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PERTH - Extract from National Gazetteer, 1868

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]

"PERTH, contains the parishes of Middle church, St. Paul's, and West church, and parts of the parishes of East church, Kinnoul, Scone, and Tibbermore; it is a post and market town, bonding port, a royal and parliamentary burgh, and the county town of county Perth, Scotland, 22 miles W.S.W. of Dundee, 39 N.N.W. of Edinburgh, or 45 by railway, and 61 N.E. of Glasgow. It is the junction station or termini of the Dundee and Perth, the Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee, the Scottish Central, and the Scottish Midland Junction, or North-Eastern railways. This ancient city, once the capital of Scotland, is supposed to have been in existence at the time when the Romans extended their arms to the banks of the Tay; who at the first sight of this river, with its grassy lawns and wooded banks, are related by tradition to have exclaimed "Ecce Tiber! Ecce Campus Martins!" From the "Itinerary" of Richard of Cirencester there appears to have been three Roman towns in the neighbourhood, called Mauna, Lindum, and Victoria, the last of which was built by Agricola on the river Tay, 28 miles from the exit of that river into the German Ocean, and was probably the same as the Bertha of the Romans, which was swept away by a flood in 1210. The Picts, after their conversion to Christianity, consecrated the church which they built here to St. John the Baptist, from which circumstance it was frequently called St. John's Town, and subsequently Pert, when it became the capital of the kingdom of Scotland, for which its central locality made it admirably adapted, and so continued till the murder of James I. in 1437. In early times it was a place of great trade, and carried on a considerable foreign commerce with the Flemings and Germans, many of-whom settled here towards the close of the 13th century, and introduced the woollen and linen manufactures. Its earliest known charter is dated 1106, but it was first erected into a royal burgh in 1210 by William the Lion, and was the usual residence of the Scottish monarchs prior to the accession of the Stuart family. In it 14 parliaments and 16 church councils were held, and as the capital of the kingdom it necessarily became the scene of some of the most remarkable events in Scottish history. Among others may be mentioned its capture by Edward I. of England immediately after the defeat of Wallace at Falkirk in 1298, when the English king carried off its records; its fortification and adoption as the residence of the English king's deputies till 1311, when it was surprised by Robert Bruce and the fortifications levelled; its capture by Baliol after the battle of Duplin in 1332; its recapture by David Bruce, and recovery by the party of Baliol in 1335, at which last date it was re-fortified by Edward III. of England; its storming by the Scots under Robert, High Steward of Scotland, afterwards Robert II., assisted by the French and the Earl of Liddesdale, in 1339, when the party of Baliol was crushed; its being the scene of the assassination of James I. in the Dominican monastery in 1437, after which event Edinburgh became the seat of government, though Perth continued to be nominally the capital till 1482; its connection with the events of the Reformation, being the place where the six martyrs were hung in 1544 by Cardinal Beaton, and where Knox preached his famous sermon in 1559; its devastation by the plague in the 16th and 17th centuries; its occupation by the Queen-regent Mary, who attempted to restore the Roman Catholic ceremonials; its capture by Argyll and Ruthven; its being the scene of the "Gowrie" conspiracy against James VI., otherwise known as the Raid of Ruthven, in 1600; its reception of Charles I. in 1632; its capture by Montrose in 1644 after his victory at Tibbermuir; its capitulation to Cromwell in 1651, who built a fort on the North Inch commanding the navigation of the Tay; its selection as a place of residence by many of the officers and soldiers of Cromwell's army, who taught the citizens of Perth to improve their modes of life by the English arts, and excited among them a spirit of industry; its occupation by Viscount Dundee in 1689, immediately before the battle of Killiecrankie, and by the Highlanders in 1715 and 1745. From this last date the town began to improve very rapidly in wealth and population, owing to the greater security of life and property, the government of this part of Great Britain having never before been properly settled. It is now one of the handsomest edificed towns in Scotland, presenting, from