A Possible Roman Road Cutting at Innerpeffray Library

Archaeologists have known for a number of years that a well preserved road cutting adjacent to Innerpeffray library was almost certainly of Roman origin. A dig was organised in June 2004 funded by the Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust. It coincided with the Exhibition being held that month in the Library “Crieff from 1745 “. The Library itself sits atop an eroded “drumlin “(a hillock formed by glacial deposits) besides a sheer cliff overlooking the Earn. The theory was that this road was constructed by the Romans to bring traffic up from the crossing of the river at the old ford connecting with the road in and around Parkneuk further northwards. The Romans had a fort at Strageath on the south bank of the Earn and this was part of the road system linking then Gask Ridge watch towers and fortlets.

The initial survey levelled the area and discovered that the road had a gradient of about 1:5.7 which would have allowed the passage of wheeled traffic from the bottom to the top of the cutting. Wheel ruts were discovered when the top soil was removed. Excavations failed to reveal any suitable deposits of datable carbon or pollen or other organic material. The diggers did find a small piece of 18th century glazed pottery as well as a small piece of medieval green glazed pottery. Conclusions as to the originality of the road were difficult to arrive at. No Roman remains were uncovered .It is likely that this stretch of road was an integral part of the local system of communications back as far as the medieval days long before the  Turnpike Acts of the 18th century and the bridge building in the area which significantly altered the route pattern that was existing .

Why then are we to believe that this road was constructed by the Romans? The line  was , as noted above , part of the chain of the Gask Ridge defences . Secondly the manner of construction was typically Roman with an engineering style that was in advance of that found later on in these parts. Calculation indicated the extent of the engineering work carried out. In excess of 2 000 tons of material had been removed and a durable hard core bedding lay. The gradient was gentle, indicating an engineering technique that was too sophisticated for periods up until the 18th century. The only known complex road building carried out in Scotland between the Roman occupation and the arrival of General Waid in the 18th century was carried out by the Cistercian monks who were skilled in such matters ( Hoffman .2004 ) The nearest Cistercian abbey was at Couper Angus and there appears no evidence of their involvement at Innerpeffray . There is evidence that the road was in use during the Tryst at Crieff in the 17th and 18th centuries. To quote Hoffman:

“Rather more can be said of the cuttings likely later history. The early modern period brought increased traffic to this part of Strathearn. In 1672 and Act of Parliament (***Note: this refers to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh as it was prior to 1707) granting the earl of Perth the right to establish a large cattle market (The Tryst) at Crieff. This was held in mid October and quickly became the chief Tryst in Scotland with reports of 30 000 beasts changing hands in one week, to be exported to land s to the south. While the majority of cattle were brought in via the Sma’ Glen and the glens further west, cattle from Angus and Aberdeenshire tended to be driven from Perth via the “Old Gallows Road “. Described in 1715/1716 as “ the road to Stirling “ this leads out of Perth  , past Long Causeway , Burghmuir Road , the Old Gallows Road at Glen Devon Farm and continues today as a line of hedgerows , field tracks and short roads past the old farm of Gateside , East and West Cultmalundie , Westmuir , Clathymore , Clathy , Roundlaw , Ardunie  and Shearerston . It eventually crossed the Earn at Innerpeffray, with further branches leading to Crieff and Kinkell. As the name suggests , it appears to have run past the Gallows to the west of Perth , whilst the 19th century “ Notes of the Statute Labour Trustees “ already describe it as old and confirm its use as a drove road . ”

The importance of Innerpeffray in the road system in the pre Statute Labour Days of the late 18th century can be seen by reference to old Perthshire maps by cartographers Moll and Stobie. The old Roman road or street running parallel to the Gask Ridge watch towers became an important road to Perth . It followed the fort line before turning north near Windygates to reach the old Gallows Road near Tibbermore . According to Hoffman the road appears to have degenerated into a mere track east of Gask House. According to the Statistical Account for 1773 for the Parishes of Gask and Trinity Gask it ” saw little use  despite being in a good state “   .

The Innerpeffray road may have seen an upturn in traffic when the Tryst moved to Falkirk in the 1760s but this was brief . It  had ceased to be part of a major route when the Crieff bridge over the Earn opened in 1740- 1741 . In 1758 , Maitland described the Roman road from Strageath fort as “ descending the eminence and , crossing the Earn , mounting the hill to the village of Innerpeffray in the neighbourhood of which it became the common road ”. The fact that he was able to cross the and that the route still appears on Stobie’s map of 1783 , suggest that the ford and the cutting were still usable at this time . His statement that the common road did not begin until he reached the village might imply that this was no longer a major crossing point . If so , this would fit in well with Moll’s map , produced a decade earier in 1745. This still marks the Old Gallows Road but shows Kinkell , not Innerpeffray , as the Earn crossing point . Kinkell was originally a ferry crossing ( as Innerpeffray became ) but in 1793 was replaced with a toll free bridge . This cut travel times and drovers ‘ costs still further and would have had an impact on the importance of Innerpeffray .

The old Roman Road became redundant as with the advent of the Turnpike and Toll Roads drovers and other travellers were avoiding paying toll s by taking these old routes . Pressure was brought upon the adjoining proprietors to close non statute roads . The Old Gallows Road and a series of branch roads were formally closed in 1813 “on application by Lord Kinnoul and Robert Smyth of Methven ” .



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