Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site

Old Gatehouse, HMP Perth, 3 Edinburgh Road, PerthLB39330

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Perth And Kinross
Planning Authority
Perth And Kinross
NO 11759 22405
311759, 722405


This is a 2-storey 3-bay building with additional single flanking canted bays dating from 1839-42 with substantial later alterations. The central sandstone ashlar bay has a pend at the ground floor, three round-arched windows above and a crenelated parapet which incorporates a clockface. Roughly squared and coursed whinstone to the ground floor flanking bays with render above. There is a piended slate roof.

Statement of Special Interest

This former gatehouse dates from Thomas Brown's 1839-42 reworking of Perth Prison, however it is likely that this building has been augmented from the simple plan shown on Brown's 1839 drawing. It is a key focal point from the entrance through the outer prison buildings and signals the entrance to the prison proper. Its crenelated design and use of both whinstone and ashlar is in keeping with the 1840-60s work.

Prisons as purpose-built structures did not come into being in the United Kingdom until the 1770s. Until this time, imprisonment as a punishment was not the norm. Prisoners were usually incarcerated for short periods of time before corporal or capital punishment was carried out or they were transported to America or Australia or, in the case of debtors, they paid their debts. In Scotland the local tolbooth often served as the place of temporary detainment and such prisons were run by the burgh. Conditions were usually woeful. All types of inmates would be held together, with no segregation, and usually in a single large room which was frequently overcrowded. Unruly prisoners could be sent to 'the pit', a dark hole in the ground. Where there were prisons, individual cells were rare.

John Howard (1726-90), one of the most well-known of the emerging prison reformers, visited Scotland and Ireland as part of his tours of prisons throughout the United Kingdom in the 1770s and 80s. As Cameron tells us in Prisons and Punishment in Scotland he visited Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, Inverness, Nairn, Stirling and Jedburgh prisons in 1783 noting that they were, "old buildings, dirty and offensive, without courtyards and also generally without water" (p50). Howard was key in instigating nationwide reform efforts with the publication of his book 'The State of the Prisons in England and Wales' (1777).

A number of new prisons were constructed in response to the calls of the reformers and also to cope with the huge numbers of French prisoners of war who were in the United Kingdom. Calton Jail in Edinburgh opened in 1791 to designs by Robert Adam and it was later extended by Archibald Elliot in 1817. Perth opened in 1812 to house prisoners of war, Cupar opened in 1814, Inveraray opened around 1820 and Jedburgh in 1823 (see separate listings). The buildings were generally designed by leading architects of the day, including Archibald Elliot and James Gillespie Graham. Plans and styles were variable, from castellated as at Calton and Jedburgh to classical as at Inveraray and Cupar.

Generally the prisons of the time followed a congregate system whereby prisoners were kept together unsegregated throughout the day and night. Howard and other reformers vehemently condemned this practice as producing moral contamination and corruption. Howard advised that alongside implementing healthier practices of ventilation and the employment of paid gaolers that prisoners should be divided by classes and housed in separate yards. It was increasingly believed that different kinds of prisoners corrupted each other and hence that prisoners of different age, sex and type of crime should be kept apart. Howard and early investigators played a significant role in instigating reform by bringing to public attention the state of prisons throughout the country. Their recommendations regarding health, classification and inspection formed the basis for the reforms and legislation of the 19th century and encouraged architectural design towards providing cellularly divided spaces to fight against the spread of physical and moral contamination within the prison environment.

On 17 August 1839 an Act to Improve Prisons and Prison Discipline was passed in Scotland to enshrine classification and separation as principles of prison discipline. An earlier 1835 Act had set up Inspectors of Prisons in Great Britain and the 1839 Act transferred the control of prisons to County Boards which were established and took over local supervision and management of all prisons, except Perth, which was to be rebuilt as the national prison. Prison Acts of 1877 brought prisons under the authority of the Home Secretary which lasted until the Criminal Justice Act in 1948.

The effect of the 1835 and 1839 Acts was a new wave of prison building, with Thomas Brown II (1806-1872) appointed architect to the Prison Board of Scotland in 1837. Brown's prisons took on board the suggestions of the prison reformers and were built to reflect contemporary ideas of observation and control, with solitary rather than mass confinement in a hygienic environment and with an emphasis on rehabilitation. Brown was responsible for building around 12 purpose-built prisons and he added to, or reconstructed, around 9 other prisons during his tenure as architect to the Prison Board of Scotland. As a result of this he is the leading prison architect of the 19th century in Scotland. Very few of Brown's purpose-built prisons survive and Perth is amongst the best-preserved examples.

His design for the General Prison at Perth was one of his first major prison commissions and one of the first prisons in Scotland to be built on the separation principle. Thomas Brown's scheme of 1839-42 for the General Prison for Scotland proposed four large cell blocks of 4 storeys radiating from a semi-circular viewing corridor. Two were built in 1839-42 and they linked with the crescent block described above. The planned further two were built around 1852-9 in response to overcrowding issues to the designs of Robert Matheson (now known as A and B Halls) and these were later extended in 1876. They run parallel to the crescent block. The two cell blocks built in 1839-42 to the east of the crescent block have since been demolished.

Category changed from C to B, statutory address, listed building record revised in 2015 as part of the Scottish Prison Service Listing Review 2014-15. Previously listed as 'Gatehouse'.



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 244662

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1860, published 1863) Large scale town plan, Perth XCVIII.9.4. Scale 1:500. London: Ordnance Survey. [accessed 12/02/2015]

Joy Cameron (1983) Prisons and Punishment in Scotland Edinburgh: Canongate

John Gifford (2007) Perth and Kinross: The Buildings of Scotland New Haven and London: Yale University Press p.605-608.

Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Thomas Brown II at [accessed 12/02/2015]

National Records of Scotland, Architectural Drawings of Perth Prison, RHP9270.

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Other than the name or address of a listed building, further details are provided for information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland does not accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of inaccuracies in the information provided. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the 1997 Act. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect subsequent legislation.

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Printed: 27/01/2023 11:35