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Pittencrieff House


Pittencrieff House in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, was the birthplace of Brigadier General John Forbes, the forger of the Forbes Trail in Pennsylvania and the founder of Pittsburgh.


The Pittencrieff estate was controlled by the Norman family of the Obervilles in the 14th century. However, when Robert the Bruce defeated the English army at Bannockburn in 1314, King Robert seized the land and granted it to the Wemyss family of Fife. The first owner of record was Patrick Wemyss of Pittencrieff (c.1440 - c.1500.) Alexander Clerk of Stenton (1569 - 1644), Provost of Edinburgh from 1623 to 1625, bought the Pittencrieff Estate in 1610. He built the three-story house with stone from the former royal palace at Dunfermline. The structure is a T-plan house, consisting of a main block and the stair-tower. His son, Sir Alexander Clerk of Pittencrieff (1600–c.1660) served as Provost of Edinburgh from 1630 to 1634, and again from 1640 to 1643. From 1631 to 1635, Sir Alexander raised the roof and a watch-chamber over the stair tower.

Brig. General John Forbes (1707 – 1759)

In 1701, the house was purchased by Lieut.-Colonel John Forbes (1658–1707), sixth son of the John Forbes, 2nd Lord Culloden, and Elizabeth Graham, daughter of an Edinburgh merchant. The future brigadier general John was born at Pittencrieff House in 1707. His cousin was Duncan Forbes (1685 –1747), 5th Lord Culloden and Lord President of the Court of Sessions.


John Forbes grew up at Pittencrieff House. He studied medicine, appointed surgeon in the Royal Scots Greys and in 1735 he was commissioned as a cornet. He purchased a commission as captain in 1744 and his commission as Lieutenant-Colonel of the Scots Greys in 1750. He saw service in the suppression of the 1745 Jacobite uprising, including the Battle of Culloden on his cousin Duncan Forbes’s estate.

He was deployed to the British colonies during the French and Indian War. In 1758, he commanded an expedition, with Lieutenant-Colonel George Washington leading a provincial militia. On his march to the French outpost of Fort Duquesne, he oversaw the construction of a military trail known as the Forbes Road, which became an important route for settlement of the Western United States. He forced the French out of Fort Duquesne and ordered the construction of Fort Pitt, named after British Secretary of State Pitt the Elder. He also established a settlement between the rivers, the site of modern Pittsburgh. On 3 December 1758, he returned to Philadelphia, where he died on 11 March 1759. He was buried in the chancel of Christ Church, Philadelphia.


The “Forbes Trail” became an enduring route to the Ohio country from Pennsylvania. The citizens of Pittsburgh honored his memory with Forbes Avenue from downtown Pittsburgh to Frick Park and with Forbes Field, the home field for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pitt Panthers football team.


Pittencrieff House was sold in 1762 and changed hands several times until Colonel James Hunt in 1903 sold the property to industrialist Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919) for £45,000. Carnegie was born in Dunfermline donated Pittencrieff House to the citizens of Dunfermline. Today, the house is a museum in the center of the 76-acre Pittencrieff Park. Two of the bedrooms were converted to create two long galleries for museum and art exhibition space. The park includes a statue of Andrew Carnegie, a large greenhouse, and a plaque commemorating Brig.-Gen. John Forbes and the Forbes Trail. The park is located across the Tower Burn from Dunfermline palace, Dunfermline Abbey, and the tomb of Robert the Bruce.

Learn more about Brig.-Gen. John Forbes here.

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