University of St Andrews

University Library Special Collections


St Andrews Burgh Records (B65)

Images of the St Andrews Burgh collection

St Andrews is one of Scotland's best known towns.  From medieval and early modern times it was a key ecclesiastical, political and mercantile centre and though subsequently its influence waned, it survives today as an important centre of education and tourism.  Founded as an ecclesiastical burgh (1124x1144), it continued as such until the 17th century when it was erected a burgh of regality (1614), then a royal burgh (1620).  In practice, however, it had functioned as a royal burgh since c. 1357, being represented in meetings of the General Council and Parliament.

A group of councillors led by a provost and two or three bailies, assisted by a number of local worthies - substantial merchants, local landholders and a number of trades representatives - administered the burgh.  Administration covered all aspects of town life and initially extended to presiding over some civil and criminal cases although gradually, this was eroded.  During the mid-19th century, the role of the town council became confused with that of police commissioners introduced to oversee public utilities within burghs (watching, cleansing, paving and lighting).  However, the Town Councils Act of 1900 resulted in the council formally replacing police commissioners and continuing in its administrative role until 1975 when Fife Regional Council assumed this function under the Local Government (Scotland) Act.

The burgh records of St Andrews, held under the charge and superintendence of the Keeper of the Records of Scotland, date from Malcolm IV's reign (1153-1165) to the 20th century.  The collection includes: Council Minutes; Magistrates and Police Commissioners Minutes; Charters, Writs and Chartularies; Registers of Deeds and Protests; Finance Records; Cess and Stent Rolls, and Poll Tax Assessments; Court Books; Licensing Records; Dean of Guild Records; Craft Guild Records; Public Utilities Records; Harbour Records; Miscellaneous Papers including material relating to the university, fishings, golf and billeting.  

It also includes microfilm copies of the Register of Sasines for St Andrews series 1 (1673-1809); the originals and series 2 are retained by the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh.


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