|Location Map ( geo)|
|Perth and Kinross|
For centuries, Perth was the lowest crossing point of the River Tay, with the first bridge having been built before 1209. This is known, as it was swept away by a flood in that year, however a new bridge was in place by 1214. It was frequently mentioned in records over the next 4 centuries as being in need of repair, but remarkably there is no mention of it being rebuilt in all of that time.
By the beginning of the 17th century, however, the old bridge had come to the end of its life and in 1604 James VI commisioned John Mylne, his master mason, to build a new one. It was completed in 1616, and lasted five years. The problem was, or so it seems, that the bridge was built too low, with barely enough room under the arches for the normal flow, let alone the massive floodwaters that the Tay is prone to. A great storm hit Perth in 1621 and destroyed much of the town and the bridge. Whether the town was destroyed by the bridge blocking the river or not is unclear.
Back to a Ferry
It was to be 150 years before the river Tay was bridged at Perth once more, and in that time the crossing was manned by around 30 boatmen ferrying people, livestock and goods across the river. It was often a dangerous job, with the strong currents made worse at high tide and in times of flood. The primary ferry point was from the shore below Kinnoul Parish Church directly across the river to Perth, although with thirty boats to moor, it must have been like a city centre taxi rank on a Friday night.
Designed by John Smeaton, architect of the Eddystone Lighthouse, Perth Bridge (also known as Smeaton's Bridge) was completed in 1771, following a local campaign launched by the Earl of Kinnoul in 1766. It still stands today, although there are another 160-odd years before it reaches the record of the medieavel bridge!
Its first test came in 1774 when a major freeze saw the arches blocked with ice, and water backed up across the vast inches floodplain, but the bridge stood firm. Many of the flood levels can be seen marked in the stonework of the western pier in the Inches park.
On the eastern side of the bridge, a panel erected when the bridge was widened gives the date of construction as 1766, but this is probably when work started. It also says that the bridge was widened in 1869, although this was little more than the removal of the stone parapets and the creation of footways on either side with bracketed iron decks/parapets.