Classification and Statistics

Settlement Type: city
Population (2011): 46970    
(2001): 43450
(1991): 41453
(1981): 43009
(1971): 43030
(1961): 41196
(1951): 40487
(1901): 32872
(Parliamentary and Municipal Burgh)
(1891): 29919
(1881): 28949
(1871): 25585
(1861): 25250
(1851): 23835
(1841): 20407
(1831): 19238

Tourist Rating: Three Stars
Text of Entry Updated: 06-MAR-2021

Latitude: 56.3954°N Longitude: 3.4352°W
National Grid Reference: NO 115 235
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In 2021, Perth became the first British city to find itself with a settled population of beavers. Beavers became extinct in the 16th C. but re-appeared in Scotland following managed re-introduction and accidental release from c. 2005.
The Romans, who penetrated Perthshire in 80 AD, established a frontier fort at Bertha on the River Tay just north of the present city. The Vikings also used the river to reach far inland, but Perth's rise to pre-eminence was largely due to Kenneth MacAlpin (c.810-859) who became the first King of a united Scotland in 846 AD and brought the Stone of Destiny to nearby Scone where a great abbey grew up. Regularly patronised by the Royal Court, Perth effectively became the capital of Scotland.

Trading in salmon, wool and other agricultural products, Perth developed into a strong fortified commercial centre, eventually gaining the status of a burgh during the reign of King David I (1124-53). In 1126 the Kirk of St. John the Baptist was built and for a time the city was known as St. Johnstoun.

King Alexander II (1198 - 1249) established a Dominican (Blackfriars) Monastery in Perth in c.1240, near the North Port. The Carmelites (Whitefriars) came to Perth in 1260, while a small Carthusian Priory or Charterhouse, was established by King James I in 1429. The Franciscans (or Greyfriars) followed in 1460, and Greyfriars Cemetery now occupies the site of their monastery. These religious houses ran various hospitals to care for the poor and sick.

With the murder of James I in the royal lodgings of the Dominican Monastery in 1437, Perth's position as the capital of Scotland came to an end. In the mid-16th C. Perth became a cradle of the Reformation in Scotland when John Knox gave a forceful sermon in St. John's Church, which roused the congregation to tear down the monasteries. King James VI's 'Golden Charter' of 1600 first refers to Perth as a city.

In 1652, Oliver Cromwell began the construction of a sizeable citadel on the South Inch, one of a series of fortresses designed to subdue the Scottish population. This was briefly re-fortified during the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion, but no visible trace now remains.

During the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries the city developed as a market town, administrative centre and transport hub. As early as 1804 there was a proposal to build a railway bringing coal from Fife, but it was not until 1847 that the Dundee and Perth Railway reached the city, terminating at a station on the east side of the Tay. The Scottish Central railway from Stirling, the Edinburgh and Northern line and the Scottish Midland Junction line from Forfar, all arrived the following year with Perth Railway Station quickly established as an important interchange.

A scheme for domestic water supply was completed in 1832 with a grand Neo-Classical waterworks (now the Fergusson Galley) built on the banks of the Tay. This was designed by Adam Anderson (1780 - 1846), the Rector of Perth Academy, to replace a system of lead and wooden pipes which supplied street pumps from springs and the river. Electricity followed in 1901, and electric trams ran through the streets from 1905 until 1929.

Perth's industries included leather-working and glove-making at the North Port and the hand-loom weaving of flax into linen, cloth which was then whitened in local bleachfields. By the mid-18th century salmon netted in the River Tay were exported to several countries and the coming of the railway allowed fresh fish to be sent as far as London. Pullar's Dyeworks, the largest in Scotland, developed from the bleaching industry. Pullar's was a major employer in the 19th and 20th centuries and later evolved into a dry-cleaning business which made full use of Perth's railway links. Whisky became another important employer; Matthew Gloag was a grocer and wine merchant who blended whisky from c.1814, his company went on to supply Queen Victoria and produce the Famous Grouse. Gloag's were acquired by Highland Distillers in 1970 who moved their headquarters to Perth, and this in turn was taken over by the Edrington Group in 1999 who maintained a significant presence at West Kinfauns until 2016. Arthur Bell & Sons began blending whisky in the city in 1825 and John Dewar in 1846. Bells and Dewars became part of United Distillers, which was later acquired by Diageo Plc, but with no connection to Perth since 1998.

The General Accident Fire and Life Assurance Company (GAFLAC, later simply General Accident) was headquartered in Perth, and their strikingly modern head office at Pitheavlis continues as a significant employer, now a regional office and call centre for the Aviva Group.

The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board was privatised as Scottish Hydro-Electric Plc in 1991, with its headquarters in Perth. This headquarters was retained when the company became Scottish and Southern Energy Plc through merger in 1998.

The international transport group Stagecoach was founded in Perth in 1980 by Brian Souter (b.1954) and Ann Gloag (b.1942), together with Gloag's husband Robin. It now has annual revenues of £3 billion and maintains its headquarters on Dunkeld Road. Also on Dunkeld Road is the head office of family-owned civil engineering contractors and land managers I. & H. Brown, which has an annual turnover of £72 million (2016).

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is also headquartered in Perth, while the Royal National Lifeboat Institution also has the base for their Scottish operations and fundraising here.

References and Further Reading
Bowler, D. (2006) The Origins of Perth: A Medieval Royal Burgh. Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, Perth
Cowan, Samuel (1904) Perth, the Ancient Capital of Scotland - The Story of Perth from the Invasion of Agricola to the Passing of the Reform Bill. Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., London
Duncan, Jeremy (2011) Lost Perth. Birlinn , Edinburgh
Forthergill, Rhoda, Rita Hartley and Sue Hendry (2010) Walks Around Historic Perth. Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, Perth
Gifford, John (2007) The Buildings of Scotland: Perth and Kinross. Yale University Press, New Haven and London
Haynes, Nick (2000) Perth & Kinross: An Illustrated Architectural Guide. The Rutland Press, Edinburgh
Lennie, L. (2007) The Historic Shopfronts of Perth: An Architectural History. Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, Perth
Marshall, T.H. (1849) History of Perth. Fisher, Perth
Penny, George (1836) Traditions of Perth.
Philippou, Paul and Roben Antoniewicz (2012) Perth: Street by Street. Tippermuir Books, Perth
Scott, Sir Walter (1903) Fair Maid of Perth (Waverley Novels). T.C. and E.C. Jack, Edinburgh
Smith, Robin (2001) The Making of Scotland. Canongate Books Ltd, Edinburgh
Stavert, Marion L. (1992) Perth: A Short History. Perth and Kinross District Libraries, Perth
Strachan, David (ed.) (2011) Perth: A Place in History. Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, Perth
Tranter, Nigel (1971) The Queen's Scotland: The Heartland - Clackmannanshire, Perthshire and Stirlingshire. Hodder and Stoughton, London
Walker, Bruce and Graham Ritchie (1996) Exploring Scotland's Heritage: Fife, Perthshire and Angus. Second Edition, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and HMSO, Edinburgh

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