guided tours - History & heritage
Abbot House has had a long, complex and – to be honest – sometimes obscure history.
Originally the land on which the house sits was within the boundary of the abbey complex itself – we know that because archaeologists found parts of the precinct wall incorporated into the front of the building. Although workshops followed by a burial ground for townspeople existed on the site before the mid- 15th century, a small rectangular block at least two storeys high was then constructed around 1450 with doorways and windows overlooking the Maygate. However, we have to wait until 1550 to find a reference to the owner of the house, the town’s treasurer, William Coupar, who was also a master blacksmith. Two decades later, its subsequent owner, James Murray of Purdieu, took what was a fairly ruinous building and renovated it, adding two stair-towers at the north-west and south-east corners, giving it a Z shape. Its sturdy stone and slate construction saved it from the catastrophic fire that swept through Dunfermline in 1624.
Over the course of the following centuries it was added to on every side except the south, garden-side, extending outwards onto the Maygate itself. However, from the 18th century the house began to be split up and had various owners and tenants. By the 1960s, while mostly owned by the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust, the eastern portion was a doctor’s surgery, as many people in Dunfermline will remember. However, from 1989 onwards, a number of people in the town worked extremely hard to open the building, with the blessing of Carnegie Dunfermline Trust, as a heritage centre showcasing Dunfermline’s extraordinary history. They finally succeeded in 1995.