Hunting was already a highly regulated activity in Scotland at the start of the post-medieval period. Legal restrictions on hunting were further tightened over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries – out of a mix of environmental concerns and a desire to keep certain forms of game as an elite privilege. The management of game has had a considerable impact on the landscape of Perth and Kinross, yet archaeological and historical investigation of this aspect of the region’s past has been patchy.
A number of deer parks appear to have been present in Perth and Kinross in the medieval period (Hall et al 2011). However, our understanding of the management of deer in the region during the 17th and early 18th centuries is limited, and interdisciplinary study of how deer and other game were managed during this period would be of interest. Estate papers, for example, may provide helpful insights into this topic. A number of 17th and 18th-century estates in Perth and Kinross such as Errol Park (MPK5382) and Scone Palace (MPK5473) had parkland, but it is unclear to what extent these managed landscapes were primarily intended for the preservation of game.
The 19th century saw a major expansion in various forms of shooting, including deer stalking. Deer forests were recorded at Blair Atholl and Comrie by the middle of the 19th century (Jarvie and Jackson 1998, 30). Although, it should be noted that the presence of red deer was mentioned on the Duke of Atholl’s estates much earlier than this (Campbell 1802, 270). The growing popularity of shooting deer and other game led to significant areas of upland Perth and Kinross being maintained as moorland.
Shooting was not merely a recreation for local aristocrats, it rapidly became a source of income for landowners. There is evidence for the commercial leasing of grouse-shooting in the Ben Lawers area as far back as the 1820s (Atkinson 2016, 105). A number of hunting lodges were constructed during the 19th century, with surviving examples at places such as Morenish Lodge (MPK11702) and Clunes Lodge (MPK597). Further study of these buildings’ architecture and origins would be of interest. Field survey has also revealed the existence of a number of, probably, 19th-century shooting stands, with a particular concentration on the moorland above Morenish. It is likely that many more largely unrecorded structures associated with shooting and game management exist in the region.
The renting out of estates for hunting and fishing was not only a significant source of income for landlords, it also helped foster the tourism industry and shaped transport infrastructure. The early railway station in Perth was a key point to which hunting and fishing parties were brought for onward transport by horse and cart, and later by motor vehicle. Perth consequently developed as a retail centre for supplying such activities. Further research into the wider networks supporting hunting activities might be beneficial.
Fox hunting does not appear to have enjoyed the same degree of popularity in Perth and Kinross as it did in the Borders or indeed Fife. However, there is some evidence for foxes being hunted with hounds in the area around Perth and Forteviot during the 19th and early 20th centuries (see, for instance, Dundee Courier 20 February 1924). In more upland areas, the killing of foxes appears to have been primarily regarded as pest control and been achieved through a mixture of shooting and the use of terriers. Interdisciplinary research into the extent of fox hunting in lower lying parts of the region, and whether it impacted choices regarding land management, could perhaps be beneficial.
The study of non-elite hunting, both legal and illegal, is also worthwhile. It is likely that the removal of common rights in favour of private interests, and the often-associated reduction in wetlands and unmanaged moorland, had a significant impact on the hunting activities of less affluent rural residents. Written evidence suggests that the early 19th century saw a reduction in poaching. For instance, during the late 1830s it was noted that in the area around Crieff ‘poaching was once very prevalent; but it is believed that it is now on the decline’ (Fergusson 1845, 508). Comparison of physical and written evidence for illicit hunting might be valuable.
There are numerous written records regarding fishing in Perth and Kinross during the post-medieval period, including extensive unpublished evidence in the Perth burgh records (Perth and Kinross Archives B59 series). By the 1800s salmon fishing on the River Tay was regarded as ‘a valuable branch of trade’ and fish packed in ice were being sent to London and the Mediterranean (Campbell 1802, 347). Detailed historical research has been undertaken regarding salmon fisheries in the Tay in the late 18th and 19th centuries (Robertson 1989). However, further research into the evidence for fishing on the Tay earlier in the post-medieval period would be desirable.
Salmon fishing also took place on a number of other rivers in the region, such as the River Earn and the River Tummel. The travel writer Alexander Campbell claimed at the start of the 19th century that salmon was ‘formerly’ caught in the Tummel by means of ‘wicker baskets, which were placed in the crevices of the rock’ (Campbell 1802, 263). Aside from the evidence of fish bones in middens, the archaeological record left by small-scale traditional fishing may be limited. However, the commercial fisheries of the 19th century made a significant mark on the landscape. Canmore notes the existence of 11 fishing stations and 15 fishing lodges in Perth and Kinross, although this is almost certainly an under-estimate. Several of these sites had narrow gauge railways to help load the salmon. Remains of small railways can be seen at the former fisheries at Walnut Grove, Kinfauns (MPK8700) and Cairnie Pier, St Madoes (MPK6894)
The use of nets for salmon fishing on the Tay continued into the late 20th century. As a result, we are arguably living through a critical period regarding the physical remains of this industry. Some of the former fishing stations have recently been converted to other purposes, while others are increasingly derelict. Greater recording of the surviving physical evidence of fisheries in Perth and Kinross, and of local memories regarding this industry, should be a priority. Some initial oral history on net fishing was undertaken by the Tay and Earn Trust and the Fife Rural Partnership, but more work of this type, and efforts to compare people’s recollections with the surviving physical and documentary evidence, would be desirable (Fife Rural Partnership 2009).