Posted by: christinelaennec | March 6, 2011


Although there are a number of things worth railing against in this world, this post is literally about railings.  It took me a few years, after moving to Aberdeen, to know why there were these little holes everywhere:

A row of holes by the side of the pavement / sidewalk. Crown Street, Aberdeen, February 2011.

Then a friend mentioned how sad it was that Aberdeen’s iron railings were mostly demolished in the Second World War.  Thus all the rows of holes!  I’ve noticed that the Victorian iron railings were allowed to stay wherever there was a drop behind.  Thus in the above photo, when the wall is low, the railings are gone, but further along at the street corner, where there is a well dropping down to a basement level, the railings are still there to protect people from falling in.  (The dangers of the blackout and pea-soup fogs , nevermind German bombs, must have been enough as it was.)  I wonder whether the owner of the railings in front of the house that now has a bench was subject to great disapproval for not contributing to the war effort?

There are some streets which still have almost all their railings, simply due to the fact that the buildings have this type of drop behind the railing:

Springbank Terrace's railings have various colours along their tops! These houses are built on a hill. At the front they have a well behind the railings and windows of the floor below street level. Aberdeen, February 2011.

It’s sad to reflect that the rows of holes signify metal that was made into bombs and warships.  The rows of holes themselves have sometimes been used to different effect, such as here where a block was later incorporated into a more modern building:

Recycled: granite which once held railings has been turned on its side and used to build this 1970s complex of flats. Aberdeen, Feb 2011.

It’s sad to think of the fate of the railings, but then again it’s also nice to move through a more open landscape where not everything is fenced off.  The change that I now see happening, and that makes me very sad, is the number of people who convert their front gardens into a concrete parking space.  So much greenery is lost, flooding is worse because there’s less earth to soak up the rain, and the birds have less shelter and food.   I will now rail:  agggghhhhh!  City Council do you not see what you are doing by allowing this?!!!!



  1. Rail away, Christine. I despair when I see yet another front garden being converted into a ‘hard-standing’. The price we pay in the name of personal transport.

    • Yes, it is the worst kind of short-term-ism. And why should that property have free parking AND take up the space in the road that might have been used by someone else to park? As you say, the priority is personal convenience above all else.

  2. I loved reading this post, as I have wondered about the holes too…thanks for solving this mystery

    • I’m glad I wasn’t the only one puzzling over it! It honestly was years before that chance remark by my friend…

  3. this is very interesting, Christine. i’ve never heard of that before. i find it amazing to hear that the wells are that close to the houses. i wonder why that is.

    • Dear ajb,

      I should have clarified – they aren’t water wells, but wells meaning a drop down from street level so that there can be windows on the floor below. The windows simply look out onto the wall, the railings, and people’s feet going past. In larger Victorian houses, there is more space, stairs going down and a door at the lower level. These were often called “area steps” and it was the servant’s entrance.

      There are a number of water wells in Aberdeen, and I’ve often thought it would be fun to post about them – so thanks for the nudge!

  4. ah Christine, i should have thought of that … that makes more sense … like a stairwell … “a vertical shaft (in a building) containing a staircase”. thanks for helping me out there. and you’re welcome for the nudge 😉

  5. Oh, I hate that they are almost all gone. How beautiful that must have been.

  6. Somehow, I missed this post. Since I dearly love history, as well as mystery, I find this quite interesting. Sad indeed though to think what the holes do represent…

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