In 1867 John Patrick of Kirkcaldy published an album of 28 photographic views of Fife many of which depicted castles. Each photograph was carefully pasted onto card, labelled and inserted into his book. This album provides some of the earliest photographs of our Fife castles.
Patrick, was born in Buckhaven in 1830. A master baker to trade he quit his scones in 1866 to set up a photographic studio at Leven. In 1867 he transferred to Kirkcaldy where he remained until 1868. As the album is labelled ‘Kirkcaldy’ we have an absolute date for our photographs.
Patrick retired from business in 1912 and died in Kennoway in 1923.
Aberdour Castle is located in the town of that name.
The castle began as a ‘hall house’ in the early 12th century making Aberdour one of the earliest stone castles in Scotland. This was converted into a tower house in the 15th century and finally into a Renaissance Palace in the 17th century.
In 1701 ‘fire broke out with great violence and all the apartments were gutted’.
'This accident must now push your lordship to build a new house' wrote Robert Douglas to its owner, the Earl of Morton.
His Lordship never did and Aberdour was left to ruin until recent times when it was rescued and placed in the care of Historic Scotland.
Balgonie Castle is situated near Kirkcaldy.
It consists of a well-built 15th century tower together with a range of later outbuildings.
By the late 1960s Balgonie was ruined and badly vandalized. Work began in the 70s (aided by European money) to restore the castle.
The tower and ‘chapel’ are now fully restored though much remains to be done elsewhere.
Balgonie is now open to the public and can be hired for weddings.
Balwearie Castle is situated near Kirkcaldy.
It consists of a 15th century tower house of which a gable and parts of the adjoining walls survive complete to wall head. The walls are 6 feet thick cubical ashlars, which has proved too strong a temptation for the adjacent farmers.
It still is in much the same state as in J Patrick’s photograph.
Craighall was situated near Cupar – it is now no more.
As can be seen from J Patrick’s photograph Craighall was a multi period building. The early tower house (nearest in photograph) dated from 1637 added to which was palatial mansion of 1697.
By 1793 Craighall was in ruin and totally demolished in 1957 – in spite of its Category B rating.
The site is now distinguished by rank undergrowth.
St Serf’s Chuch is situated in the town of Dysart.
Why, might you ask is a church being included in an article of castles? The answer is simple. church towers were often pressed into service as fortifications (witness Annan Church in 1545) and in Dysart’s case in direct response to the English invasions of the 1540s.
As a place of refuge and defence it was ideally placed to defend the only clear landing beach on this stretch of coast. The lower windows are in the shape of gun loops similar to those at Ravenscraig Castle further along the coast. A climb of 103 steps to its corbelled wall walk will leave you in no doubt as to its defensive capabilities.
St Serf’s is in a fine state of repair.
Falkland Palace is situated in the town of that name.
Falkland Palace developed from a pre-existing castle but today it is mainly known for the magnificent palace built by James V to impress his new French queen, Marie de Guise.
By 1685 the palace was badly damaged by fire and was in part ruinous until extensively restored by the Marquis of Bute in the 19th century.
Patrick’s picture shows Falkland before His Grace got to work – note the empty panel spaces now occupied by heraldry.
Falkland is now under the protection of the National Trust.
Newark Castle is situated on the coast near to the fishing village of St Monans.
Since Patrick’s photograph the castle is almost unrecognisable having, by and large, tumbled to the ground.
Dating from the 15th century and extended in the 16th it was heightened and Dutch gables were added in the late 17th. Some parts of the castle were occupied well into the 19th century when the tower walls were cut back to provide additional living space resulting in subsequent collapse.
A recent attempt at restoration has proved fruitless.
Ravenscraig Castle stands on the coast at Kirkcaldy.
Founded in 1460 by James II this castle is arguably the first in Britain to be designed specifically for artillery defence – the only problem is that it was never completed as planned.
It was, however, finished in a makeshift fashion. The hall ended up as an ‘artillery platform’ while one of the frontal towers (that nearest in photograph) never rose above first floor level.
It is in the care of Historic Scotland after years of neglect.
Rosyth Castle stands near the town of Inverkeithing.
It consists of a late 15th century tower house to which a lofty enclosure wall has been attached.
Visitors today will not recognise Patrick’s photograph. The Admiralty purchased the site in 1903 to create a dockyard and due to land reclamation the castle lost its island site.
It is now under the care of Historic Scotland.
Seafield Towerstands on the shore near Kirkcaldy. It is a 16th century L-plan tower.
It was abandonned in 1733 and is in a bad state of preservation much reduced since Patrick photgraphed it.
Struthers Castle is situated near Ceres.
It was a large 16th century L-plan castle with outbuildings. There were extensive alterations in the 18th century.
Charles II was entertained at Struthers in 1651 but the next guests were not so welcome – a detachment of troops from Cromwell’s army!
Visitors today will hardly recognise it from Patrick’s photograph.
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Very interesting article!