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Perth, 185 High Street, Perth Theatre

Theatre (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Perth, 185 High Street, Perth Theatre

Classification Theatre (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 159916

Site Number NO12SW 608

NGR NO 11718 23693

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Perth And Kinross
  • Parish Perth
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Perth And Kinross
  • Former County Perthshire

Archaeology Notes

NO12SW 608 11718 23693

Average depth of deposits 2.3m of mixed garden loam and organic midden.

L Blanchard and M Spearman 1980.

Architecture Notes

Architect: William Alexander 1898-99. Reconstruction following fire G P K Young, 1924.

Intimate three tiered horseshoe auditorium (gallery now used for lighting), accessed from street through glass roofed pend fronted by a simple awning.

Information from RCAHMS (2007).


Watching Brief (18 August 2009)

NO 1171 2364 A watching brief was carried out on 18 August 2009 during the excavation of four trial holes and seven boreholes around the theatre in advance of renovation and development. The trial holes were designed to investigate the foundations of the building and their extent was limited to areas previously excavated for the construction of the building. Little archaeological information was gained. One trial hole in the basement showed that this area had been excavated to the level of the natural subsoil during the creation of the

basement, removing any potential archaeology. The borehole data suggested that archaeological deposits are present to a depth of c3m across most of the site. Deeper deposits were encountered in a borehole close to Mill Street and these may relate to infilling of the defensive town ditch known to be in the vicinity.

Archive: RCAHMS

Funder: ARUP

Jamie Humble – Headland Archaeology Ltd

Condition Survey (February 2009 - October 2009)

NO 1172 2370 Perth Theatre is a Category B listed theatre in the centre of Perth built 1898–1900. Constructed as a showpiece for Perth, it was built during the boom period of theatre-building across Britain in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It was designed by Dundee architect William Alexander and opened on 6 September 1900. It is an important regional theatre and a very good example of a compact, late Victorian auditorium design with a good decorative scheme, despite repairs following a fire in 1924, changes in ownership, alterations to the overall theatre and numerous programmes of redecoration.

A Conservation Plan was commissioned by the managers of the Perth Theatre to inform future repair and restoration of the theatre’s auditorium and as part of an application for Heritage Lottery Funding. This work, undertaken February - October 2009, involved a condition survey of the building, an analysis of its historical development and an assessment of significance of the building as a whole as well as of its elements. In particular, it allowed us to determine the remaining original fabric throughout the theatre following extensive alterations in the 1980s.

Documentary and physical research was carried out, with key drawings found at the Perth and Kinross Council

Archives. The theatre is unusual in that it does not have a prominent street presence. It was discovered that the

tenement building fronting the High Street was designed and begun before the design and construction of the theatre. The tenement designs were approved in 1897 and the designs for the theatre in 1898. It would appear that construction of the two buildings was undertaken in parallel and the tenement design was modified to fit the theatre behind and provide access through a pend and shop fronts from the High Street.

Archive: Simpson and Brown and Perth Theatre

Funder: Horsecross Arts Ltd

Jen Austin, John Sanders, Tom Addyman and Tom Parnell – Simpson and Brown Architects

Photographic Survey (16 April 2015)

A photographic survey was carried out prior to the commencement of demolition and rebuilding of the workshop and studio areas by Richard Murphy Architects. The 2015 survey was carried out to supplement the broader photographic record carried out in 2007 to record areas which will be demolished or significantly altered as part of the scheme.

RCAHMS May 2015.

Archaeological Evaluation (26 October 2015 - 2 December 2018)

NO 1171 2364 (centred on) A programme of archaeological

work was undertaken, 17 May 2016 – 2 October 2017

(watching brief) and 26 October 2015 – 2 December 2018

(evaluation), in advance of demolition and building work

associated with the Red Rooms attached to the E side of

Perth Theatre (NO12SW 608) at 187 High Street. The site

lies mainly in backlands within the town’s medieval core, on

the N side of the High Street and on the S side of the town’s

medieval ditch and wall defences that followed the line that

is now Mill Street. A total of five evaluation trenches were

excavated, covering 60m² (10%) of the development area.

Trench 01, in the car park, revealed typical medieval

backland deep garden soils with some cultivation features,

and containing abundant finds of medieval pottery, animal

bone and shell. Below the garden soil, at a depth of 4.70m

AOD (2.40m below tarmac) natural subsoil was encountered.

The natural deposit had been cut by a sub-rectangular feature,

which was interpreted as a possible boundary or defensive

ditch terminal, and which may have formed part of ditch

features found in Trenches 02 and 03 inside the Red Rooms.

