Duthie Park is very much a city park set in the southern part of Aberdeen in a densely urban area. The park is well maintained, whilst retaining its 19th century layout. Features of the park include lodges, a lake, bandstand and Winter Gardens.
The land was bought by Miss Elizabeth Duthie, whose intention was to present the people of Aberdeen with a public park in memory of her uncles and brother. The layout of the 44 acre park was by Mr William R McKelvie of Dundee who was also responsible for the laying out of Balgay Park, Dundee. The park was opened on September 27, 1883.
Visitor FacilitiesThe park is open daily from 8 am.
Detailed DescriptionThe following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:
Type of Site
Location and Setting
Duthie Park is situated in Aberdeen just to the north-east of the Bridge of Dee off Riverside Drive. It is very much a city park set in the southern part of Aberdeen in a densely urban area. There are views of the River Dee from the southern parts of the park. There are views within the park and across the broad central green.
The 1st Edition OS 1864, 25' shows that the park is sited on the designed landscape of Arthurseat and the small landscape of Sycamore Place to the north. The Deeside section of the Great North of Scotland Railway bounds Sycamore Place to the north, now a road. This part of Aberdeen was not very built up in the mid-19th century. Arthurseat was one of several modest sized designed landscapes in the area. The railway forms a natural boundary to the north and the Riverside Drive and the River Dee bounds the park to the south. Polmuir Road bounds the park to the east. A Plan of the park, a supplement to the 'Evening Gazette', 27th September, 1883 shows that the extent of the park has not changed since that time except on the site of the north-west lodge which was demolished to accommodate the expanding road system. What the plan does reveal, however, is the still relatively rural setting of the park. The adjacent Allenvale Cemetery had already been built at this time, but to the north of the railway line there were fields between the park and the houses of the town. The Palm House had yet to be built.
The East Lodge is 19th century L-plan with a tower, built of granite under a slate roof. There are granite gabled gatepiers with double cast-iron gates and hand gates. The first West Lodge had to be removed due to the widening of the Great Southern Road in 1938. It was rebuilt at Rubislaw Den South and replaced by the present Arts and Crafts type building which has a big swept roof with windows stuck under the eves with a prominent gabled porch. The Gordon Highlanders Memorial is triangular and approximately 7m high. The Hygeia statue, named after the Greek Goddess of Health was erected in memory of Miss Duthie. The sculptor was Arthur Taylor who worked from a drawing by John Cassidy of Manchester. The Duthie Fountian, made by McDonald and Co of Aberdeen from Peterhead granite has three basins of dressed granite with a rustic base. The middle basin is supported by swans which spout water. The site of Arthurseat lies close to the existing tennis courts in the south-west corner of the park.
Fountainhall Well is situated at the southern edge of the park below the south bank. The McGrigor Obelisk, which once stood outside Marischal College was placed in its present position in 1905 when the college was given a new front. The Bandstand, erected in 1893 at a cost of around £400, has cast-iron barleysugar columns and a lead roof with cast-iron decorations. The Iron Bridge, situated in the south-west corner of the path carries the carriagedrive over the lower lake. It has an ornate pierced cast-iron parapet with repeat design. The Pavilion, situated to the west of the lake is open fronted with Doric pillars. The Temperance Fountain, situated near the north-west lodge was donated to the park when it opened in 1883. It was made by James Hunter and commemorates the Advance of Temperance under the auspices of the Aberdeen Temperance Society.
The Winter Gardens consist of a complex of aluminium-framed glasshouses with a concrete faced entrance block.
Drives and Approaches
The north-east entrance near the Winter Gardens has a lodge and entrance gates. The drive splits almost immediately one part going to the south the other to the west forming part of the circuit drive. A piece of triangular planting that splits the drive is planted with limes and underplanted with Portuguese laurel. There are trees planted around the drive and they mainly consist of a mixture of sycamore, beech, copper beech and lime. In some places the trees are planted on mounds. All the drives and paths are of tarmacadam.
The north-west entrance also has a lodge. In the vicinity of the lodge, the tree and shrub planting conformed to a certain pattern and includes species such as Taxus baccata 'Aurea' (Golden Yew), hollies, rhododendrons with trees at the back like lime. There are islands of planting with copper beech, laurel, Berberis and Aucuba japonica.
The driveway immediately splits into three. Shrubberies by the drives include plantings of Potentillas, laurels, and the purple-leaved plum (Prunus pissardii). There are also round beds for seasonal bedding.
