Did you know that Rufflets is recognised as one of the oldest established hotels in St Andrews? It was one of the first country house hotels in Scotland when it opened in 1952, but it wasn’t always a hotel.
Until 1924 the ten acres of Rufflets grounds had been used as agricultural land. Local records going back as far as 1642 indicate that the land was owned by the Priory of St Andrews as part of the Priory Acres and was known as the “Ruch (pronounced ruff) Flets”, which in the old Scots tongue, meant rough, flat lands.
Although Rufflets has only been a privately-owned hotel for six decades, the name goes back for well over 350 years.
In 1924, on the same ten acres of land, Rufflets was built as a private home for the widow of a prominent Dundee jute baron. Designed by a well known Dundee architect, Donald Mills, the house was to become home to Mrs Anne Brydon Gilroy for the next 25 years.
Advertisements placed by Mrs Gilroy in the 20’s and 30’s were typical of households seeking domestic help in grand homes. Large numbers of women remained ‘in-service’ in the Inter-War period.
A between maid was typically a female junior domestic worker in a large household with many staff. The term ‘between maid’ came from the fact that her duties were split between her areas of responsibilities. In 1935 Mrs Gilroy advertised again for a ‘between maid’ for the pantry and kitchen to cover the summer period which would have been a particularly busy time for entertaining friends and family.
As well as advertising for domestic staff, newspaper articles from the Citizen also recount colourful social gatherings at Rufflets. A garden fete hosted by Mrs Gilroy in the summer of 1934 raised money towards a desperately needed electric organ blower for St James’ Episcopal Church, Cupar. The story published on 26th July, 1934 talks about how a drought had made it more and more difficult for the church to use their water-blown organ.
Mrs Gilroy’s initials, ABG 1924, are engraved on the key-stone above the door leading to the formal south garden, do look out for it when you are visiting Rufflets next.
Following Mrs. Gilroy’s passing in 1951, her former residence – Rufflets, was offered for sale by auction. The auction was held at 2.15pm on Tuesday, 6th November, 1951 at the Royal Hotel, Cupar.
Rufflets did not sell at auction, but was later purchased by George and Margaret Cook and business partners, Anna and James Meldrum (the two ladies were sisters). In 1952, the seven bedroom house was converted into an hotel. Both couples sold their respective businesses and homes to raise the capital for the purchase.
In September, 1952, a notice placed in the Citizen, advised customers that the hotel was closed for luncheons and afternoon teas. A wedding reception being held on Saturday 13th September meant the hotel was fully booked.
Several months later, in May, 1953, the hotel opened their tennis court for play and tennis parties!
If you would like to learn more about the history of Rufflets which is still owned by the family of the original founders of the hotel, please do take a look at our history.
Or, if you have other newspaper clippings or stories from Rufflets’ history that you would like to share – we would love to hear from you.