You are standing in the middle of one of Dunfermline’s oldest streets. Shown here on an Estate map of 1766, the earliest known map of the town’s streets. Can you make out the name as Collierrow? It only became Bruce Street in 1833.
If you were standing at the southern end of the street (opposite City Chambers) you can look south towards the Abbey Nave built in the 12th century. Imagine the importance of this street as it provided a direct link from the Abbey to the North Port (gate), which was at the top of the street (opposite modern day Tesco). In 1754 the port or gate was removed – the last use was likely during the plague outbreak of 1645. They could close all five gates of the town to prevent any travellers from bringing the infection in.
The street was originally known as Collier Row, and changed to Bruce Street in 1833, but even then it was the second choice. The town’s records tell us it was called King Street “for a few weeks”, but Robert and James Kerr (manufacturers on the street) were keen to have the name changed. Why not King street? Why did they prefer Bruce Street? It remains a mystery.
In medieval Dunfermline, Collier Row was the western boundary of the town. The properties would be booths or workshops at street level, with outside steps to get to the living quarters above. On the left (west) side of the street, behind the two storey buildings was a ‘rig’, also known as ‘burgage’ plot – a strip of land the width of the building to grow vegetables, store goods or have a byre/shed for animals. Beyond the end of the burgage was open land, all under the ownership of Pittencrieff Estate.
Our short tour explores how this street changed from its medieval foundations into what you see today. Walk through history to discover stories of destruction, innovation and entrepreneurship. Necessity created businesses, buildings and characters who contributed to the development of the town as it is today. Let’s start with two audio pieces at Stops 2 and 3, to help re-create the atmosphere. Head on to the southern end of the street!