Trench 02 was located at the N end of the Red Rooms

building where the floor level was 1m lower, at 6.04m AOD,

than the remainder of the building and the surface level of the

car park. This trench also contained deep medieval garden

soil with abundant finds of pottery, animal bone and shell.

Below the garden soil natural sand was reached. Cut into

the natural sand was a large N/S running ditch, c3.5m wide

and up to 1.5m deep. The lower fill of the ditch contained

some sherds of early medieval pottery. It is considered that

it may have been an extension of the ditch feature found

in Trench 01. The ditch appeared too large for an ordinary

property boundary, such as that of a burgage plot, and it

is possible that the ditch may be part of an early boundary

and/or defensive ditch along the western edge of the town of

Perth, within the line later established for the town defences

in the 14th century. On the W side of the ditch were bands of

ashy clay-silt with frequent finds of daub, which may have

represented floor levels above the ditch fill and therefore

post-dated the period in which the ditch was active.

Trench 03 was located at the mid-point of the Red Rooms at

7.08m AOD (top of concrete floor). This trench also revealed

garden soils, a clay floor and a stone drain. Below the clay

floor was a large pit, 1.22m deep, which contained medieval

pottery, bone and some industrial metal waste. The pit had

been cut into an earlier pit 1.20m across and 1.15m deep.

The earlier pit also contained blacksmithing waste. It was

considered that the earlier pit may have been a slag pit

furnace or perhaps a quenching pit. The pits post-dated a

line of removed planks and a gravel track. At the extreme W

edge of the trench was a N/S cut across the trench, which

could not be excavated fully, but may well have represented

the E edge of a ditch feature, possibly an extension of the

ditch feature found in Trenches 01 and 02.

Trench 04 was located at the S end of the Red Rooms at

7.02m AOD (concrete floor surface). It contained significant

and complex interleaving stone, clay, gravel, silt and midden

layers, extending to at least 2.81m below the floor surface. Of

significance were substantial parts of the S and E walls of a

clay bonded stone building, which extended in a northerly

direction (into Trench 05). This structure was considered

to be early post-medieval in date. Associated with this

structure was a cobbled area considered to be an outside

courtyard. Other features of significance were a rough flat

stone pathway extending along the E face of the structure

and truncated uprights for a wattle fence, perhaps an animal

pen, on the E side of the path. The final layer excavated at

the W end of the trench contained part of a wooden plank

sill beam, indicating the earlier presence of wattle and daub

structures in the vicinity. A sondage at the E end of the trench

revealed further organic trample layers and gravel makeup

layers. At the base of the sondage two postholes had been cut

into natural. Augering established that the natural deposit

extended to a depth of at least 3.65m AOD (3.37m below

floor surface).

Trench 05 was excavated on the N side of Trench 04

to further investigate the building found in that trench.

Trench 05 also contained a complex stratigraphy, indicative

of intensive urban use from the medieval period. The E/W

wall of the building revealed in Trench 04 was found to

continue into Trench 05. The flat stone path on the E side of

the wall also continued into Trench 05. A cobbled surface on

the W side of the wall was considered to be a contemporary

interior surface or floor. Overlying the cobble surface at its W

end was a deposit of small coal fragments. The coal deposit

may have been for domestic use. A sondage on the W side

of the wall, below the cobble floor, revealed a deep layer

of midden material over a rectangular hearth feature which

pre-dated the construction of the wall. The hearth feature

consisted of several layers of heat-affected sand. A small

quantity of slag and metal working debris found in greyblack

silt above the hearth suggests that the hearth was used

for metal working. Below the bottom hearth layer the auger

was used to ascertain the depth of any further deposits. The

auger reached a final depth of 4.05m AOD (almost 3m below

floor level) and revealed layers of silt and clay considered to

be archaeological. Natural deposits were not identified.

The watching brief after the demolition of the Red Rooms

noted the continuation of the wall in Trench 04 for another

3m westwards and of the wall in Trench 05 for another 1.8m

northwards. Garden soil with medieval pottery, oyster shells

and animal bone was noted in trenches for lift shafts and

services. Three stone walls were recorded, two of which were

probably former rig boundaries and the third probably part

of a building demolished in the 1980s when the Red Rooms

were built.

Archive: NRHE (intended)

Funder: Robertson Construction Group on behalf of Perth and

Kinross Council

Ray Cachart – Alder Archaeology Ltd

(Source: DES, Volume 19)


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