St Andrews

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Royal Burgh of St Andrews
Gaelic: Cill Rìmhinn
18th Green and Clubhouse.jpg
The Royal and Ancient, St Andrews
Grid reference: NO507168
Location: 56°20’13"N, 2°47’59"W
Population: 16,680
Post town: St Andrews
Postcode: KY16
Dialling code: 01334
Local Government
Council: Fife
North East Fife

St Andrews is a university town and royal burgh on the east coast of Fife. The town is named after Saint Andrew the Apostle. With a population of 16,680, St Andrews is the fifth largest town in Fife.

There has been an important church in St Andrews since at least the 8th century, and a bishopric since at least the 11th century. The settlement grew to the west of St Andrews cathedral with the southern side of the Scores to the north and the Kinness burn to the south. The burgh soon became the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland, a position which was held until the Scottish Reformation. The famous cathedral, the largest in Scotland, now lies in ruins.

Today, St Andrews is known worldwide as the "home of golf". This is in part because the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, founded in 1754, exercises legislative authority over the game worldwide (except in the United States and Mexico), and also because the famous links (acquired by the town in 1894) is the most frequent venue for The Open Championship, the oldest of golf's four major championships. Visitors travel to St Andrews in great numbers for several courses ranked amongst the finest in the world, as well as for the sandy beaches.

St Andrews, from the top of St Rules Tower

The town is also home to the University of St Andrews, the third oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of the UK's most prestigious. The University is an integral part of the burgh, and during term time students make up approximately one third of the town's population.

The Martyrs Memorial, erected to the honour of Patrick Hamilton, George Wishart and other martyrs of the Reformation epoch, stands at the west end of the Scores on a cliff overlooking the sea.


Mesolithic remains have been found here on the estuary fringes of the Rivers Tay and Eden, dated between 10,000 to 5,000 BC.[1] Later farmers shaped the landscape around 4,500 BC.[1]

The first town was a settlement was called Cennrigmonaid (Old Irish for "head of the King's monad") for the memory of Túathalán, abbot of "Cennrígmonaid" around 746 AD. In 906, the town became the seat of the bishop of Alba, with the boundaries being extended to include land between the River Forth and River Tweed.[2]

The establishment of the present town began around 1140 by Bishop Robert on a L-shaped vill, possibly on the site of the ruined St Andrews Castle.[3] According to a charter of 1170, the new burgh was built to the west of the Cathedral precinct, along Castle Street and possibly as far as what is now known as North Street.[4] This means that the lay-out may have led to the creation of two new streets (North Street and South Street) from the foundations of the new St Andrews Cathedral filling the area inside a two-sided triangle at its apex.[4] The northern boundary of the burgh was the southern side of the Scores with the southern by the Kinness Burn and the western by the West Port.[5] The burgh of St Andrews was first represented at the great council at Scone Palace in 1357.[5]

A parliament met in the town was in 1304, when King Edward I came to be received by Bishop William de Lamberton as overlordship of Scotland. As many as 130 landowners turned up to witness the event, including Sir John of Combo and Sir William Murray of Fort.[6]

Recognised as the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland, the town now had vast economic and political influence within Europe as a cosmopolitan town.[7] In 1559, the town fell into decay after the violent Scottish Reformation and the English Civil War losing the status of ecclesiastical capital of Scotland.[8] (The University of St Andrews considered re-locating itself to Perth around 1697 and 1698.[7]) Under the authority of the Bishop of St Andrews, the town was made a burgh of barony in 1614. Royal Burgh was then granted as a charter by King James VI in 1620.[9][10]

Under the Acts of Union of 1707, St Andrews elected one member to parliament along with Cupar, Perth, Dundee and Forfar,[11] the first election taking place on 17 November 1713 as St Andrews Burgh. This representation lasted until the Reform Act of 1832.[11]

The Old Course, St Andrews, 1891

In the 18th century, the town was still in decline, but in spite of this the town was becoming known for having links 'well known to golfers'.[7] By the 19th century, the town began to expand beyond the original mediaeval boundaries with streets of new houses and town villas being built.[7] Today, St Andrews is served by education, golf and the tourist and conference industry.[7]

Sights of the town

West Port

The Three Gaits

In the centre, St Andrews was once bounded by three 'gaits' – North, South and Church – accompanied by cross wynds which extended to the west of the Cathedral to the respective ports.[12] West Port on South Street is one of two surviving town 'Ports' in Scotland.[13] The towers were influenced by those seen on Netherbow Port in Edinburgh.[12] The central archway which displays semi-octagonal 'rownds' and 'battling' is supported by corbelling and neatly moulded passageways. Side arches and relief panels were added to the port, during the reconstruction between 1843 and 1845.[12]

Town kirk

The tower of Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity (also known as the Holy Trinity Parish Church or "town kirk") is the most historic church in St Andrews.[14] The church was initially built on land, close to the south-east gable of the Cathedral, around 1144 by Bishop Robert Kennedy.[14] The church was dedicated in 1234 by Bishop David de Bernham and then moved to a new site on the north side of South Street between 1410 and 1412 by Bishop Warlock.[12][14] Towards the end of June 1547, the church was location where John Knox first preached in public. John Knox returned to give an inflammatory sermon on 4 June 1559 which led to the stripping of both the cathedral and ecclesiastical status.[15][16] Much of the architecture feature of the church was lost in the re-building by Robert Balfour between 1798 and 1800.[17] Later, the church was restored to a (more elaborately decorated) approximation of its mediaeval appearance between 1907-1909 by MacGregor Chambers.[12][18] Only the north-western tower and spire with parts of the arcade arches were retained.[17]

Reamins of the Cathedral

View of the cathedral grounds from the top of St Rule's Tower

To the east of the town centre, lie the ruins of the Cathedral of St Andrew.[19] This was at one time Scotland's largest building, originated in the priory of Canons Regular founded by Bishop Robert Kennedy.

