Monumental outcome a real landmark for St Andrews

Martyrs Monument.
Martyrs Monument.

An historic St Andrews landmark is to undergo a major restoration project thanks to the overwhelming success of a community-led fundraising campaign.

The condition of the Martyrs’ Monument, a striking feature of the town’s landscape located at the Bow Butts on The Scores, has deteriorated dramatically over recent years and has been cordoned off to the public to prevent anyone being struck by pieces of crumbling masonry.

Now, however, an 18-month-long fundraising initiative to return it to its former glory has reached its target and the long-awaited conservation and repair works on the category B-listed obelisk will be carried out this summer.

The exciting news was confirmed yesterday (Thursday) by the local charity, the St Andrews Partnership, which has been co-ordinating the project in tandem with members of the local community council, the town’s Preservation Trust and also Fife Council.

It is understood that the cost of restoring the 170-year-old memorial - its architect was William Nixon - could be around £180,000.

Ray Pead, chairman of the project’s overseeing committee, told the Citizen: ”We are absolutely delighted that our appeal has been successful in raising a significant six-figure sum, which will be sufficient to fund the restoration of the monument to a very high standard.

“During March and April, the works were tendered using Fife Council’s public procurement process. Several excellent tenders were received, and, after taking specialist advice from our conservation architect, the contract has been awarded to Scottish firm, Fleming Masonry Contractors Ltd., who are a highly-regarded company with considerable expertise in their field.”

The project is likely to take around 21 weeks to complete and will begin later this month. All planning consents have been obtained, and the final go-ahead from the funding partners is being awaited before work gets under way on site.

Thanking the many individuals and organisations who contributed to the campaign appeal, Mr Pead added: ”We would like to express our particular thanks to our major funding bodies - the R&A, Fife Environment Trust, St Andrews Links Ltd, Kohler Co, Kinburn (St Andrews) Charitable Trust and the St Andrews Common Good Fund.

‘‘We have also received support from around 90 other local businesses, organisations and private donors - too many to name individually at this stage - but their contributions have been equally welcomed, and demonstrate that this has been a real community-wide success.

”We are now looking forward to the work getting under way, and to finalising some of the additional elements of the full project such as an associated interpretation board to be located nearby, and a schools’ project pack.”

Despite its historic importance and high profile, the condition of the iconic landmark - it was built in 1842-43 - has deteriorated rapidly in recent years.

Erosion caused by the weather, environmental pollution and salt-laden moisture from the sea has ravaged the locally-quarried sandstone used to construct it. The remedial work will help prevent further damage to the monument and restore some of its most attractive and interesting features, including a variety of inscriptions and intricate ornamental stone carvings.

The 32-foot high sandstone structure overlooking the West Sands beach, the world-famous Old Course and out to sea is an enduring symbol of the town’s key role in the Scottish Reformation and commemorates the 16th century executions of four Protestant martyrs – Patrick Hamilton, Henry Forrest, George Wishart and Walter Myln - who were burned at the stake for their beliefs.

Hamilton was aged 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.