whatever quarter it is approached, a striking and attractive appearance. The substantial character of its houses, built of freestone, its noble river lined with quays, and here crossed by a bridge of nine arches, 880 feet long by 22 wide; its spacious promenades or meadows called "Inches," situated to the N. and S. of the town, and the back-ground of hills, including Moncrieff and Kinnoul hills, all combine to heighten the effect produced upon the traveller. The North Inch, the scene of the fight between the clans Chattan and Kay, as told in the "Fair Maid of Perth," comprises about 98 acres skirting the margin of the river, and is partly occupied by a curved racecourse of 950 yards. The South Inch is surrounded with avenues of trees on three of its sides, and on the fourth is lined with villas called St. Leonard's Bank, and the buildings of the railway termini. The Inch is intersected throughout its extent by the line of the Edinburgh road, which is likewise shaded with avenues of trees. The bridge of the Dundee and Perth railway crosses the river a little below the town, but so constructed as not to impede the navigation. Great exertions have been made to improve the harbour, which, however, only admits vessels of small burden. Of the massive walls flanked with towers which once surrounded the town no vestiges now remain, the whole having been modernised, and the streets laid out with considerable regularity. The principal thoroughfares of the old part of the city run at right angles to the river, and are called Mill, Hill, South, and Canal streets, intersected by other lines of street running parallel to the river. This part of the town was formerly frequently inundated by the freshets of the Tay, but the level of the ground has been raised by the accumulations of time. The streets are in general straight, convenient, well paved, and lighted with gas. The houses are substantial, and new lines of shops have now almost entirely superseded the hideous and crazy edifices which occupied the same ground less than a century ago. To the S. of the old town, and adjoining the South Inch, lies a new town wholly built since 1801, and arranged somewhat after the fashion of the new town of Edinburgh, with terraces and wide streets, as King's-place, Marshall-place, James-street, Nelson-street, and Scott-street, occupying what was formerly known as the Spey Gardens and Tay-street, extending along the margin of the river from the bridge to the South Inch. A large extension has also recently taken place in a northerly and westerly direction, the former comprising Athole-place, Athole-street, North-crescent, Melville-street, and Barossa-place, adjoining the North Inch, where an ex tension of building was projected in 1853. On the opposite side of the river is the suburb of Bridge end of Kinnoul. The principal public edifices are the County Buildings, erected in 1819 on the site of Gowrie House, in Tay-street, at a cost of £32,000, after designs by Smirke. The structure is of polished sandstone, with Grecian portico supported by twelve massive fluted columns; it comprises a justiciary hall 66 feet by 43, surmounted by a gallery able to accommodate 1,000 persons; the county hall, 68 feet by 40, occupying the S. wing, and containing portraits of the Duke of Athole and Lord Lynedoch, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, Sir G. Murray, by Pickersgill; also a committee room 30 feet square, and in the upper story a card room 44 feet by 30, with a portrait of the celebrated Neil Gow, by Raeburn. Behind these county buildings towards Speygate, are the city and county prisons, erected in 1819 and surrounded by a high wall. At some distance farther to the S., on the S. side of the avenue of the South Inch, stands the government prison, being the only justiciary prison in Scotland. It was originally erected in 1812, at a cost of £130,000, as a depôt for French prisoners of war, but was remodelled on the solitary system in 1841, at a cost of £28,000, and is now capable of containing 535 convicts, besides criminal lunatics and 52 juveniles. The other public buildings are the guildhall in High-street; the city council-room; the police-office, formerly the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary; the Freemasons' Hall, erected on the site of the old parliament house, removed in 1818; a theatre built in 1820; lunatic asylum; spacious suite of barracks, built in 1793, at the head of Athole-street; and the Marshall Institution in George-street, near the bridge. This last is a Grecian structure surmounted by a dome; it contains halls for the public library and for the Museum of the Literary and Antiquarian Society of Perthshire. There