1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Perth (Scotland)

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PERTH, a city, and royal, municipal and police burgh, and county town of Perthshire, Scotland, 32 m. N. by W. of Edinburgh direct, and 474 m. by the North British railway, via the Forth Bridge and Kinross Junction. Pop. (1901), 33,566. It is situated on the right bank of the Tay, between the meadows of the North Inch (98 acres) and those of the South Inch (72 acres), both laid out as public parks. The river is crossed by St John's Bridge of nine arches, completed in 1772 from the designs of John Smeaton and widened a century later; by Victoria Bridge, a modern structure connecting South Street with Dundee Road; and farther south (at the end of Tay Street) by a footway alongside of the viaduct belonging to the Caledonian railway. Of earlier bridges one, which crossed at High Street, was swept away by the flood of 1621, and another, constructed by General Wade in 1723-1733, was apparently the predecessor of Smeaton's bridge. On the left bank of the river lie the suburb of Bridgend and Kinnoull Hill (729 ft.). To the south are the wood-clad heights of Moncrieffe Hill (725 ft.), Magdalenes Hill (596 ft.), Kirkton Hill (540 ft.) and Craigie Wood (407) ft. In the river are Friarton or Moncrieffe Island and the Stanners.

Notwithstanding the importance of Perth in former times, almost the sole relic of the past is the church of St John the Baptist, a large Decorated cruciform building surmounted by a massive square central tower 155 ft. high. The original edifice is believed to have been erected in the time of Columba, but the transept and nave of the existing structure date from the early part of the 13th century, the choir from the 15th. The church was restored in 1891, and is now divided into the East, Middle and West churches. The silver-gilt communion cup used in the Middle Church is said to have been presented by Queen Mary. In May 1559 John Knox preached in St John's his famous sermon in denunciation of idolatry. The Dominican or Blackfriars' monastery, founded by Alexander II. in 1231, occupied a site near the west end of St John's Bridge; in what is now King Street stood the Carthusian monastery, founded by James I. in 1425; the Franciscan or Greyfriars' monastery, founded in 1460 by Laurance, first Lord Oliphant, stood on the present Greyfriars' cemetery; the Carmelite or Whitefriars' monastery, founded in 1260, stood west of the town. The tombstone of James I. and his queen, who were buried in the Charterhouse, was afterwards removed to St John's East Church. During the period between the beginning of the 12th century and the assassination of James I. in 1437, many of the Scottish parliaments were held in Perth. The building in which they met stood off High Street and was only cleared away in. 1818, its site being occupied by the Freemasons' Hall. The earl of Gowrie's palace, built in 1520, stood in spacious grounds near the river and was removed in 1805 to provide room for the county buildings. The castle of Perth stood on the north of High Street, not far from St John's. It was probably built about 860 and demolished about 1400. The Spey or Spy tower, the most important fortress on the city wall, guarded the south gate close to the river, but it was taken down early in the 19th century. The market cross, erected in High Street in 1669 to replace the older cross which Cromwell destroyed, was removed in 1765 as an obstruction. The huge fortress, 466 ft. square, which Cromwell erected in 1651 on the South Inch, close to the river and the Greyfriars' burying-ground, was demolished in 1663. The house of Catherine Glover, the "Fair Maid of Perth," still stands in Curfew Row. James VI.'s Hospital, founded in 1569, occupies the site of the Carthusian monastery, the original structure having been pulled down by Cromwell's orders. The pensioners now live out and the hospital has been converted into artisans' dwellings. Among modern public buildings the principal are St Ninian's Episcopal Cathedral, in the Early Middle Pointed style, an important example (completed 1890) of the work of William Butterfield (1814-1900); the municipal buildings (1881); the city-hall; the Marshall Memorial Hall (1823), housing the public library and the museum of the Perth Literary and Antiquarian Society; the Perthshire natural history museum; the Sandeman public library (1898), founded by a bequest of Professor Sandeman of Owens College, Manchester. The general prison for Scotland, south of the South Inch, was originally erected in 1812 as a depat for French prisoners, but was remodelled as a convict prison in 1840 and afterwards enlarged. North-west of the city are the military barracks built in 1 7931 794. Besides the regular elementary schools there are the Perth Academy (1807) with which was subsequently amalgamated the Burgh Grammar. School, an institution supposed to date from, the 12th century; Sharp's institute (1860); the Stewart's free school, an industrial school for girls, and the Fechney industrial school. The charitable institutions comprise the royal infirmary,, in the Italian style, considerably enlarged since its foundation in 1836; the Murray royal lunatic asylum in Bridgend; the Hillside House in Kinnoull and the small-pox hospital.

