Far more research is required into land routes in medieval Perth and Kinross. The region clearly had a network of roads and tracks, and medieval property documents frequently refer to roads within towns and connecting settlements. Unsurprisingly, there are extensive written records regarding the main routes in and out of the burgh of Perth (Perth and Kinross Archives, B59 series). However, we also have documentation for the links between many smaller settlements. For example, there are 16th-century references to the roads linking quite small communities around Abernyte and Rossie (Perth and Kinross Archives, MS100/1/63). It is to be hoped that more research will be undertaken linking this wealth of written records to early maps, especially the work of Timothy Pont, place-names which can provide invaluable clues about features such as passes and bridges, and the physical evidence of the landscape.
It is likely that the nature of the roads varied considerably, with some capable of taking carts while others were probably little more than paths. Remains relating to medieval roads have been excavated in and around the burgh of Perth. For instance, part of a stone causeway or small bridge was discovered at North Port (MPK14989) and a section of paved roadway was identified near Mill Street (MPK3359; Cox et al 2007; Bowler et al 1996). Sections of at least some roads seem to have been cobbled, while others were gravel, sand and mud.
When considering the nature of medieval roads, it should be remembered that a proportion were probably mainly intended for moving animals rather than people. Further research into drove roads in Perth and Kinross would be desirable. The relationship between the road network of the Middle Ages and earlier and later routes is also of interest. It is likely that Roman roads influenced medieval land routes in the region. Yet, it is also possible that some roads that have popularly been identified as Roman were actually medieval. For instance, the ‘Roman’ road discovered in the 1840s during the construction of Perth railway station may have been the medieval road to Edinburgh (Bowler and Perry 2004, 23). Small-scale archaeological excavation could prove beneficial in investigating proposed Roman roads that may actually be medieval, such as at Strelitz Wood near Coupar Angus (MPK3568; D Strachan pers comm).
Bridges, Fords and Ferries
Crossing points for rivers and lochs played a significant role in shaping the landscape of medieval Perth and Kinross. They influenced settlement patterns and helped determine possible land routes. Fords and ferries were probably the commonest form of crossing. There has been surprisingly limited research into ferries in Perth and Kinross, despite the fact that they are mentioned in written records, particularly charters and financial documents. Thus far there has been no systematic effort to identify and record the sites of medieval ferries in the region. It is of course debatable how much physical trace ferries will have left, but some initial investigation at possible ferry landing points could be worthwhile. The discovery of a probable late medieval or post-medieval ferry boat from beside the Tay at Dalmarnock, Dunkeld provides an important reminder that boats as well as infrastructure can occasionally survive (MPK1563; Mowatt 1996, no. 25, fig 5). Fords are also sometimes recorded in medieval property records, and are more likely to leave a trace in the landscape. Some fords were near the sites of later bridges, although many were probably at now abandoned crossing points.
Perth and Kinross is known to have had a number of important bridges in the Middle Ages. Probable surviving medieval bridges include Ardoch Old Bridge (MPK699), Braco, thought to have been constructed in the early 15th century and the packhorse bridge at Alyth (MPK4918; Gifford 2007, 92). These extant bridges are smaller than some of the other late medieval crossings known to have existed in the region. In the 1510s Bishop George Brown funded the construction of a bridge with multiple arches across the Tay at Dunkeld (MPK2478). The building accounts survive, providing an invaluable insight into methods of construction and the vast sums involved in such a project (Mylne 1893, 18–29). It is likely that Bishop Brown’s bridge was destroyed in the 17th century. Research into the site of this and earlier medieval bridges at Dunkeld would be of considerable interest.
A four arch (later extended to five arch) medieval bridge used to stand at Bridge of Earn (MPK3166). Unfortunately, following the construction of a new crossing for the River Earn in the 1820s, the medieval bridge became increasingly ruinous. In 1976 the final surviving arch from the medieval bridge was demolished (Hay and Stell 1984). Written records indicate that there had been a stone bridge across the Earn since at least the 14th century. Although the Old Bridge of Earn was recorded prior to its demolition, more research into this site could be beneficial.
Arguably, the most significant medieval bridges in the region were those at Perth itself. There was already a bridge at Perth in 1209, when it was swept away by floods. A series of later bridges were constructed, but all met unfortunate ends. The last of the burgh’s medieval bridges across the Tay was destroyed in 1621, and was not replaced until 1771 when the current Smeaton’s Bridge (MPK3405) was constructed. The medieval bridges are thought to have crossed the River Tay at the islands known as the Stanners (MPK3535). The earlier bridges were probably timber, while the late medieval bridges seem to have been made of stone. It has been suggested that ‘white water at very low tide’ near the Stanners is caused by the remains of former bridge piers (Bowler et al 2004, 136). Some stones and timbers ‘firmly embedded in sand’ may also relate to an old bridge. The recent success of the Ancrum Old Bridge Project in the Borders shows that it is possible for medieval bridge timbers to survive in the right waterlogged conditions (Historic Environment Scotland 2020b). Further survey work around the Stanners, including underwater investigation, should be a priority.
