Heritage Locations

Dean Bridge, Edinburgh


A road bridge by Thomas Telford which makes a dramatic impression as it crosses the Water of Leith in Edinburgh.

Constructor:
Charles Alexander Stevenson

Period of construction:
1800 - 1849

Transport Trust plaque:
No

Transport Mode:
Road

Address:
Bonhams Hotel, EH3 7RN

Postcode:
EH3 7RN

Nearest Town:
Edinburgh

Heritage Centre:
No

Dean Village (from dene, meaning 'deep valley') is a former village in the northwest of Edinburgh. It was known as the "Water of Leith Village" and was a successful grain milling hamlet for more than 800 years. At one time there were no fewer than eleven working mills there, driven by the strong currents of the Water of Leith. However, the port of Leith began to be very successful, and Dean Village's trade diminished. For many years, the village became associated with decay and poverty. Now the workers' cottages, warehouses and mill buildings have been restored and the area has once more become a desirable residential area.

In 1833, the four-arched Dean Bridge, designed by Thomas Telford and 32 m. (106 ft.) above the water level, was opened to carry the Queensferry Road over the Dean Gorge, almost at the sole expense of Mr John Learmonth, Lord Provost of Edinburgh. The contractors were John Gibb & Son, from Aberdeen. In this Bridge the arches are of unusual design.

Foundation difficulties forced Telford to modify his original three-span design for the Dean Bridge to one of four arches, each of 90ft [27.4m] span and with a maximum height above water of 106ft [32.3m]. The main arches carrying the roadway rise 30ft [9.1m], but the footpaths upon either side are supported on secondary arches which have a span of 96ft [29.3m], a rise of only 10ft [3m], and spring from the piers at a height 20ft [6.1m] above the springing of the main arches. By masking the more massive main arches, the delicate footway arches impart a deceptive impression of lightness to the structure. In order to reduce weight, the tall piers are one of the finest examples of that hollow wall construction which Telford first used at Pont Cysyllte aqueduct in Wales.

Charles Atherton was Telford's resident engineer for the Dean Bridge and John Gibb of Aberdeen the contractor. It was completed in 1833. After so great a number of suicides had flung themselves from it that it was nicknamed the `Bridge of Sighs', the parapet was raised. 
The bridge carries Queensferry Road (which here forms the A90) over the deep gorge of the Water of Leith, and thus forms the main route out of Edinburgh to the NW, and is particularly impressive when seen from the Water of Leith Walkway, which passes beneath it.


Bibliography:

Hindle, P. Roads and Tracks for Historians. ISBN 1 86077 182 3 (2001)

Hindley, G. History of the Roads. Peter Davies. ISBN 0 8065 0290 8 (1971)

Jackson, Gibbard. From Track to Highway. (1935)

Paxton, Roland. Our Engineering Heritage: Three notable examples in the Edinburgh area. (1979)

Sheldon, G. From Trackway to Turnpike. Oxfd. Univ. Press. (1928)

Taylor, C. Roads and Tracks of Britain. ISBN 0 460 04329 3 (1979)

Thomson, David Patrick. By the Water of Leith. The Life of a North Edinburgh Parish. (1952)



Opening Times:
Visible at all times.

How To Find:
By road: Best seen from the footpath along the Water of Leith north west of the New Town.

 



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