Work to make the Kirkton Old Church, Burntisland’s oldest building, safe for the future is now complete.
The church and historic graveyard site was re-opened to the public for the first time in decades at a special event on Sunday, held at the ruined church and graveyard.
The community project has preserved the nationally significant church ruin and its churchyard for the future and has been led by Burntisland Heritage Trust, in partnership with Fife Council.
A steering group was formed in 2014 and funding obtained from the National Lottery, with match funding from Fife Council, Historic Environment Scotland, Fife Environment Trust, Common Good and area funding from Fife Council and the Co-operative Scotland.
John Burnett, secretary of the heritage trust said: “We are very grateful for the financial support received including from our major funder, the Heritage Lottery Fund. This support has made it possible to save this important heritage and to allow us to tell the story of the church and the graveyard to local residents and visitors.”
Lucy Cascot, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland added: “This has been a worthwhile project which has been so much more than the physical preservation of a historic monument. It has been pleasing to see the range of outreach activities and the growing community interest in this project and the legacy it has left.”
The work hass transformed the neglected landmark, and allowed the site to be re-opened as a quiet, green space.
Fiona Fisher, built heritage oficer at Fife Council helped to develop and manage the project.
She said: “When I think of how neglected and dangerous the church and graveyard were, and the transformation that has taken place, allowing public use again, it makes me very proud to have been part of this project.”
Every year on Palm Sunday Burntisland Churches Together organise a walk round all the churches and include Kirkton Old Church on their route. This year the procession began at Kirkton and the local clergy conducted a short re-opening service to give thanks for the preservation of the church.
Fiona added: “This seems a fitting way to bring the church and community back together and to open up the site once more as quiet green space. This community-led project will bring one of Fife’s most important historic sites back into community use, and put it on Scotland’s cultural and tourist map.”
Kirkton ceased to be the parish church around 1592 when the present Burntisland Parish Church was constructed. The roofless ruin has been rescued from a strangle-hold of ivy and from precarious condition.
Several excellent architecture and graveyard consultants and contractors were engaged to direct and undertake stonemasonry and other specialist repairs, all to the exacting standards of Historic Environment Scotland. Two benches have also been generously provided by Archway Metals.
Members of the Heritage Trust were instrumental in researching the history of the church and the gravestones. Interpretation material is available online at www.kirktonoldchurch.org.uk, on the two interpretation boards on site and in a leaflet that has been produced.
Local people, businesses and community groups have really got behind the project. Burntisland Primary School has been involved in green graveyard activities with Floral Action Burntisland.
A range of educational resources relating to the historic graveyard have been developed for use by Burntisland Primary School and an exhibition is in preparation for display at the Burntisland Heritage Centre.