Kirkton Church and Graveyard


Completion Date:


Building owner/client:

Burntisland Heritage Trust

Architect or lead designer:

Stephen Newsom B.Arch(Hons) RIAS RIBA RMaPS

Local Authority Area:


Nominating Body:

Burntisland Heritage Trust

Project Description

Burntisland Heritage Trust wanted to address the growing decline and instability of the 12th century ruined church – which is Burntisland’s oldest building – and the poor condition of the graveyard with many of the gravestones having been vandalised. A steering group was created with broad community support and with the support of Fife Council (owners of the church and site).
• To record the site via archaeological survey
A standing building survey was carried out by AOC before and after removal of the ivy, in case there was any loss following ivy removal. AOC offered a stone by stone survey with laser scanning which was invaluable in revealing information not previously recorded.
• To carry out repair and conservation works to the Kirkton Church building and graveyard in order to make the site safe for public use and to halt deterioration.
The removal of ivy, masonry repairs and raking out and re-pointing were done to conform with Scheduled Monument Consent
• To draft a conservation plan highlighting the significance of the site and identify any additional required conservation works.
This was in two forms.
The conservation plan for the church and monument was developed by Stephen Newsom, Conservation-accredited architect, in conjunction with Historic Environment Scotland as part of the Monument Consent and the Monument Grant. The repair and conservation drawings were based on the laser scans and were able to identify individual stones, crevices and roots for attention. Rough-racking was designed and built using Denfind stone in matching mortar to secure the wallheads.
The graveyard conservation plan was developed by Kirkyard Consulting. They along with Burntisland Heritage Trust were involved with the survey of the graveyard and researching family and social history. This in turn fed into the promotional and educational material, as well as the prioritisation of gravestones.
• To involve the community
The Project team worked with Floral Action Burntisland to tackle eroded areas around gravestones and to develop “green” graveyard activities with the participation of primary school pupils.
• To produce an education pack for schools based on the history of the site and the natural environment.
Volunteers from the group helped to research and build the story of the graveyard which features on the website as a family history resource and also the production of interpretation and educational materials about the graveyard, which were developed by Kirkyard Consulting.
• To develop outreach activities such as graveyard surveys and the development of interpretation materials.
The group developed the emerging stories of the church and graveyard on the two interpretation boards and the leaflet, with support from Stephen Newsom and Fiona Fisher (Conservation Officer).
• To ensure the site’s future maintenance
A Maintenance Plan for the future upkeep of the site was drawn up and agreed between Fife Bereavement Services and Burntisland Heritage Trust.
• To allow public access once the site is considered safe.
Most importantly, the site will be opened to the public once more, which has not been possible for many decades due to the un-safe structure, the church and grave monuments.

Supporting Statement

The work done on the 12th century church has provided the town with a new visitor attraction. The graveyard contains memorials and headstones which tell the story of Burntisland’s past importance as a trading port, coal and mill-town and is an important social and family resource.:-

• Kirkton old Church and historic graveyard was a hidden heritage site and a public open space closed to the public.

• The public now have access to a space which was locked.

• The graveyard is physically and visually enhanced. The gravestones repaired and landscaping for biodiversity introduced

• Parts of the church and graveyard previously hidden by vegetation or not accessible are now available to the public.

• New gravestones buried for decades have been uncovered and researched

• A path and new benches are provided so that the graveyard feels like a local park. A green space for everyone in a town which has been identified as being short of them.

• The oldest building in Burntisland is now safe for future generations

• Details of the church and graveyard are recorded for people now and for future generations

• The work done on the church using up to date technology uncovered many features not discovered by previous studies

• There is now a heritage resource which can be shared with everyone. This is the website, the interpretation panels, leaflets and through educational activities and digital resources developed by a graveyard consultant.

We believe the project has contributed to the social fabric of the community. In that it reinforced Burntisland’s strong sense of identity and place by engaging as wide an audience as possible in this historic site. This community led project involved many community groups within the area. Getting these groups involved let them “buy into” the project and helped the project attain its aims.

The project worked with Floral Action Burntisland in promoting green initiatives for the site. The pan is for the site to become a valuable natural haven providing quiet and relatively undisturbed habitat space for a range of wildlife.

The project also worked with the school’s Curriculum for Excellence programme to promote events/workshops for the school. The development of a designated website also helped to engage the community. The interpretation panel include a QR code for an app linked to the website which will help to broaden the appeal of the site to people and help to expand its audience.

We believe the project will have a beneficial impact on the economic situation in the community. There has been increased house building in the town and neighbouring towns in recent years. It is hoped that increased footfall, especially visitors from outside Burntisland will benefit local businesses. These visitors will visit the site for a variety of reasons – interest in the history of the church, family history researchers, casual visitors who are in the area and some who arrive via the Fife Coastal Path route. There is scope in the future to link the site into the various pilgrim ways being developed in Fife.