Perth

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Perth
Gaelic: Peairt
Scots: Pairth
Perthshire
St. Matthew's Church and Smeaton's Bridge.jpg
Perth and the River Tay
Location
Grid reference: NO115235
Location: 56°23’49"N, 3°26’14"W
Data
Population: 44,820  (est.)
Post town: Perth
Postcode: PH1-PH3; PH14
Dialling code: 01738
Local Government
Council: Perth and Kinross
Parliamentary
constituency:
Perth and North Perthshire

Perth is a town and royal burgh in Perthshire, of which it is the county town. It stands on the banks of a broad lower reach of the River Tay, with an estimated a population of some 44,800.

The name Perth comes a Pictish word for wood or copse. There has been a settlement at Perth since prehistoric times, on a natural mound raised slightly above the flood plain of the River Tay, where the river could be crossed at low tide.

During the Middle Ages, Perth was known as the capital of Scotland; here at Scone Abbey was the "Stone of Destiny" where the King of Scots was crowned and the royal court was often at residence here. Perth became a royal burgh in the early 12th century and one of Scotland's richest trading burghs.

Perth is, as in ancient times, an important transport hub between the Lowlands and the Highlands. It is on an important bridge over the Tay and is a trysting place for road and rail between Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow in the south and west, and Aberdeen, Inverness and the Highlands in the north.

The largest town in Perthshire, Perth is the retail and service centre for the county and the wider surrounding area.

Name of the town

The name Perth derives from a Pictish or Gaelic word for wood or copse.

During much of the later mediæval period the town was known colloquially as "St John's Toun" or "Saint Johnstoun" because the church at the centre of the parish was dedicated to St John the Baptist.[1] The name appears as an alternative to "Perth" on occasional early maps.[2]

Perth has been nicknamed The Fair City since the publication of the story Fair Maid of Perth by Sir Walter Scott in 1828.

Churches

St John's Kirk

Churches of Perth include:[3]

St John's Kirk is the ancient parish church and architecturally and historically it is the most significant building in Perth.[4] This church gave Perth its alternative name of "St Johnstoun". In a sermon at St John's in May 1559, John Knox began the fervour of the Scottish Reformation with a sermon against idolatry, a sermon so powerful that immediately on its conclusion the inflamed congregation rushed to destroy the altars in the Kirk and all idolatrous and Papist trappings and went on to destroy the monasteries of town.

The settlement of the original church dates back to the 12th century.[5] During the middle of the 12th century, the church was allowed to fall into disrepair, when most of the revenues were used by David I to fund Dunfermline Abbey.[4] The majority of the present church was constructed between 1440 and 1500.[4] Though much altered, its tower and lead-clad spire continue to dominate the Perth skyline. The Church has lost its mediæval south porch and sacristy, and the north transept was shortened during the course of the 19th century during street-widening. Another rare treasure, a unique survival in Scotland, is a 15th century brass candelabrum, imported from the Low Countries. The survival of this object is all the more remarkable as it includes an idolatrous statuette of the Virgin Mary. St John's Kirk also had the finest collection of post-Reformation church plate in Scotland (now housed permanently in Perth Museum and Art Gallery). The collection of mediæval bells is the largest to have survived in Great Britain.

St Paul's is Category B listed.[6] Its spire, completed in 1807, is a major focus point around St Paul's Square at the junction of Old High Street and North Methven Street.

History

Echoes of early days

Perth's Pictish name, and some archaeological evidence, indicate that there must have been a settlement here from earlier times, probably at a point where a river crossing or crossings coincided with a slightly raised natural mound on the west bank of the Tay (which at Perth flows north-south), thus giving some protection for settlement from the frequent flooding.[1] Finds in and around Perth show that it was occupied by the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers who arrived in the area more than 8,000 years ago. Nearby Neolithic standing stones and circles followed the introduction of farming from about 4000 BC, and a remarkably well preserved Bronze Age log boat dated to around 1000 BC was found in the mudflats of the River Tay at Carpow to the east of Perth.

Middle Ages

The Chapel of Scone Palace

Two miles northeast of Perth is Scone, which was the main royal centre of the Kingdom of the Picts from at least the reign of Kenneth I mac Ailpín (843–58). Scone was later the site of the major Augustinian abbey of the same name founded by Alexander I (1107–24), which association enhanced Perth's early importance. Perth was considered the effective capital of Scotland from the regular residence of the royal court here. Royal Burgh status was soon awarded to the town from King William the Lion in the early 12th century.

