Newport in 1800
At the beginning of the 19th century, probably about twenty cottages made up the village of Newport. The population was between one and two hundred and most were boatmen or fishermen, and some tradesmen who provided necessary services for the small settlement. A fair proportion of the population was also involved in spinning and weaving: spinning was usually done by the women, hence the word ‘spinster’; and weaving, much heavier work, by the men. There was salmon-fishing all along the river. Fish caught were usually taken to Dundee to be sold in the market there, or sometimes packed in ice and taken on to London by Dundee steamships. Agriculture and quarrying of whinstone were the only other forms of occupation at that time. The very hard whinstone produced locally would be used extensively in building throughout the nineteenth century as the village developed.
Development of Maryton Village
At that time the village of Newport centred on the area around the pier and to the west, with little development in what we would now consider East Newport. Most of the land on which Newport would eventually develop belonged to the Tayfield estate, which had been established by John Berry when he bought the land in 1788.
Cutting into the Tayfield land there was a large area, more or less from the lower end of Cupar Road as far as today’s James Street, which belonged to the Scotscraig Estate at Tayport. With the development of the modern ferry service in the 1820s and the increased traffic across the river, the owner of this land, James Dalgleish of Scotscraig, realised its potential. He decided to found a new village east of Cupar Road. So he feued the land, and called the village Maryton after his wife. William Street, Robert Street and James Street were named after his three sons. Many of the feus were quickly taken up and the village experienced its first spurt of growth.
The more efficient ferry services were of course the main reason for this initial growth, and the benefits of the ferries are illustrated in a Fife Herald advertisement from 1823 for Mr. Dalgleish’s land.
Just a few years later, in 1828, there was a further attempt to feu land in East Newport, this time in Backfield Park. This was the area of higher land to the east of Queen Street and covering present day Woodbine Terrace and Gowrie Street. The panoramic views from this land are promoted in the Fife Herald 1828 advertisement.
Despite this further attempt at feuing, there appears to have been very little development beyond the original Maryton village by 1855. The OS map of that year shows Maryton very much as a planned development with its straight streets criss-crossing at right angles. There is little more to the north, east or south.
As part of the village development the Maryton Inn was established in the 1820s. This was the house at 12 Tay Street. Unfortunately the main road to the ferry was down Cupar Road. The Maryton Inn was just too far off the beaten track. The inn failed as a business, and the inn and stables at the rear were converted to housing.