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Anstruther Easter, Fifeshire

Historical Description

ANSTRUTHER EASTER, a burgh, sea-port, and parish in the district of ST. ANDREW'S, county of FIFE, 9 miles (S. S. E.) from St. Andrew's, and 351 (N. E. by N.) from Edinburgh; containing 997 inhabitants. This place, which is of great antiquity, was in the reign of Malcolm IV. The property of William de Candela, Lord of Anstruther, whose sons assumed the name of their patrimonial inheritance, and whose descendants are the present proprietors. It appears to have derived its early importance from its favourable situation on the Firth of Forth, and the security of its harbour, in which, on the dispersion of the Spanish armada, the captain of one of the vessels found an asylum from the storm. The town is separated from the parish of Anstruther Wester by a small rivulet called the Dreel burn, over which is a bridge; and consists of a long narrow street, on the road from the East Neuck of Fife to Kirkcaldy and Burntisland, extending along the margin of the Firth. It was first lighted with gas in 1841.

The trade appears to have been formerly very considerable; a custom-house was erected here in 1710, and in 1827 the jurisdiction of the port was extended to St. Andrew's, Crail, Pittenweem, St. Monan's, and Elie. The amount of duties once averaged £1500 yearly; shipbuilding was carried on to a considerable extent, but after gradually declining for several years, it was at length entirely discontinued. The chief manufacture now pursued is that of leather. The trade consists principally in the fisheries, in curing and exporting the fish, in the exportation of grain and other agricultural produce of the surrounding district, and in the importation of various articles of merchandise for the supply of the neighbourhood. Barrels are made for the package of herrings taken off the coast, and more than 40,000 barrels of them are annually sent from this port, properly cured, for exportation. There is also a large brewery. The number of vessels belonging to the port is nine, of the aggregate burthen of 964 tons; a steam-packet plies twice a week, and a sailing-packet once a week, between this place and Leith, and the Edinburgh and Dundee steamers touch at the port. The harbour is safe, and easy of access; it is protected from the south-easterly winds by a natural breakwater, and an extensive and commodious quay. The custom-house, though an independent establishment, has, since the decline of the trade, communicated with that of Kirkcaldy. The market for corn and other produce is held on Saturday. There are two banks.

Anstruther Easter was incorporated by charter of James VI., under which the government was vested in three bailies, a treasurer, and fifteen councillors, assisted by a town-clerk and other officers. The bailies and treasurer are elected by the council, who are chosen by the registered £10 electors, under the provisions of the Burgh Reform act. The bailies are justices of the peace within the royalty of the burgh, which is co-extensive with the parish, and exercise both civil and criminal jurisdiction; since 1820, however, few cases have been tried in the civil court, and in the criminal court only twelve cases, chiefly petty misdemeanors: the town-clerk, who is appointed by the magistrates and council, is assessor in the bailies' court. By act of the 2nd and 3rd of William IV., this burgh, together with Cupar, St. Andrew's, Anstruther Wester, Pittenweem, Crail, and Kilrenny, returns one member to the imperial parliament; the right of election is vested in the £10 voters, and St. Andrew's is the returning burgh. The townhall is a neat building.

The parish is situated at the head of a small bay in the Firth, and comprises about nine acres of land, formerly included within the parish of Kilrenny, from which Anstruther Easter was separated in the year 1636. The annual value of real property in the parish is £1115. The incumbency is in the presbytery of St. Andrew's and synod of Fife: the minister's stipend is £190, inclusive of a glebe, with a manse built by the celebrated James Melville; patron. Sir Wyndham Carmichael Anstruther, Bart. The church, built by subscription in 1634, and to which a spire was added about ten years after, was repaired in 1834, and is well adapted for 700 persons. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, members of the Free Church, and the United Presbyterian Synod. The burgh school is attended by about ninety scholars; the master has a salary of £5. 6. 8., and about £6. 5 from fees, with a house rent-free. There are several friendly societies, one of which, called the "Sea Box Society", established in 1618, and incorporated by royal charter in 1784, has an income of £300, for the benefit of decayed ship-masters and seamen belonging to the port. The late distinguished Dr. Chalmers, and the late Professor Tennant of the university of St. Andrew's, were born here; the former died in 1847, and the latter in 1848.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis


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