The site of the Mercat Cross in Crail historically signified the right to hold a regular market or fair. The Mercat Cross served as a secular purpose as a symbol of authority and an indication of the burgh’s prosperity.
Crail, having been confirmed by Robert the Bruce in 1310 as a Royal Burgh, was granted a rare distinction to hold the market on a Sunday. This, though, gave rise to much controversy at the time of the Reformation in the 16th century when such activities were frowned upon on the Sabbath.
The cross also provided a focal point for civic ceremonies, official pronouncements as well as public shaming and punishment. This was administered by the attachment of the offender by an iron collar to the cross. It is reported that the present position of the cross is not the original position. It was repositioned here in 1887 from a position much nearer the Tolbooth to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. In fact, it is also possible this is not the original cross! The shaft is thought to be the original. The present edifice does date from the early 17th century but the unicorn, a symbol of Scottish royalty, was only added in 1887, again to coincide with its repositioning.
The Crail Mercat Cross is one of only 126 in Scotland and is classified as a Scheduled Monument. The planned restoration of the cross by the Crail Preservation Society in 2020 requires appropriate permissions from Fife Council and the CPS is currently awaiting approval. Below you will find details of the plans lodged with Fife Council.