Records of the burgh of Crail, Fife

Scope and Content

Registers of deeds and protests, 1760-1765, 1788-1794, 1818-1841 (with warrants, 1682-1826); Services of heirs, cognitions etc, 1758-1779 (with loose, related papers, 1633-1796); Minutes books of sasines, deeds, decreets etc, 1579-1804; Court and council records, 1552-1560, 1566-1584, 1589-1592; Court minutes, 1709-1721; Council and committee minutes, 1708-1969; Crail Public Library minutes, 1891-1933. Treasurer's accounts, 1682-1708, 1720-1731, 1741-1749, 1770-1780, 1789-1842, 1858-1875; Treasurer's cash book, 1858-1875; Steelyard account book, 1876-1887; Valuation of burgh rents account, 1712-1714; Cess collection, 1835; Burgh mail books, 1733-1869; Stent rolls, 1806-1860; Miscellaneous burgh accounts and vouchers, 1792-1901; Assessment roll, 1974-1975; Abstracts of accounts, undated. Inventory of burgh charters, 1829; Burgh charters and associated legal documents, 1369-1793; Papal bulls, 1510-1514; Papers concerning Crail harbour, 1819-1885; Burgess roll, 1760-1808 (including weavers' roll); Burgess tickets/warrants, 1829-1864; Papers concerning Crail church, manse, school and town hall, 1788-1886; Papers concerning prisons and crime, 1829-1867; Correspondence on various burgh matters, 1770-1879; Water supply papers, 1868-1901; Papers concerning election of MP for Fife burghs, 1780-1806; Miscellaneous legal documents concerning Crail, 1580-1839; Miscellaneous legal papers, 1788-1897; Miscellaneous papers, 18th century-1902; Plans of buildings and works in Crail, 1899-1903. Crafts of Crail court books, 1592-1743; Hammermen records, 1588-1743; Cordiners records, 1563-1743; Baxters records, 1647-1743; Squaremen records, 1688-1743; Tailors records, 1684-1743; Coopers records, 1690-1743; Weavers records, 1694-1741, 1792-1845.

Administrative / Biographical History

Crail as a burgh seems to have been established in the late 1160s by countess Ada, mother of King Malcolm IV and King William the Lion. On her death in 1178, the burgh reverted to the crown. As a royal burgh, it was represented at the General Council in 1357 and in Parliament from 1432. After the Union of Parliaments in 1707, by the Representation of the People (Scotland) Act 1832 (2 and 3 Will. IV, c.65) Crail and six other burghs were combined within the St Andrews District of Burghs to elect an MP.

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. 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.

As a seaport town on the Fife coast, it had some foreign trade, and some fishing. There was weaving in the town from the late 18th century. In the late 19th century, it began to enjoy some summer tourist business. Unusually, Crail did not seek to adopt the General Police and Improvement (Scotland) Act 1862 (25 and 26 Vict., c.101), which would have caused the election of police commissioners to administer some of the town's affairs. In 1881 its population was 1,145, and 1,075 in 1971. Crail 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, 17 July 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