About South Queensferry

Queensferry has a rich and varied history. Situated on the south shore of the Firth of Forth it's very location at a natural narrow crossing point has shaped it's history and attracted travellers over the centuries.

South Queensferry High StreetAlthough there is every probability that an early settlement existed before Roman times, the origin of the town is generally associated with Queen Margaret, wife of King Malcolm III of Scotland from 1057 - 1093. Queen, later Saint Margaret regularly travelled from Edinburgh to Dunfermline across the Forth. Known for her piety and devout faith the route and crossing points of her journeys to Dunfermline gave great significance to the settlements on both sides of the water.

In the 14th Century Queensferry was one of four burghs owing duties to Dunfermline Abbey and by 1576 it had become a Burgh of Regality. This honour brought with it the privileges of trading and customs which by the 1600's had resulted in the now Royal Burgh of Queensferry becoming a prosperous and flourishing seaport. The town's population grew and the leading burgesses were merchants, ship owners, captains and shipmasters who made their wealth by trading in Europe, Scandinavia and the Baltic in goods which varied from fine wine, silk, linen and wool to coal and salt fish!

From Back BraesThe legacy of this prosperity can still be seen today as many of the fine buildings in the High Street date from this time. The town was naturally affected at times by problems from outside it's boundaries. Plague, piracy, smuggling, witch trials, Covenanters and even Cromwell feature in the history of Queensferry.

By the 18th century the prosperity of the town was much reduced and the merchant fleet of fine ships had all but disappeared. Various industries including soap making, linen weaving, distilling and fishing kept the town's economy going but it wasn't until the 1880's that it returned to the previous level of prosperity. This change came about with the construction of the Forth Bridge and the influx of the workforce of 3,000 required to complete this magnificent structure.

View from the BridgeSome years later, the Naval Base at Port Edgar and the shale oil works at Dalmeny ensured that the local hostelries and businesses had plenty custom.

Crossing the River Forth was by now much less dangerous than in the times of Queen Margaret. Ferries bearing her name and that of Robert the Bruce now carried cars and their passengers over to Fife. This continued until 1964 when the Forth Road Bridge was completed.

Forth Rail BridgeQueensferry still has the power to attract visitors and travellers. Many still follow in the steps of Queen Margaret, others come to admire the town's old buildings and the sight of both bridges over the Forth never fail to delight many thousands of tourists every year.

J. Meldrum, Queensferry History Group.

 


August 2011 Newsletter
 
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