at a consultation meeting held by Aberdeenshire Council and also an opinion poll carried out by CDDCC.
Throughout 2019, CDDCC were unable to persuade Aberdeeenshire Council to commit to re-opening the bridge for vehicle traffic and Aberdeenshire Council only stated that it was their intention to retain the bridge for pedestrian and cycle traffic.
Consequently, Park Bridge Action Group, a community-controlled body recently formed by members of the community with farming/fishing, engineering, business and legal backgrounds was formed to allow freedom of action outwith the constraints of the Community Council. A key objective identified was to determine exactly what was necessary to bring the bridge back into vehicular use, by way of review and assessment by a suitably qualified independent third party, who was expert and experienced in cast iron bridge technology.
Evidence provided by inspection reports conducted between 2011 and 2019 indicates that the Council failed to implement specific recommendations to maintain and repair the bridge in breach of its statutory duty. The 2011 report stated that the bridge was “in good condition subject to minor anomalies” but a clear warning was given that the bridge’s timber deck faced deterioration unless a water-proofing system was installed. Only 8 years later the bridge was closed due to concerns about deterioration of the timber deck and corrosion of the underlying steel transverse beams.
Park Bridge Action Group firmly believe that there is not sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Park Bridge is beyond economic repair and should remain open, and we note successful community efforts elsewhere in Britain to have old bridges refurbished and re-opened.