the post-war building boom in Scotland, from the 1950s onward, old
housing stock seemed redundant and in many areas was demolished to
make way for modern council housing. There were many derelict old
buildings under threat in the East Neuk, where the decline of the
fishing industry had encouraged locals to move away from traditional
areas of habitation around the harbours, and many of the picturesque
harbour frontages were becoming ruinous and unsafe. Planning laws
were lax, ancient houses were allowed to fall into decay and were
replaced by incongruous modern buildings of unsuitable design.
Concerned individuals began to challenge local councils over their
demolition policy, and organizations such as the National Trust for
Scotland started to press for restoration rather than destruction.
Interest in preservation and conservation was spearheaded by local
architect, William Murray Jack of Cellardyke, who worked on the Historic
Buildings Survey of Scotland to list buildings in Fife during the
1950s, and the Little Houses Improvement Scheme run by Hew Lorimer
of Kellie Castle for the NTS. This scheme encouraged the purchase
of derelict buildings by improving buyers who would renovate the properties.
Many local buildings still bear plaques demonstrating their participation,
such as the 17thc Chalmer’s Birthplace in Old Post Office Close
in Anstruther, and 10 Virgin Square, St Monans; much of the harbour
area and the Cribbs of St Monans were renovated in this way during
On the left is Kellie lodging in the 1960's and on the right
is the Kellie Lodging as you would see it today.
These responsible voices argued for the attractiveness of the vernacular
architecture of the East Neuk, the rich architectural and historical
heritage of our coastal burghs and rural villages, reflecting the
old patterns of life, taking pride in local traditions, the evolution
over time of the wynds, vennels and closes, and the individual character
of the old stone houses with their pantile roofs, crow-step gables
and distinctive lime harling.
Opposition to the demolition of an old house in South Street, Elie,
led to the formation of the East Neuk of Fife Preservation Society
by a well known and long standing resident of Elie, Miss Scott Moncrieff.
The inaugural meeting was held on 22 March 1961 under the Chairmanship
of the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, the father of the current Earl.
The specific aim of the Society at that time was
“ to preserve the architectural and historic character
and atmosphere of the burghs and villages and the landward area and
to improve and safeguard its amenities”.
On the left is the Buckie House corner in Anstruther in the
1960's and on the right is the Buckie House corner as you
would see it today.
The Society at first bought up derelict properties, in Cellardyke,
Pittenweem, St Monans, Arncroach and Anstruther, getting grants
to restore them or selling them on to restoring owners. It also
made contributions to other projects, such as the foundation and
later expansion of the Scottish Fisheries Museum, restoration of
the clock on St Nicholas’s Tower, Anstruther Wester, and restoration
of the Priory in Pittenweem.