Parish of Kinghorn

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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1791-99: Kinghorn
1834-45: Kinghorn

Kinghorn (Gael. ceann-gorm, ' blue headland '), a coast town and parish of S Fife. A royal, parliamentary, and police burgh, the town has a station on the Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee section of the North British, 3 miles S by W of Kirkcaldy, 2¾ ENE of Burntisland, and 12 N by E of Edinburgh, whilst by water it is 6¼ miles N of Leith. It occupies the face of a sloping ground; and, formerly one of the meanest and most irregular towns in Fife, has undergone such improvement that its streets, which for ages were almost impassable, are levelled now and well-paved, and that its public buildings are fairly respectable. The town hall, with accommodation for 150 persons, is a Gothic edifice, built at a cost of £2500 from designs by Hamilton of Edinburgh; and places of worship are the parish church (1774; 700 sittings), a Free church, and a U.P. church (1779; 554 sittings). The public school, a handsome building of l829, was enlarged in 1874. Kinghorn, besides, has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a branch bank of the British Linen Co., 3 insurance agencies, gasworks, and an hotel. Its own small harbour has fallen to decay; but that of Pettycur, ¾ mile to the SSW, has a good quay though the ferry hence to Leith or Newhaven has since 1848 been quite superseded by the Granton and Burntisland railway ferry. Two flax-spinning mills, a bleachfield, a glue factory, and an iron shipbuilding yard, employ a large number of hands; but fishing engages only 20 men with 11 boats. Kinghorn or Glamis Tower, on rising ground to the N of the town, was a royal castle from the reign at least of William the Lyon (1166-1214), but in the latter half of the 14th century was granted by Robert II. to his son-in-law, Sir John Lyon, whose eighth descendant was created Earl of Kinghorne in 1606-a title exchanged by his grandson in 1677 for that of Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. (See Glamis Castle, Forfarshire.) The plough passes over its site; and the ancient tower of St Leonard's church, converted after the Reformation into a townhouse and jail, has likewise been wholly demolished, to make room for the present town hall. The rout of 9000 Norsemen at Kinghorn by Macbeth, ' Thane of Fife, ' is a baseless tradition; but with one great historic event the place is for ever associated-the death of Alexander III., on 12 March 1286, at the rugged basaltic promontory of Kinghorn Ness, near Pettycur. He was galloping in the dusk along the coast from Inverkeithing to Kinghorn Tower, when, his horse stumbling, he was pitched over the precipice and broke his neck. (See Dunbar.) In Nov. 1881 two 18-ton guns were mounted on a battery at Kinghorn Ness, subsidiary to the fortifications of Inchkeith. The Witch Hill, to the N of Pettycur, was the scene of the execution in olden times of reputed witches, and now is pierced by a railway tunnel 250 yards long. A royal burgh under a charter of Alexander III., confirmed. by James VI. in 1611, King- horn is governed by a provost, 2 bailies, a treasurer, a chamberlain, and 5 councillors; and with Kirk caldy, Burntisland, and Dysart it returns one member to parliament. The parliamentary and the municipal constituency numbered 226 a d 314 in 1883, when the annual value of real property amounted to £5230 (£3695 in 1867), whilst the corporation revenue was £689 in 1882. Pop of parliamentary burgh (1841) 1555, (1861) 1426, (1871) 1739, (1881) 1790; of royal burgh (1881) 1439. Houses (1881) 425 inhabited, 44 vacant, 4 building.

The parish, containing also the hamlet of Pettycur, the Invertiel suburb of Kirkcaldy, and the island of Inchkeith, is bounded NW by Auchtertool, N by Abbotshall, E and S by the Firth of Forth, and W by Burntisland and Aberdour. Its utmost length, from E to W, is 4½ miles; its breadth, from N to S, varies between ¾ mile and 2¾ miles; and its area is 5596¼ acres, of which 351½ are foreshore and 32¾ water. The coast, 4 miles in extent, exhibits a pleasing diversity of character, with many features both to attract the geologist, and to gratify the lover of the picturesque. A mile to the N of the town is a good-sized cave, whose dark seaward mouth is flanked by two bold projecting rocks. The interior rises abruptly in some places, in others gradually, from the shore; and, presenting beautiful alternations of height and hollow, of cultivated field and narrow vale, continues to ascend till at Glassmount Hill, 2½ miles inland, it attains a summit altitude of 601 feet. Tiel Burn traces the northern boundary to the Firth; deep Kinghorn Loch (1¾ x 12/3 furl.) lies embosomed among rising grounds, 5 furlongs WNW of the town; and a medicinal well, on the shore towards Pettycur, was brought into some repute by Dr Patrick Anderson's Colde Spring of Kinghorne Craig, his admirable and new tryed Properties (1618), but has now for many years fallen into neglect. The rocks are mainly basaltic, but in the W belong to the Calciferous Sandstone series, and to the Carboniferous Limestone in the NE, where limestone and sandstone have been worked. The soil along the shore, and for some way inland, is a deep, dark, fertile loam. A little more than one-twelfth of the entire area is pretty equally divided between woodland and pasture; and all the remainder is under the plough. Seafield Tower, on the coast, 1¼ mile NNE of the town, was the seat of the Moutrie family; Pitteadie Castle, 1¾ mile NW, was long a stronghold of the Earl of Rosslyn's ancestors, and was inhabited down into last century; and the estate of Grange, 1¼ mile N, gave designation to Sir William Kirkcaldy, who was executed at Edinburgh in 1573, and whose family held it from the 15th century or earlier till 1739, since which date it has come to be united to the Raith property. George Sanders (1774-1846), portrait painter, was a native. The principal mansions are Balmuto, Glassmount, and Kilrie, all noticed separately; and 7 proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 12 of between £100 and £500, 4 of from £50 to £100, and 21 of from £20 to £50. Giving off a portion to Invertiel quoad sacra parish, Kinghorn is in the presbytery of Kirkcaldy and synod of Fife; the living is worth £360. The public school, with accommodation for 400 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 306, and a grant of £278, 19s. 6d. Valuation (1860) £10,413, 4s. 5d., (1883) £11,392, 0s. 11d. Pop. (1801) 2308, (1831) 2579, (1861) 2981, (1871) 3323, (1881) 3650, of whom 2746 were in the ecclesiastical parish.—Ord. Sur., sh. 40, 1867.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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