are also monuments to Sir Walter Scott, who wrote the "Fair Maid of Perth," and to the poet Burns; the latter, erected in 1854, was sculptured by Anderson. The gas-works, which were constructed in 1824 at a cost of £20,000, are situated in Canal street. The water reservoir, constructed in 1830, is situated at the foot of Marshall Place; but the filtering bed, 300 feet in length, is formed in the upper end of Moncrieff Island, in the Tay. The buildings of the central railway termini mentioned above, near the South Inch, add greatly to the architectural adornment of the town. Here are also the "George Inn," where Queen Victoria stopped for several days in the years 1848 and 1849; the head-office of the Central Bank of Scotland, a Grecian structure, designed by D. Rhind; the head-office of the Perth Banking Company; and branches of the Bank of Scotland, Commercial, National, City of Glasgow, Royal, and British Linen Company's banks. The boundaries of Perth as a parliamentary burgh include Middle, St. Paul's, and West church parishes; also parts of East, Kinnoul, Scone, and Tibbermore parishes, and had in 1851, 1,991 houses, inhabited by a population of 23,835, which in 1861 had increased to 2,089 houses, inhabited by 25,250 persons. It returns one member to Parliament, and had in 1860 a constituency of 1,038. The municipal limits are not equally extensive, and comprised in 1851 only 1,170 houses, inhabited by 14,681 persons; but a new Act was obtained in 1856, extending the municipal police boundaries. The revenue of the borough in 1859-60 was £8,193. It was first chartered by William the Lion, and is divided into seven wards. Under the new Act, it is governed by a provost, who is sheriff and coroner, four bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and twenty-six councillors. The trades incorporations, comprising the hammermen, bakers, fleshers, tailors, shoemakers, glovers, wrights, and weavers, formerly exercised many important and exclusive privileges. The principal manufactures now carried on are muslins, ginghams, imitation India shawls and scarfs, unions, or fabrics of mixed cotton and wool, checks and similar cotton fabrics, and flax-yarns, also boots and shoes, which last industry seems to have taken the place of the glove manufacture, for which this town was anciently famed; ship-building has been carried on to a considerable extent in several yards for upwards of twenty years, and Perth had the honour of turning out the first iron steam-vessel launched on the eastern side of Scotland. Many of the inhabitants are also engaged in the iron-foundries, bleach-works, dye-works, distilleries, breweries, sawmills, flour-mills, rope-walks, and in coachbuilding, tanning, and in the salmon-fishery of the Tay, which last is still very considerable; though salmon are becoming scarcer than formerly. The authorities of the town have from time to time made great exertions for improving the navigation of the river Tay, which is much obstructed by sand-banks, even below the bridge, and obtained an Act in 1834 for constructing a harbour and wet dock, and enlarging the quays, which Act was further extended in 1856. In 1840 Perth was made an independent port, with Newport, Port-Allen, Carpour, Pitfour, and Powgavie, as its creeks or supports, and has belonging to it about fifty sailing vessels, of aggregately 4,000 tons, and five steam-vessels. The chief imports are coal, lime, salt, and manure; and from the Baltic, timber, flax, linseed, corn, bark, hides, and madder. The exports are chiefly potatoes, corn, timber, and slates. Perth likewise forms a separate excise collection, and is the headquarters of the county militia. The sheriff's court of the county and the justice court for the district are held in the town. Perth is the seat of a presbytery in the synod of Perth and Stirling. The four parishes of East Kirk, Middle Kirk, West Kirk, and St. Paul's, are all in the patronage of the town council of Perth. The ministers' stipends average between £250 and £300. The churches of the East, Middle, and West parishes are parts of a very ancient structure, originally called "The Kirk of the Holy Cross of St. John the Baptist," in which Edward III. of England killed his brother John Earl of Cornwall, for devastating the W. parts of Scotland, and in which Knox preached his celebrated sermon, which was followed by the demolition of the monasteries. The building is 207 feet long, with an ancient square tower, surmounted by a pyramidal spire, or belfry, of later date, 155 feet high. The East Kirk has a Gothic window of stained glass, and contains the tomb of James I. and his queen; the Middle Kirk occupies the space beneath the