During the 12th and 13th centuries, Perth was one of the richest trading burghs in the kingdom, along with such places as North Berwick, Aberdeen and Roxburgh), and was the residence of numerous craftsmen organised into guilds (amongst which were the Hammermen (metalworkers) and Glovers. Perth also carried out an extensive trade with France, The Low Countries and the Baltic Countries with luxury goods being brought back in return, such as Spanish silk and French pottery and wine.[7]

The royal castle (on or near the site of the present multi-storey car park adjacent to the new council offices), was destroyed by a flood of the Tay in 1209, one of many that have afflicted Perth over the centuries.[8]

King Edward I of England brought his armies to Perth in 1296 and with only a ditch for defence and little fortification, the town fell quickly.[9] Stronger fortifications were quickly implemented by the English, and plans to wall the town took shape in 1304. They remained standing until Robert the Bruce's recapture of Perth in 1312.[10]

As part of a plan to make Perth a permanent English base within Scotland, Edward III forced six monasteries in Perthshire and Fife to pay for the construction of stone defensive walls, towers and fortified gates around the town in 1336. These defences were the strongest of any town in Scotland in the Middle Ages.

King James I of Scotland was assassinated in Perth in 1437, by followers of the Earl of Atholl at Blackfriars church.[11]

The Modern Age

The Old Academy in Rose Terrace

By the mid-16th century, John Knox began the Scottish Reformation from grass-roots level with a sermon against idolatry in the burgh kirk of St John the Baptist. So powerful and uncompromising was his preaching that immediately on its conclusion the inflamed congregation rushed to destroy the altars in the Kirk and all idolatrous and Papist trappings and went out to destroy the Houses of the Greyfriars and Blackfriars, and the Carthusian Priory. Scone Abbey was sacked shortly afterwards. Soon afterwards, the Protestant "Lords of the Congregation" occupied Perth, before advancing to Edinburgh.

In 1651, two years after King Charles I was beheaded in London, his son landed in Scotland and was crowned King Charles II at Scone, traditional site of the investiture of Kings of Scots. That same year Oliver Cromwell came to Perth, fresh from victory in the English Civil War, and established a fortified citadel on the South Inch, one of five built around Scotland.[12] King Charles II was eventually restored to his throne in 1660. In 1689, after King James VII had been deposed, his Episcopalian supporters, the Jacobites, occupied Perth in 1689. The Jacobites occupied the town too in their rebellions of 1715 and 1745.

In 1760, Perth Academy was founded, and major industry came to the town, now with a population of 15,000. Linen, leather, bleached goods and whisky were its major exports. Given its location, Perth was perfectly placed to become a key transport centre with the coming of the railways. The first railway station in Perth was built in 1848. Horse-drawn carriages became popular in the 1890s; they were quickly replaced by electric trams. Despite being a garrison town and undergoing major social and industrial developments during the First World War, Perth remained relatively unchanged.

City status

Signage in Perth

Perth has been termed a city, and traditional documentation confirms that this has been true from early days. However the title and status was never granted by the Crown.

In the late 1990s, the Government and the Scottish Executive re-examined the definition[13] of city and produced a list of approved cities, from which Perth was omitted. It is now considered to be a "former city", like Brechin and Elgin.

Current road-signs around the borders state "The City of Perth", and directional signs within indicate "City Centre". The local authority asked that the 800th Anniversary of the city in 2009 should create "a foundation for Perth to bid for formal city status".[14]

Perth is one of the bidders for city status to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.[15]

Shopping and economy

The pedestrianised modern High Street
Town centre

The strength of Perth's economy lies in its diversity; it has a balance of large companies, the public sector, a broad range of small and medium sized enterprises and many self-employed business people. The development in renewable energy, insurance, manufacturing, leisure, health and transport are stimulating employment. The town's largest employers though are local administration and the NHS.

Perth's city centre is situated to the west of the banks of the River Tay.[16] The pedestrianised high street which runs from the junction of Tay Street to South Street is the main focus of the shopping area.[16] The centre has a variety of major and independent retailers.

The major retailers are largely based on the High Street, St John Street and the St John's Centre. Independent retailers can be found within George Street, the old High Street and Princes Street.

A £3 million pound project for the High Street and King Edward Street provided new seating, lighting and the laying of natural stone in 2010. [17] A retail park, constructed in 1988, exists to the north-west of the town centre around St Catherine's Road, and provides eight purpose built units.[18]

Culture

Perth Museum and Art Gallery

Perth Museum and Art Gallery at the top end of George Street is recognised as one of the oldest provincial museums in Scotland. Another museum known as The Fergusson Gallery is in the former Perth Waterworks building on Tay Street. This contains the major collection of the works of the artist, John Duncan Fergusson.

