Growing up in Aberdeen, the young mind can't help but be fascinated by the under-ground (or rather, under-road) aspects of the town. Beneath large parts of Union Street, Bridge Street, The Castlegate, Market Street, Holburn Street, Bon-Accord Street and, of course, Rosemount Viaduct exist vaulted caverns which shoulder the carriageway above. The vaults beneath the Holburn and Bon Accord viaducts provide coal-cellars for the tenements which flank the structures; coal-chute covers sometimes still visible embedded in granite flagstones, anomalous amongst the concrete pavingstones. And I can especially remember being in a store-room/workshop beneath Union Street at some point during the mid-1970's. I can't remember for sure why I was there, something to do with a TV repair, but I do specifically remember the shop proprietor making great play of the fact that we were under the road. The shop premises was an electrical retailer (a local enterprise called "Alexanders") in the unit now occupied by that Anne Summers low-rent lingerie outlet. On Bridge Street, there was a sports goods shop (I can't remember the name) which had premises on both sides of the road, linked through the vault under the road. I remember a very narrow steep boxy staircase. One-at-a-time please.
A while ago, we touched on the subject a little:
Viaducts like these exist all over Europe in formerly hilly town centres with which the Victorians had their vainglorious way. Notably Edinburgh has its many viaducts and bridges with vaulted caverns below, and those vaults are put to work as entertainment venues, pop-up pubs, knocking shops, ghost-tour backdrops, etc. Similarly, London's Oxford street is, in part, raised above the former natural topography. In parts, entire pre-Victorian streetscapes are preserved below vaults, notably the Georgian shopping street which has been preserved almost in its entirety below the Selfridges department store. We understand that this living psychogeographical fossil (for what else can we call it?) has been from time to time used as a film-set. Back home, we have heard claims of secret access, of strange artifacts and of old cottages and the like existing below the vaulted stonework of Aberdeen's viaducts, but we treat these claims with scepticism. We know that, notwithstanding the odd restaurant and nightclub, the vaults of Aberdeen are most commonly used as underground carparks, and commercial storage. However, we would love to learn of more exotic uses, of secrets forgotten, of stories waiting to be told. We would so love be proven wrong.
I was passing the door to the vaults beneath Market Street one day last week. By being on foot and keeping eyes open, you can increase your chances of being in the right place at the right time. A new air extraction system was being installed in the vaults, I chatted a bit to the HVAC guys, and they let me in...