From the south the city is entered by the North British railway and the Caledonian railway (which also runs west to St Fillans, east to Dundee and north-west to Aberdeen); and from the north by the Highland railway, the three systems utilizing a general station in the south-west of the town. During the season there is communication with Dundee and other river ports by steamer. The navigation of the stream is considerably obstructed by sandbanks, but vessels of 200 tons can unload at the quays, which, with the town and Friarton harbours, lie below the South Inch. The greatest tidal rise is 13 ft. The chief imports are Baltic timber, coal, salt and manure; and the exports, manufactured goods, grain, potatoes and slates. Perth has long been famous for its dyeing and bleaching, the bleach-fields being mostly situated outside of the city, in convenient proximity to the Tay and Almond. The other leading industries include manufactures of gauge-glasses, ink, muslins, India shawls, jute goods, woollens and winceys, floorcloth, and boots and shoes. There are iron foundries, breweries, distilleries, rope and sail works, coachbuilding yards, steam joinery works, and brick and tile works. The salmon fisheries of the Tay yield a substantial revenue. Perth is under the jurisdiction of a town council, with a lord provost and bailies, and returns one member to parliament.

History- During the time that it was occupied by the Romans, a period estimated at 320 years, the city was called Victoria; but shortly after their withdrawal it seems to have borne the Celtic appellation of Aber-tha ("at the mouth of the Tay"). The transition to the latinized form Bertha and later to Perth (the Gaelic name being Pearl) appears obvious. On the conversion of the original Pictish inhabitants and the dedication of the first church to St John the Baptist, the town was designated St Johnstoun, and it continued to be known indifferently by this name and that of Perth down to the 17th century. Roman remains have often been found in excavations carried out within the existing boundaries, which suggests that the Roman settlement was at least twenty feet below the present surface. The obscurity of the early annals of the town is explained by the circumstance that Edward I. caused the records to be removed. Perth is stated to have been a burgh in 1106 and was made a royal burgh by William the Lion in 1210. During the Scottish wars of the Independence its fortifications were strengthened by Edward I. (1298). Robert Bruce several times ineffectually attempted to seize it, but in 1311 he succeeded in scaling the walls during a night attack. This was the fourth and most brilliant of the seven sieges which the city has sustained. Taken by Edward III. in 1335, it was recaptured in 1339. In 1396 the combat between the Clan Chattan and the Clan Quhele, described in Scott's Fair Maid of Perth, took place on the North Inch in presence of Robert III. and his queen, Annabella Drummond. The Blackfriars' monastery was the scene of the murder of James I. by Walter, earl of Atholl, in 1437. In consequence Perth lost its status as capital, in which it had succeeded to Scone, and the Parliament Courts were transferred to Edinburgh in 1482. Gowrie Palace was the scene of the mysterious "Gowrie" conspiracy against James VI. in 1600. The town was taken by Montrose in 1644, by Cromwell in 1651, and was occupied by Viscount Dundee in 1689. In 1715 the Old Pretender was proclaimed king at the Mercat Cross (Sept. 16), and the chevalier himself appeared in the city in the following January, only to leave it precipitately on the approach of the earl of Argyll. Prince Charles Edward spent a few days in Perth from the 3rd of September 1745. In both rebellions the magistrates took the side of the Crown and were supported by the townsfolk generally, the Jacobites drawing their strength mainly from the county noblemen and gentry with their retainers. Since then the city has devoted itself to the pursuits of trade and commerce. Perth was visited by plague in 1512, 1585-1587, 1608 and 1645; by cholera in 1832; and the floods of 1210, 1621, 1740, 1 773 and 1814 were exceptionally severe.

Authorities - Maidment, The Chronicle of Perth from 1210 to 1668 (1831); Penney, Traditions of Perth (1836); Lawson, The Book of Perth (1847); Peacock, Perth, its Annals and Archives (1849); Samuel Cowen, The Ancient Capital of Scotland (1904).