The University of Aberdeen's Elphinstone Institute is lending its support to a community group trying to restore a historic Aberdeen staircase known as Jacob's Ladder, which was once used by hundreds of mill workers each day.
The Friends of Jacob’s Ladder and Riverside Walk are working to restore the historic steps, opened more than 100 years ago, to provide a safe route for textile workers, machine operators, men, woman and children make their way to and from work at Grandholm Mills.
But for several years the staircase has been closed due to structural damage and safety concerns, meaning today’s pedestrians re have to walk around Don Terrace onto Gordon Mills Road via a steep hill with no pavements, uneven cobbles and frequent traffic.
The Friends say restoring them is crucial to provide a gateway for the communities of Woodside, Tillydrone and beyond to access the River Don pathways and other local nature spots.
The Elphinstone Institute, which promotes the cultures and traditions of North-East Scotland, is supporting the Friends in documenting the community effort and interviewing local people to help to build a picture of what the steps mean to those in the area.
The University has already supported the initiative, which is currently awaiting the results of a feasibility study to determine its next steps, via the Local Community Fund which helped with costs associated with the initial cleaning of the steps to assess their condition.
Gary Dawson, secretary of the Friends of Jacob’s Ladder and Riverside Walk said: “We are looking forward to working alongside the Elphinstone Institute in order to capture current views on our project and it’s aims and also to research the history and cultural importance of our community resource.
“The Institute's expertise in carrying out research and supporting cultural heritage in the region is well known and valued.
“We are a group of local people trying to preserve our heritage and community resources by means of working to have our 101-year-old staircase reopened after their closure some 15 years ago.
“We have widespread support from our host communities of Woodside and Tillydrone but also from further afield. The stairs were the main gateway for workers to attend the various mills along the river Don but now are a gateway to the river and pathways themselves which offer an escape into beautiful natural spaces on the edge of two areas which continue to host some of the highest areas of deprivation in the country.
“While the stairs remain closed, access to and across the river is only available by means of an uneven unwelcoming cobbled road with no footpath.
“We have been fortunate to have been given some funding from Aberdeen University Community fund to buy basic equipment to keep the stairs clean which we appreciate. We are also grateful to Aberdeen City Council who granted us funding from their Common Good Fund which will pay for a full structural survey of the stairs to be undertaken.
“This will offer an overview of the repairs and associated costs of hopefully returning the stairs to community use again.”
Simon Gall, Public and Community Engagement Officer from the Elphinstone Institute, said: “Supporting local cultural groups to do their important work is a key part of what we do at the Institute, so we’re delighted to be helping the Friends of Jacob’s Ladder to explore what the stairs mean to the local community and bolster their efforts to have them re-opened. The project could bring about practical benefits in terms of improving access to and from the river, and impact positively on the sense of local identity through the re-vitalisation of an iconic piece of community heritage.”
The Friends are now conducting a survey to gather public views which can be accessed, together with more information about the project, at www.jacobsladderrestoration.com