Crail Heritage Walk

Crail Tolbooth

The Tolbooth (or Town Hall) is where the tolls or taxes were collected for goods sold in the markets in Crail. The upper chamber in the current building was Crail Town Council's debating chamber until the council was abolished in 1976.

The history of the present building begins in 1598. It cost around 1000 Scots Merks (£55.00 sterling) to build the lower part of the tower which formed a prison with cells. The stone inset on the north wall is an early coat of arms with four sailors from 1602. The more modern coat of arms has seven sailors which relates to the number of trades in the Burgh.

In 1702 a new tower of wooden construction was built to house the Kirk Knock (or clock) and bell. In 1776 the tower was rebuilt in stone and remains as it is today. The main hall was rebuilt in 1814-1815. The windows on the south side were bricked up to placate a complaining resident who felt he was overlooked. It is not recorded as to what he was frightened of people seeing! Access to the upper hall was by an external stair and to the lower hall by the old door, now infilled, on the west side of the tower.

A gilded copper weather vane was erected in 1858, it represents a Crail capon, a local delicacy of haddock dried in the sun or smoked by fire.

The bell which is the largest in Fife was probably cast by Willem van den Ghein in Michelen, halfway between Antwerp and Brussels, with an inscription which says in Dutch “I was cast in the year of our Lord 1520”. The bell was tolled for curfew at 10.00pm.

The Town Clock was replaced in 1866 at a cost of £85.00 and the same year saw a new main door built on the northern side and a teak internal stairway to the upper floor constructed.

If you look at the time on the Town Hall Clock or count the number of strikes of the bell on the hour, you will notice that the clock is not showing the correct time.

Unfortunately, access to the clock to correct the time is currently forbidden due to the state of the ironwork and woodwork holding the bell in place. Work to correct the problem has been held up by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The above article is extracted from Crail Matters, the local newsletter which is a useful source of all that is happening in Crail. To register to receive an email copy of Crail Matters each week, visit: and click on "Subscribe to Crail Matters" at the foot of the page.

Walk along the south side of Marketgate through the car park.