Social History

Campbells dyeworks

This photograph shows the interior of Campbell’s Dyeworks, St Catherine’s Road, Perth in the 1880s. Men and boys, with their shirt sleeves rolled up, are working with the dyeing vats. By the time the photograph was taken the firm was operating from large purpose built premises and already had a successful track record of 60 years.

Peter Campbell, the founder of P&P Campbell, Dyeworks had originally begun work in Perth in 1814, in Methven Street, with Archibald Campbell, possibly a relative. By 1819 Peter had set up his own business. By 1881 Campbells is likely to have been buying its dyes from John Deas of Perth who supplied substances like indigo and madder to produce the colours. Following a disastrous fire in 1919 Campbells was taken over by Pullars. Pullars was established by a John Pullar who had been apprenticed to Peter Campbell in 1816.

French prisoner of war dominoes

This box with its dominoes was made by French prisoners of war at the Depot, Edinburgh Road, Perth. Some of the prisoners spent their time making intricate objects of bone, like this box and dominoes set, to sell or trade to local people.

The Depot became the core of today’s Perth Prison. It was originally built to house prisoners captured during the Napoleonic Wars. The first consignment of prisoners arrived in 1812 and in very poor condition. The Depot could hold 7,000 prisoners and as it required 300 soldiers to act as guards 3 regiments were stationed in Perth, camped on the South Inch!

Frozen river Tay

A view of the frozen River Tay from the North Inch at Perth, during the winter of 1895. Local photographer Magnus Jackson took a series of photographs of snowy scenes in and around the town. The Perthshire Constitutional newspaper of 12 February 1895 commented ‘The keen frost still prevails and for more than a week the Tay has been completely frost-bound. On Saturday afternoon there must have been between 5,000 and 6,000 people on the river. Cyclists had little difficulty in going freely over the ice.’

The photograph also shows Perth Bridge, which was over 100 years old by then. Built by the engineer Smeaton, it was opened in 1772 after a period of 150 years without a bridge. The tolls that had to be paid by people crossing the bridge were removed about the time this photograph was taken. Pedestrians were charged a farthing (a quarter of an old penny) at the time.

St Bartholomews tawse

This whip is known as St Bartholomew’s Tawse.  St Bartholomew was the patron saint of the Glover trade in Perth. He was one of the Apostles of Christ, martyred by having his skin flayed with a leather fleshing knife. The tawse has a wooden handle and five leather tails, each with a sting in it – a knot at the end. It was used by the glover Incorporation to punish its members and apprentices. Occasionally the town council borrowed the tawse to administer punishment to guilty townsfolk.

The Glover Incorporation of Perth was formed in the medieval period. It protected the trades of skinners and glove makers. In effect it was a closed shop and tradesmen could only practice their craft in the town if they were appointed Freemen of the Incorporation. It also protected its members and their families, both physically and morally. It members were expected to be honest, upright and God-fearing.

Valentines card

St Valentine is the name of several martyred saints of ancient Rome.

Of the one celebrated on February 14th nothing is known. His legend tells of his martyrdom in AD 269 at the command of the Emperor Claudius Gothicus but the church did not begin to celebrate him for some 200 years after that.

It remains a mystery how Valentine was linked to love hearts and choosing partners. His legend suggests one of the reasons for his martyrdom was his openly persistent marrying of Christians. The choosing of one’s love for the year may have been started by Chaucer and his circle (the earliest known mention of the custom is in two of Chaucer’s poems). A series of courtly love games follow in subsequent years (including selecting names from a basket).

In Perth we know that small tokens and letters were being sent on St Valentine’s Day by the 1700s. None of the Valentines in the museum collection are that early.

This hand coloured Valentine dates to about 1805 and is particularly touching. On the back, in now very faded handwriting is a letter sent by a lady on the 15th February to a man she only addresses as “Sir.”  She tells him she is “most desperately in love” with him and begs him to meet her “tomorrow”. She was completely besotted – but was he?

A Stitch in time: the story of a 17th century jacket

This is the story of a man’s jacket or doublet from the 1600’s.

The series of panels [PDF: 3.4Mb] will tell of its history, how it was found and how we are looking after it today.

This exhibition ran from January 2007 to January 2008.

The Doublet Project won the coveted ICON (Institute of Conservation) UK Conservation Award 2007.

The doublet has been generously donated to the permanent collections of Perth Museum & Art Gallery by the descendants of Helen McBain Menzies. Perth Museum & Art Gallery would like to thank:

  • The descendants of Helen McBain Menzies, in particular, Joyce Henderson
  • The National Lottery The Heritage Lottery Fund
  • Clare Browne The Victoria & Albert Museum
  • Mark McShane Perth & Kinross Council
  • Ninya Mikhaila Historical Costumier
  • Susan North The Victoria & Albert Museum
  • Tuula Pardoe The Scottish Conservation Studio
  • Kay Staniland Textile historian
  • Naomi Tarrant Textile historian
  • David Wilcox Edinburgh College of Art

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