Economic History

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Burntisland - Economic History

The first settlement in the Burntisland area was at the Kirkton. The old church there dates from the 12th century or earlier. Rossend Castle dates from the same era. By the 16th century, traders were making the most of the fine harbour. International trade and trans-Forth ferries flourished. Homes and businesses developed around the harbour.

By the 17th century, Burntisland was a port of national significance. But it suffered as a result - Cromwell occupied the town. In common with many other Scottish trading communities, Burntisland stagnated following the Union with England in 1707. The town remained in the post Union doldrums for much of the 18th century.

The 19th century saw significant economic improvement based on the herring fishing; and later the railway, coal exports, and development of the Granton ferry. The shale oil industry flourished briefly in the 1880s, and provided a new village at Binnend. However, the development of Methil docks in the 1880s ended Burntisland's domination of coal exports, and the opening of the Forth Bridge in 1890 took away much of the passenger traffic to Granton.

The boom times returned in the early 20th century, with the opening of the aluminium works and the shipyard at the end of the First World War. By that time, Burntisland had also become a popular holiday destination.

In more recent years, Burntisland has had to adjust to changing industrial patterns, and to the availability of cheap holidays abroad. The shipyard closed in 1969, and the aluminium works in 2002. Burntisland still plays host to holidaymakers and day trippers, but not in the numbers of former years.

Please also see the Statistical Accounts (1791-99 and 1845).

Webpage by Iain Sommerville; Help on bookmarking this page.

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