TAMH: Source Material
Arbroath newspaper clippings. - 1| 2| 3| 4| 5

From the Guide 3rd January 1953.



When Brothock Burn was Dammed and Flow was Used to Remove Silt from Inner Dock DIFFICULTIES OF MAINTENANCE A PERENNIAL PROBLEM

The suggestion made recently to the Harbour Committee of Arbroath Town Council by Councillor Chapel that the Brothock Burn was diverted into the harbour so that the flow of the stream might assist in overcoming the silting up of the harbour basin, and relieve the work of the dredger, is no novelty. Councillor Chapel was recalling a practice followed for many years when what is now the inner dock was Arbroath harbour.

The harbour entrance in those days was at the South-west corner of the present wet dock, near where stands the old surf boat-house above the lifeboat slipway. The gates at the entrance, or 'booms,' as they were called, were let down by crane into grooves in the quay walls in stormy weather.

Picture inset: The old tug 'Atlanta' which took sailing vessels in and out of the busy dock is in the foreground. In the background repair works are being executed on the harbour wall at the dock-gates.

Before the building of the harbour the Brothock Burn ran straight to the sea from the foot of Marketgate, with a bend to the westward, falling into the sea near where the lighthouse now stands on the quay at the West end of the protection wall.

Councillor Chapel, in his suggestion to the council, was quoting from evidence given in 1846 at Arbroath before a Royal Commission inquiring into tidal harbours, when it was proposed by the then harbourmaster that a sluice introduced into the new harbour in connection with the Brothock might help to scour away the silt accumulating, even then at the rate of six inches per annum, as this mode had been found very beneficial in the old harbour and was used at every Spring tide.


In fact, there were ultimately two of these sluices at the old harbour, now the wet dock.. They were in the wall next the burn, which at that point was about double the width between Ladybridge and Old Shorehead which it is now. In the days before dredgers when it was found necessary to clean out the harbour, the waters of the burn were dammed back for a day or two until there was a good head of water. Then the sluices were opened, and a good deal of the mud was swept out to sea by the flow, men working with long 'clatts' in efforts to help to stir up the silt and move it. In fact, one of the early plans, about 1838, for the extension of the harbour, showed the burn 'reservoir', as it was called, being covered over, as it is at present on the yard of the Fishermen's Association. This process of clearing out the harbour was considered unsatisfactory, it appears, and was discontinued about 1870, when the harbour trustees employed a dredger.

The old sluices were operated by a ratchet and toothed wheel, like a crane and windlass. They finally disappeared in 1877 when the old quay wall was taken down, the bed of the burn narrowed, and the present dock walls erected.

The founding of the town's first harbour is ascribed to Abbot John Gedy in 1394. The charter of King William at the founding of the Abbey gave to the monks the right to erect the village of Aberbrothock and the adjoining lands into a burgh, with a port and weekly market. To the village lying outside the walls the monks of Arbroath gave the constitution of a burgh long before the building of their own monastery was completed.

The churchmen of that time doubtless recognised the advantage which would acrue to themselves by drawing prosperous trading communities around the great religious houses.

Trade depression caused by the wars with England was not overcome until the middle of the 14th century, during the reign of David II. It was almost in the early years of the revival that the public-spirited Abbot founded the harbour. But while a trade, apart from fishing, did spring up at Arbroath it was for a long period very small, the dues received a the harbour being insignificant.

Three hundred years later the trade of the town was still small. It seems to have consisted chiefly in the manufacture and exporting to Dutch ports of malt liquors.

The town was a pleasant place, lying amid cornfields, with orchards interspersed, and, although a royal burgh, still only the dimensions of a village. From the Abbey to the sea, at Danger Point, there extended a long range of houses mostly thatched cottages. The line terminated in the Abbot's harbour, then merely a protecting breakwater.