Records of the burgh of Elie and Earlsferry, Fife

Scope and Content

Earlsferry: Council minutes, 1742-1929; Elie and Earlsferry: Council minutes, 1929-1975 (with Dean of Guild Court minutes, 1929-1952); Police commissioners minutes, 1900-1901; Cash books, 1806-1831, 1848-1885; Abstracts of accounts, 1909-1930 and undated; Licensing register, 1901-1903; Housing minutes, 1930-1954; Dean of Guild Court: register of proceedings, 1929-1937; Index to register of plans, 1895-1975; Elie, Liberty and Williamsburgh: Town Council minutes, 1901-1929; Police commissioners minutes, 1864-1904.

Administrative / Biographical History

Elie (Fife) was erected a burgh of barony by King James VI (1567-1625) in favour of Mr William Scott of Grangemuir in 1599. A burgh of barony was presided over by a feudal superior who had authority from the Crown to administer justice and to hold barony courts dealing with crimes and matters of good neighbourhood until 1747 and thereafter solely matters of good neighbourhood. The burgh of Elie, Liberty and Williamsburgh adopted most of the clauses of the General Police and Improvement (Scotland) Act 1862 (25 and 26 Vict., c.101), the remainder being adopted in the next 2 years. Burgh administration was carried out by police commissioners who were responsible for the cleansing, lighting, policing and public health of the burgh. The population was 626 in 1871. The town had a small harbour, and in the late 19th century tourism became important to the town. Under the Town Councils (Scotland) Act 1900 (63 and 64 Vict., c.49) the police commissioners were replaced by Elie, Liberty and Williamsburgh Town Council in January 1901.

Earlsferry was confirmed as a royal burgh by King James VI (1567-1625), but it was refused enrolment by the Convention of Royal Burghs in 1590 because of their knowledge of its insignificant state. It became one of the four inactive royal burghs in Fife. 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. The population of Earlsferry was 406 in 1871.

Under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929 (19 and 20 Geo. V, c.25), the Fife burghs of Elie, Liberty and Williamsburgh and neighbouring Earlsferry were united. The population was 895 in 1971. Elie and Earlsferry 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, 25 July 2003, modified 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.