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Burntisland, Rossend Castle

Tower House (Medieval)

Site Name Burntisland, Rossend Castle

Classification Tower House (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Burntisland Castle

Canmore ID 52791

Site Number NT28NW 23

NGR NT 22868 85789

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Fife
  • Parish Burntisland
  • Former Region Fife
  • Former District Kirkcaldy
  • Former County Fife

Archaeology Notes

NT28NW 23.00 22868 85789

NT28NW 23.01 22908 85782 Gazebo

NT28NW 23.02 22956 85847 Archway

See also

NT28NW 266 22795 85844 1-3 and 6 Melville Gardens (Part of Lodge)

NT28NW 366 22805 85825 4 Melville Gardens (Part of Lodge)

NT28NW 367 22806 85855 5 Melville Gardens (Part of Lodge)

(NT 2286 8579) Rossend Castle (NR)

OS 6" map, (1967)

Rossend Castle is a large T-plan tower house dated 1554. The W wing incorporates remains of a 13th century structure at ground floor level, where a range of lancet windows may be seen. This, together with the fact that the W wing is aligned E-W, might suggest that the earlier surviving remains at Rossend represent an ecclesiastical building, associated possibly with a secular residence. It is significant that a structure identifiable as Rossend Castle was described as a "fortalice sumtyme callit the Abbotis Hall" or "callit of auld the Abbotis Hall" on the grange of Wester Kinghorn (Burntisland) (Information from National Monuments Record sheet FIR/22/1, visited 1970).

RCAHMS 1933.

Rossend Castle is as described. It is now derelict.

Visited by OS (J P) 24 June 1974.

Restored 1978.

(Undated) information in NMRS.

Office of Hurd Rolland Partnership Architects.

Architecture Notes

NT28NW 23.00 22868 85789

Non-Guardianship Sites Plan Collection, DC28476- DC28480, 1955 & 1958.


Painted ceiling removed to the Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh


Field Visit (30 July 1928)

Rossend Castle.

This castle is a 16th century house, extended, modernised and still occupied. It stands on the edge of a rocky bluff overlooking the harbour at the western end of the town. The original house was L-shaped on plan and now forms the eastern part of the whole structure. The main block ran north and south and had two chambers in its length. A short wing, projecting westward in alignment with the main north gable, contained a turnpike on Its lower floors and a chamber in its upperpart. This type of plan is believed to have originated about the middle of the I6th century, a date that is in this case confirmed by the inscription XXII MAII 1554 which appears in raised letters on the sill of the I6th-century armorial slab set in the north wall above the modern porch. The slab is enclosed within little shafts, wreathed and banded, and is surmounted by canopy work. The shield is supported by men-at-arms and bears three crescents-part of the arms of Dury* (see HISTORICAL NOTE) but no other charge is now traceable.

The. original re-entrant angle was filled in, early in the I7th century, with a long wing running westward from the main block and rectangular to it, but in alignment with the south wall of the original wing; the northern re-entrant, formed by the two wings, has been enclosed by a modern addition.

The original house and its extension are four storeys in height. The superstructure of each has been re-modelled in the 18th century. The walls are constructed of harled rubble with a slight, splayed basement-course along the eastern wall of the house and a similar but heavier and higher course along the south wall of the extension. Most of the windows have been altered. High up on the north gable a 17th century dormer pediment has been inserted. Itis partly covered with vegetation and further obscured by a rhone, but apparently bears initials in the pediment, one of which is a W, probably for Wemyss (see HISTORICAL NOTE). Above second floor-level, the southern end of the main block is set forward on corbels but this may be an alteration, the original elevation having probably had turrets at each angle.

The entrance has not been at the re-entrant angle but, as at present, on the north face of the stair-wing and has opened on the foot of the turnpike. The stair and its accesses have been altered more than once, and the original arrangement is not clear. It is most likely that at first a door opened from the well of the stair into the basement of the main building, and that this arrangement was altered to suit the extension, along the north side of which runs a passage giving access to its three vaulted compartments. The passage was entered from the stair-well by a door, now built up. The western compartment is lit from an oval gun-loop, and the middle one seems to have had a similar provision. Access to the lowest storey of the original house was then provided at the eastern end of this passage, which opens into the northern of the two chambers. The door, made of oak, dates from the 16th century and is pieced up to fit Its present position. It has six fluted panels. The chamber into which it opens is the old kItchen and has a large fireplace in the north gable. The southern chamber was a storehouse. Both apartments are vaulted.

The arrangement and finish of the first floor dates from the last quarter of the 17th century and may have been designed by Sir William Bruce; the stair, too, is probably of this time, although occupying an older stair-well. The wreathed handrail of mahogany resembles one in the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This stair rises to second-floor level, whence the ascent is continued by a small turnpike contained in the thickness of the wall. At first-floor level the stair opens into a Hall, the western of three communicating chambers in the extension. The Hall forms the access to the chambers in the main block, which originally must have been entered from the well of the stair through the opening in which a service hatch now operates. The two chambers of the main block are separated by a partition borne on the vaults of the lower chambers. The northern chamber is the larger and is handsomely panelled in oak. The fireplace is enclosed by fluted pilasters. The architraves of the door are lugged. The cornice, cushioned frieze, and architrave of the room are run in plaster. The southern chamber is known as ‘Queen Mary's Room’ and is said to have been occupied by her in 1563, but the Memel pine panelling and general finish is of more than a century later. In the gable are a large and a small mural chamber flanking the central window. The rooms in the extension at this level are also panelled in Memel pine. The second and third floors are similarly arranged, and in several rooms there are late 17th century fireplaces and portions of pine panelling.

HISTORICAL NOTE. ‘Rossend’ is a relatively recent name derived from the adjacent ’Ross’ or headland. The land at one time belonged to the Abbey of Dunfermline. But in 1552 the Commendator of the Abbey [Abbot George Dury or Durie] granted to Peter Dury [his legitimatised son](1) the lands of ‘the nether grange of Kinghorne Wester called the Mains with the custody of the fortalice.’ This post carried with it ‘the lands of Greiflandis and Cwnyngerlandis now called Brunteland,’ and the previous occupant was Robert Dury of that ilk (2). Later the property was in the hands of Sir Robert Melville of Murdocairnie, who lost it through forfeiture, after which it was conferred in 1571 on David Dury of that ilk, including ’the manor, tower, and fortalice of Bryntyland with the houses, buildings, and gardens.’ (3) Subsequently however, these lands were again in possession of the Melvilles of Murdocairnie (4), from whom they passed to Sir James Wemyss of Caskiebirran, created Lord Burntisland for life in 1672.

RCAHMS 1933, visited 30 July 1928

(1) Reg. Mag. Sig. 1543, No. 2963. (2) Reg. de Dunfermlyn, p. 399. Cf. No. 554. (3) Reg. Mag. Sig., s.a., No. 1983. (4) Reg. de Dunfermlyn, pp. 485, 496.

Photographic Survey (1954)

Photographs of buildings in Burntisland, Fife, including a survey of Rossend Castle by the Scottish National Buildings Record in 1954.


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