Royal Charter of 1541
There is general agreement that Burntisland was granted its first Royal Charter by King James V in 1541. What happened thereafter is rather confusing, and I have been trying to piece the story together from the writings of local historians John Blyth and Robert Livingstone. It appears that the 1541 Charter was not ratified by Parliament and that it was not until King James VI's Royal Charter of 1585 that the problems were resolved.
Below you will find the Royal Charter of 1541, both in its original wording and in translation. I am very grateful to Ian Quinney and Margaret Holmes for providing these. Below the Charter is an account of the related events from John Blyth's 1948 book, 'Burntisland: Early History and People', together with some relevant notes from Robert Livingstone's research.
The Royal Charter of 1541 (original
regni sui republica portum Brint-iland antea
nuncupat, vic. Fiffe, construxerat et reparaverat,
et prope eundem villam pro receptatione hominum
ibi applicantium edificare intendebat; et, ut
dicta villa ad perfectionem promptiorem deveniret,
deliberavit quod franchiis, libertatibus et commoditatibus
liberi burgi gauderet,-concessit preposito et
ballivis per se nominandis, et eorum successoribus,
et communitati dicti BURGI DE BRINTILAND,-terras
propinquiores dicto portui adjacentes, quas de
monasterio de Dunfermling habuit, cum dicto portu;
necnon dicto preposito jurisdictionem vicecomitis
infra bondas dict. burgi et portus, omniumque
actionum infra utriusque bondas tam per terram
quam per mare contingentium, cum potestate qua
quicumque vicecomes aut aquarum ballivus infra
regnum usus est; creavit etiam dictum prepositum
vicecomitem, et dict. ballivos aquarum ballivos
infra dictas bondas; et erexit dictam villam
in liberum burgum regium:- TENEND. cum potestate
habitatoribus (post prepositum &c. per regem
eligend.) burgenses et gilde facere, necnon prepositum,
ballivos, consules et curie clericum &c.
eligere; curias cum querelis tenere; burgi amerciamenta
operibus communibus ejusdem applicanda levare;
crucem foralem cum nundina communi semel in anno
in festis SS. Petri et Pauli habere, cum 2 diebus
foralibus, Mercurii et Sabbati, hebdomidatim;
mercantias emere, commutare et vendere; cum toutina
(trutina?) - et ponderibus in aliis burgis usitat.;
statuta &c. sancire; cum custumis, lie doksilver,
ancragiis &c.:- SALVIS regi magnis custumis
et burgi firmis super quolibet tenemento et lie
outsett impositis:- PROVISO quod dict. prepositus
&c. unum honestum templum edificarent ac
in ecclesiam colleg. 6 capellanorum ad minus
erigi causarent:- TEST. xxxi.
The Royal Charter of 1541 (translation by Margaret Holmes)
by Margaret Holmes, retired archivist, Dorset
Extracts from 'Burntisland: Early
History and People'
* * * * *
In June, 1583, Burntisland entered an application for inclusion as a Royal Burgh to the Convention of Burghs held that year at Ayr. The town was represented bv David Clark and Master Hercules Balrany, who stated to the Convention that their application had received the Royal favour under the advice of the late Regent, the Earl of Morton. Consideration was deferred.
James VI's Charter is dated 4th March, 1585. It refers to the Charter granted by his grandfather 'of happy memory,' and very early makes clear that the town's primary claims to preferment lay in its ability to afford safe reception and accommodation to ships, 'whether belonging to our loving subjects or strangers,' and again reference is made to loyal and faithful services rendered by the whole community in the past. The boundaries are described as 'beginning at the western fence, commonly called the West Bulwark, on the west, from there passing below the fortress and castle of Burntisland towards the east, towards the tenement of the umqle Robert Orrok with pertinents, and thence to the vennel between the tenements of Mr John Wemyss on the east and Henry Bikarton on the west, with said vennel from side to side with their pertinents, so passing north to the Broomhill and east through the Weddington of the Broomhill to the den commonly called Greig's Hole, from Greig's Hole passing through the Weddington to the east part of Craigkennochy by the east to the sea and all the land bounded on the south by the sea unto the harbour of our Port of Burntisland, formerly called the Port of Grace.'
The Provost, Bailies, Councillors, and community were vested with all the privileges of any other Royal Burgh, with fullest power to buy and sell, export and import cloth, raw or dressed, broad or narrow, made of wool or flax, skins or hides, salt, pitch, iron, and every other kind of staple goods. Likewise the right of receiving toll and what is commonly called anchorage and custom of ships and determining contents thereanent, giving the fullest powers to the burghers, guildbrothers, Provost, Bailies, and Town Clerk as shall seem necessary for the benefit and advantage of said Burgh and harbour, with right of holding a Burgh Court taking cognizance of whatever may fall under their authority. Also the power of erecting a market cross and holding two fairs annually upon the fasts of St. Peter and St. Paul, second-last day of June and last day of November, and two market days weekly, viz., Wednesdays and Saturdays, on which days Maltsters, Bakers, Fleshers, Smiths, Wrights, Shoemakers, Tanners, Barbers, Weavers, Fullers, and all other kinds of artificers having and holding statutes and ordinances for the good government of the same agreeable to the laws and statutes of our Kingdom and of other Royal Burghs; likewise the right of determining and regulating weights and measures according to the usages of the Royal Burghs in our Kingdom, and everything that may be to the advantage of the said Burgh and port, respecting the liberties, prime money, prime guilt, docksilver and anchorage, and others aforewritten, to be applied for the use, advantage, benefit and ornament of our foresaid Burgh. The Town Council was further vested with the right, among others, of securing that 'the ingress and egress to the town may in no wise be impeded, nor the Provost, Bailies, Council and Community molested in the quiet and peaceable enjoyment of all and every one of their just rights and what may be found to belong to each respectively, named or not named.'
As we have already seen, there were delays in obtaining full recognition, but Burntisland definitely became a Royal Burgh in 1587, in which year, at an October Convention held in Edinburgh, the town was represented bv John Clapen, Provost, and Master Andrew Wilson, the Town Clerk.
subsequent research revealed:
Webpage by Iain Sommerville;
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