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COWDENBEATH developed before the coal industry came along through it being on the main roads heading north and south through Fife.
Our Cowdenbeath local history guru, David Allan, is able to to look at how this saw it have some very well known public houses, inevitably linked to the road network.
Said David: “The original Great North Road made its way in Fife from North Queensferry and passed through Hill of Beath and Kirkford on to Cantsdam, as it wound its way to Perth and beyond.
“Main routes such as the Great North Road had toll bars and inns located at various strategic points along the way. “One such inn was Cross Keys, which had been built by the owners of Stevenson’s Beath and Cowdenbeath estates. The Great North Road though was re-routed in 1816/17 along what we would now know as the A909 – part of which now forms Cowdenbeath High Street.
“At that time, a new Inn, the Cowdenbeath Inn, was erected at what is now known as the Fountain – where Broad Street meets the High Street.
“William Thomson, of Stevenson’s Beath owned the Cross Keys and James Beatson was mine host at the Cross Keys. Beatson then moved to run the new Cowdenbeath Inn and the Cross Keys was closed.
“The new Inn was built by William Thomson, of Stevenson’s Beath reflecting the change in route and a public dinner was held to mark the occasion. The Cowdenbeath Inn was described back then as follows – ‘two stories high, and has suitable accommodation for carrying on a considerable business, having stables with sixteen stalls, hay-lofts. etc; Its situation is very favourable, being on the Great North Road, half way betwixt North Queensferry and Kinross, and at the junction of the road to Burntisland, which is distant six miles. The Perth coaches change horses as they pass and re-pass. There are six acres of land attached to the Inn’.
“The old Cross Keys Inn premises were then used as agricultural buildings. It was located on the south east side of Foulford Road at its junction with Old Perth Road (the Old Great North Road). In 1924, Cowdenbeath Town Council purchased the property for £600 in order to remove two blind corners at Foulford Road. ”
David added: “The Cowdenbeath Inn of course was still part of a chain of inns that were usually located near to the local toll bar where folks were charged fees for using the turnpike roads. The Cowdenbeath tolbooth was nearby.
“In 1907 Charlie McLean, owner of the now adjacent Old Inn, submitted plans to demolish the Old Toll House at the junction of the Great North Road and the Dunfermline Road. Improvements were then made to the Old Inn (which had originally been on the other side of the road and later became the Bruce Hotel when owned by Henry Bruce). The tolbooth had done its duty until the tolls were abolished 28 years earlier. Then it became renowned as “a rendezvous for loafers” and served as a cellar, a fishmonger’s shop, a boot shop, a butcher’s shop, and lastly as Jimmy Murray’s barber shop for 16 years.
“One further consequence of the re-routing of the Great North Road in 1816/17 was that a cutting was driven between Bernard’s Smithy and Beverkae through the Cullaloe Hills to open up the road to Burntisland. This of course was what we still know as the Cullaloe Cut.
“This route is part of the A909 which recently was named as the most dangerous road in Scotland. While that is debatable, the junctions at both Bernard’s Smithy and Beverkae were long known as accident black spots. Bernard’s Smithy was owned naturally enough by the Bernard family.
“Tom Bernard was a member of the Bernard family that had had the Blacksmith’s at Bernard’s Smithy for so many years and was the owner of the Crown Hotel. If you look at the decorative masonry on the façade of the now derelict Crown Hotel, the initials alongside the date on the Crown logo are TB and IDA. These refer to the owners in the 1890s, Thomas Bernard and his wife, Isabella Dryburgh Addison.
“At the other end of the Cullaloe Cut was the crossroads where the Cowdenbeath to Burntisland road intersected with the Crossgates to Auchtertool Road. Originally Beverkae was a few Cottars houses a little bit along from the crossroads on the south side going towards Crossgates but these were removed when the Crossgates Water Works was established at that site. At the road junction though an Inn was built with a toll bar when the new road was opened and it was named the Stewart Arms Inn. It was located as you came along the Burntisland Road from Cowdenbeath past Mossmorran, just as you got to the crossroads it was situated on the North West corner beside the Moss. After many years the Inn closed down and the property was converted to be farm buildings for Beverkae Farm which was farmed in conjunction with the adjacent Pilkham Farm.
“These farms were acquired by an Irishman named Charles Osborne in 1913. This was when the farm first came under the ownership of the well-known local dairying family – the Osbornes. Charlie though went bust after just 2 years at Beverkae and his brother Tom Osborne then took on the farm. He was there for many years.
“In 1942 he retired and let out the 252 acre farm of Beverake and Pilkham. A year after he sold up to a Mr Anderson who then a couple of years on sold it on to Willie Watson, who in turn farmed Beverkae for many years. Sometime round about the Second World War the road from Cowdenbeath was moved slightly at the junction so that it now ran round behind the farm buildings.
“Thus they now lay on the east side of the new bit of road. That made the junction safer and that I think is the route of the road to the roundabout today. In the late 1980, the Fife Ethelyne Plant was built at Mossmorran and the buildings of Beverkae Farm/the Stewart Arms were demolished. An admin office block built at the new plant was then given the name Beverkae House.
“Tom Osborne enjoyed a long retirement and he lived to the age of 96 before passing away in 1972. His son Willie Osborne was widely known for his dairy and milk delivery business which carried on for many years (and was later taken on by his son Bill). Also well-known in Cowdenbeath was his sister Annie Osborne.
” She had a shop named Miss Osborne’s at 283 High Street – it was a milliners and also sold baby clothes – next door to Henry Fisher (later Quinan’s) newsagents.”