Papers of the Anstruther family of Balcaskie

Scope and Content

The records pre-date the acquiring of the Balcaskie estate by the Anstruthers in 1698. Before this date Dreel Castle was the seat of the family in Anstruther. The survey revealed: estate material, including rentals, accounts, plans etc. relating to the Balcaskie estate, 13th-20th centuries and to Watten and Scarmclett by Halkirk, in Caithness, 16th to 20th centuries; household material such as menus, kitchen diaries, household accounts and inventories; family material including genealogical collections, business papers, photograph albums etc.; personal material including diaries and journals.

Much of the material is of a significance far beyond the merely local and personal. For example, journals relating to experiences in the Peninsular, Crimean and Boer Wars are of military importance; business papers relate to interests in, for example, the Fife Railways and coal mining; the estate management records illuminate landholding, improvement and social and industrial history. There is a lack of personal and business correspondence of the eighteenth and earlier centuries.

Administrative / Biographical History

The lands of Anstruther in Fife were granted to William of Candela in the early 12th century. Family tradition has it that he was of Norman/Italian descent, a son of William Count of Apulia, who accompanied William the Conqueror in the conquest of England. Many of such knights were given lands in Scotland by the twelfth-century Kings of Scots, and it may be that William was given lands in Anstruther by Kings Edgar (1097-1107), Alexander I (1107-1124) or David I (1124-1153). A William of Candela was certainly a benefactor of Balmerino Abbey (founded in 1229), giving the monks rights to lands in Anstruther. A Henry de Anstruther, accompanied Louis XI to the crusades and swore fealty to Edward I in 1292 and 1296.

Andrew Anstruther of Anstruther was confirmed in the lands of Anstruther by charter under the great seal dated February 1483/4. He fought at the battle of Flodden in 1513. His son John married a Douglas of Loch Leven and their great-grandson Sir James was chosen as a companion of the young king James VI, who in 1585 appointed him Hereditary Grand Carver, which office is still held by the head of the family. In 1595 he became Master of the Household. His elder son William was made a Knight of the Bath. William's brother, Sir Robert, was ambassador to the King of Denmark and to the Holy Roman Emperor. He became a Privy Councillor and is buried in Westminster Abbey. The early pictures in the Royal Collection were bought by him when he was in Germany.

Sir Robert's son Philip was a Royalist and received Charles II at Dreel Castle in Anstruther after his coronation at Scone in 1651. Among the five brothers of the next generation was the first Lord Anstruther and Sir Robert Anstruther (1658-1737), first Baronet of Balcaskie, who bought the estate near Pittenweem in 1698. Notable later members of the family include: Brigadier General Robert Anstruther (1768-1809), Scots Guards, who died commanding the rear guard in the evacuation of Corunna in 1809. The 5th and 6th Baronets were Lords Lieutenant of Fife. Sir Ralph Anstruther of that Ilk (1921-2001) served in the Coldstream Guards, was the 7th Baronet of Balcaskie and the 12th Baronet of Anstruther and a longstanding member of the household of Her Majesty the Queen Mother.


Boxed up by room in the house, following the survey of August 2002.

Access Information

Access is restricted while listing is in progress. Requests for access should be made to the Keeper of Manuscripts and Muniments.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by the family, for listing, in 2002.


Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project Archivist.

Other Finding Aids

Brief survey list is available. NRA(S) list 0004 covers some of the earlier material.

Conditions Governing Use

Access is restricted while listing is in progress.

Appraisal Information

Appraisal has yet to take place. There is a large amount of ephemera within the collection and records management and weeding is anticipated.

Custodial History

Subject of NRA(S) survey 0004. Detailed survey of contents of house made by Special Collections Department of University of St Andrews in August 2002. Part of deposit transferred to custody of the University of St Andrews in December 2002. Remainder of collection boxed up and stored at the house.



Related Material

GB234 GD29 Kinross House papers


AW Anstruther, Anstruther of that Ilk, (Edinburgh, 1923, with additions to 1934)

Additional Information

This material is original.