Linlithgow Burgh Halls are exceptional buildings, in a beautiful and historic Scottish town. The Burgh Halls form a group with two other keys buildings: St Michael's Church, with its distinctive modern spire, and Linlithgow Palace, the ruined royal residence. St Michael's is an outstanding example of a medieval church with carvings, glass and soaring spaces, while the Palace reflects the court life of royalty through the centuries. The Burgh Halls in turn reflect the people, and their high ambition to create a statement building, of a quality and scale to equal Palace and Kirk.
There is evidence of a tolbooth from 1337, and by the 16th century, a building housing a court, a jail and an almshouse are known, as a parliamentary session was held in Linlithgow Tolbooth in 1545. A hundred years later, Cromwell ordered his soldiers to demolish the Tolbooth, leading the town council to complain in the 1660s of the "inglish usurpers" and request the Privy Council for help to rebuild a prison. To raise funds, they were allowed to tax malt and ale, and also using voluntary subscriptions, began the ambitious new building. In 1667 designs by John Mylne, Master Mason to King Charles I and II were approved. A new design by John Smith was approved in 1668, after Mylne's sudden death.
Smith's building had a double stair to the front, a high tower, with clock and bell to the rear. The lower spaces were used as weigh houses, grain storage, and to detain prisoners, while the upper floors were used for "publick feasts and intertainments".
There have been many alterations over the years: in 1790 the flat roof was replaced with a pitched slated roof. In 1810 the double stair was replaced by an iron loggia. 1n 1819, the substantial County Building by William Burn was added to the rear, introducing complex circulation issues due to the sloping site. A fire in the 1840s caused damage, and repairs with alterations in 1848 to designs by Thomas Brown included much new stone work, but the wooden belfry on the tower wasn't replaced. The clock and bell were reinstated in 1857 by public subscription, and in 1907, the iron loggia was removed again, and the staircase reinstated to designs of local architect, William Scott. Alterations in the 1960s saw the original turnpike stair connecting the six storey tower, with the halls, taken out. Minor alterations took place in the 1990s.
The 2009-11 conservation and repairs are by Malcolm Fraser Architects.
1337 first evidence of a tolbooth in the medieval burgh
1545 Sessions of Parliament occasionally held in Linlithgow Tolbooth
1650 Cromwell occupies Palace, and orders Tolbooth demolished
1660s Town petitions for new jail
1660s Town so confident about new tolbooth, buys Dutch bell, inscribed 1661
1667 Master Mason John Mylne's designs approved
1668 John Smith's new designs approved, work starts
1670s Clock made for the tower, timber and lead belfry and weathervane added
1790 Roof altered from flat, to pitched, slated form
1810 Stairs to front changed to iron loggia
1819 County Halls by William Burn added to rear
1845 Major fire, damage
1848 Repairs by Thomas Brown, belfry not replaced
1857 New clock and bell
1907 Iron loggia removed
1960s Interior alterations
2011 Completion of comprehensive repairs, conservation and alterations to enhance the historic fabric, and ensure long and useful life.