Battlefield to Become ‘Park and Ride’ Interchange

Pitreavie Battlefield, next to Rosyth Train Station

Pitreavie Battlefield, next to Rosyth Train Station

Fife Council have been given the green light to build a transport hub on the site of one of Scotland’s decisive battlefields. The Battle of Pitreavie (1651), was one of the key battles during the War of the Three Kingdoms. It marked the end of Scotland’s last hold-out against subjugation by Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army, where Cromwell attempted to quell unrest north of the border.

It is though the bodies of 2000 soldiers are buried on the site, with one last search for human remains currently being prepared for the site at Rosyth, near Dunfermline. The council is seeking tenders for archaeological surveys which will test for the presence of human remains. It is likely there are a number of mass burial pits, although only two have ever been found, during ditch-digging in the 1850s.

Maclean Memorial Cairn near Pitreavie Battlefield

Maclean Memorial Cairn near Pitreavie Battlefield

A test excavation due to take place soon will reveal if any battlefield deposits remain, with the results informing any more detailed archaeological work that may be required to preserve the site by record before development. The battlefield is largely uncommemorated although a small cairn was erected a few years ago to mark the 500 members of the Clan Maclean who perished at Cromwell’s hands.

Historic Scotland included the site on the Inventory of Historic Battlefields, which lists Scotland’s 28 most important battlefields, but have not objected to the council’s plans. A council report confirmed, “Inclusion of a site within the battlefield inventory does not confer any new legal restrictions on the area identified by the inventory maps. Instead, Historic Scotland assumes that inventory sites will be given more particular consideration in the planning process.”

On July 17, 1651, a 1600-strong Cromwellian force of cavalry and infantry began an assault on the Scottish cannon battery on the top of the Ferryhills, which had stopped Cromwell crossing the Forth.

“Cromwell had been trying to cross the Forth since his victory at Dunbar almost a year earlier but he knew that attempting a crossing in the teeth of the cannon battery would have been suicidal,” said Fife Council archaeologist, Douglas Speirs.

The English forces successfully stormed the batteries, ­encouraging Cromwell to quickly send over another 4000 troops. A Scottish force of some 5500 engaged them but it was quickly routed. Speirs added: “They retreated some four kilometres before regrouping on open ground just to the south of Pitreavie Castle but they were no match for Cromwell’s vastly superior professional New Model Army and in less than two hours, the Scottish army was all but annihilated.

“There is no single contemporary record that can be relied upon for an accurate body count but from piecing various bits of historical information together it appears likely that between 1500 and 2000 Scots soldiers died.

“The battle at Pitreavie, which witnessed a great loss of life, was an incredibly important national event which, although little remembered in the national consciousness, deserves to be up there with Culloden, Bannockburn and Pinkie.

“It was truly a seminal battle in defining the future and the political landscape of Scotland, defining every aspect of Scotland from 1651 until the Restoration in 1660.”


About Nadine Lee

Originally from New Zealand, Nadine is a documentary researcher now based in the north east of Scotland.

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2 thoughts on “Battlefield to Become ‘Park and Ride’ Interchange

  1. Lee Glendening Koss

    I believe that the battlefield should be protected rather than “developed.” Once a site is gone, the connection to our ancestors is cut.

  2. Will MacQueen

    Greed and ignorance seem to perpetually triumph over history; they’ve done so since at least 4 BCE and likely will continue to do so well into the foreseeable future. Nothing new in that.


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