PITTENWEEM, a small sea-port, royal burgh, and parish, in the district of St. Andrew's, county of Fife, 10 miles (S. by E.) from St. Andrew's, and 24 (N. E.) from Edinburgh; containing 1339 inhabitants, of whom 1320 are in the burgh. This place, of which the name is of doubtful etymology, appears to have derived its earliest importance from the foundation of a monastery for canons regular of the order of St. Augustine, but of which neither the exact date, nor the name of the founder, is known. This establishment, which was subordinate to the priory of St. Andrew's, and amply endowed, continued to flourish till the Reformation; and several of its priors were distinguished for important services rendered to their country: John Rowle, prior of Pittenweem, who in 1542 was a lord of session, and in 1544 one of the lords of Articles, accompanied the Regent Murray into France in 1550. On the dissolution of the priory in 1561, its revenues amounted to £412 in money, exclusively of large payments in kind. In 1583, William Stewart, captain of the King's Guards, obtained a grant of the priory and lands, and became commendator of Pittenweem; and in 1609 his son, Frederick, was created Lord Pittenweem by James VI., but, dying without issue, the title became extinct. In 1651, Charles II., in passing through the town on his route to Anstruther House, was hospitably entertained by the magistrates and council, with every demonstration of loyalty and respect.
   The town, which is situated on the northern shore of the Frith of Forth, has one principal street from which diverge several others of inferior extent. Many of the houses are of ancient appearance, though well built; but considerable additions have been made, consisting of ranges of modern building, and numerous handsome houses have been erected within the last fifteen years on the north and east sides of the old town. There are no manufactures of any sort carried on, nor any trade (except the fisheries) beyond what is requisite for the supply of the neighbourhood, for which purpose there are several good shops, well stored with various kinds of merchandise. The inhabitants are principally employed in the fisheries, which are both lucrative and extensive. Cod, ling, skate, and haddocks are taken in abundance off the coast, and large quantities are cured and sent to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and to Liverpool and London: the herring-fishery, also, has been recently attended with considerable success, and promises to become in due time a source of great benefit to the town. There is a small yard for repairing the vessels used in the fisheries; likewise some mills, a granary, and a bleach-green. The harbour, though exposed to easterly winds, affords good accommodation, and has been much improved at the expense of the corporation; and should the herring-fishery continue to increase, it will be made still more commodious. Steamers to Edinburgh, Dundee, and the north of Scotland, ply daily during the summer; the post-office has a tolerable delivery, and facility of communication with the interior is maintained by the coast road to the east of Fife, and by other roads that pass through the parish. By charter of James V., bestowed on John, prior of Pittenweem, in 1542, the town was erected into a royal burgh; and in 1593 James VI. granted to the bailies, council, and burgesses, a portion of the ancient priory, with other privileges and immunities, which were ratified in a parliament holden at Edinburgh by Charles I. in 1633. The government is vested in a provost, three bailies, a treasurer, and nineteen councillors, annually elected under the provisions of the act of the 3rd of William IV.; there are no incorporated trades possessing exclusive privileges, and but a small fee is exacted for admission as a burgess. The magistrates have civil and criminal jurisdiction throughout the whole of the royalty, and hold both civil and criminal courts, in which the town-clerk acts as assessor; in the former causes to any amount are decided, but in the latter only petty offences. The town-hall, to which is attached a small prison, is part of the buildings of the old priory. The burgh is associated with those of Anstruther Easter, Anstruther Wester, Crail, Cupar, Kilrenny, and St. Andrew's, in returning a member to the imperial parliament; the number of qualified voters is fifty-eight.
   The parish is about a mile and a quarter in length, and less than three-quarters of a mile in average breadth. The ground rises gradually from the coast towards the north, preserving a general uniformity of surface; the soil is mostly a black loam of great fertility, and the lands, chiefly arable, are in a state of high cultivation. The substratum is principally coal, which was formerly wrought to a very considerable extent; but the working of the mines has for many years been altogether discontinued, and supplies are now obtained from some collieries in the vicinity and from Newcastle. The rateable annual value of the parish is £3269. Its ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of St. Andrew's and synod of Fife: the minister's stipend is £166. 1. 10., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £12. 12. per annum; patron, Sir W. C. Anstruther, Bart. The church is an ancient structure, originally forming part of the buildings of the priory. There are a place of worship for members of the Relief, and an episcopal chapel. The parochial school affords instruction to about 100 children; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with a house and garden, and the fees average £50 per annum. Considerable remains exist of the priory, and the walls that inclosed the precincts are still tolerably entire; the prior's house is now the residence of the Right Reverend Dr. Low, bishop of the united dioceses of Moray, Ross, and Argyll. Below the priory, and near the sea-shore, is a spacious cavern of two apartments, in the innermost of which is a well of excellent water; and between the apartments is a stone staircase leading to a subterraneous passage, and at the extremity of the passage another staircase, conducting to the refectory of the priory. Dr. Douglas, bishop of Salisbury in 1792, an eminent divine, and author of a vindication of Milton, was a native of this town.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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