The restoration of an historic St Andrews landmark – it was able to go ahead thanks to the success of a fundraising campaign which caught the imagination of the local community – is nearing completion.
The conservation work on the 32-foot high Martyrs’ Monument, a striking feature of the town’s landscape at the Bow Butts, is now within a few weeks of being finished.
The skilled stonemasons, who have been on site at The Scores since August, are preparing to undertake the most delicate part of the operation – infilling newly-carved stones to replace the heavily-eroded originals.
Special lifting gear is being brought in to manoeuvre the huge sandstone blocks into place and, weather permitting, this stage will be completed before Christmas, leaving only the last element of the work on the category B-listed obelisk – renewing the pointing.
The co-ordination of the fundraising campaign was carried out by the St Andrews Partnership charity, in tandem with the local community council, St Andrews Preservation Trust and Fife Council.
Partnership member Ray Pead, who chairs the Martyrs’ Monument Working Group, which has raised £145,000 to fund the restoration, told the Citizen that council planners had now given the go-ahead for the final phase – the high quality upgrading of the area surrounding the monument.
It is scheduled to take place in January while, simultaneously, new interpretation panels will be installed – replacing those erected in the early 1990s and which have now reached the end of their lifespan.
Mr Pead said yesterday (Thursday): ”It’s exciting for everyone concerned to know that the end of the project is almost in sight – but we haven’t set a firm date for completion.
‘‘For one thing, the winter weather could conspire against us but, more importantly, we want to ensure that the last stages are delivered to a high standard.
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“For that reason, we’re not going to rush to the finish line just to meet an arbitrary deadline. The monument is 170 years old and we feel it will not mind waiting for a few more weeks until it is unveiled again!”
Mr Pead also revealed that a public ceremony will mark the completion of the works. It is anticipated that the event will take place in March, and more details are to be announced in the New Year.
Despite its historic importance and high profile, the condition of the landmark has deteriorated rapidly in recent years and erosion caused by the weather, environmental pollution and salt-laden moisture from the sea has ravaged the locally-quarried sandstone used to construct it. It was previously cordoned off to the public amid concerns they could be struck by pieces of crumbling masonry.
The remedial works are designed to help prevent further damage to the monument and restore some of its most attractive and interesting features, including inscriptions and ornamental stone carvings.
The memorial - its architect was William Nixon - was built in 1842-3 to commemorate four leading Protestant figures who were martyred in St Andrews between 1520 and 1560, and highlights the important role the town played in the Reformation.
Patrick Hamilton was just 24 when he was burned for heresy in 1527 outside St Salvator’s Chapel, where his initials are carved in the cobbles. Six years later Henry Forrest met the same fate when it was discovered he owned a copy of the New Testament in English.
George Wishart, a powerful preacher and mentor of John Knox, had gunpowder attached to his body and was burned outside St Andrews Castle in 1546, while the last Protestant martyr to die in St Andrews was Walter Myln. He was over 80 at the time of his death when he was burned outside The Pends in 1558, having advocated married clergy.