Smeaton's Bridge

(Perth Bridge)

A majestic masonry bridge which carries West Bridge Street in Perth over the River Tay, the Smeaton Bridge (also known as the Perth Bridge) comprises nine arches in pink sandstone and was erected 1766-72 by noted English engineer John Smeaton (1724-84). At the time of its construction is was the longest bridge in Scotland at 272m (893 feet). Several previous bridges had been damaged by floods and, in 1621, the predecessor of the current bridge was swept away. Thereafter the city became reliant on ferries. In the mid-18th century, to boost the Perth economy and revitalise the city, Thomas Hay, 9th Earl of Kinnoull (1710-87), led a campaign to build a new bridge. The cost was £26,631, half coming from the government, funded from the forfeited Jacobite estates, with the remainder raised from private investors. Thus, until 1883, a toll was charged to cross and the former toll-house can still be seen at the eastern end of the bridge (Bridgend).

The bridge was carefully engineered to resist the inevitable floods and was soon tested when, in 1774 during a rapid thaw, ice became wedged under the bridge blocking the river. The city was flooded but the bridge stood firm. The river levels during subsequent floods are recorded on the north face of the bridge's westernmost pier.

In 1859 a horse-drawn tramway was laid over the bridge. The bridge was widened from its original 6.7m (22 feet) by Allan D. Stewart in 1869 to cope with increased traffic; the parapets were removed and footpaths built on iron brackets overhanging either side of the bridge. Distinctive cast-iron lamp standards were added at the same time. In 1905 the tram was electrified and it continued in use until 1929. Cattle were still herded over the bridge on their way to market until the 1920s.

Now the northernmost of Perth's four bridges, the Smeaton Bridge conveys the A85 road into the city centre.

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