Perth Burgh Chambers

In early times the North Shore, the harbour with its merchant quays was situated at the foot of the High Street. Here too was established the administration centre of the Burgh, a meeting place for the Provost and his council and a storeroom for the Burgh records and charters and the Burgh seal. Close by was the Mercat Cross as this was the trading centre of the town. Here too stood the pillory.

The early bridges at Perth crossed the Tay from the foot of the High Street. In 1210 a flood swept away an early bridge and the Chapel of Our Lady close by. The Chapel was rebuilt some distance from the river and part of it became the Burgh Tolbooth after the Reformation. In 1696, a Council house was built across the High Street. An arched pend led through to the North Shore. A central pend appears to have been a weigh-house and the north pend had a stair leading to the council room above and the court room. Above this pend were carved the following lines:

This house loves peace, hates knaves, crimes punisheth Presevres the laws and good men honoureth

When a new City Chambers building was erected in 1877-79 these words were placed above the door to the Burgh Court Room (Tay Street) and also around the wall frieze of the Court Room itself. Also at the north pend was a warning to debtors:

Think with thyself whilst thou art on the way, And take some course thy creditor to pay. Lest thou by him before a Judge be called, And by an officer be here enthralled Till utmost farthing shall by thee be paid, Thou shalt be close within this prison staid.

The building across the High Street was removed in 1839. In 1839 the Council moved to new quarters on the site of the Tolbooth. The circular tower of the Tolbooth was incorporated in the restored building and the Council Chamber was in that building along with the Burgh Police Office and a “Bridewell”.

In the early 1840s the statue of Sir Walter Scott, now at the South Inch, stood in the High Street outside the City Chambers. In 1875 the old City Chambers were very dilapidated. The proposal was to demolish the building and build a new City Chambers. The new building was designed by local architect Andrew Heiton. He incorporated in his design a Council Room, offices, a Burgh Court Room and a Police Office and Cells.

In 1878, the Foundation Stone of the new Municipal Buildings was laid with full Masonic Honours. A procession of dignitaries came by Canal Street, Princes Street, Marshall Place, King Street, Methven Street, High Street, George Street, and Tay Street to the site at the foot of the High Street. A band headed the procession. Before arrival at the site there was a loud peal of thunder and again during the Rev. Brunton’s Prayer (Middle Church). Lord Kinnoull laid the stone. Inside the stone were placed a glass jar containing 2 gold coins of 20 shillings and 10 shillings, 9 silver coins and 3 bronze coins; copies of the Perthshire Advertiser and Perthshire Courier (1878) and the Perthshire Constitutional (1878) and the Perth Directory (1878); a parchment with the signatures of the Magistrates and a list of Members of the Town Council in 1878; also included a photo of the Old Council Chambers and Police Cells taken in January 1878.

In 1975/6, at regionalisation, the Perth & Kinross District Council bought the General Accident Office building on the opposite corner of the High Street.