The Burgh Chambers

The coat of arms above the doorway

The building itself was constructed in 1843, and succeeded the former Tolbooth which stood at the foot of the High Street from 1616 to 1843. The large Provost's chair, dated 1882, is sided by the two large chairs of the Senior and Junior bailies, on a dais overlooking the floor of the house.

The Provost's chair

Above in the fiddler's gallery is the model of a sailing ship, "The Prince of Wales", presented by Captain Galloway, an early dockmaster, in 1876. Below is the Coat of Arms of Burntisland, arranged by a Professor of St Andrews University around 1938. The words on the top, "Portus Gratiae", are Latin for the Port of Grace (as the Romans described it), and underneath "Colles-Praesidio-Dedit-Deus", for "God Gave the Hills for a Protection".

The ship 'The Prince of Wales'

A painting on the west wall by the late Andrew Young is a scene inside the Parish Church of the Kirking of the Council around 1906. A key to the names and positions of everyone in the picture is contained in a framed list. On the north wall are two oak panels containing the names of the Provosts of Burntisland from the first in 1586 to the last in 1975. A large safe in the chambers was being cleared out in 1957, and a number of old papers and minute books were found. One book contained a report of the first meeting held by Burntisland Town Council in October 1586, when John Clephane was appointed as Provost. Another number of volumes contain the minutes of the Convention of Royal Burghs from 1294 till the mid 18th century.

The Kirking of the Council

The Royal Charter of Burntisland dated 25th June 1541 at Linlithgow is contained in three framed holders. One is a copy of the charter in Latin taken from a book of charters at Register House in Edinburgh. Another is the same but typed out and easily read; the third is translated and typed in English. It starts off "James by the Grace of God, King of Scots, to all men of his whole land, cleric and laic, greeting. Know ye that, whereas, for the commonweal of our kingdom and especially for the utility of all and sundry our lieges and of strangers coming to our kingdom, we have built and repaired the harbour, formerly called Brint Iland, within our Sheriffdom of Fife, and we intend now to build near the same a town for the reception and entertainment of all men plying in the same harbour" etc.

There are four foolscap pages of this with an addendum "See calendar of The Register of the Great Seal, 1513-1546, No. 2383". A note from Register House states "The Charter was granted by King James V in 1541 and was confirmed by King James VI at Linlithgow on 10th December 1585. It was made with the advice of the Three Estates and ratified by King James VI with consent of the Parliament of Scotland on 29th July 1587." These are currently away for restoration work.

Pipe Band pipe banner in the Chambers

A painting of old Burntisland in the Chambers

The halbard in the corner of the room has its own story. The halbard was carried by the Town Officers when leading a Provost, Magistrates and Councillors to the Kirking of the Council. The halbards were first brought into use around 1660-90 in the days of the Episcopalians, the first time the Councillors had to be protected from the public. This has now been taken back by Kirkcaldy Museum and is currently unavailable to view.

The stairs to the Burgh Court

Another item of interest is the Weaver's Box. This was handed in at an exhibition in 1956 and left in the hands of the Town Council. Within the box was part of the history of the weavers, and a copy of the original council minutes of 1683 giving the weavers and other trade guilds the right to have a representative on the council.

The seal in the Burgh Court

Just next door to the Chambers is the Burgh Court, where there are a couple of interesting items, including a painting of 'The Bridge of Life' by a local artist, featuring many people of the town during the era in which it was painted. There is also a coat of arms from Rossend Castle on view.

The painting 'The Bridge of Life' in the Court

The Rossend Castle coat of arms

The bell at the foot of the stairs

For more details on Burntisland history, you are advised to consult the local library (next door, with the Museum upstairs) for the following :
"Early History of Burntisland" by J.Blyth
"History of Burntisland" by A.Young
"Glimpses of Burntisland" by W.Erskine
The library has an excellent little local history section which is well worth browsing through.