News. The Chinese Bridge opens to the public

26th of January, 2017

Clean, architectural lines and austere aesthetics are inescapable in modern building projects. So the Chinese bridge at Dumfries House, now open to the public, is a breath of fresh air with its delicate curves, tranquil, central pagoda and traditional materials of stone and timber. An alternative to the 18th-century Adam Bridge as a way across the Lugar Water, the bridge’s design was taken from an original drawing submitted by Scottish architect Robert Weir Schultz in 1899. Weir Schultz and the 3rd Marquis, who once collaborated on a revival of an 18th-century Chiswick garden together, were great friends when the idea was hatched.

With funding having come through the Dunard Fund, architect Keith Ross worked closely with the Duke of Rothesay. the original bridge design so that it would meet modern structural standards – no mean feat. “ the initial design sketch was done in 1899, and in it the bridge is very fine,” explains Gordon Neil, Dumfries House’s Estates Development and Facilities Manager. “Keeping that neness, without having any huge steel sections put in, was a real challenge for the engineering team. We wanted to make it look as close as possible to the original drawing. We had a really tight time scale too. But the weather was kind to us, and the team pulled it out of the bag. We ended up nishing with a day to spare.”

Charlotte Rostek, Curator Emeritus at Dumfries House, is intrigued by the circumstances surrounding the original design: “Schultz and Bute admiring a Chinese design may just have been an expression of their interest in the unusual, loosely tying in with a taste for the exotic, which was prevalent in the 18th century,” she muses. No one will ever know why the bridge wasn’t built at the time, but the pair would surely relish its realisation now, almost 200 years later. “It tells the story of an amazing original commission,” says Rostek, “but also that of continued patronage right through the story of Dumfries House’s evolution.”

Today, the bridge difers a little from the original red design, but retains the tranquility and regal dignity of the original plans. And the story of its construction, especially the numerous contractors and tonnes of steel required to create it, surely add to its magic, as a pathway across the river at Dumfries House.

Words Cass Chapman

Photography Simon Brown