Charlestown, Fife

Charlestown (also known as Charlestown-on-Forth) is a town in Fife, Scotland on the north shore of the Firth of Forth. It is 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) west of Limekilns, and 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) south-west of Dunfermline.


Location within Fife
OS grid referenceNT065832
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtKY
EU ParliamentScotland
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament


Charlestown was established in 1770 by Charles Bruce, 5th Earl of Elgin. The planned village is laid out in the shape of a letter E for Elgin. It was established as a harbour town for the shipment of coal mined on Lord Elgin's Fife estates, and for the production of lime. The harbour's outer basin was built around 1840. In 1887, on the occasion of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, the Queen's Hall was built at the village centre, to designs by Robert Rowand Anderson.[2]

Shipbuilding was carried on at Charlestown in the 19th century, as well as ship-breaking. Some of the German Imperial Fleet were brought here from Scapa Flow after World War I to be broken up.[3]

The Lime Kilns

The fourteen massive lime kilns built of dressed-sandstone are a remarkable feature of Charlestown [4]. They are regarded as one of the most important Industrial Revolution remains in Scotland and indeed the United Kingdom, being Scottish Category A Listed buildings [5] [6] . Built into the hillside below the village, they form a stone facade 110 metres long by 10 metres high [7]. They are in a good state of preservation [8] with many features relating to the operation of the kilns still in situ. Most of the kilns were re-faced, probably in the C19 [9].

The kilns were built by Charles Bruce, 5th Earl of Elgin, in the late C18, building dates quoted vary, but Pevsner states that the first nine were built 1777 to 1778 and the last five in 1792 [10]. They were the largest group of lime kilns in Scotland, producing a third of all lime production [5], and were particularly important to agriculture for soil improvement [9] but also for building work to produce mortar, plaster and other lime based products.

Through the late C18 and C19, the kilns were part of a major industrial complex of the time [7], including ironworking and salt extraction. Coal and limestone were brought in from the local quarries, also on the Earl’s estate. The adjacent harbour was as well built by the Earl and used for transporting the lime products, limestone and importantly coal [11]. There were local railway lines, also a railway link to Dunfermline. Around the lime kilns there were many ancillary buildings, these have almost entirely gone [11]. The operation ran down from the 1930s and finally closed in 1956 [5]. The site is owned by the Broomhall Estate.


Some of the off-road paths in the village reflect aspects of the past; for example, "Shell Road" and "Lime Brae" indicate the routes over which these materials were transported in the past; "Craw Road" and "Rocks Road" refer to the avian inhabitants and the underfoot surface respectively; "The Run" refers to the route by which surplus water was run off from the upper part of the village and down to the sea.


Charlestown is the home of Broomhall Cricket Club, named after Broomhall, the nearby home of Lord Elgin. They have a 1st XI and a 2nd XI that play in the Scottish East League run by the East of Scotland Cricket Association and have junior, midweek and Sunday teams as well. They play at The Cairns, Charlestown.[12]

Scottish Lime Centre Trust

Charlestown is home to the Scottish Lime Centre Trust which was established in 1994. Its aims and objectives are to:

  • Promote for the public benefit the appropriate repair of Scotland's traditional and historic buildings;
  • Advance education through the provision of advice, training and practical experience in the use of lime for the repair and conservation of such buildings; and
  • Promote and further the preservation and development of Scottish building traditional, crafts and skills.[13]


  1. The Online Scots Dictionary
  2. "Charlestown". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  3. Buxton, Ian L. (1992). Metal Industries: shipbreaking at Rosyth and Charlestown. World Ship Society. p. 104. OCLC 28508051.
  4. "Inner Forth Landscape initiative".
  5. "Ancient Monuments in Scotland Listing".
  6. "Canmore Description of Charlestown Lime Kilns".
  7. AOC (2016). Charlestown Limeworks, Charlestown, Fife: Measured Survey and Archaeological Evaluation Report. AOC Archaeology Group.
  8. "Plans, elevations and photographs before and after conservation works by Historic Environment Scotland" (PDF).
  9. Walker, B Ritchie, G (1987). Exploring Scotland's Heritage: Fife and Tayside. Edinburgh: RCAHMS.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. Gifford, J (1988). 'Pevsner Architectural Guide', Fife: The Buildings of Scotland series. Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd.
  11. Chesher, S Foster, L Hogben, L (1979). A Short History of the Villages: Charlestown, Limekilns and Pattiesmuir. Dunfermline: Norman Fotheringham.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. Broomhall Cricket Club Homepage
  13. Scottish Lime Centre
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