Saturday, 13 August 2011

Abbot House, Dunfermline

One of my favourite Scottish historical buildings is Abbot House in Dunfermline, Fife. Dating from the 15th and 16th centuries, the distinctive salmon-pink facade makes it stand out from a distance, even though it lies in the shadow of Dunfermline Abbey. The oldest house in Dunfermline, Abbot House is now a heritage centre where the displays in the upper rooms provide a step back through thousands of years of Scottish history.
Some of the ground floor barrel-vaulted rooms have iron sculptures of the tools used long ago, such as a baking griddle to denote the kitchen. The doors to the garden have wrought iron figurines of bakers with chef hats. A restored stained glass panel on one wall illustrates a scene from The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens, an old Scottish song.

Another ground floor room, built around 1660, outside the main 15th century wall of the house, is named The Fire Room. This probably replaced the original gallery, damaged in the Great Fire of Dunfermline in 1624. The story goes that a young lad fired a musket at pigeons on a thatched roof. It caught fire and destroyed around two thirds of the town’s houses. Abbot House and Dunfermline Abbey survived by being built of stone.

Abbot House is filled with memorabilia of Queen Margaret, wife of King Malcolm III and mother of three subsequent Scottish Kings. One of the most colourful rooms on the first floor is dedicated to Margaret who was canonised in 1249. This room is decorated in medieval style, to portray Dunfermline Abbey as it might have looked before the reformation. There is an example of a chained library, where the precious volumes were protected from robbers by being chained to the shelves. In one corner is the figure of a kneeling monk, John Boiswell, a sacristan who went on to buy Abbot House in 1540, when vacated by the previous Abbot.

Lady Halkett’s Room is furnished as her private study. Formerly Anne Murray, daughter of Charles I’s tutor, Lady Halkett was a Jacobite supporter and left the Court in London to settle in Scotland when she married the widowed Sir James Halkett. The room is thought to be outside the original front wall of the House and was built around 1660 to replace the gallery that once existed at this level. Part of the ceiling has been removed to show some of the tower staircase and wooden guttering with original metal brackets.

There are many more interesting rooms full of Scottish history, and the grounds of Abbot House are also interesting, from the scented gardens with sundial and Spirit of Eternity Fountain, to the wrought-iron gates covered with intricate iron figures. You might even see the resident peacock strutting about showing off his colourful tail for a photo shoot!



Diane Fordham said...

That was interesting Rosemary - thank you :-)

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Diane - thanks for visiting!

Linda Kage said...

I love the salmon cover. Thanks for sharing these photos and descriptions.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Linda - thank you!

Ciara Gold said...

I need to visit your blog more often. You have a wealth of information here. Thanks for sharing.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Ciara - thanks for visiting!