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

In this blog post, our new project archivist introduces herself to our online community, and especially to those who live in and around Cupar.

I am pleased to meet you. Who am I, you may be wondering? Well, my name is Christine Wood and I am the archivist working on the Archives Revealed project “Hidden Burgh: restoring Cupar’s place at the heart of Fife”. I am now into my second month at the University of St Andrews and am already finding interesting tidbits.


Cupar from the Air, J Valentine & Sons, 1937 JV-A-5085-B

First, let me explain a little of what the project is about. It is being financed largely by the Archives Revealed funding programme from The National Archives, the Pilgrim Trust, the Wolfson Foundation and the Foyle Foundation, and will last for one year. The University holds the records for the burgh of Cupar, Fife from 1364 to 1975 and the objective is to have them fully catalogued so that they are accessible to everyone. The final catalogue will be available online and will be searchable, thus making research much easier. The project will feed into the current regeneration of Cupar town centre, with the aim of inspiring the local community and students to engage in the rich heritage of the town.

Now, what about those interesting tidbits? Well, in one of the first boxes that I have explored I found that a Mr Jack had put forward a motion at the Cupar Guildry meeting on 7 May 1834 that the Church of Scotland be reformed and that the Church and State should not be united. This caused an uproar with a lengthy report on the feisty proceedings appearing in the Dundee Constitutional.

CU-5-1-5 Dundee Constitutional 18340507_1

Dundee Constitutional 7 May 1834 CU/5/1/5

Another event involving the Cupar Guildry was when they opposed the amalgamation of the Caledonian Railway and Scottish North Eastern Railway in 1866. They even went so far as to petition the House of Commons about the matter!

Guildy minute_1

Minute of Cupar Guildry 5 May 1866 regarding petition to House of Commons against amalgamation of the Caledonian Railway and Scottish North Eastern Railway CU/5/1/9

Philanthropists played an important role throughout Scotland in times past by aiding the poor and disadvantaged in various ways, and Cupar had its share of them too. In 1883 John Walker of Homelands, near Largo set up a trust of £250 for boys attending the Kirkgate School or the Second Division of the Madras Academy, who wished to learn or acquire a trade upon leaving school. Within the papers held are the exam results from Castle Hill School for the Walker apprenticeship prizes for 1893 – could any of your ancestors have been among them, I wonder? Another education trust was The Wordie Scholarships and Bursaries, set up in 1884.

CU-5-1-11 Castle Hill Exams p1_1

Castle Hill Exam results for the Walker Trust apprenticeship prizes, June 1891 CU/5/1/11

CU-5-1-11 Wordie Scholarships title page_1

Front page of booklet containing the Deed of Foundation of The Workie Scholarships and Bursaries, and Declaration of Trust for the John Walker Apprentice Fund, 1884 CU/5/1/11

An intriguing philanthropic document is a list of beneficiaries entitled “Mrs Gold’s Christmas Coals”. The list of recipients is given by street, but it is not dated. I am looking forward to finding out Mrs Gold’s identity and the time period during which she kindly provided coal at Christmas to the needy. And, did you know that James Home Rigg of Downfield provided the piece of land where the statue of David Maitland Makgill Crichton of Nether Rankeillour is situated, near the railway station?

CU-5-1-14 Disp re Crichton Statue p1_1

Page 1 of draft Disposition by James Home Rigg of Downfield disponing land for the erection of a statue of David Maitland Makgill Crichton of Nether Rankeillour CU/5/1/14

All of the above gems were found within one box of records! There are many more such treasures just waiting to be discovered within the Cupar Burgh records. I am looking forward to sharing with you, as well as those interested in the heritage of their town, what I am finding in the weeks and months ahead.

Christine Wood
Project Archivist

5 responses to “Hidden Burgh: restoring Cupar’s place at the heart of Fife

  1. Hello, this sounds fantastic my great grandfather David Wilson was a Police Officer in the late 1800/1900 and at one point based in Cupar. His notebook from that era is held in Markinch and has a lot of information regarding Cupar. Is this something you may be interested in.
    Also does Dairsie come under Cupar burgh

    • Hi Susan, thanks for your comment. The notebook your grandfather kept will be part of the Police records which are held by Fife Archives in Glenrothes (formerly in Markinch). Dairsie was a parish within the County of Fife and was not part of Cupar Burgh.

      We are really interested in hearing about the history of Cupar. Please feel free to get in touch with us directly if you want to discuss the project and your grandfather’s history further (speccoll@st-andrews.ac.uk).

  2. Pingback: “British Restaurants” in Cupar | Echoes from the Vault·

  3. Hi Susan, this project is of great interest as I am working on the Jack surname (goons) project and Fife is a centre of interest for me. I hold a little material but would like to be kept as an interested party if possible. I am a professional Genealogist based in New Zealand, and member of Register of Qualified Genealogists.

  4. Pingback: Mrs Margaret Mitchell Gold: Cupar’s Fairy Godmother | Echoes from the Vault·

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