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Perth, Original Harbour

Harbour (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Perth, Original Harbour

Classification Harbour (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) River Tay

Canmore ID 264637

Site Number NO12SW 1142

NGR NO 1207 2366

NGR Description NO c. 1207 2366

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. 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 1142 c. 1207 2366

See also NO12SW 125.

(Location cited as NO 11 21 and 12 22). Perth, Perthshire: whether or no the Romans created a beach-head on the site of Perth (NO12SW 100) in support of Agricola's operations, the burgh was certainly a seaport as early as 1147 as a grant of can from its shipping is recorded in the Holyrood charter. The port is further mentioned from time to time in later medieval documents. Nothing seems to be on record about early harbour-works, but it is safe to assume that quays existed on the burgh's river-frontage. A charter of 1600 shows that the harbour of that date was on the 'Old Shore' at the E end of the High Street (NO c. 1207 2366) and just below the bridge (NO12SW 77) that was destroyed in 1621, but as time went on it evidently moved downstream, either partly or wholly in consequence of progressive silting. Thus a Board of Ordnance plan of 1715-16 shows a small basin with a quay at the mouth of the canal that then occupied Canal Street [name centred NO 1186 2336], this position having perhaps been chosen for the quay, which seems to have had a frontage on the Tay about 100ft [30.5m] long, on account of the proximity of Cromwell's Citadel (NO12SW 22). Again, Robert Reid's plan of 1809 marks 'Coal Shore' at this point, 'Merchant Quay' beside the South Inch, and 'Lime Shore' still further S. There was also a quay at Friarton [name: NO 117 219] S of the modern harbour (NO12SW 202) where an old gun, once used as a pawl, was recently dug out of the river-bank. Access to the harbour was made difficult, as at Stirling (NS79SE 154), by shallows in the lower reaches of the river, and vessels of deeper draught had to tranship part or their cargoes into lighters at Lindores Pow (Lindores: NO21NE 59) or Newburgh (Newburgh Harbour: NO21NW 101).

The old harbour-sites are now obliterated by the Tay Street embankment and other modern developments, the complicated 19th century of which lies beyond the scope of this study.

A Graham 1971.

There is documentary evidence for three harbours at Perth. The earliest (NO12SW 1142) is indicated on the earliest (1715) map of Perth and was probably the original harbour founded by David I, just before 1127. Situated adjacent to the former bridge NO12SW 77 and at the eastern end of the High Street, [at NO c. 1207 2366], it has not been the subject of controlled excavation, but underpinning work beneath the council chambers (NO12SW 125) has revealed timber structures nearly 5m below street level.

The second harbour (NO12SW 145) or New Haven is dated to 1539, when the Perth Guildry Book records that John Moncur of Balluny paid for the carriage of 200 ashlar stones for its construction. This harbour also appears on Louis Pettit's map of 1715 up against the Greyfriars' burial ground (NO12SW 204) at the SE corner of the town and at the outflow of the southern branch of the town lade (NO12SW 50), which now runs beneath Canal Street. This harbour was formed by opening up the mouth of the southern lade into a large basin and building stone quay (the 'Coal Shore') on the S side of the basin, under the walls of Greyfriars. The canal was covered-over by about 1806 and the basin subsequently infilled, as is indicated by the 1st edition of the OS Map (1862/3). Ships could still be berthed along the waterfront until the 1870's, when the foreshore was embanked to form Tay Street.

The third harbour (NO12SW 202) at Friarton (about a mile down river) superseded the other two in the 19th century.

D P Bowler 1991.


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