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Research has uncovered that one of the buildings on the Scottish Fisheries Museum site was the home of the Anstruther Whalefishing Company.

Whale Store Building

The Whale Store

Later secondary sources suggest the land was given to the Anstruther Whalefishing Company shortly after the formation of the venture in 1756/7 by the Bailies of the town; perhaps the building was constructed bespoke by the Company at this time. The company was wound up in, or soon after, 1762 after a fateful final season with the wrecking of the Hawk in the ice flows and the dismantling or selling off of the Rising Sun. Similar sources suggest ownership of the property went to a John Miller then Robert Todd. John Miller is noted as shipowner, perhaps the building remained in use as a maritime building, perhaps a store, in a similar manner to contemporary examples in the Firth of Forth such as McArthur’s Store, Dunbar2 (Addyman Archaeology 2009) which, if it was not used by the more–successful Dunbar whaling industry, likely bore witness to the development of the industry there in the mid-18th century.

The building continued to develop as aerial photography (AP) indicates the configuration of the roof changes a number of times since the 1940s. This is also indicated by the stepping in the roofline of the Whaling Store, where three levels are preserved under the current roof.


The Whale Store is a rare surviving example of an18th century building dedicated to the early Scottish whaling industry, an under-studied but important element of Scottish maritime heritage in central and eastern Scotland, prior to the better-known 19th century southern whaling trade focused on the north east of Scotland. Whilst the Anstruther Whale Fishing Company was a short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful venture, the history of the company and Whale Store building reflects important events in the development of the ports and harbours in the Firth of Forth in the mid-18th century.

The early Scottish whaling industry was focussed on the Forth and many of the smaller harbours and ports supplied and outfitted whalers for the Arctic. In order to achieve this many of the merchants and trades within the towns and villages would have been involved bolstering skills and the economy. In the case of skills, whalers were sought after during the frequent periods of war in the later 18th century.

Subsequently the Whale Store building has been modified for a variety of local industries including fish processing, blacksmithing and fish-smoking linked to the development of Anstruther as a principal fishing harbour in the last 250 years. Latterly the Whale Store is a central part of the Scottish Fisheries Museum, preserving the structure for the future.

Notes (1) Plan of the Royal Burgh and Harbour of Anstruther Easter, Fife.

(last accessed 10/10/2014).

(2) McArthur’s Stores (Spott’s Granary), Old Harbour Dunbar.

(last accessed 17/01/2014).

Further Information

The findings of the research project into the Anstruther Whale Fishery Company were presented at the Nautical Archaeology Society and SCAPE Trust Conference at the University of Glasgow’s Western Infirmary Lecture Theatre Suite, Glasgow, G11 6NT on Sunday 6th November 2016.

There is a short commentary on the building and its links to Scottish whaling from Wessex Archaeology and the recording is listed on Canmore.

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