Perth is also home to two theatres – Perth Theatre and Perth Concert Hall. Perth Theatre, constructed in 1900 is one of Scotland's oldest and most historic repertory theatres.[19] The theatre is undergoing a £10 million redevelopment into an arts complex to house new studio space, a youth theatre, construction workshop and a series of front of house performance areas in addition to the main focus of the conservation and restoration of the historic Edwardian auditorium.[19][20] This is to include a new main entrance to the building on Mill Street; demolition of all extensions to the east of the original theatre and the creation of a foyer space to link all existing and new facilities.[19][21] Perth Concert Hall which opened in 2005, was built on the site of the former Horsecross Market and largely funded from Britain's millennium celebrations.

The Perth Festival of the Arts is an annual collection of art, theatre, opera and classical music events in the town. The annual event lasts for a couple of weeks and is usually held in May. In recent years, the festival has broadened its appeal by adding comedy, rock and popular music acts to the bill.

Media

The sole newspaper based in the town is the Perthshire Advertiser.

There is also one local radio in the town: Perth FM.

Sights of Perth

Perth Sheriff Court
St John's Kirk
The Fair Maid's House

St John's Kirk is architecturally and historically the most significant building in Perth.[4] The settlement of the original church dates back to the 12th century.[5] The majority of the present church was constructed between 1440 and 1500.[4] Though much altered, its tower and lead-clad spire continue to dominate the Perth skyline. The Church has lost its mediæval south porch and sacristy, and the north transept was shortened during the course of the 19th century during street-widening. Another rare treasure, a unique survival in Scotland, is a 15th century brass candelabrum, imported from the Low Countries. The survival of this object is all the more remarkable as it includes an idolatrous statuette of the Virgin Mary. St John's Kirk also had the finest collection of post-Reformation church plate in Scotland (now housed permanently in Perth Museum and Art Gallery). The collection of mediæval bells is the largest to have survived in Great Britain.

The spire of St Paul's Church (Category B listed[6]) is a major focus point around St Paul's Square at the junction of Old High Street and North Methven Street. The development of the church led to an expansion of the city to the west. Pullar House on Mill Street was once used by Pullar's dyeworks, the largest industry in Perth at one time and has since been converted into office use for Perth and Kinross Council in 2000.

The Fair Maid's House on North Port (Category A listed[22]) is the oldest surviving secular building in Perth.[23][24] Built on the foundations of previous buildings, parts of the structure date back from 1475.[23] Purchased by the Glovers Association in 1693 for use as a meeting house, the house was reconstructed in 1893 to its current appearance. The house appears in fiction as home to Catherine Glover in the novel, The Fair Maid of Perth by Sir Walter Scott in 1828. In 2010, the house was converted by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) into a visitor and educational centre reflecting the history of Perth.[24] The work also included the extension of a building between the Fair Maid's House and the neighbouring Lord John Murray's House from which the RSGS have operated their headquarters, when it moved to Perth in 2008. The sensitive conversion of the building was recognised by the Perth Civic Trust, winning its restoration and renovation award in 2011.[25]

The City Mills nearby and taking power from the lade from the River Almond, were the site of industry until the early 19th century. Only the Upper and Lower Mills survive to this day. The Category A listed[26] Lower Mills which date from 1805 were used for barley and oatmeal, while the Category A listed [27] Upper Mills of 1792 consisted of two wheat mills connected to a granary.

The former Perth Waterworks, completed in 1832 (Category A listed[28]), serve as the main focus point on the southern end of the city centre. The waterworks were converted into a gallery dedicated to the works of J D Fergusson in 1992. The building is one of the very few early surviving examples of a cast iron structure.

Parks

North Inch

The City has two principal parks: the North Inch and South Inch. The Inches were given to the city in 1377 by King Robert III.

The North Inch is located directly to the north of the city centre. It is bordered to the south by Charlotte Street and Atholl Street and to the southwest by Rose Terrace. Its western perimeter consists of part of the exercise path that circumnavigates the entire park. The River Tay bounds it to the east. A little farther to the north is the Inch's eponymous golf course [29]

The South Inch is half a mile south of the North Inch, directly across the city centre, linked to it by Tay Street, which runs along the western banks of the Tay. The South Inch is bordered to the north by Marshall Place and Kings Place; to the east by Shore Road; to the south by South Inch View; and to the west by St Leonards Bridge. The Edinburgh Road passes through its eastern third. The South Inch offers various activities, including bowling, an adventure playground, a skate park, and, in the summer, a bouncy castle. The Perth Show takes place annually on the section of the Inch between the Edinburgh Road and Shore Road.

