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The Palace, Culross, palace and gardens

A Scheduled Monument in West Fife and Coastal Villages, Fife

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Latitude: 56.0557 / 56°3'20"N

Longitude: -3.6311 / 3°37'51"W

OS Eastings: 298521

OS Northings: 685964

OS Grid: NS985859

Mapcode National: GBR 1R.QD71

Mapcode Global: WH5QW.615X

Entry Name: The Palace, Culross, palace and gardens

Scheduled Date: 10 February 1992

Last Amended: 16 January 2014

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM5288

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: palace

Location: Culross

County: Fife

Electoral Ward: West Fife and Coastal Villages

Traditional County: Fife


The monument is the remains of Culross Palace, adjacent buildings and gardens, built during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The monument comprises three roofed buildings, two forming the palace itself and a third building known as Bessie Bar Hall, together with all courtyards, gardens to the N, all boundary walls and all buried archaeological remains. The palace is situated on a steep slope at about 30m OD, overlooking the village of Culross and the Firth of Forth. The monument was originally scheduled in 1992, but the documentation did not meet modern standards: the present amendment rectifies this and extends the scheduled area to include the newly discovered remains of an East Range to the Palace.

Culross Palace was the mansion townhouse of George Bruce, later Sir George Bruce of Culross and Carnock, a prominent industrialist with extensive interests in the coal and salt industries of the Forth Estuary. The palace survives as a complex of upstanding, roofed buildings of orange-harled sandstone-rubble construction, built around a S-facing courtyard, with a walled garden and terraces on sloping ground to the N. The earliest remains of a small hall-house survive as the central block of a two-storey W range, measuring 12.3m E-W by 5.3m transversely. A second floor over the W range, with the inscription 'GB' and date 1597 on the central dormer, originated in a series of substantial alterations made by Bruce after he acquired the property, reflecting his growing success in commerce. About the same time, a two-storey L-plan block was added to the S, with the two buildings separated by a small courtyard. Shortly after, a two-storey extension containing a bake-house and a new kitchen was added to the N side of the original building. The three-storey N range dates to 1611. Archaeological excavations have revealed buried footings and rich archaeological deposits relating to the construction and use of an E range to the palace, which was built around this time and partially abandoned by the 18th century. Elements of this range are also visible on the inside face of the E precinct wall. Many original architectural features survive on the outside of the upstanding buildings, including crow-stepped gables, decorative carvings and initialled pediments on dormer windows. Internally, original features include the fine painted ceilings and the precautions taken to make the strong-room fireproof in the form of a tiled floor and an inner door of sheet iron. Fine early Georgian panelling in the Laird's Room was introduced after the sale of Culross Palace to Colonel John Erskine of Carnock in 1704. The separate building known as Bessie Bar Hall is not directly connected with the palace, but is an important building in its own right. It was built either in the late 16th century or possibly as late as 1776 (a stone of this date is visible in the S gable). This building is associated with Bessie Bar, who lived in the latter half of the 16th century and carried on an extensive business in malting, probably at this site. The remains of a circular, stone-lined feature known as the 'Bessie Bar well' survive between the palace and Bessie Bar Hall, reputedly built on the order of the burgh council in 1598 to gather water from the steep hillside above for use by the household and the people of Culross.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan to include the remains described above and an area around them in which evidence for the construction, use and abandonment of Culross Palace, gardens and Bessie Bar Hall is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling includes the entire footprint of the site, including the ground below the roofed buildings, to protect the buried archaeological remains. The scheduling excludes the above-ground elements of all modern additions (such as interpretative signage) and all furniture, furnishings and portable objects both inside and outside the buildings. It also excludes the top 300mm of all external paths, paved areas, garden ground and other surfaces in use, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as an outstanding example of a 16th- and 17th-century mansion townhouse with associated buildings and gardens, originally owned by the prominent Culross and Scottish industrialist Sir George Bruce. The monument survives in excellent condition as a property of the National Trust for Scotland and is open to the public. Culross Palace and gardens are particularly notable for their preservation of internal decorative features, including particularly fine painted ceilings which are prime examples of Scottish Renaissance interior decoration. The palace and gardens represent an important component of both the medieval and contemporary landscapes of the royal burgh of Culross. Well documented archaeological investigations have demonstrated that the monument retains significant potential to add important information about domestic life and the economy of the royal burgh of Culross during the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly in connection with the coal mining, salt panning and metalworking industries. Damage to or loss of the monument would diminish our ability to understand the form, character and evolution of merchant houses in Fife and across Scotland during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




Lewis, J 1998, 'Excavations at Culross Palace and the Bessie Bar Hall', Tayside and Fife Archaeol Jour 4, 202-231.

MacGibbon and Ross, D and T 1887-92, The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries, 2, Edinburgh: David Douglas, 432-5.

RCAHMS 1933, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Eleventh report with inventory of monuments and constructions in the counties of Fife, Kinross, and Clackmannan, Edinburgh: HMSO, 78-80.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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