St Andrews Past and Present

Do you ever wonder what St Andrews looked like in the past?

St Andrews is internationally renowned for its historic character. These past and present images show that while some places have barely changed, others have changed dramatically. The need to improve run-down sites coupled with increasing demands for property has seen many buildings and areas in St Andrews transformed. The Town continues to balance preserving its historic character while developing the built environment to meet its continued growth.

Argyle Court

Left: Courtyard of Ireland’s (later Wilson’s) Brewery, Argyle Street in c1890.

Photographer: George Fleming

Right: Argyle Court was built on the former site of Wilson’s Brewery in 1985 to meet the growing demand for housing in St Andrews. It contains 50 retirement flats.

Photographer: Pat Harvey

City Road

Left: The Volunteer Hall was built in 1884 and was the largest public hall in Fife when it was built. Many social events were held in the hall until its closure in 1995.

Photographer: Unknown

Right: Soon after the demolition of the Volunteer Hall, Alexandra Court was built to increase provision of much needed housing stock.

Photographer: Pat Harvey

Union and Market Street

Left: The ‘double decker’ was a tenement house with a ground floor shop. Named after its two rows of attic windows, the building was once the only surviving house in St Andrews to possess this unique roof architecture. A fire gutted the building, leading to its demolition in 1934.

Photographer: A Downie

Right: The site is now occupied by the University of St Andrews’ Buchanan Building, built in 1964.

Photographer: Unknown

St James’ Church, The Scores

Left: The “Tin Tabernacle” was the first Roman Catholic Church in St Andrews. Constructed in 1884, the Church was a prefabricated wooden and iron building that overlooked the Step Rock

Photographer: Unknown

Right: After 25 years, the “Tin Tabernacle” was replaced by a new stone building.

Photographer: Pat Harvey

St Andrews Castle

Left: A Castle has stood on this site since the late 12th century. Over the centuries, war and religious unrest seen the Castle decline in importance and it fell into ruin.

Photographer: J Valentine

Right: The Castle appears to have changed little in the 150 years between these photographs, but look closer… in the recent image a protection wall, built in 1884 to stop the ruin being swept away by the sea, has changed to structure of the cliff face below the Castle.

Shorehead, Harbour

Left: The tenement buildings that once stood at the harbour were called ‘The Royal George’. The building housed fisher families, with a store, malt-house and two pubs either side; ‘The Auld Hoose’ and ‘The Bell Rock’.

Photographer: A. Downie

Right: The Royal George was condemned in 1935 and demolished in 1965 to make way for modern housing.

The Museum Garden

The Museum Garden as it is today came into being in the 1990’s. Although the museum was well established, before this time the garden consisted of only the small paved area outside the back door. Beyond this there were some conifers, neglected grass and knee-high weeds and a patch of ground that was not owned by the Preservation Trust. After ownership of the land was established, the Trust purchased it. So successful and popular in the garden was purchased, some Trustees were doubtful about the wisdom of creating and tending a garden to be enjoyed by the public.

The BBC “Beechgrove Garden” team were approached and agreed to help. They visited the garden to discuss the possibilities and a plan was devised. Volunteers completed the work at the beginning of the project, and the BBC team took over to plant up and film the program. A double wooden sink was planted as a trough and was highlighted on the programme, as one had never before been featured.

The garden has been very successful in Fife Council’s annual garden competition. A fine array of certificates is displayed inside the museum.

Wrought Iron

There are several examples of wrought iron work in the garden, the first being the gate into the D’Arcy Thompson Gardens. This gate was made by Ed Harvey at his Greenside Works in St Andrews. It has the cross of St Andrews and the initials “S.P.T” for St Andrews Preservation Trust, set in a roundel.

The Greenside Place Smithy was set up after the war in the 1940s by a St Andrews man, Jimmie Keddie, who took Ed Harvey into partnership a year later. Jimmie Keddie moved on to run a business at Brownhills while Ed Harvey ran Greenside Works until 1984, when he retired at the age of 77 years.

There are many fine examples of his skill and worksmanship around St Andrews.

At the end of the D’Arcy Thompson Garden you can see the iron gates from Wilson’s Garage, located at 193-195 South Street near the Westport. The gates were made around 1899 by William Wilson who founded the business in 1869. Many commercial garages had originally been smithies.

Outside Great Granny’s wash house you can see another example of wrought iron work made in the Greenside Works. This is a fascinating panel which was made by the workforce in the smiddy to commemorate sixty years of Ed Harvey’s career as the dates 1921-1981 indicates it has many interesting features. There are grid like well covers like those seen at the castle and cathedral. All the tools and activities of the rural blacksmith are also on the panel. You can see a Clydesdale horse pulling the plough, a harrow and the blacksmith himself. There are also gates and hinges, the cross of St Andrew and in the centre an owl. The owl is a reminder that the smiddy was situated at the bottom of the garden of the “Owl House” at 54 South Street. Also included is the thistle, which is characteristic of Ed Harvey’s work and which he often included in many of his pieces. This panel was placed above the entrance to Greenside Works until Ed Harvey’s retirement. It was given to the Preservation Trust museum by his daughter Pat.

Garden Mosaics and Memorials

The garden contains two doorstep mosaics. The first, in very good condition, is from the Maypole Dairy. This was rescued from a development site in Market Street where Boots the Chemist now stands, in the summer of 2000. It was spotted by the former chairman of the Trust, the late Mrs Christine Wolfe.

The second mosaic comes from the doorstep of what used to be the Buttercup Dairy on Market Street and was rescued during redevelopment work at Starbucks coffee shop. Unfortunately, it could not be lifted in one piece and so arrived at the museum in several pieces. Unfortunately, it could not be lifted in one piece and so arrived at the museum in several pieces. It lay in the garden in its broken state until Derek Bayne, one of the garden volunteers, took up the challenge of piecing together the very difficult jigsaw.

Publicity about the mosaic in The Courier newspaper prompted responses from all over as people wrote about their personal memories of the Buttercup Dairy. One person wrote: My sister and I loved to be sent there for butter. It was fascinating to watch the assistants slap the butter with the butter skelpers.”

The garden is also home to a seat dedicated to Neil Skinner who was a member of The St Andrews Preservation Trust in its early days. She was elected a Trustee in 1948, a position she would hold for over thirty years. Neil Skinner was actively involved in every aspect of the work of the Trust but her unique contribution was the organisation of a series of summer exhibitions in this museum. Each year she would mount two quite different exhibitions; one upstairs to appeal to the ladies and one on the ground floor which she thought would interest men. She died in 1982.