The tolbooth of a medieval burgh was an office where taxes and customs were collected. By the 16th century it was not unusual for the tollbooth also to have become the burgh court house, the prison and the meeting place of the burgh council.The earliest part of Queensferrry Tollbooth may date from the late 16th and early 17th century. In 1642, a set of weights and an iron weigh beam were brought from Holland to be installed in the Weater Laigh House (basement) of the tollbooth, where merchandise was to be weighed and meal measured.
In 1644 there is a reference to the Tolbooth's other function, as a prison when a suspected witch, Margaret Young was imprisoned there. Prison accommodation probably occupied the Easter Laigh House.
It was decided to "build a wall on each side of the thoroughfare flush with the inside of the steeple pillars so as to leave an entry to the Black Hole and to the place called the Entry to the new wall to be built on the south side". The Black Hole and the entry were let as cellars until Martinmas.
Such information, casually recorded, makes plain the fact that the tower or steeple was supported on four stone pillars. This fact explains why it was possible in 1641 to house a weighing machine under the Tolbooth. In the minute of council 25th November 1641 it is stated, " The council understanding that the benifit arising by the weightis and metts is proffitable, therefor they desyne allot and appoynt the westre large house undre ye tolbuthe to be ane weynge of merchan guids metting of meall".
In February 1720, Henry Cunningham of Boquhan, member of Parliament for the Stirling Burghs which included Queensferry, offered to finance the building of a steeple and of erecting a clock on the Tolbooth Tower. The offer was accepted by the Council and Bailie George Hill and two councilors were deputed to 'oversee the work, provide materials, hire workmen and do everything necessary thereanent'. The steeple was built, the clock with its one dial facing the high Street was erected, and so they remained, basking in the summer's sun, braving the winter's storms until the steeple was remodeled in 1887 when the present clock known as the Jubilee Clock, was erected to mark the jubilee of Queen Victoria. The clock was purchased for nearly 200 pound sterling, raised by public voluntary subscription. The final cost was 227 pounds seven shillings and six pence!
The clock was lit with gas until some time in the mid 1920's when electric light was introduced.
The minute book of the burgh for the year 1725 records that the steeple 'was in some way loose so the bell when ringing or in stormy weather was in danger of falling'. The necessary repairs were effected forthwith. It is not clear whether the entire Tolbooth Tower dates from this period or whether the new steeple was added to an existing tower. Henry Cunningham also donated a bell, which hangs in the clock tower, a second bell once hung there, Made in Holland and gifted by the seamen of Queensferry in 1694, it is believed to have been given on loan to the Episcopal Church (The Priory Church).
It was fortunate that on 1st January 1832 the Town Council resolved to tidy up the precincts of theTollbooth Tower, for by their resolution and consequent action revealed what had remained obscure for generations. In the minute of meeting it is stated that the open area under the steeple as well as the Black Hole lay in ruin.
The Town House on the east of the building was replaced in 1894 by the Rosebery Hall which the fifth Earl of Rosebery gifted to the town in memory of his wife.
On the wall of the clock tower adjoining the outside stair is the Queensferry War Memorial.