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Kinross Tolbooth

Tolbooth Kinross Scotland

The Kinross Tolbooth, or, as we in these more refined days call it, the “Old County Building,” is a building of
some distinction in our High Street. It was built
early in the seventeenth century, and for two hundred
years it served as offices for the transaction of County
business, as prison, and as a house for the keeper.
The offices were on the street floor ; the County Hall,
which also served as Sheriff Court, on the first floor ; while the top storey provided a dwelling for the keeper, one room in that flat being known as the debtor’s room, while the cells for prisoners were situated in a cellar under the street level.

In 1771 the building was repaired by the Crown and
certain decorations were added to its exterior by Robert
Adam of Blairadam, who placed a marble tablet on its
south gable bearing this inscription, “This County House
was repaired by the Crown AD. 1771. Robert Adam,
Knight of this Shire, decorated this front at his own ex-
pense.” In 1826, after the County Buildings now in use
had been erected, the Old Tolbooth was bought by a local merchant and is still used as business premises, with dwelling house above. In adapting it for this purpose the most of the decorations put upon it by Sir Robert Adam were removed, but the marble tablet still remains.

During its long history as a prison this building has had
many inmates. The only occupant of the debtor’s room
I can find referred to is Andrew Nicol, who is described
as a sensible-looking countryman, wearing a large, flat,
blue bonnet. He must have been very cantankerous, for he carried on for over thirty years a law plea about a midden stead. He had no lawyer and conducted his OWfl case and was well known in Edinburgh at the Court of Session and the Register House, where he was called “Muck Andrew.” No wonder that he was later imprisoned for debt. He died in 1817. He has earned the distinction of being referred to in Chambers Traditions of Edinburgh,” and also of being included in Kay’s well known Edinburgh portraits, where he is shown wearing his blue bonnet and exhibiting a plan of his midden stead.

The building is founded on a bank of sand and one
prisoner is reported to have made his escape by tunnelling under the wall. I also find it recorded that two of our local people were incarcerated there, Michael Glass, of Milnathort, and Robert Steedman, Kinross, for attending a conventicle at Glenvale in 1678. The old Tolbooth had a very kindly way of treating its prisoners for I find that they were allowed out for two hours daily for a walk. On one occasion, when the Prison Inspector called to make his annual visit, he was unable to get admittance, as the door was locked. The jailor, looking out at an upper window, told him that the prisoner (apparently the only one) had gone to Baleave Muir for a walk, taking the key with him and he, the Inspector, would have to wait till he returned.

 

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