Solving the puzzle of St Serf’s Tower

St Serf's Tower, Dysart
St Serf's Tower, Dysart

ST SERF’S tower has been a landmark on Dysart’s Shore Road for hundreds of years - but no-one has been able to discover just how old it is.

Generations of local historians have puzzled over the construction of the 80ft tower which, as well as being a steeple for the old church, served as a lookout and defence in time of war.


But now, thanks to an ambitious programme of detective work to be carried out by experts from AOC Archaeology Group and St Andrews University, the mystery of the tower’s age and architecture could be solved.

Small samples of wood from what are thought to be the original roof timbers from the tower cap-house and stair turret will be taken out and analysed using a technique called dendrochronology, which can pinpoint not only the year in which the timber was cut down but even the country it was grown in.

The project has been funded by Fife Council, Fife Historic Buildings Trust, and The Dysart Trust.

Professor Richard Fawcett from the School of Art History at St Andrews University said: “A major problem in understanding the historic churches of Scotland is that so few of them can be firmly dated.

“Although it has been suggested Dysart’s tower may have been added around the time Ravenscraig Castle was built, there has been no way of being certain. However, the survival of what appear to be original timbers in the tower roof offers the prospect of establishing a firm date by means of tree-ring analysis.”


Before the work starts, a talk will be given on the history and architecture of St Serf’s, and the techniques of dendrochronology, on Tuesday, January 29 in Dysart St Clair Church Hall from 7.00-8.00 p.m, with free admission.

Once the project is completed, the results will be presented at a second talk later in the year.