Over the last three months I have been researching the history of Falkland Palace, situated in Fife while on placement there as a Skills for the Future education trainee. It is surrounded by a wealth of history, not only from the surrounding village of Falkland but also in the very grounds of the palace. Under the Palace garden, remains of earlier structures have been found and others have completely vanished.
The earliest known structure on the site was a 12th century hunting lodge owned by the Clan McDuff, the Earls of Fife. It is not known whether the lodge was either destroyed or whether it was incorporated into the later Falkland Castle which was levelled in 1371.The 3rd Marquess of Bute who was the Keeper of the Palace in the 1800s carried out several archaeological digs to look for evidence of the medieval site of Falkland Castle but only found a pile of medieval rubble. However, foundations of a 14th century Well Tower and the Palace’s destroyed North Range were discovered at this time which are thought to be either part of a Great Hall or a Chapel. The Marquess placed stones over these foundations to enhance the structures of both these sites and reformed the ‘upper garden’ to express the shape of the ruined buildings. Medieval remains of the castle were also found buried in the 17th century bowling green which the Marquess removed when digging, the rest of the stone was probably reused to build Falkland Palace in the 1500s.
In the 17th century Sir David Murray and his brother built a mansion house in the northern part of the Palace garden. This has been referred to as the Low Palace, the Castlestead, the Rangers House and the Netherplace of Falkland. During this period the Palace lay empty and fell into ruin so by 1757 no effort had been made to repair it.
“in my last that I was at Falkland which I found in very ill cause both as to the glasses and window cases and floorings, and besides it will be very inconvenient and chargeable living there since I have no interest in it, nor near it so that I think any charges I will be at will be better bestowed at Huntingtower…”
Lord Murray writing to his father-in-law the Duke of Hamilton on Falkland Palace, 1684
Ironically, the structures built during this period no longer exist and little is known about them. However the 3rd Marquess of Bute ensured that Falkland Palace itself was preserved for future generations. Unfortunately he died in 1900 before he could complete all his plans for the palace. One of these was to put a roof over the ruined East Range which is still a shell, it is however constantly monitored and conserved by the Deputy Keeper, National Trust for Scotland and partly funded by Historic Scotland through the Annual Maintenance Grant Scheme.
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