Dysart Combination, Fife
In 1847, the Markinch Parochial Board attempted to interest its neighbouring parishes in setting up a joint poorhouse. However, it was not until March 1858 that Markinch, Dysart and Wemyss (later joined by Leslie) agreed to proceed with such a project and proceeded to form the Dysart Combination.
In October 1859, a suitable site was found at the east of the village of Thornton in the parish of Markinch. The construction of the poorhouse building cost in the region of £5,000 and was financed by a loan from Scottish Widows, Edinburgh. Its intended capacity was 130, a figure based of the estimated requirements of each parish — Dysart 60, Leslie 10, Markinch 30, and Wemyss 30. The building, designed by James Campbell Walker, was opened in November 1861 and by the spring of 1864 had 146 inmates. Its location and layout are shown on the 1920 map below.
The building appears to have had a small entrance block on Station Road, behind which lay the H-shaped main building. Males would have been placed at one side of the building and females at the other, perhaps with a dining-hall cum chapel placed at the centre. A separate hospital block, probably a later addition, stood to the north of the poorhouse.
The diet at the poorhouse comprised:
- Breakfast: porridge and milk, bread and margarine, tea.
- Midday dinner: Soup, meat and potatoes.
- Tea: bread and margarine and perhaps leftovers of meat.
The male inmates performed outdoor work, including the cultivation of the large kitchen garden which provided vegetables for the poorhouse. The women did mostly indoor work such as the cooking, laundry work, and the daily cleaning of the poorhouse.
The parish of Dysart later became a member the Kirkcaldy Combination.
In the 1930s, the poorhouse became the Thornton Home — the Poor Law Institution for East Fife. At the start of the Second World War, it was taken over for the reception of mental patients, with chronic sick patients being sent to the Dunfermline Combination Home and Hospital.
The poorhouse finally closed down in 1943 and was demolished about 20 years later.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.
- Fife Council Archive Centre, Carleton House The Haig Business Park, Balgonie Road, Markinch, Glenrothes KY7 6AQ. Holdings include: Dysart Parochial Board/Parish Council minute books (1879-1901); Dysart Combination Poorhouse management committee minutes (1921-1928).
- Social Conditions Around the Lomonds 1775-1875 by George Bennett.
- Thanks to Ian Gourlay for information on the Dysart poorhouse.
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