History & Beginnings

A Brief History of Glenrothes and the creation of the Heritage Centre

Glenrothes was born on 30th June 1948 when the Development Corporation was set-up under the New Towns Act. However, the history of the land on which the town was built and of the dynastic families that owned the land together with those men, women and children who worked the land on behalf of the titled landowners, spans several hundreds of years – and theirs is a truly exciting story!

An early aerial view of Glenrothes

An early aerial view of Glenrothes

Centuries before the birth of Glenrothes the area was governed and owned in the main by two families, the Leslies of Rothes and the Balfours of Balbirnie. Indeed, the first mention of the name Balbirnie in relation to the Balfours appears in 1312 when Robert the Bruce gave ‘John de Balbrennie’ responsibility of defending Dundee against the English. The large estate was purchased by George Balfour of Lalethan in 1650 and his descendents went on to further distinguish themselves not only in their public life but in that of the development of agriculture and coal-mining.

In the late 14th century Sir George Leslie came into possession of the lands of ‘Fythkill’ or Fettykill as we know it. This later became the ‘barony of Leslie’. George’s grandson was created Earl of Rothes in 1457. In the following centuries the Leslies of Rothes figured prominently in the state affairs of Scotland. One of the most significant being John, 5th Earl of Rothes who became Lord High Chancellor in 1667 and was made Duke of Rothes in 1680. Sadly he died the following year, with no male heir and from that day until present time the title reverted back to Earl.

Very recently a cache of papers dated circa 1624 to 1799 was found and gifted to Glenrothes Area Heritage Centre pertaining to the estates of the Earl of Rothes and most excitingly the Duke of Rothes and we are currently in talks with the Leslies of Rothes regarding their preservation.

Then there is the history of Glenrothes itself, how it sprung from a one-street miner’s row to a town with a population of approximately 50,000 and is now The Regional Capital of Fife. Learn of the pioneers who came to the town and set up the various organisations. Of those people who dedicated their lives to the town, creating a town with spirit from what was nothing but prime agricultural land, boulders and wild flowers. Learn of the hardships and triumphs of living in a New Town !

We are grateful to acknowledge the works of Keith Ferguson, A New Town’s Heritage publication which offers a wealth of information on Glenrothes 1948 – 1995. Also, that of Bill Fiet, Historian, Stuart Morris of Balgonie, together with Alistair Leslie and Brian Lesslie, descendents of the Rothes of Leslie family.

The Beginnings of the Glenrothes Area Heritage Centre

Glenrothes & Area Heritage Centre is a mere seven months old and yet within that short space of time a great deal has been achieved.

In March 2010, the GAHC founder and chairwoman, Linda Ballingall, a retired Public Relations, Marketing & Events Management consultant who was well-known throughout the 80’s and 90’s for her work on promoting Glenrothes, was invited to spearhead the campaign for a Heritage Centre in Glenrothes.

In June, Linda was made aware that funds might be available through Fife Council’s Celebrating Fife 2010 project and saw this as the perfect opportunity to a) create further awareness of the project and b) that it presented the opportunity to stage a large event which would offer the opportunity to gauge the public’s response to the campaign.

Having persuaded CIS/AXA and the Kingdom Centre Management to offer a large shopping unit within the Mall for the purpose of the exhibition, she went on to secure in-kind sponsorship on an unprecedented scale from local businesses together with encouraging exhibitors and volunteers. In late June, Linda established a Board and small committee to help stage the event. This left only 8 weeks to organise and mount the exhibition in readiness for the Grand Opening on 4th September 2010.

The response to the pilot Heritage Centre was an overwhelming success as volunteers greeted 11,464 visitors to the exhibition within the four week period. On one day alone, our enthusiastic volunteers greeted 804 visitors!

The project has earned plaudits from across- the- board politicians and the business sector; has been mentioned in the Scottish Parliament and has established beyond doubt that the entire community is 100% behind our endeavours.

We are delighted that the Markinch Heritage Group and Fife Mining Museum are involved with this new exciting development and a link to their websites can be found on the “Useful Websites” page.