Hidden burgh: restoring Cupar’s place at the heart of Fife

Friday 22 June 2018


A comprehensive record of six centuries of a Fife town’s history is set to be catalogued for the first time by the University of St Andrews Special Collections team.

The University of St Andrews has been awarded one of the first grants under a new scheme to catalogue and make accessible the records of the administration of the Burgh of Cupar, Fife, from 1364 to 1975. One of the six medieval royal burghs of Fife, Cupar was the county town until 1975 and the home of the Sheriff Court of Fife from 1213 to 2014.

Town records for the Burgh of Cupar in the Kingdom of Fife dating from 1364 to 1975 are currently held by the Special Collections Division of the University of St Andrews Library under the superintendence of the Keeper of the Records of Scotland.

The archive includes minutes of town council meetings, lists of burgesses, records of cases coming before the burgh court, registers of property leases, and financial and secretarial records of town officials, including of the Common Good Fund.

The records also include information on public utilities, such as sewage and water works, street lighting, licensing for public houses, and guild records for trade guilds, such as the weavers and shoemakers, as well as Dean of Guild court records giving planning permission for new buildings and alterations.

cupar-national-archivesThe work has been made possible by a £34,289 grant from the Archives Revealed scheme, which is supported by The National Archives, The Pilgrim Trust, the Wolfson Foundation and the Foyle Foundation. The grant is one of nine announced across the UK this week.

The project will work with community and special interest groups in support of initiatives to revive civic pride in Cupar’s history and help with plans for regeneration of the town centre. The archive will also be assessed for conservation needs and preventive preservation measures highlighted and put in place.

John MacColl, University Librarian and Director of Library Services at the University, said: “The project will allow us to fulfil a long-held wish to make available for research the records of this important market town just a few miles from St Andrews.

“We await with anticipation what evidence of turbulence, hardship and prosperity might be revealed by the records of this bustling little town, set in the rich farmland of North East Fife.”

David Kirk, Chair of the Cupar Development Trust, which is working with Cupar Heritage and other local organisations to deliver the town’s interpretive plan, said: “This is excellent for Cupar. The interpretive plan is the springboard for several projects using Cupar’s heritage to revitalise the town centre, and the 600 years of the Royal Burgh’s records becoming accessible, as a catalogued archive, will be a most valuable tool for both research and presentation.”

Images: examples of the kind of items contained in the Cupar archive

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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