The village of Stanley stands across the "inland" end of a peninsula formed by a loop in the River Tay some six miles north of Perth. A little apart from any of the main routes through Perthshire, Stanley is best known as a name on a signpost on the A9, which passes a mile and a half to the west.
Stanley is not a typically Scottish name. A castle whose ruins still stand at the tip of the peninsula formed by the Tay was originally know as Inverbervie Castle. The mansion this had become by the 1600s formed part of the extensive property holdings of the Earls of Atholl. It was renamed Stanley House in 1659 to mark the wedding of John Murray, 1st Marquess of Atholl, to Lady Amelia Stanley, the only daughter of James Stanley, the 7th Earl of Derby.
130 years later John Murray, the 4th Duke of Atholl, decided to make use of the vast power of the waters of the River Tay to operate a cotton mill on the south side of the peninsula powered by water fed through tunnels from the north, upstream, side of the peninsula. The local MP, George Dempster, was also an enthusiast for the scheme and visited Cromford in Derbyshire, where he persuaded the father of industrialised cotton mills, Richard Arkwright to come to Scotland to help establish a cotton mill at Stanley (and another at New Lanark). The result was Stanley Mills, which in its initial form opened for business in 1787 and employed 350 people within 10 years.
The employees of Stanley Mills needed somewhere to live. The obvious solution was to built a new village, and in 1784, the year in which the Stanley Company formed to begin work on the mills, the village was laid out by James Stobie, the factor to the Duke of Atholl. A visitor in 1799 commented on the "handsome village built on a regular plan and containing about 400 inhabitants". By 1831, nearly 2,000 people lived in Stanley, of whom about 1,000 worked in Stanley Mills.
Stanley was laid out in the shape of a narrow "A". One leg of the "A" was formed by Perth Road, the B9099 which leads south towards Perth and north towards a bridge over the River Tay at Caputh. The other was formed by Mill Road which, as the name suggests, connects to Stanley Mills at its south-east end. It meets Perth Road at the north end of the village. The legs are connected by a series of parallel streets, most notably King Street and Percy Street/Store Street.
Stanley gained a railway station in 1848. Later this became a junction station, where the branch line to Forfar left the main line between Perth and Inverness. The main line railway still passes though the north side of the village, but the railway station itself closed in 1956. Activity at Stanley Mills declined during the 1960s and 1970s before eventual closure in 1989. A period of dereliction followed, though in recent years Stanley Mills has been renovated for housing and as a visitor attraction, telling the story of the mills and the people who worked here. Stanley itself has seen in the 21st Century as a pretty village with plenty of character that serves largely as a dormitory for Perth.