Charles II was crowned at Scone in 1651 where he agreed to subscribe to the Solemn League and Covenant, and within a year of this coronation Oliver Cromwell dispatched his Parliamentarians to take the fair city. As Cromwell’s forces arrived in Scotland, the Burghs of Perth sent 100 men under Captain Andrew Butter, Lieutenant John Davidson and Ensign James Dyke to join the 4,000 troops under the command of Sir John Browne of Menstrie assembling at Dunfermline. In the ensuing battle, these Royalist/Covenanter forces were trounced by the Parliamentarian force under the command of Major-General John Lambert (1619-84). Lambert had crossed the Firth of Forth with the intention of disrupting Scottish supply lines in Fife. General Leslie ordered the 4,000 troops under Sir John Browne to push Lambert back across the Firth. However, Browne was not only defeated but his army was destroyed – some 1,600 being killed.The road to Perth was open.
Remnants of the Perth contingent returned to the town and the gates were closed as an attack was expected. Elsewhere, Charles II and his army left Stirling and marched towards England. As Cromwell’s men approached Lieutenant Davidson ordered carts to be moved up and down the city streets and drums to be beat throughout the town and port. It was hoped that this would fool Cromwell into avoiding battle. He simply approached the town in force and offered terms for surrender which were immediately excepted. Cromwell and his men entered Perth. They were first greeted by the Provost, Andrew Grant and then taken to the house of Lieutenant Davidson. When questioned by Cromwell as to how Perth intended to defend itself against his army, the provost reply was that their intention was merely to delay matters and allow the King safe passage to England. This did not go down well and the Provost was rebuked and Davidson threatened with the noose.
Bizarrely, just after Cromwell left the house of Davidson a wall of the house collapsed. Davidson is believed to have said that he wished the wall had fallen sooner. Davidson escaped a hanging and later became a public notary and fiscal of the court.
To control Scotland a series of fortified citadels were built across the country, five in all. One of these was on the South Inch in Perth. The construction of the citadel was quite a vandalistic act and involved taking stones and other materials from Perth’s hospital, bridge, several houses and tombstones from the Greyfriars cemetery. Amongst the stones used for the citadel were those from the original Mercat Cross, that stood in the middle of the High Street, opposite the Kirkgate.
Perth remained occupied by Cromwell’s forces under the command of General Monk, until the death of Cromwell in 1658.
Up to the 18th Century the ditch around the citadel was traceable. Today no visible sign remains. In the middle of the South Inch car park is to be found an information board about the citadel.
An excerpt from Perth – The Official Guide, written in the 1930s is reproduced below:
“An inscription on the south side of the water works indicates that Cromwell’s Citadel stood on this site in 1651.”
“This was a fort of large dimensions (it is stated to have been square in shape, each side measuring 266 feet), built of tombstones taken from the adjacent Greyfriars burying-ground and store and other materials relinquished from buildings of every description, sacred and secular, in the city. The Citadel was demolished under a Charter granted by Charles the Second in, 1661, and the material distributed among the citizens.”