Serpentine Villa is located on the Temple at Lower Largo, at the point where a small road branches up to the beginning of the Serpentine walk to Upper Largo. The architect plans for the dwelling were drawn up in December 1876 by James Gillespie of St Andrews, for Captain David Watson. David Watson (1851-1939) was a ship master, like his father before him, Captain John Thompson Watson (1828-1892). Both men were Largo born and had long seafaring careers with the Empire Line of London (a topic that will be returned to in the future).
Watsons had lived at the Temple for some time and it seems likely that Serpentine Villa would have been built upon the site of an earlier cottage. It was constructed adjacent to 'Bombay Lodge', a dwelling that had been built several years earlier for another globe-trotter, civil engineer Thomas Craigie Glover. The year before commissioning the architect plans, David Watson had married Elizabeth Clark Philp (daughter of Benjamin Philp, commission agent and grain merchant who lived in Drummochy House). The couple were based in Anstruther while Serpentine Villa was built and finally moved into their Largo home circa 1880, in between the births of two of their sons. As David was usually on lengthy voyages, upon which his wife and family would sometimes accompany him, their Largo home was often occupied by friends and relatives. The 3 September 1891 Fifeshire Journal's list of 'summer visitors' below gives one example of this.
Census information shows that in 1881, Serpentine Villa was unoccupied. A decade later in 1891, Elsie Philp was living there with a servant and her nephews David and James Watson (ages 9 and 6). These were the two youngest of the four sons of Captain Watson. Elsie was one Elizabeth's maiden sisters. In 1901, the house was again unoccupied. Then by 1911, David, Elizabeth and two adult sons, David (now a banker) and James (a solicitor), were living at Serpentine Villa. David senior was described as "retired ship master" but in fact he did return to work for a spell during the First World War, before retiring for good. The newly available census data, for 1921, lists only David and Elizabeth at Serpentine Villa, with David being noted as "Shipmaster (Retired)".
David Watson enjoyed his retirement years at Serpentine Villa. He played golf and was an elder of Largo Parish Church. He died at home on 19 December 1939 aged 88. His widow, Elizabeth Watson (nee Philp) remained there until her death in 1946 aged 97 and then the house was put up for sale. The advert below from 18 December 1946 Leven Mail states that the house would be "easily convertible into two flats or suitable for boarding house". The house was indeed flatted and had since been extended (see photograph above).
Below we can see the original north elevation of the house as newly built. The rear of the house can be seen at the far left of the black and white image further below. At the foot of this post is an annotated image of the west end of the Temple, naming all the dwellings, from Temple Green to Serpentine Villa. The Temple started with Burnside Cottages (the characterful white-washed buildings which were demolished in the late 1960s), then continued with the terraced row comprising Homelea, Thistle Cottage and Kincraig. The next dwellings were Temple Cottage (now Arndilly), Bay Cottage, Bombay Lodge (later Fernielaw Cottage and now Seascape) and finally Serpentine Villa - a building which has witnessed many changes in the past century and a half.