Perth also had a number of smaller crossings across the town ditch and other waterlogged areas. The Horsecross excavations revealed a section of a small medieval bridge or causeway faced in ashlar stone with a rubble core. The stones from this structure have been dismantled and stored (Cox et al 2007, 131). The role that such lesser bridges and causeways played in shaping the topography of Perth, and other burghs in the region, deserves more research.
Harbours and Waterways
A number of major rivers run through Perth and Kinross, the most notable of which is of course the River Tay. In terms of sheer volume of water it is the largest river in Britain. Yet rivers such as the Almond, Earn, Isla and Tummel also significantly shape the landscape, as do the many lochs in the region. It is known that seagoing ships could travel up the Tay as far as Perth in the Middle Ages. However more research is needed into the extent to which other waterways were navigable to smaller vessels, and how these connected to wider transport networks. For example, there is written evidence of goods being transported by water along Loch Rannoch and then onwards by road (Hannay 1915).
There has been a degree of research into Perth’s medieval harbours. The first harbour was located near the east end of Perth High Street (MPK15258). Old timbers probably associated with the harbour were seen during building work to underpin the former City Chambers (MPK3378; Bowler and Perry 2004, 21). Further archaeological work in the old harbour area would be of considerable interest; such work would potentially advance our understanding of the evolution of the burgh and its maritime networks. By the early 16th century, a second harbour, known as the New Haven, had been established in Perth near what is now the junction between Canal Street and Tay Street (MPK3401). This site was excavated in the 1980s (Bowler and Perry 2004, 21).
There are several smaller harbours on the Tay downriver from Perth. These were surveyed by Graham in the 1960s (Graham 1969). Most of the structures such as quays and piers recorded in this survey date from the 18th or 19th century. However, Graham noted that both Elcho (MPK3341) and Port Allen (MPK4693), also known as Lindores Pow, probably had an earlier history as landing places. Further physical and documentary investigation at other small harbours, such as Cairnie (MPK3139), Carpow (MPK3140), Inchyra (MPK3337), Kingoodie (MPK5106 & MPK5107), and Powgavie (MPK4647), might reveal earlier origins than currently assumed.
Another shipping related question to consider is ballast. There has been relatively little research on this topic, yet ballast may provide significant insights into economic networks. The burgh of Perth has produced lumps of chalk and flint in several medieval contexts. These stones are thought to have arrived in the area as ballast and then been reused for other purposes (Perry et al 2010, 118). More research to recognise stones which were perhaps used as ballast and identify their origins is needed. For a discussion of boat design see PKARF 7.4.7 Timber and Woodworking.
The population of medieval Perth has been depicted as ‘cosmopolitan’ (Perry et al 2010, 107). There is written and linguistic evidence for settlement in the burgh of people with English, French, Irish and Flemish cultural connections. Analysis of pottery from Perth indicates extensive ties with the east coast of England, Northern France, the Low Countries and the area around the Rhine, though these finds may be a reflection of trading links rather than permanent settlement. Several medieval items probably imported from Scandinavia, including some textile fragments, have also been discovered in Perth. The burgh of Perth clearly had overseas contacts and seems to have experienced a degree of inward migration during the Middle Ages. However, assessing the extent of movement of people over time is challenging, although more detailed analysis of excavated human remains might provide an indication as to the prevalence of people of non-local upbringing in medieval Perth. For example, ongoing isotopic analysis of ‘staff burials’ from Perth Whitefriars suggests they were not local (MPK3515; D Hall pers comm).
It is likely that as a major port the burgh of Perth was more multicultural than the wider region. However, even smaller towns and rural areas in Perth and Kinross probably had a degree of external contact. Historical research has shown that during the 12th and 13th centuries several families ‘of foreign extraction’ achieved positions of influence within the earldom of Strathearn (Watson 2005, 39). The extent to which these new aristocratic families affected the wider ethnic and cultural makeup of the region is unclear. The role of leading churchmen and large monastic foundations in fostering international ties and new patterns of settlement also deserves greater consideration in Perth and Kinross.
Migration within a nation or region can at times be less obvious than international connections. Analysis of personal and place-names may provide some clues as to movement within Perth and Kinross, particularly with regard to relocation and interaction between Gaelic- and Scots-speaking areas. Of course, many of the techniques applicable to the study of the movement of goods also provides evidence regarding the places people travelled between. However, greater archaeological discussion of how best to trace migration within medieval Scotland would be desirable.