Aikman and Terras

In 1837, Andrew Aikman established a ‘grocers and spirit merchants’ at 165 South Street, St Andrews. Within a few years it had developed into a successful business, attracting wealthy customers.

It was a good time to open a retail business in St Andrews. After a period of decline, the town’s fortunes had started to revive thanks to its growing reputation as an attractive holiday resort. This recovery was further helped by the coming of the railway in 1850, which Andrew Aikman helped to establish. The increasing prosperity of St Andrews is shown by the fact that by 1865 it supported almost 40 grocers, in comparison to just 12 in 1825.

Andrew Aikman retired in 1867 to devote himself to civic affairs. The running of the business was left to his son, Andrew, and one of his ex-apprentices, Thomas Terras. Although Thomas died in 1901, the business retained his name until it closed in 1981. In common with many independent grocers, Aikman and Terras found it difficult to compete with large supermarket chains emerging after the Second World War.

The art deco style shop fittings and other fixtures and equipment, dating from circa 1907, were saved by the St Andrews Preservation Trust in 1981 and brought to the museum for display. The reconstructed shop gives a sense of what shopping was like in the past. Grocers of past years had few pre-packaged goods and most stock was weighed and packed in the shop.

For those who remember Aikman and Terras, the reconstruction brings back many happy memories. The shop also highlights how a small town like St Andrews was globally connected and therefore able to sell a variety of goods including tea from China, sugar from the Caribbean and spices from India. Many of these ingredients were only available due to the wide-ranging reach of the British Empire.

The Chemist Shop

The modern Chemist Shop – or Pharmacy – has its roots in 8th century Baghdad where the first Pharmacists were licensed by city officials. This saw the first distinct separation between Doctors and Pharmacists being made, and this has remained ever since.

In Britain, Pharmacists are governed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. Founded in 1841, they regulate the supplies of medicine and develop the profession of pharmacy. The reconstructed Chemist Shop would have operated under the Society’s guidelines in the early 1900s. Having previously belonged to John Kirk, A. W Keith took over the business in 1936.

The shop remained in Keith’s hands until his death in 1966. He was succeeded by T.M McKechnie who offered the contents of the shop to the St Andrews Preservation Trust. The mahogany drawers on the walls contained a variety of medicines. Each drawer had the name, in Latin, of the medicine contained within. Some of the medicines include:

  • R: Torment. A bitter tasting placebo kept specifically for hypochondriacs and time-wasters!
  • C: Cinch. Cinchona bark from South America, this was first used by 17th century South American natives and then colonists to prevent shivering after river crossings was found to be remarkably effective in treating malaria. It is said to have cured the Queen of Spain and King Charles II.
  • R: Arnicae. Used to relieve bruising and useful for fatigue.

Much of the equipment on display in the Chemist Shop, while old, is still commonly used by Pharmacists today. The Chemist Shop gives a wonderful insight into medicines of the past and highlights the many developments of modern pharmaceuticals, giving an understanding of our medicines and where they come from.

Fishing Community

At its peak in the mid-1800s, the fishing community that occupied the east end of St Andrews was home to around 200 families. This area was known as the ‘Ladyhead’, with families also living in the Royal George tenements at the harbour, now known as Shorehead. The area had its own shops, school, pubs and social clubs; the fisher folk were a community in their own right.

The decline of the fishing industry in St Andrews also brought social reforms that affected the fisher folk. Housing conditions had declined at the Ladyhead in the late-1800s, and overcrowded and uninhabitable housing had worsened at the harbour over several decades.

In the 1930s much of the area was condemned. This resulted in many of the fishing cottages being demolished. The development of St Gregory’s provided some families with new housing in the 1920s, but most were still living in substandard accommodation.

New social housing was developed in 1936 and many families were cleared out of the Ladyhead and harbour into these modern homes. While these new homes provided better living conditions for the fisher families, they were not practical for the needs of their occupation. Not only were they further away from the harbour, but they offered no storage facilities for nets and fishing gear. This, coupled with the introduction of new fishing techniques, effectively brought the end of the fishing community in St Andrews.

Our display gives an overview of the working and social life of this once thriving community, generations of which lived within the four walls of the museum building. The display highlights how the loss of this community was the result of decades of work to make improvements to the Town as it grew into the popular tourist and retirement destination that it is today.

Great-Granny’s Wash-house

Doing the washing is a chore, but before the advent of the laundry and domestic washing machines it must have been exhausting!
The washing was typically done in communal wash-houses using boilers and wash-tubs, like that shown in our wash-house. Each family had their allocated day of the week to do the washing. Dirt was scrubbed out using metal wash-board or ‘dollys’ before items were put through the mangle and hung out to dry. And what about the ironing? Irons could weigh up to 5kg and, before the advent of electricity, they had to be heated up on the stove or were gas or kerosene powered.
In Great-Granny’s wash-house visitors of all ages can step back in time and get a sense of domestic life in the past. You will never take your washing machine for granted again!