Crieff to Perth Road Building in the 18th Century

One of the current topics of debate  within Crieff  is the congestion and need  perhaps  for a by pass to remove the ever  increasing amount  of traffic  heading  east or west on the congested A85 Trunk Road .I reproduce  below an article  which appeared in that classic little book “ Crieff : Its Traditions and Characters “ by D Macara and published in 1881 . The Statute Labour Acts were introduced in an attempt to remedy  a road  system that had hardly changed  since the Romans had departed .In 1617, Justices of the Peace were authorised to mend highways and passages to any market town or seaport and from any town to churches. They could impose penalties on those who refused to mend the roads or who damaged them. They were also able to identify where new roads were required.

The 1617 Act was renewed in 1661 but when it became obvious that the system was not working, an Act of 1669 was introduced which required the Sheriff and Justices to meet each year and identify roads needing repair. They would appoint overseers who would then require tenants, cottars and servants to work (unpaid) on road repairs for up to 6 days in the first 4 years, and for 4 days yearly after that. There were penalties for absence.

The Crieff After 1745 Exhibition held some years back in the delightful Innerpeffray Library featured amongst a superb collection of memorabilia , a number of the old Statute Labour plans lent  by Tony Murray of Dollerie a descendant of the aforementioned Anthony Murray .

“ Crieff : Its Traditions and Characters ” by D Macara

Roads and road making Have always  been  a source of anxious consideration with all communities and various modes  were adopted in this country in olden times to improve the means  of transit . At a time  not very remote the Highlands  had  no systematic  highway , and travellers just kept their  noses in the direction wanted  and marched on . With a view to improve matters the Justices of the Peace were empowered to make roads  and in 1740 they determined  to make two roads  from Crieff  to Perth , one on each side of the river Pow as the following minutes of a meeting held at Crieff  on the 11th September of that year testifies : - “ 1 mo. Resolved , that the intending of the road  from Crieff to Perth , on the south side of the Pow of Inchaffray be committed  to Thomas Caw, commonly  called Provost; that he take the charge of the tools and instruments  appointed by the Quarter Session to be put in the hands  of the undertakers of that road , and the said Thomas Caw is hereby authorised  to call out the tenants  of the respective parishes  where the rod commences

, viz, the parishes of Madartie ( sic) Trinity Gask , with the assistance of those residing in the south part of the parish of Crieff , and so on  as the road proceeds , with the  express injunction that the said Thomas Caw  reports  the names and places of abode of all such as , being duly summoned to work  on the said road , do not punctually attend that service ; but with this caution that none  be summoned till the harvest is quite over , and that he begins the roads after the gentleman through whose grounds the same pass have settled the course of the road , 2do. Resolved ,That is the earnest request of the Committee that Major Canfield would travel from Crieff to Perth on both sides of the Pow, take  the two intendants  named for both sides along with him , mark out the course on which he judges the rods on both sides can be made  with the least expense and to the best purpose , and that it be so marked that the intendants can point out to the parties concerned  the road so designed  by the major ; but in case his affairs cannot  allow his travelling both roads , he is hereby entreated to be so good as direct Ensign Carrick to do it “It was further resolved to give Mr Caw a certain sum “ for the days he shall attend the aforesaid service. ( Signed ) Pat. Campbell ( of Monzie ) , JP ; Pat. Murray (of Ochtertyre ) JP ; Laurence Oliphant (of Gask), JP; and Anthony Murray ( of Dollerie ) , JP. “

On the 30th May 1741 , John Galloway , constable , received the following instructions  from the Justices : - “ You are hereby ordered to call out the inhabitants of the parish of Crieff  according to lists  given  you , and on the days appointed  by Thomas Caw , senior , Crieff, overseer appointed for that road , and you are to intimate  to all those you call out to work upon that road the penalties of the law in case they delay , or refuse  to come to the roads when commanded  thereto ; and as there is another road intended  to the north side of the Pow , you are to summon  such of the town and parish to the south road as live on the south side of street , or great road going through Crieff from east to west , and such of the tenants as love on the south side of  the present road leading from Crieff to Corrievechter Eater and Dollerie , and leave the others on the north thereof  to assist at the north road. “

The foregoing gives a curious insight into the customs of our forefathers . After the Jacobite rising General Wade surveyed a system of roads through the Highlands , on which his soldiers were long employed , and taught the inhabitants  the use of pick and spade , and the utility of systematic working . His roads gave rise to the following  couplet :-

“ Had you seen these roads  before they were made ,

You would lift up your hands and bless general Wade “

Along the routes were erected King’s houses made to accommodate about 100 men , which were used as resting stations  by the soldiers  on the march , or  by working parties on the roads . Up to the commencement of the present century , this system was pursued , but squads of civilians latterly  engaged in the work . It was  common practice  to commence operations where the Highland road leads off by Monzie , about 2 miles east from Crieff, and carry on over the leading roads from the far north . Often the men were encamped on the hills  far from human  habitations , living on brose  continuously for weeks , and for want of milk they often supped them with a cup of cold water , and occasionally concluded the plain repast  with a glass of aqua vitae got from any of the numerous smuggling stills. Most of the fine turnpikes in the neighbourhood  were made shortly after the  beginning of this century . Macadam published his system of road making in 1819 which has proved such a boon to the public .In recognition of his eminent services , Parliament  voted him £ 10 000 and appointed him Surveyor – General of Roads .


  1. This content is written very well. Your use of formatting when making your points makes your observations very clear and easy to understand. Thank you. Read on Roads paving


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Glen Artney and Auchnashelloch : A Royal Forest and Comrie’s Highland Heritage .

Methven : Some Historical Tales including a defeat for Robert the Bruce . Methven the cradle of the Stewart Dynasty

The March from Callum’s Hill in Crieff to Tibbermore