History

A Maritime Walk is available which highlights many historical features of Dundee - details of which may be found on the Heritage Walks Website

 

Dundee's history is closely interlinked with its location on the north shore of the Firth of Tay. The City gained its charter in 1191 as one of King David 1's new towns created to encourage trade and civilise the Scottish countryside. The site was strategically positioned, controlling the entry into the heart of Scotland.

 During the medieval period, however, Dundee was second only to Edinburgh in terms of commercial prosperity. Most early trade was by sea and Dundee was ideally located on shipping routes to and from the Baltic and North European ports due to being closer than Edinburgh by two days sailing. The earliest harbour is thought to have been at Gellatly Street/Seagate junction, the port had moved westwards by the 16th Century to a point close to the current High Street at Whitehall Crescent.

From here the harbour developed during the 17th and 18th Centuries. By the 1830s when flax gave way to jute, Dundee changed from a trading port to the world centre for the jute processing industry and the city rapidly expanded.

Royal Arch Dundee

Thomas Telford was appointed to improve the harbour facilities and built the King William IV Dock and the West Graving Dock, on the site of the old tidal harbour, plus a new tidal harbour to the south. The development of the dock continued for the next 100 years, with Earl Grey Dock formed and Victoria and Camperdown Docks added to the east moving the city further away from the waterfront.

Former Docks at DundeeDundee Waterfront

The railways followed soon after and by the end of the 19th Century, the first signs of decline were apparent and the docks were no longer heavily used. In 1911, the City Architect, James Thompson prepared designs for a new Civic Centre on the site of the Waterfront, but the commencement of the World Wars meant that these proposals were never implemented.

In the 20th Century, the most significant factor which determined Dundee's relationship with the Waterfront was the siting on the northern landfall of the Tay Road Bridge. Olympia Leisure Centre and Tayside House were then built in the 1970s - the resultant effect was the loss of the harbour and the serverance of the waterfront from the city.

Construction of the Tay Road Bridge

Dundee Waterfront before redevelopment

The redevelopment of Dundee's waterfront is building on a succession of developments dating back as far as 1300 which have sought to make use of the waterfront. In doing so the current development is writing a new chapter in the history of Dundee.

Images showing the expansion of the city at the waterfront

 

Construction in progress:

2002: Photo showing the previous road networkwith the Olympia Leisure Centre (in foreground) and Tayside House (tower block) prior to demolition.

aerial photograph taken around 2002

Autumn 2013: South Marketgait has been realigned to enable the creation of a new development site at Yeaman Shore. Dundee City Council's former headquarter building at Tayside House has been demolished and realignment of the Tay Road Bridge access ramps are well underway. The Dundee One office development has been completed at City Quay and the new Holiday Inn Express is open.

Aerial Photograph taken on 28 September 2013

Spring 2014: The Railway Station, Olympia Leisure Centre and adjacent hotel have been demolished. The Tay Bridge access ramp realignment works are continuing with the east bound off ramp nearing completion.

Aerial Photo of Dundee Central Waterfront taken in April 2014

Winter 2014: The Tay Road Bridge Access Ramps project is complete. The realignment of Thomson Avenue and Riverside Esplanade are clearly visible as construction nears completion.

Aerial Photo of the Dundee Central Waterfront Works taken in November 2014

Spring 2015: Thomson Avenue now open to through traffic. Construction work has started at the V&A Dundee with the first elements of the cofferdam starting to extend out into the River Tay.

Aerial photograph of Dundee Central Waterfront Construction taken April 2015

Spring 2016: The grass planting at Slessor Gardens is complete with the surrounding roads now open, construction of the V&A museum of design continues; The new drainage pond at South Commercial street is complete and work has commenced on the construction of the new railway station building.

Dundee waterfront March 2016