Referred to as Abbot House or The Abbot’s House only since the 19thcentury, the original building likely acted as an interface between the burgeoning Abbey and growing royal burgh. The earliest parts of the structure are set against the precinct wall of the monastic complex, and the house was expanded roughly once every hundred years up to the 18thcentury.
Excavations in the 1990s revealed much of the history of the building and site, and produced a selection of finds which are currently on display within the heritage centre. Heritage displays will undergo further development in 2013 and early 2014, and will highlight Dunfermline’s dynamic medieval and early modern past. Funding from Heritage Lottery Funds has been secured to display two 14th century human skeletons as a means to explore the lives and deaths of people in early Dunfermline, bringing to life the past for visitors from around the world.
There is a long history of activity on the site where Abbot House sits today. Before the house existed there were a number of workshops, including a blacksmiths, which were levelled to make way for an extension to the abbey cemetery. Excavations in the mid-1990s discovered a number of skeletons, although this cemetery was short lived and it was abandoned to make way for the first phase of Abbot House in the mid to late 15th century. The first house was a simple two story building with workshops on the ground floor. Over time and with successive owners the house was added to and updated reflecting the then owner’s style and aspirations. As one of the only stone buildings in the town it was saved from the fire which swept through Dunfermline in 1624 which destroyed most of the town. However it was not until the 19th century that the house became known as Abbot House.
In 1991, Dunfermline Heritage Trust was established. A group of volunteers who were enthusiastic about their local history worked to raise over one million pounds to renovate, protect and open the house as a heritage centre. Early support was offered from Fife Council and Carnegie Dunfermline Trust as well as the heritage lottery fund. In 2014, Abbot House applied for accreditation as a museum intending to carry on this legacy of dedication to promoting Dunfermline’s exciting history.