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Point D – Dunfermline Palace

The whole Abbey site had a large monastery and a royal palace on much of the site to the south and west of the present Abbey which includes part of the present graveyard. It was damaged in the reformation and the monastery became deserted but Anne of Denmark, who resided there after marrying James VI, started to rebuild the palace. However, after the final departure to London of the royal family in 1603, when James VI also became James I of England, the site was neglected and much of it collapsed.

Ruins of the Palace.
Damask weaving began in the rooms above the arch.

In previous centuries weaving was a major industry in Dunfermline which had a European origin. James VI wanted to bring Flemish weavers to Scotland and Flemish names have been seen to be weavers in late 17th century Dunfermline. Damask weaving was introduced to Edinburgh by Huguenots. They were secretive about their techniques but allowed James Blake from Dunfermline to come into their workhouses as a labourer. He took what he had learnt back to Dunfermline and in 1718 set up a damask loom in the south gatehouse of the Abbey, also known as the Pends.

Damask weaving mushroomed into a massive industry with ten large mills covering a massive area encircling the city centre, employing 6000 people by 1877. Then decline started and all but two works were closed by the early 1930s. Relief came from Europe in conversion to silk weaving. Two mills were taken over by Swiss companies which brought workers from Switzerland to Dunfermline to help two mills move over to silk production. The last of the silk mills closed in the 1983.


Image credits – Martin Wilkinson