Coat of Arms of the Royal Burgh of Earlsferry and Elie

Elie & Earlsferry History Society

Get to know your local history

find us on Facebook

Doom Park aka Dome Park Earlsferry

Dome or Doom Park Earlsferry

The area of ground stretching from the top of the road at Chapel Green round the point as far as the road down to West Bay across the golf course and the area currently occupied by Earlsneuk and Craigforth houses was at one time the “commonty of Earlsferry”. In effect this was an area of ground owned in common by the residents of Earlsferry and, other than the Chapel itself which was run by the Cistercian nuns from North Berwick, that whole area was common land. It was administered by the Town Council of the Royal Burgh of Earlsferry.   The ground upon which Craigforth and Earlsneuk were built was sold/given away by the Town council at the middle of the 1880 or so.  The remaining area of ground is still common to the residents of Earlsferry.  But there are often questions raised about the circular wall round the corner from the chapel and before the hill known as Lundar Law.  This looks very much like a sort of enclosure perhaps for animals or the like.  Its actual use and history is obscure.  It is known that in the middle ages it was often the burial place for common criminals who may have suffered capital punishment.  It had been  reputed infertile  and indeed haunted as a result and there is a story that a provost of Earlsferry in order to dispel the myth that the area was haunted and infertile tried to grow carrots in the area.  The carrot crop failed perpetuating the story.  We do know that in the 1875 Valuation Roll the area seaward of the circular wall was known as Earlsferry Abbey and was owned by the Earl of Crawford & Balcarres.  It was suggested that when he had fallen out of favour with the monarchy and banished he wished to retain a part of Fife to which he could return.  It is suggested that he was disgraced as a result of backing the wrong side in the 1715 or 1745 rebellions.  There is further evidence that a previous Earl of Crawford might well have forfeited his land holding as a result of backing the Royalist cause in the English civil War of Cromwell’s time.  Either way it seems that he owned this piece of ground or at least paid schedule A tax on it (this was a tax on land holdings from the valuation roll)  It is reported that the area was called Earlsferry Abbey but there were never so far as is known any building in this plot of ground and certainly not an Abbey.  In 1831 however the gentlemen golfers of Earlsferry started the first recognised golf club in Elie/Earlsferry and called it Earlsferry Abbey golf Club.  At one time or another there would have been a large Iron Gate at the western entrance to this area of ground and Sydney Reekie  [see http://www.scottishheritage.net/domepark.html]

gives the following report.

The Dome Park is a circular piece of ground that’s located just above the high water mark at the very west end of Earlsferry.  Nothing grows there but rough sea tolerant bent grasses but many families of bunny rabbits make the place their home.  On the south side the park is contained by the shoreline of the sea, on the east by an outcropping of rock, on the west by the Lunder Law and on the north side by a high and curving man-made stone wall. At the west end of this wall is a pair of stone pillars that, until World War II, supported a heavy wrought iron gate. On the higher level to the north of the wall is an old roadway where observers can see over the wall and into the park. This roadway goes on around and connects to the West Sea road.

The Dome Park is an enigma, a mystery. At some point in the past the park must have been created for some specific purpose.  While it’s called a park it’s never in my time been used like a park. Facing south it’s  a sheltered pleasant sunny place. What was the purpose for the massive stone gateway pillars and the heavy wrought iron gate?

When I was a boy this is what was told to me about the Dome Park. The name is a misnomer. In bygone years the park was The Doom Park.  The park was a place of penal confinement where miscreant prisoners were brought from places further afield to be hanged.  Within the park were arm and leg stocks and several hangmen’s gibbets. The park was also the burial place of those who were put to death there.  In addition to hanging there were other forms of execution, one of which was to tie a large herring on to the top of the head of the prisoner, tie a ring of corks for flotation around the person then deposit the unfortunate into the outgoing tide. Gannets did the rest.  A woman convicted of a serious crime or the charge of witchcraft was dealt with more leniently.  The lady was seated on the rocks at low tide and a boulder was tied to her ankles.

Could things like this have happened or were such stories told to young people to keep us in line and be law abiding? I don’t know.  I’m just passing along what was a generally held belief and was told to me in all earnestness about the Dome Park.

During World War II  when the Dome Park was ploughed up for what turned out to be a futile attempt to grow potatoes a man-made hand hewn rectangular stone with a dome shaped top like a  marker was unearthed.  It was removed and deposited on to the shoreline at the west end of the park. Maybe it’s still laying there.

My Earlsferry friend Albert writes: Re the wall at Dome (or Doom) Park.

The Earl of Balcarres had that wall built when he ‘got his hands smacked’ after his support for the 1715 rebellion. He wanted to retain a foothold in Fife whilst he was in exile so he built the wall round the piece of ground we call Dome Park. He called it “Earlsferry Abbey.”  The top layer of finished stanes have been removed from the wall long ago and probably used to finish off the newer wall that borders the “big” houses.

 

This is the best we can do.

 

Graham Johnston January 2017

Leave a Reply