St Rule's Church, located to the south-east of the mediaeval cathedral is said to date from around 1120 and 1150, being the predecessor of the cathedral.[20]

The tall square tower, part of the church, was built to hold the relics of St Andrew and became known as the first cathedral in the town.[20][21] After the death of Bishop Robert Kennedy, a new cathedral began in 1160 by Bishop Arnold (his successor) on a site adjacent to St Rule's Church.[20][21] Work on the cathedral was finally completed and consecrated in 1318 by Bishop William de Lamberton with Robert the Bruce (1306–29) present at the ceremony.[20][21]

Following the fall of the cathedral by the Reformation in 1559, the cathedral was allowed to decay.[20] In 1826, the ownership of the ruins of the cathedral were acquired by the barons of the Exchequer.[22]

St Andrews Castle

St Andrews Castle

The picturesque ruins of St Andrews Castle are situated on a cliff-top, maintained by a man-made ditch (similar to Ravenscraig Castle in Kirkcaldy) to the north of the town.[23][24] The castle was first erected around 1200 as the home of the bishops and later archbishops for use as a palace, prison and fortress, bearing the ecclesiastic ties with the town.[23] Since several demolitions and re-built have taken shape, the majority of the castle only now dates back to between 1549 and 1571. The work was done by Archbishop John Hamilton in a renaissance style retaining the use of a palace rather than a fortress.[23]

Ecclesiatical remains

The apse of the Dominican friary, Blackfriars, can still be seen on South Street (between Madras College and Bell Street).[25] Other defunct religious houses that existed in the mediaeval town, though less visible, have left traces, as for instance the leper hospital at St Nicholas farmhouse (The Steading) between Albany Park and the East Sands leisure centre.[26]


The Old Course at St Andrews

St Andrews is known widely as the "home of golf".[27] According to the earliest surviving document from 1552, the "playing at golf" on the links adjacent to the "water of eden" was granted permission by Archbishop Hamilton.[27]

The most famous golf course in the town is the Old Course, purchased by the town council in 1894.[28] The course which dates back to mediaeval times, is an Open Championship course - which was first staged in 1873.[7][29] Famous winners at St Andrews have included: Old Tom Morris (1861, 1862, 1867 and 1874); Jack Nicklaus (1970 and 1978) and Tiger Woods (2000 and 2005).[29][30] According to Jack Nicklaus, "if a golfer is going to be remembered, he must win at St Andrews".[29] There are seven golf courses in total - Old, New, Jubilee, Eden, Strathtyrum, Balgove and the Castle - surrounding the western approaches of the town.[28][29] The seventh golf course (the Castle) was added in 2007 at Kinkell Braes, designed by David McLay Kidd.[29]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Lamont-Brown St Andrews – City by The Northern Sea pp.1–2.
  2. Lamont-Brown St Andrews – City by The Northern Sea p.16.
  3. Lamont-Brown Fife in History and Legend p.71.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Gifford Buildings of Scotland – Fife p.357.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Gifford The Buildings of Scotland: Fife p.359.
  6. Lamont-Brown St Andrews – The City By The Northern Sea p.188.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Cook Old St Andrews p.3.
  8. Lamont-Brown Fife in History and Legend p.76.
  9. Lamont-Brown St Andrews –City by The Northern Sea p.19.
  10. Omand The Fife Book p.109.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Lamont-Brown St Andrews – The City By The Northern Sea p.190.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Pride Kingdom of Fife pp.124–126.
  13. Walker and Ritchie Fife, Perthshire and Angus p.79.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Lamont-Brown St Andrews – City by The Northern Sea p.171.
  15. Lamont-Brown St Andrews – City by The Northern Sea p.173.
  16. Lamont-Brown Fife in History and Legend p.81.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Fife Regional Council Mediaeval Abbeys and Historic Churches in Fife p.46.
  18. Cook Old St Andrews p.14.
  19. Fife Regional Council Mediaeval Abbeys and Historic Churches in Fife p.22.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 Walker and Ritchie Fife, Perthshire and Angus pp.130–132.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Lamont-Brown Fife in History and Legend pp.70–72.
  22. Lamont-Brown Fife in History and Legend pp.76–77.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Walker and Ritchie Fife, Perthshire and Angus pp.115–116.
  24. Pride Kingdom of Fife p.121.
  25. "St Andrews, South Street, Blackfriars' Chapel", The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS),, retrieved 2010-08-04 
  26. "St Andrews, St Nicholas Farm", The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS),, retrieved 2010-08-04 
  27. 27.0 27.1 Pride Kingdom of Fife p.118.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Lamont-Brown St Andrews – City by The Northern Sea p.85.
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 29.4 Lamont-Brown Fife in History and Legend pp.224–227.
  30. Cook Old St Andrews p.39.


  • Lamont-Brown, Raymond (2002). Fife in History and Legend. Edinburgh: John Donald. ISBN 0859765679. 
  • Lamont-Brown, Raymond (2006). St Andrews:city by the northern sea. Edinburgh: Birlinn Publishing. ISBN 1841584509. 
  • Omand, Donald (2000). The Fife Book. 
  • Pride, Glen L. (1999). The Kingdom of Fife (2nd edition ed.). Edinburgh: Rutland Press. ISBN 1873190492. 

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