Kilrenny Anstruther & Cellardyke Burgh Survey 2016

Kilrenny, Anstruther & Cellardyke Burgh Survey - 2016

The aim of the burgh survey was the production of a written study and a number of supporting packages such as heritage trails and plaques to further enhance the burgh’s identity.

Fundamental to the project was the involvement of the community in both the research and exploration of the burgh’s past, allowing volunteers to discover and engage with their town’s heritage and explore the origins and evolution of the burgh through archaeology and historical research.

The project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s “Townscape Heritage Initiative” and Historic Environment Scotland’s “Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme” and was supported by Fife Council in partnership with Fife Historic Buildings Trust. Rathmell Archaeology Ltd provided support for the volunteers and community archaeology projects as directed by “our very own CRA colleague” Steve Liscoe Fife Council Archeology Officer.

After the project launch meeting held in Cellardyke Town Hall, a small but hardy and enthusiastic group of volunteers assembled at the Fisheries Museum on Wednesday 27th April to listen to Dr Tom Turpie and Rathmell Senior Archeologist Dr Pete Klemen outline their ideas for the 4x Research projects.

These research projects were carried out by the volunteers over the period April – September 2016 then handed over to Rathmell Archeology for review and possible inclusion in the brochure/booket to be published early 2017.

Research Projects

  1. Witch Hunts


Explore published documentation and internet to research 4x documented cases of women executed for witchcraft in Anstruther between 1580 and 1701


Agnes Melville, c.1594,

Agnes Anstruther, 1613,

Isobel Dairsie, 1643,

Elizabeth Dick, 1701


Who was involved? Of what were they accused? Who were the accusers?

  1. Early Modern Anstruther in the Privy Council      and Parliamentary records

Investigate internet for available and relevant documentation. Explore the numerous references to Anstruther and its inhabitants in the records of the Scottish Privy Council (c.1590-1707) and in the Acts of Parliament of Scotland (c.1350-1707). 

The Privy Council and Parliamentary records include numerous references to the involvement of Anstruther and its people in piracy, long distance trade, war and the fight to control the Black Death in the late 16th and 17th centuries.

  1. Commerce in Early Modern Anstruther

Using the extensive records of the Conventions of the Royal Burghs of Scotland to explore the economic development, and travails, of Anstruther Easter and Wester from their earliest inclusion in the organisation in 1593.

  1. Ancient Burgh Maps

Using extensive online resources investigate the cartography of the 3 Burgh’s noting changes to local area during the past few hundred years.

Additional Projects

  1. Streetscape and Building assessment

During 1st and 2nd September, Dr Louise Turner; (Rathmell Archeology building specialist) carried out the informal Streetscape/Building Assessment. This was in the form of an informal walk around the burghs of Anstruther, Cellardyke and Kilrenny where she explained to volunteers what archaeologists are looking for. Louise then evaluated and highlighted unusual and special structural features within certain build elements hoping that the volunteers achieved an awareness of the built environment and how it evolved. ie ‘Skew Putt’ (shaped stone located at bottom of a crow stepped gable)

  1. Blue      Plaques review

During the Project a note was made of possible candidates for Blue Plaque awards and included such places as ‘Melville Lodge’. I understand that at some stage in the future a list will be provided for the community to select those they consider the most appropriate to receive the award.


  1. Excavation Phase

Over a three week period in September volunteers worked four days a week through weather (both fair and foul) to excavate a possible three sites of significant interest to Fife Archeology Department. All excavations were supervised by Steve Liscoe.

These sites included:

Kilrenny: Possible early religious building/compound was spotted on aerial photographs. Unable to excavate due to lack of accurate information regarding location and also permission concerns.

East Braes: To investigate and find the the remains of lower torso previously discovered and partially excavated during the 1990’s. Hoping to understand the context of the death? Witch burned on the Kilgreen? Legs broken? Despite repeated attempts to locate, nothing was found. Suspect remains washed away.

Dreel Halls: Phase 1 & 2

  1. To investigate a possible Kist site discovered by Steve Liscoe during recent renovations to the building. The site was excavated and a large flat stone and small linear stonework was found but investigation revealed it to be a natural formation.
  2. To investigate and locate the original walls of the 16th Century church.

After a lot of digging we eventually exposed stonework which after a lot of head scratching we believe to be the early16th century church nave wall, also a path and doorway providing entry through the nave wall into the church. In addition we uncovered an early medieval well adjacent to that doorway.

We suspect this 16th Century church and tower was built quite shortly after 1508 (wood Dendrochronology dated). This church was erected to replace an old, tiny little medieval church whose foundations are probably sitting underneath the nave of the current church. This bigger built church was then reduced in size in the early 19th century to the size we have today (The tower was left untouched but the nave was reduced in size)

When the first church on this site was erected is not clear. It could have been as early as the 7th century (we know the East Neuk was one of the first parts of Fife converted in the 6th/7th century) or it could be as late as the 12th century, when Documentary sources tell us that there was a church on the site, but they supply no further detail.

What the excavations have done is to shed light on the original extent, and access to, the c.1510 church. The excavations have also shown that the building of the church involved in-filling and capping of an earlier well, which is a bit unusual as you would expect this well to have been accorded some religious significance.

The well would have supplied the water that, once blessed, became the holy water, used for various purposes including supplying the water to the piscinae (for washing communion vessels) and baptismal water font of the medieval church. This well may even have been considered to have holy qualities, being located as it was in consecrated ground and in association with a medieval church.

Project - Final Stages

In December 2016 the community volunteers contribution to the project finally ended when photographs of key locations within the Burgh were submitted to Rathmell Archeology for possible inclusion in the future ‘Heritage Guide’.

I understand that the first draft of the finalised documents have since been sent to the project ‘steering group’ for review, and if approved, they will be forwarded to Fife Council for printing.

It is hoped that the final release of the ‘Heritage Guide’ will take place in March 2017.





                                                                                                                        Paul Lewis

                                                                                                                        Dec 08 2016