17th December 1858

Death of the man responsible for Dean Bridge

If it was not for John Learmonth, Edinburgh would not have gained one of its most picturesque bridges. Dean Bridge, which carries the A90, by way of four arches, over the Water of Leith, was proposed by Learmouth and designed by Thomas Telford. Work began in 1829, and the bridge opened to pedestrians two years later, and horses in 1834.

Learmonth owned the Dean estate, which he was keen to monetise, by allowing further development of the New Town in his land. The bridge was key to this plan as it would provide a better connection to the city than the single-span crossing in existence at the time, and thus make any properties built there more practical and appealing.

John Learmonth dies

He died at his home, aged 70. “He had been ailing for some time, and confined to the house for a week or two with a dropsical complaint,” according to the London Morning Herald of 21 December 1858. On 18 December, the day after his death, the Caledonian Mercury declared that “his name has been foremost in all the improvements which have taken place in our city for the last thirty years… though we have differed from him in politics, we cannot now think of anything except the benefits which, during a long active life, he conferred upon his native city.”

On 21 December 1858 the Banffshire Journal reminded readers that “the public are indebted to him for the erection of the Dean Bridge, one of the finest structures of its kind in the kingdom. Its cost amounted, we believe, to about £30,000, and it was undertaken with a view to improve his Dean property, which contains some of the most valuable feuing ground in Edinburgh. Mr Learmonth handed it over to the road trustees, who repaid him £4500 of the sum spent on the execution of the work.”

As well as owner of the Dean estate, Learmonth had been a Conservative MP, a Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and chairman of both the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, and North British Railway. He had made his fortune as a coach builder and merchant.



Other events that occured in December

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