Sport and leisure

View from the West Stand of McDiarmid Park

St. Johnstone is the town's professional football club, and has its home ground at McDiarmid Park.

There are also two junior clubs based in Perth – Jeanfield Swifts and Kinnoull.[30]

Perthshire Rugby Football Club play their games at North Inch.

Pools and leisure centres

  • Perth Leisure Pool, west of the railway station on the Glasgow Road
  • Bell's Sports Centre, to the northwest of the town centre at the western edge of the North Inch. Before the building of the Greenwich Dome.
  • The Dewar's Centre, a main centre of curling in Scotland.

References

The roof of the old Perth Academy
  1. 1.0 1.1 Graham-Campbell Perth: The Fair City pp1–2
  2. Example: MapThe South Part of Perth Shire Containing Perth, Strathern, Stormount and Cars of Gourie &c by H Moll (National Library of Scotland)
  3. Churches Together in Perth
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Graham-Campbell pp38–39
  5. 5.0 5.1 Walker and Ritchie Fife, Perthshire and Angus p. 122.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "St Paul's Church, Perth – Listed Building Report". Historic Scotland. http://hsewsf.sedsh.gov.uk/hslive/hsstart?P_HBNUM=39315. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  7. Graham-Campbell Perth:The Fair City p8
  8. Graham-Campbell Perth:The Fair City p6
  9. Graham-Campbell Perth: The Fair City p14
  10. Graham-Campbell Perth: The Fair City pp16–17
  11. Brown, "James I (1394-1437)".
  12. http://www.perthcity.co.uk/index.asp?pg=61
  13. "Review of Scotland's Cities - The Analysis". Scottish Executive. January 2003. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/society/rsca-02.asp. Retrieved 14 May 2010. 
  14. "800th Anniversary of Perth". Perth and Kinross Council. 29 May 2009. http://www.pkc.gov.uk/Tourism+and+visitor+attractions/Events+and+festivals/Perth+800/800th+Anniversary+of+Perth.htm. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  15. http://news.stv.tv/scotland/tayside/260722-perths-city-status-bid-given-boost/
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Perth City Centre Map". Visitscotland. http://www.perthshire.co.uk/index.asp?tm=27. Retrieved 22 December 2009. 
  17. "Perth shopping streets get £3 million makeover". The Courier. 18 February 2011. http://www.thecourier.co.uk/News/Perthshire/article/10984/perth-shopping-streets-get-3-million-makeover.html. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  18. "Perth: St Catherine's Retail Park". Pradera. http://www.pradera.com/pradera-properties/perth-st-catherines-retail-park. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "Perth Theatre". Richard Murphy Architects. 2011. http://www.richardmurphyarchitects.com/projects/473/. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  20. "Perth Theatre". charcoalblue. http://www.charcoalblue.com/projects/being-designed/perth-theatre.html. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  21. "Perth Theatre plans win approval". The Courier. 7 March 2011. http://www.thecourier.co.uk/News/Perthshire/article/7491/perth-theatre-plans-win-approval.html. 
  22. "Fair Maid's House, Perth – Listed Building Report". Historic Scotland. http://hsewsf.sedsh.gov.uk/hslive/hsstart?P_HBNUM=39410. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 Fothergill, Hendry and Hartley, Walks Around Historic Perth, p.19.
  24. 24.0 24.1 "Revamp for Perth's oldest house". BBC News. 18 September 2011. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/tayside_and_central/8413686.stm. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  25. Reoch, Paul (10 August 2011). "Perth Civic Trust presents restoration and renovation award to Fair Maid's House". The Courier. http://www.thecourier.co.uk/News/Perthshire/article/16359/perth-civic-trust-presents-restoration-and-renovation-award-to-fair-maid-s-house.html. Retrieved 18 September 2011. 
  26. "Lower City Mills, Perth – Listed Building Report". Historic Scotland. http://hsewsf.sedsh.gov.uk/hslive/hsstart?P_HBNUM=39578. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  27. "Upper City Mills, Perth – Listed Building Report". Historic Scotland. http://hsewsf.sedsh.gov.uk/hslive/hsstart?P_HBNUM=39577. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  28. "Former Perth Waterworks, Perth – Listed Building Report". Historic Scotland. http://hsewsf.sedsh.gov.uk/hslive/hsstart?P_HBNUM=39341. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  29. North Inch Golf Course
  30. "list of Scottish Junior football teams A-K". Scottish Football Junior Football Association. http://www.footballcentral.org/sfa/associations/scottish-junior-football-association/club-directory-a-k.cfm. Retrieved 17 December 2009. 

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