The south-west entrance drive has no lodge and is marked by circular beds of roses with shrub borders by the gates which help to screen the road a little. There is a cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus deodara) nearby. One of the drives from the south-west leads to a lake, and the way is planted with variegated holly, and at this point there is a stand of beech.
The park is laid out very much in the manner of a private estate. That seemed to have been the intention as stated in 'The Duthie Park: A Descriptive and Historical Sketch' (1883) '...........and the rapid growth of those newly planted, will remind one of the amenities of some lordly demesne.' The layout consists of a central area which has been purposely levelled for the purposes of recreation, about thirteen acres, which corresponds to an area of parkland on a private estate. The large conservatory was sited in a central place in the stead of the house. There are lodges and drives to the north-west and north-east. Whilst to the south-west and south-east are further drive entrances. These drives form a circuit around the central playing field area with walks within tree planting at the edges. There are other features within the park which also could be found within the parkland of a private house including a lake, statues, shelters etc. There is a mound to the north of the glasshouses which provides views of the surrounding area. There is a bandstand in the centre of the open area. Other amenities include tennis courts on the eastern side of the park.
To the north-west of the Winter Gardens is The Mound which is planted with beds of hybrid tea roses and provides views over the whole park and to the landscape outside. These views are all rather closed in now.
There is a large odd shaped lake on the western side of park.
- Access & Directions
Access Contact DetailsThe park is open daily from 8 am.
Detailed HistoryThe following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:
Reason for Inclusion
Duthie Park is a good example of a 19th century public park, notable for the involvement of a named designer. The park is well maintained, whilst retaining its 19th century layout.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
19th and 20th centuries
The land on which Duthie Park now stands was barren ground in the 18th century. Professor Thomas Maxwell bought several acres and built a large house but apparently planted little. After Professor Maxwell's death part of the land was re-feued to Mr Ewan and Arthur Dingwall Fordyce. Strangely Mr Ewan never built a house but he did lay out the property including paths, planting trees and placing memorial stones. Mr Fordyce did build a house on his land, calling it Arthurseat. The Fordyces first occupied the house in 1807 and the property didn't change hands until 1850. It is interesting to note that Keith's Survey of Aberdeenshire 1811 has conflicting information as he describes Arthurseat at that time as 'a convenient house in a fine situation, well wooded, near the banks of the Dee.'
On 16th March 1850, with the arrival of the first train from Forfar at the new Ferryhill station, the new owner had plans for a Royal Garden with the main attraction being the view of the incoming trains. However the land was eventually bought by Miss Elizabeth Duthie, including part of Pulmoor to the east. Miss Duthie's intention was to present the people of Aberdeen with a public park in memory of her uncles and brother which she declared at a council meeting in 1880. Miss Duthie had acquired the strip of ground between Allenvale and Arthurseat from the council. The first turf was cut on 27th August, 1881.
The layout of the 44 acre park was by Mr William R McKelvie of Dundee who was also responsible for the laying out of Balgay Park, Dundee. 'The execution of the works was carried out under the superintendence of Mr Alex Murray, Surveyor, and the chief contractors were:- for laying out the ground, and for building the enclosing walls, houses, etc: Messrs Abernethy & Co; for iron pipes for water: Messrs Blaike Brothers; for carpenter work: Messrs. James Buyers & Co; for plumber work: Mr James Farquhar.' By the spring of 1882 the clearing of the old farmland, the layout of paths, and the planting of trees and shrubs was under way. The park was opened on September 27, 1883. There were a couple of important historic features in the park which are no longer extant. The first is McKelvie's Rockery which photographs show as an enormous feature covering a huge area of bank at the southern end of the park on the bank above the Lower Lake. It had a path meandering through it called Lovers Walk and was planted with saxifrages, mosses, ferns, and sedums. It was of unusual construction with the rock arrangement bearing no relation to rock strata. The pointed rocks were arranged in a vertical manner and variety was provided by using a variety of rock types including Derbyshire spar and limestone. It very much resembled the rock garden at Hoole House, much praised by Loudon. There was similar rockwork around the lake at Duthie Park. Another interesting feature was a Rootery. This was constructed from roots when the ground was cleared while the park was under construction. There was a similar feature at Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire, the trend setting garden of that time owned by James Bateman, although this was called a stumpery.
Having opened a park in the north of the city, there was felt a need for a park in the southern part of the town. Allenvale Cemetery had opened on the land adjacent to Duthie Park and they owned a strip of land between the cemetery and Arthurseat, where Duthie Park now sits. The council purchased this strip of land in the hope that if Arthurseat came up for sale they would acquire it and combine the two to make a public park. This would also make possible the construction of a drive along the river.
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