Cupar – An Update

Bill Pagan, Board member of BEFS, and founding Board member of Cupar Development Trust, updates us on progress in Cupar.

In the past three years, Cupar Development Trust (CDT) has achieved funding for the town from Scottish Government, Fife Council, Big Lottery, Heritage Lottery Fund, Fife LEADER and others, totalling nearly £150,000. Following the CharrettePlus, led by PAS in 2016, an Interpretive Plan was published in 2017. At the end of 2018, the first two staff members joined CDT’s team.

During 2018, three new initiatives took place, independently of the CDT. First, the University of St Andrews received funding to catalogue the archive of the Royal Burgh of Cupar from 1364 to 1975. The archive has been held by the University for some time, and has been available to researchers, but this project, due to be completed by the end of this year, will provide a catalogue available to search on line. This will make an exciting addition to Cupar’s Interpretive Plan (IP).

Second, Fife Council instructed an archaeological dig on the town’s Moot Hill. This area, the site of Cupar’s early Courts from 12th – 16th centuries, had never been explored before. In fact, few in the town knew it was the site of the Courts/Moots, since the street signs refer to “Moat Hill”. At first, the dig produced only some relatively routine medieval and later artefacts. Then, on the last day, lower levels produced cremated human bones, which are now back from carbon dating:

ARCHAS Archaeology reported: We were able to extract a small sample of the cremated bone which has been Radiocarbon dated to approximately 1750 BC, roughly the transition from the Early to the Middle Bronze Age nearly 4000 years ago. Although only a small part of this large feature was investigated it is very likely that what was revealed is a Bronze Age Cremation pit in the centre of Cupar. It is also highly probable that there will be other similar features located close to the pit already identified as these features are often found in small clusters.” 

This exciting result provides evidence of Cupar being an ancient settlement, whereas previously historians had started the Fife story with assumptions about the Celts being defeated by the Romans. Funding is now being sought for a further dig in 2019.

Third, Cupar was chosen by Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) for the Scottish Government’s Digital Towns Pilot – the first in the country. The town centre is now being established as a “Digital Improvement District” (DID). At the end of the experimental period, ABCD, Cupar’s Businesses Association, hopes that the pilot will have persuaded a majority of businesses in the town centre to support it into the future, and contribute to it, as is the established formula for BIDs.

So what was CDT doing in 2018? Much effort went into raising funding, and what a process this is – especially when done by volunteers! But when successful, morale lifts instantly and the positive publicity raises awareness in the town. I am delighted to report that the Board of CDT managed to secure some important funding in 2018.

With encouragement and support from Fife Council, CDT successfully secured a Fife LEADER grant to cover the costs for two staff members from November 2018 to December 2019. Fife Council then topped up the grant, and the two staff are now funded until the end of March 2020. We now enjoy the benefit of a Community Projects Co-ordinator, and an Administration & Finance Officer.

They will make very important contributions to the delivery of the Interpretive Plan (IP). The Working Group for the delivery of the IP includes representatives of the Community Council, Cupar Heritage, Cupar Businesses’ Association, local Tourist interests, and CDT.

The first projects of the plan are generically entitled “Classic Cupar”. Where they involve research and interpretation, the results will be uploaded to a digital archive for Cupar, using “CMCFlow”, the digital asset management system developed and maintained by CMC Associates.

  • “Classic Cupar 1”, grant funded by HLF, will provide a digital archive of local heritage collections. It will be delivered by a partnership among CDT, Cupar Heritage, and CMC Associates.
  • “Classic Cupar 2”, a discrete part of ‘Digital Cupar’, will build a calendar of past, current and future events in the town. This will contribute both to the town’s history and to the co-ordination of events organised by Cupar’s many thriving organisations.
  • “Classic Cupar 3”, funded by National Lottery Awards for All, reflects the determination that the delivery of Cupar’s Interpretive Plan will be inclusive – important in a town whose population includes the elderly and the less able. It will deliver a new community event – a festival for children with special needs and their carers. The project will be delivered by a partnership between Kilmaron Special School and CDT.

Other events, not formally part of Classic Cupar, support the IP’s objectives. For example, a cheerful tea party for some of Cupar’s longest-established residents, designed to gather information on the history of Cupar’s shops, produced so much detail, boosted by memorable anecdotes, that putting even a summary of it into a form suitable for CMCFlow is proving a mammoth task! The history of Cupar’s shops, and these anecdotes, complement an independent research project by Cupar Heritage, who have commissioned Lindsay Lennie, an authority on historic shopfronts in Scotland, to carry out an architectural survey of some 25 shopfronts in the town.

It is clear that 2018 was a busy year for those planning for events and activity in Cupar. The aim for 2019 is to start actual delivery – and to plan ahead for major events in 2022. More on that later!

You can follow progress via, Twitter , Instagram  and Facebook.

A website for Classic Cupar is coming soon!