On the trail of Fife’s lost playing fields ...

Children playing on a roundabout in 1964.
Children playing on a roundabout in 1964.

The mystery dates back a century - where are the missing 25 playing fields in Fife? Now locals are being asked for their help ...

Amateur sleuths across Fife are being called on to solve a mystery going back almost 100 years.

Children on swings in Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy.

Children on swings in Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy.

A new campaign has been launched to find over 900 “lost” playing fields across the UK, 25 of which are suspected of being somewhere in the Kingdom.

Carnegie UK Trust and Fields in Trust have launched the #FieldFinders initiative which aims to locate and catalogue playing fields which were set up with the aid of a grant from Carnegie UK Trust between 1927 and 1935 and ensure that they are legally protected from present day developers.

Between 1927 and 1935, Carnegie UK Trust allocated the sum of £200,000, equivalent of around £10m today, to over 900 different playing fields in each of the countries of the UK.

While some details are known about the towns and cities where these playing fields are, the exact location and details of some of these fields was never centrally recorded.

The #FieldFinders campaign is targeted at local communities across the UK with the aim of local residents finding Carnegie playing fields in their area.

Members of the specialist Fields in Trust team will then cross reference it with any surviving documentation and begin the process of improving legal protection of the site to keep it safe for generations to come.

Investigative ‘Field Finders’ in Fife are also being encouraged to share images of the sites using their social media profiles, specifically Twitter and Instagram, to share pictures, using #FieldFinders to help spread the word of the campaign and encourage their friends in other locations to join the hunt.

The Carnegie UK Trust was established by Scots-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Born on November 25, 1835 in Dunfermline, Carnegie later moved to the United States, where he worked a series of railroad jobs.

By 1889 he owned Carnegie Steel Corporation, the largest of its kind in the world.

He established the Carnegie UK Trust in 1913 with its purpose being to seek “improvement of the well-being of the masses of the people of Great Britain and Ireland by such means as are embraced within the meaning of the word ‘charitable’”.

It looks to build partnerships with other organisations for specific pieces of work.

Douglas White, Head of Advocacy at Carnegie UK Trust, said when these grants were initially made it was a significant sum of money for outdoor recreational spaces across the UK at the time.

“A requirement of the grant was that the playing fields should remain public areas for the benefit of the community in perpetuity,” he added.

“We want to find as many of these fields as possible and ensure that they remain legally protected for the local community.”

The sites are ‘lost’ because their exact locations were never centrally recorded, but they are in fact protected from urban development under the original terms of the Carnegie grants.

With green spaces at a premium and many being lost to urban redevelopment, the #FieldFinders campaign aims to protect some 3,000 football pitches, tennis courts, playgrounds and other recreational green spaces with better legal protection.

A pilot study by Fields in Trust, looking at London, Surrey, Kent and Middlesex identified 107 grants in these areas and 14 of these Carnegie playing fields have now been confirmed, including Coram’s Fields in central London. The list of established grants will be available online alongside case studies of the newly confirmed sites to help inspire others to get involved.

As each location is rediscovered and more details added, the list will be updated to reflect this.

Kathryn Cook, Partnership and Communications Manager of Fields in Trust, who will be working to improve the legal protection to the sites, said: “Many playing fields in built up areas offer the only green space and safe playing area for children and families.

“They are places to relax, play sports or hold community events.

“Ensuring they are around for future generations is an utmost priority.

“This is a very important but labour intensive job and we really need the support of local communities to help us protect these valuable assets for the long term.”

#FieldFinders will have their names associated with the parks they have rediscovered alongside the online list so their efforts are recorded and the thanks of future generations can be given.

The best of the photographs will also be added to an online gallery where people can view photographs of the past and present.

A full report on the pilot programme undertaken by Fields in Trust is available on the #FieldFinders website: www.fieldsintrust.org/Carnegie.aspx.

Can you help find a field?

The trust believe Andrew Carnegie’s lost playing fields could be located in the following locations; Bowhill, Charleston, Crossgates, Crosshill, Culross, Cupar, Easter Aberdour, Fordwell, Glencraig, High Valleyfield, Hill of Beath, Inverkeithing, Kelty, Kinglassie, Limekilns, Little Raith, Lochgelly, Lochore, Lower Steelend, Lumphinnans, Mossgreen, North Queensferry, Saline, St. Andrews and Windygates.

Field Finders will have until August 31 to report back via a dedicated web portal www.fieldsintrust.org/Carnegie.aspx about their Carnegie playing field.

Each confirmed location where legal protection can be added will then be given the chance to win one of two £5000 prizes to make improvements.

Kathryn Cook said: “We need the public to share as much information as possible about the spaces they believe to be Carnegie Playing Fields via our website where you can also view examples of Carnegie Playing Fields that we have already found.”