General Wade's Roads

Wade's Bridge
Wade's Bridge, Aberfeldy
In July 1724 General George Wade (1673-1748) was sent to Scotland on a military mission for George I. In the continuing uncertainty after the 1689 and 1715 Jacobite Risings, he was to 'inspect the present situation of the Highlanders' and to 'make strict inquiry into the last law for disarming the Highlanders'.
Wade's subsequent report calculated that the majority of Highland men able to bear arms were ready to do so against the crown. George I immediately appointed Wade Commander-in-Chief, North Britain and Wade began to organise crown garrisons in the Highlands. He planned to mobilize his soldiers throughout the Highlands, quelling, disarming and forming allegiances with clans as he went.

By summer 1725 the first military road was being built. The military objective was quickly achieved and several of the clans gave up their arms.

Between 1728 and 1730, Wade's men built the road from Dunkeld to Inverness, connecting Perth and Inverness. By July 1728 Wade was able to write in a letter that he had 300 working on the road, that 15 miles of it were finished and that he hoped to have 40 miles completed by October.

In 1730 the road from Crieff to Dalnacardoch was constructed, connecting Stirling with Inverness. Passing from Crieff through the Sma' Glen through Aberfeldy and on to Loch Tummel, it's line remains largely the same today. Even though the road was finished, Wade had yet to bridge the River Tay at Aberfeldy. Construction, to a design by William Adam, began in 1733. Although it was completed in well under a year, Wade wrote 'The Bridge of Tay ...was a work of great difficulty and also much more expensive than was calculated.' At a cost of over £4000, the bridge became the most expensive item on Wade's road building programme.

By 1739 Wade's Highland Companies had become the Black Watch, a regular regiment which is commemorated by a memorial beside Wade's fine Tay Bridge. The Black Watch's regimental museum is in Perth's Balhousie Castle. Promotion finally ended Wade's work in Scotland. He left in 1740, handing on the road-building reins to Major William Caulfield whose name is not remembered to anything like the same extent. Wade was the entrepreneur who forged into the Highlands, much to the regret of the Scottish independent movement, but doubtless to the relief of the road-travelling public.
Aberfeldy
© 1997-2001
The Perfect Solution
Last updated November 1999