NS3975 : Dumbarton Bridge

taken 9 years ago, near to Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

This is 1 of 7 images, with title Dumbarton Bridge in this square
Dumbarton Bridge
Dumbarton Bridge
The bridge was built in 1765, after almost a century of delays: as early as 1680, the Privy Council had given its approval to the burgh's proposal for a 'voluntary general contribution' from other burghs for the building of a bridge at Dumbarton. This decision is recorded as follows in Dumbarton's Burgh Records:

July 19, 1680: "The Earle of Argyle to be acquainted that the burgh hes an act of his Ma[jes]ties Privie Council for 'ane voluntary generall contribution towards the building of ane stone bridge over the river Leven, and to crave his lo[rd]ships assistance anent what methods sall be persewed for making the same effective'."

When the expected funds did not appear after a few years, James Smollett of Stainflett, who was then Provost of Dumbarton (1683-85), toured other burghs to try to raise support. The results of his tour are quoted below, in the burgh record for October 1685 ("Stainflett": later called Stoneyflatt; see Link for more on this place, and its connection with the Smollett family). Subsequent developments can be followed in Dumbarton's Burgh Records:

October 27, 1683: "Proceedings regarding the contribution for the bridge. Men set to wark to redd the quarry, and their wages to be paid by Provost Smollett, the collector. The Erle of Dundonald to be waited on at Kirkmichaell for his benevolence for that wark."

That record does not name the quarry, but a subsequent entry (given next) shows that it was Kirkton Quarry, which is now long-disused; the old quarry site is now occupied by NS3975 : Dixon Bowling Club.

Sept 2, 1684: "Bontein of Ardoch, in consideration of the stones given by him for the bridge from Kirkton Quarry, and also his tenants, are to have free passage across the bridge."

Nov 20, 1684: "Five thousand hewn pieces of stone contracted for at 144 merks the thousand, for the bridge over the Leven."

An entry for the following year gives the outcome of Provost Smollett's tour of the other burghs:

October 6, 1685: "Provost James Smollett gives in an accompt of his diligence concerning the Bridge. He had been engaged negotiating with toun councils and ministers, and had visited mony touns in Lothian, east and west, Dalkeith, Dunbar, Dunse, Dumfries, &c., &c. 270lib 2sh 10d Scotts spent on the bridge."

For a time the preparations for bridge-building receive no further notice in the Burgh Records, which deal instead with such matters as the search for a better place to build the town's waulk mill, the overthrow of James VII and the subsequent installation of William and Mary, and concerns over the threat of Jacobite uprisings. However, the intended bridge was not built at that time. Another entry describes what happened to some of the stones that had already been set aside for the building work:

July 4, 1691: "Certain stones designed for the bridge to be sold to the laird of Kilmaronock."

In the meantime, those crossing the Leven here would have continued to rely on a ferry, whose crossing was a little downstream of the point where Dumbarton Bridge would later be built. Hence the name "Ferrylands" see Link which was applied to a certain part of what later become known as Levengrove Park (on the west side of the Leven). The ferry crossed to what is now Brewery Lane (NS39407529), on the east side of the river; that lane was earlier called the Boat Vennel, and is labelled as such on John Wood's 1818 plan of Dumbarton.

In the end, what galvanised Dumbarton into taking action to build the bridge was the threat that Bonhill, further up the Leven, would have a bridge first. It was thought that Dumbarton would be marginalised if this happened.

Dumbarton Bridge, completed in 1765, was the work of John Brown, on whom more is said at NS3975 : The gravestone of John Brown. This time around, the stones for the bridge appear to have been taken from NS3876 : Dalreoch Quarry; see that item for references. A few years later, John Brown also built a bridge over NS4075 : Gruggies Burn.

One of the piers of Dumbarton Bridge soon began to sink; it turned out to have been built on a crust of gravel, not more than two feet thick, and the ground below that was very soft. The engineer John Smeaton gave advice on how the damage might be repaired; after the necessary action had been taken, the bridge opened to traffic in 1768. For more on the sinking pier, see Smeaton's words, quoted at the end of NS3974 : Football pitch at the former Woodyard; that article describes similar problems with soft ground at the nearby Woodyard, where a landslip occurred in 1896.

A plaque on the north side of the eastern end of the bridge summarises later work carried out on it: "built 1765, widened 1884, reconstructed 1934, reconstructed 2005".

The footways over the bridge were added as part of the 1884 widening, which was carried out by the civil engineer W R (William Robertson) Copland of Glasgow. According to an information panel on nearby Riverside Lane, the bridge was widened at that time to support steel lattice footpaths and parapets on cantilevers. Further refurbishment in 1933-34 by F A MacDonald & Partners added ducts for cables, the reinforced concrete roadway and footpaths, and concrete balustrades, which are not present in a 1920s view of the bridge: NS3975 : Dumbarton Bridge (the bridge appears to have metal balustrades in that view). Further repairs and refurbishment took place from 2001-2005.

The present-day lamp posts on the bridge are shown in NS3975 : Dumbarton Bridge; they were supplied by a heritage lighting firm, and they recreate the appearance of the lamp posts that were present on the bridge in the 1930s.

There are many other pictures of this bridge by other contributors, and others will no doubt be added in the future, so the following is just a selection: NS3975 : Old Dumbarton Bridge / NS3975 : Bridge over the River Leven / NS3975 : River Leven at Old Bridge Dumbarton / NS3975 : Bridge Street bridge, Dumbarton / NS3975 : Dumbarton Bridge / NS3975 : Dumbarton Bridge / NS3975 : Dumbarton Bridge / NS3975 : Dumbarton Bridge / NS3975 : Old Bridge over the River Leven at Dumbarton.
River Leven (Dunbartonshire)

The River Leven (Uisge Leamhna in Gaelic) is a stretch of water in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, flowing from Loch Lomond in the North to the River Clyde in the South. The total length of the river is approximately 6 miles.

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Grid Square
NS3975, 598 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Monday, 18 February, 2013   (more nearby)
Tuesday, 5 March, 2013
Geographical Context
Rivers, Streams, Drainage  Roads, Road transport 
River (from Tags)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3928 7536 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:56.6595N 4:34.5057W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3922 7532
View Direction
East-northeast (about 67 degrees)
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Other Tags
Dumbarton Bridge  Road Bridge 

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