tower, which is supported by four massive pillars; while the West Kirk was almost entirely rebuilt in 1828, after designs by Gillespie. Four other churches of the Established Kirk are situated within the borough; St. Paul's, with a spire, at the W. end of High Street, St. Leonard's, in King Street, in the patronage of the heads of families; St. Stephen's, or the Gaelic church, and Kinnoul-street Kirk-the two last in the patronage of the male communicants. There are four places of worship belonging to the Free Kirk, besides one in which the service is conducted in the Gaelic language; three to the United Presbyterians, two to the Independents, and one to the Original Seceders-this last being considered very venerable as one of the four structures belonging to the fathers of the secession. The Scotch Episcopalians have two churches in the town, viz:: St. John's, in Princes-street, rebuilt in 1851 upon the site of the old chapel; and St. Ninian's, incomplete, comprising as yet only the choir, transepts, and one bay of the nave, but forming a portion of a cruciform Gothic structure, intended to serve as the cathedral of the diocese of St. Andrew's, and also as a collegiate church and scholastic institution. The public schools include the academy, instituted in 1760, a grammar school, endowed trades' school, girls' school, with an income from endowment of £50; infant school, with an endowment of £75 per annum; school of industry for destitute boys; school of industry for females, and a ragged school farm, besides numerous other educational establishments for which Perth has long been famed. The charitable institutions include an infirmary, a dispensary, James VI.'s hospital, destroyed by Cromwell, but rebuilt in 1750 on the site of the Carthusian monastery, with an income of £700; hospital for the destitute sick, with an income from endowment of £75; clothing charity, with an income of £70; old men's charity, with an endowment of £120, besides numerous other charities. Four weekly newspapers, the Perthshire Advertiser, Constitutional, Courier, and the Northern Warden, are published in the town; also an annual periodical called the Perthshire Register. From this place the Drummonds take the title of earl, and formerly took that of duke. The antiquities include Roman coins, urns, antique armour, remains of a temple which once stood on the "site of the House of the Green," and the church of St. John, originally founded in the 5th century; but many of the most interesting antiquities of Perth have recently been removed, including the city walls and fosse, the royal castle, or Cromwell's citadel, the parliament house, where the early parliaments of Scotland were held; Earl Gowrie's palace, erected in 1520 by the Countess of Huntley, and known in the days of the city's pride as the Whitehall of Perth; Spey tower, one of the mural fortresses, near Speygate, long used as a prison, and memorable in history as the place where the six Protestant martyrs were confined, and from the windows of which Cardinal Bethune witnessed their execution; the city cross, bearing the royal and city arms, erected in 1668, in place of the original one, destroyed by Cromwell to furnish material for his citadel; this cross, which was 12 feet high and terminated in a spacious terrace, is said to have been of remarkably elegant design, embellished with statuary, but was unfortunately sold by the city authorities for £5 as a mere worthless obstruction to the thoroughfare of the High-street. The monasteries and monastic churches of Perth were both numerous and wealthy, as the Blackfriars, or Dominican convent founded in 1231 by Alexander II., and in which James I. was killed; the Carthusian monastery or charterhouse, founded in 1429 by James I.; the Whitefriars, or Carmelite convent, a little to the W. of the town; the Greyfriars, founded in 1460 by Lord Oliphant, the site of which was converted into the city cemetery in 1580; besides about nine other nunneries and chapels, of which but slight, if any traces are now remaining, most having been more or less demolished at the first outburst of the Reformation. Besides the Perth races and hunt, which take place in October on a flat course of two miles on the North Inch, there are clubs for golfing, curling, and cricket, and the Perth Highland friendly society. Market days are Wednesday and Friday. Fairs are held on the first Fridays in March April, July, and September, and on the second Friday in December for cattle and horses; on the third Friday in October for cattle, butter, and cheese; and on the first Tuesday in July after Inverness fair for sheep and wool."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]