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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Central and Fife

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Central and Fife
Culross Palace
© NTS
Culross's Continental Connections

Sir George Bruce
© SCRAN
Perhaps the centrepiece of Culross is the magnificent house of Sir George Bruce, known locally as "the Palace". Bruce was a wealthy coalmine owner, who also had a monopoly on the local salt-panning industry, and as such felt he should have a property to reflect his status in the area.

In fact much of Culross's prosperity can be laid at the feet of Bruce, as it was he who persuaded King James VI to grant the town Royal Burgh status, allowing it to trade with the continent. Trade soon flourished, and it was said that as many as 170 ships could be seen sheltering in the bay of Culross harbour.

It was this trade with the continent that completely defined the architecture of not just Culross but the whole area. Scottish ships sailed for the Low Countries carrying raw materials, such as coal, salt and wool, and returned with luxury goods - ceramics, jewellery, silk, glassware, carpets, tapestries and works of art. One unexpected by-product of this trade was to have a lasting impact on the architecture of the region. As the ships returned from the Low Countries, they often had to be provided with ballast for the journey, and were given red pantiles, a form of roofing tile, these were then used by the enterprising Fifers to roof their houses.

Bruce's mansion was started in 1597 and completed in 1611, additions being made as his wealth increased.

Culross Palace garden room
© SCRAN
There appears to have been no great plan for the building and it was just erected as the whim took Bruce. The house is built with a heavy Dutch influence, from its pantile roof and crow-stepped gables to the furniture inside, which was all purchased in Holland. Even the beautiful painted ceiling is based on a Dutch pattern book.


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Internet Links
In Search of Scotland
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National Trust for Scotland
– Royal Burgh of Culross
A Local Guide to Culross
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