Elie and Earlsferry

infobox UK place

country = Scotland
official_name = Elie and Earlsferry
os_grid_reference = NO4900
map_type=Scotland
latitude=56.18988
longitude=-2.82334
population = 940 (2004)
unitary_scotland = Fife
lieutenancy_scotland = Fife
post_town = Leven
postcode_district = KY9
postcode_area= KY
dial_code = 01333
constituency_scottish_parliament = Fife North East
constituency_westminster = North East Fife

Elie and Earlsferry is a town and former royal burgh in Fife, Scotland, situated within the East Neuk beside Chapel Ness on the north coast of the Firth of Forth, eight miles east of Leven.

The burgh comprised the twin villages of Elie and Earlsferry, which were formally merged in 1930 by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929 but retain a flavour of their historical identities. They are now a popular tourist destination.

Location

Elie and Earlsferry surround an unnamed sandy bay 1 mile long running east-west beside Chapel Ness in the East Neuk of Fife, between Lower Largo and St Monans.Modern Elie occupies roughly the eastern half of the bay, and Earlsferry the west.

History

Foundation

Earlsferry, the older of the two villages, was first settled in time immemorial. It is said that MacDuff, the Earl of Fife, crossed the Forth here in 1054 while fleeing from King Macbeth.cite web|url=http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/elie/elie/index.html|publisher=Undiscovered Scotland|title=Elie & Earlsferry Feature Page] In particular the legend tells of his escape being aided by local fishermen, an act which may have led directly to the village being promoted to royal burgh status due to Macduff's later influence over Malcolm III.cite web|url=http://www.smartcommunity.co.uk/community/singlearticle.php?articleid=11|publisher=Elie and Earlsferry Online|title=A Potted History of Earlsferry]

By the middle of the 12th century, the Earls of Fife had instituted a ferry for the use of pilgrims en route to the shrine of Saint Andrew the Apostle at St Andrews. The ferry crossed the Firth of Forth to North Berwick, a distance of 7 miles, and it is this ferry that led to the naming of the place. There are the remains of a small chapel on Chapel Ness, built for the use of these pilgrims.

The exact date of Earlsferry being made a Royal Burgh is unclear as its original charter was destroyed in a fire. It became a trading port for merchants and remained so until the 18th century, and was also an important calling point on the pilgrims' route from the south to St Andrews. A new charter was granted in 1589.

Little is known of the foundation of Elie, but it had become sufficiently important to merit the building of Elie Parish Church in 1639. Its harbour was more sheltered than that of Earlsferry and it began to poach trade away from Earlsferry.

Post-Reformation

After the Reformation of 1560, pilgrim and other traffic waned in Earlsferry;cite web|url=http://www.smartcommunity.co.uk/community/singlearticle.php?articleid=12|publisher=Elie and Earlsferry Online|title=A Walk Around Earlsferry] so much so that when Earlsferry harbour was filled with sand by a severe storm in 1766, the remaining trade moved to Elie.

In the 1770s the "Lady's Tower" was built in Ruby Bay, on the east side of Elie Ness, as a changing room for the Lady Anstruther. It is said that Lady Anstruther would bathe in the waters next to Lady's Tower, a servant ringing a bell all the while to ensure locals stayed away.

Golf

Elie and Earlsferry are about ten miles due south of St Andrews. Golf is believed to have been played on Earlsferry Links as early as the 15th century, and the layout evolved over time into the current magnificent 18-hole course course which has remained largely unchanged since 1896.

There has been a formal golf club here in Elie and Earlsferry since 1832. The current club, the "Golf House Club", was founded in 1875 with the building of the clubhouse.

The famous golfer, clubmaker and course designer James Braid was born in Earlsferry in 1870.cite web|url=http://www.golfhouseclub.co.uk/ghc/history.php|publisher=The Golf House Club, Elie|title=The Golf House Club History]

Modern times

Elie's harbour was expanded in 1850. The nearby railway, built in 1857, was extended through Elie to Anstruther in 1863. The villages opened up to the affluent tourist trade of Victorian times in the 1870s, which saw regular steamers from North Berwick and Leith.

The explosion of modern communications saw the nature of the local economy change. Coal mining dwindled after the railway came to the area. Cotton weavers abandoned their trade after the switch to linen made from imported flax. Fishing gradually declined. The growing tourist trade caused a local building boom, which would have provided work for stonemasons. There were also golf club makers in the village for many years. Various support trades existed in the villages over the years and persisted until the advent of modern road transport around 1970.

Elie and Earlsferry were formally merged in 1930. The modern villages now largely share shops and other facilities, but they do retain a flavour of their historical identities. They are known as a tourist attraction offering golf and sailing, especially popular with domestic tourists from Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The railway line fell under the Beeching axe in the 1960s and the station and tracks were subsequently closed and dismantled, leaving Elie with only road and sea transport links.

Notes

External links

* [http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Elie 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica article]
* [http://www.eliekirk.co.uk/ Elie Parish Church]
* [http://www.smartcommunity.co.uk/community/singlearticle.php?articleid=7 Elie Parish Church article on ElieOnline]
* [http://www.elieonline.co.uk/ Elie and Earlsferry Online community]
* [http://www.golfhouseclub.co.uk/ The Golf House Club, Elie]
* [http://www.eesc.org.uk/ Elie and Earlsferry Sailing Club]
* [http://www.electricscotland.com/History/eastneuk11.htm Electric Scotland article about Elie]
* [http://www.electricscotland.com/History/eastneuk12.htm Electric Scotland article about Earlsferry]

Other references

Wilkinson, M. and Tittley, I. 1979. The marine algae of Elie, Scotland: a Re-assessment. "Botanica Marina" 22: 249 - 256.


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