This is a case study for the Heritage Hero Awards programme.
Working with the NTS Little Houses Improvement Scheme we will investigate the historic burgh of Culross. Our project took place at the start of the most recent Little Houses Improvement Scheme initiative – the restoration of Bennet House, which could be one of the oldest buildings in the burgh. We aimed to investigate the building, find out about its history and discover why old and historic places are conserved for the future.
The historic environment is a really rich context for learning across the Curriculum for Excellence and Heritage Heroes provides an excellent opportunity to discover local history and archaeology. It was really enjoyable to work with Culross Primary on the Detective Award – it offered loads of opportunities to get up close to the built heritage of Culross and begin to uncover some of the stories the burgh has to tell- Brian Wilkinson
Level(s) of award gained
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Date(s) of project
Brian Wilkinson (BW), the Little Houses Improvement scheme Learning Officer gave a short introduction to the restoration project of Bennet House project, an historic property in the burgh which has been abandoned for 20 years and in a poor condition. The Little houses Improvement Scheme is restoring the property into 2 small houses, something the NTS has done in the burgh since the 1930’s. BW provided an outline history to explain why Culross is so remarkably well preserved with many significant Little Houses restored by NTS & LHIS over the years.
We went to look at some of them on a walkabout, finding out about some of their features and including a stop at Bennet House. We took a look at Bennet House to see whether we could spot any clues to tell us about its history and former use. Culross has changed a lot since it was built, so we thought about that too (for example, not many of the young people knew that the new playground used to be the harbour – until the mid-1800’s it was where boats would moor). We discussed the plan to restore and conserve Bennet House for the future, and how we are undertaking research to find out about its history. We finished in the Palace courtyard with a discussion of what sort of project we could do. BW brought along some old photographs of the burgh, and after discussion we decided to try to recreate them and show the same scenes today. We spoke about how we would undertake this, the sorts of jobs we would need to do, the resources we would need and what the final outcome would be.
BW visited Culross primary school and held a session to look at historic maps, aerial photos and historic photographs. We discussed what has changed in Culross over time, from the middle ages (the Abbey) to the present day (Bennet House). We looked at maps of the burgh showing the different ages of the buildings. We looked at maps that showed the changing village over time. We looked at historic photos and tried to work out where the places shown in them were located. We selected which of the historic images we liked the most, and which we would like to recreate. BW gave a presentation about the history of Culross, showing examples of buildings from different times and how we might tell their age from the style of building.
We had a photographic field trip around the village of Culross. We had looked at the photos more closely and saw that some of them featured people, so we decided to try and recreate the scenes as much as possible, and use props where appropriate. The young people had chosen who would take each photo and who would appear in each rephotograph where this was appropriate. As well as taking the rephotographs we had another opportunity to look at the buildings in the burgh and compare the old photos with the way they look today.
As the project progressed Culross Primary were invited to submit photographs on the theme of ‘The History Of My Village’ to the Saline and West Fife Villages Exhibition of Art and Photography. We decided to enter the images which the young people would take for the project. The young people printed the photographs, matched the historic photos and rephotographs and mounted them in preparation for the exhibition. The entries were all highly commended, and each pupil received a certificate of merit. About 400 people visited the exhibition over the weekend of 21st and 22nd of May.
We had an end of project celebration to reflect on our achievement and celebrate its completion. We designed and issued invitations for parents and local people to come and see our work on Monday 21st of June. We asked the NTS Culross Palace Staff and volunteer guides to come along, and discussed our images and our discoveries with them. Several of our guests were able to share their memories of Culross in the past with the children.
More cameras would have been useful on the photographic fieldtrip. An introduction session on the workings of a camera and how to take a good photo would have prepared the young people better.
For me, the best bit of the project was engaging young people with the built fabric of the burgh, which many of them saw every day but perhaps knew little about. I was able to fill in some of the historic evidence they were not familiar with, and tie this in with buildings which are still standing. In return they told me what they knew about the burgh’s history from a previous classroom topic. It was instructive to see how good the children were at making observations of architectural features – for example they saw blocked windows and doorways and came up with their own ideas for why the buildings had changed through time as they were put to different uses.
The benefit of using the Heritage Hero Awards
It was a really useful way to raise awareness locally of the heritage project I am working on, and to deliver project outcomes of working with a school group.
Case study compiled by
Brian Wilkinson, NTS, Little Houses Improvement Scheme.
With thanks to