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The King's Cellar
'The King's Cellar" by far the most interesting feature, archaeologically speaking, in Limekilns, was not erected for the sole purpose of storing wine, nor by order of a King. It was built for and by the monks of Dunfermline Abbey prior to the dissolution of the monasteries when, no doubt, it went to the Crown. Properly speaking it should be called "The Monk's Grange" for records show that there was a grange at Gellald (the oldest name for Limekilns) and it most probably belonged to the Abbey of Dunfermline. There is however no record of it in the Abbey Register prior to the carta of 1362.
A grange was a storehouse for the rents and tithes paid in grain, etc., to religious houses. There were several in Fife in pre-reformation times and the one at Gellald is distinctly mentioned in the Abbey Register as being beside "Westir Rossith". When exactly the grange was given the name "The King's Cellar" is not known, as no trace of the name has been found in books or manuscripts earlier than the 19th century.
As to its actual age, the pointed style of the roof and long since built-up windows of the East and West gables, as well as other features about the outside walls indicate 14th century work. Since then it has undergone such renovation that its true age is not immediately obvious. It was restored during 1911 and 1912 by the 9th Lord Elgin; the roof having given way in places and young trees growing out of it. Today, both inside and outside this peculiar yet beautiful building is reminiscent more of the personality of some early Saint than the bouquet of the wines it once housed. The monk-masons must have felt that even a warehouse should be well designed and built.
Today's roof was slated in the 1911 restoration and covers the ancient roof, which, as can be seen internally, is a pointed barrel-vault: i.e., formed by the intersection of two opposed barrel-vaults, each springing from the floor level - an unusual feature; this massive stone structure shows the presence of four storm lights. There are two upper windows on the South side, put in with the present doorway, towards the end of the 18th century when the village school was conducted in the upper chamber and the building was called "The Academy".
The pediment (dated 1581) was placed above the doorway when the latter was inserted. A flight of wooden steps instead of the present stone ones once led straight up to the doorway. The armorial achievement carved upon the pediment corresponds with that on the coat of arms of the Robert Pitcairn Memorial in the old Abbey Church in Dunfermline, and it would appear that the tympanum of this pediment was purposely carved for a house at Limekilns in which the Commendator of Dunferm- line once lived.
The length outside "The King's Cellar" is 63ft 9ins and the width 24ft 3ins. It is divided into two levels, the lower one being below today's ground level which has built up through the centuries. Originally, it is thought, there were two big doors with round arches on the South side; indeed the cellar as it stood previous to the 1911/12 alterations pointed to this. The walls are of sandstone with fairly regular courses through- out, and in their plainness present a powerful appearance. The lower level, one long room of about 57ft by 18ft, with solid barrel-vault, is the cellar proper where the wine would have been laid down. There is no trace today of the stone bins that are believed to have stood there. The floor, now of cement, was originally earth: 18ins of earth was removed in 1910 without reaching stone. The upper level, also one room of about the same size as the lower, has a wooden floor, put in during the restoration of the building; what the original floor was cannot now be ascertained. The pointed barrel-vaulting of this room rises to a height nearly double that of the room below. We can see where the large open fireplace (74ins wide) once was in the North wall, also where the door was in the East gable. There was a recess with folding doors which, when opened, formed a reredos for an altar. When the building was used for other purposes, the altar was folded up and the doors closed.
It was believed that the cellar would have been in utter darkness when the original doors were closed, but a few feet East of each of the two present bay windows is a deep recess with indications of very narrow openings, probably serving for ventilation as well as light, but they have long since been closed up.
During the 1911/12 restoration an excavation was made at the West end of the building which revealed what was thought at the time to be an ancient limekiln. It is possible that it was a malt-kiln, although this has yet to be proved. Again, since an ancient doorway, long since closed up, and identical in style with that in the East gable was also discovered about 8 or 9ft above the supposed "kiln", these courses of stone might be the foundation of a turret rising from the ground to communicate with that doorway and with the steps (also discovered in 1911) leading down. 15th and 16th century abbeys were well provided with turrets of this kind.
There is a closed doorway which undoubtedly communicated with a turret at the North-East angle; but that turret sprung from the building itself, as is shown by the remains of massive corbelling, and did not communicate with the cellar, and it would have no door excepting the one referred to, leading out of the upper chamber. It is suggested that this angular turret may have supported a beacon to guide ships coming into harbour, or it might have been a lookout tower.
It is also possible that the "kiln" may have been a furnace for glass making, as in places the sandstone is said to be "soft and red", probably from the effect of fire. The monks would have made their own bottles as the wine would have been shipped in casks; and we know this was done in the abbeys of old. Or again, the several courses of stone may have been round a long since dried up well. There is an old well about 50ft West of the cellar and there is a legend that a "well of spring water" was actually within the cellar, but we shall probably never know for certain what that circular arrangement of stones was for. Malt-kilns were how- ever common when each large house brewed its own ale, although not usually in such close proximity to the house as this supposed kiln.
It is possible that "The King's Cellar" may have had no upper chamber when first built, the semi - circular vault of the cellar being a later insertion as its style is different from the barrel-vaulted roof and there is no evidence of the upper chamber ever having had a typical 14th century stone flagged floor.
When "The King's Cellar" ceased to be a store for wine and other things is not known, however we do know that the building has served as a wine cellar, storehouse, school, library, also for balls, concerts and theatricals, and for a time was an Episcopal Church. Baptisms and marriages have taken place in the upper chamber, which in 1912 and for a few years after, had all the appearance of some old medieval chapel.
Today the building is a Freemasons Lodge, Elgin and Bruce Lodge No. 1077 (founded in 1910) on the Roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. The Freemasons hold their meetings in the upper chamber and dine in the cellar.
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