Cupar’s Mercat Cross on the Move?

2612123 SSHC the cross 'The Cross at Crossgate, Cupar
2612123 SSHC the cross 'The Cross at Crossgate, Cupar

CUPAR’S Mercat Cross could be relocated for the first time in over a century as part of the town’s forthcoming traffic revamp.

The Cross was already due to be placed on an ‘up-lit’ raised platform under the plans — but now officials want to move the historic stone structure onto an adjacent pavement to accommodate parking spaces for shoppers in the Crossgate.

Mark Dewar, Fife Council’s service manager for roads design and construction, explained: “We consulted on the layout several months ago and have now reviewed it.

“One of the issues was the loss of parking in the Crossgate.

“By proposing to relocate the Mercat Cross from the island onto the western footpath, it allows us to increase the number of parking spaces and also improves the flow of traffic.”

The plan met with scepticism when it was revealed to members of Cupar Community Council on Tuesday night, with secretary Douglas Provan describing the move as “appalling”.

Mr Provan said the Cross should be a focal point of the town, adding that there are plenty of parking spaces for shoppers in the Bonnygate and Fluthers car parks.

Confirming that the amendment would have to go through the planning process, Mr Dewar said the council would be seeking the support of the community council, elected members and preservation groups.

The present Cross is thought to have been constructed in 1683 to replace an earlier Cross that was damaged or destroyed.

It was placed atop Hill of Tarvit for a short while in the 19th century before being moved to its current location in the centre of town in 1897.

Guthrie Hutton, chairman of Cupar Heritage, said: “The original position of the Cross was more or less just outside where Maisie and Mac is now.

“There is a cobbled imprint marking the location.

“The significance of the Mercat Cross is that it indicates that Cupar was a royal burgh.

“That meant Cupar was allowed to trade with foreign parts, levy taxes and sustain itself as an independent burgh.

“The Mercat Cross was a symbol of all that, and of course it was where the market itself was held.”

Mr Dewar said the eastern pavement was deemed too narrow to accommodate the Cross.

He added that the town centre revamp is due to begin next January, with the preparatory demolition of the former ATS garage and Paterson Bell offices taking place in September.