Records of the burgh of Pittenweem, Fife

Scope and Content

Council minutes, 1629-1776, 1795-1975; Court book, 1630-1669; Burgh chartularies, 1721-1881; Assessment rolls, 1973-1975; Register of voters, 1887; Abstracts of accounts, undated.

Administrative / Biographical History

Pittenweem was made a royal burgh by King James V (1513-1542) in 1541, although it had been a burgh of barony under the Prior of Pittenweem by 1526. Its harbour allowed it to carry out a significant trade in fish from then right through to the end of the 20th century; other local sources of employment included brewing.

Royal burghs normally had elected councillors who looked after the burgh's interests, but only a small number of inhabitants had the right to vote in the council elections or to be a councillor. Burgh courts were held, which had some civil and criminal jurisdiction, although these competencies were eroded as time passed and the cases were increasingly petty local disputes. By the Representation of the People (Scotland) Act 1832 (2 and 3 Will. IV, c.65) Pittenweem and six other burghs were combined within the St Andrews District of Burghs to elect an MP. The franchise for parliamentary elections was radically changed in 1832, and the Royal Burghs (Scotland) Act 1833 (3 and 4 Will. IV, c.76) imitated the change for the election of councillors. The Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1833 (3 and 4 Will. IV, c.46) allowed any existing royal burgh to establish a police system with responsibility for the watching, cleansing, paving and lighting. This and later acts sometimes resulted in a dual administration, of police magistrates or commissioners, and town bailies and councillors.

Pittenweem adopted the 1833 Act in 1842, but the police commissioners elected under the Act seem to have lasted only 5 years. In 1866 the burgh adopted the General Police and Improvement (Scotland) Act 1862 (25 and 26 Vict., c.101). Burgh administration was carried out by police commissioners who were responsible for the cleansing, lighting, policing and public health of the burgh. Under the Town Councils (Scotland) Act 1900 (63 and 64 Vict., c.49) the police commissioners were replaced by Pittenweem Town Council in January 1901. Its population was 1,760 in 1871, and 1,518 in 1971.

Pittenweem Town Council was abolished in 1975 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 (c.65). Its powers were assumed by Fife Regional Council and North East Fife District Council. These in turn were replaced by Fife Council in 1996 under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 (c.39).

Access Information

By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted. Special conditions apply to photographs.

Acquisition Information

Held under charge and superintendence of the Keeper of Records for Scotland.


Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project, based on description created by Alan Borthwick, Scottish Archive Network project, 27 February 2003 and modified on 5 August 2003.

Other Finding Aids

Typescript catalogue available in St Andrews University Library Department of Special Collections and in National Archives of Scotland search rooms.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Geographical Names