Friday, 27 July 2012

Behind the scenes

By Linda Clifford

Behind the scenes at the museum is great fun on Tuesday mornings. This is when Jennifer the curator, Anne Thorne and Linda Clifford get together to explore the secrets behind the curtain in the back room at 4 Queen’s Gardens: otherwise known as the offices of the Preservation Trust. The treasures hidden there can be fascinating or mundane and some can even be “whoever would accession that?!” but they are never boring.

In 2011 Jennifer decided that she would like to sort out all of the costume collection and store it in a more user friendly fashion. So one fine week in August the work began but no-one realised just what a task they had taken on. Do any of you know how many pairs of shoes, or the number of hats, or the quantity of mourning clothes the museum possesses? Well, now, thanks to Jennifer’s new system you can soon find out BUT woe betide any of you if you decide to open and examine any of them - there is a lot of work involved in repacking them. Jennifer taught us the correct way to pack and store costumes in tissue paper and then into the appropriate box. Slide-out drawer boxes were provided for the shoes and small accessories with hat boxes purchased for the many items of headgear. No future curator will have any problems finding just what they are looking for in the costume store.

Jennifer then turned her attention to the picture collection – another monumental task. Every picture has been photographed (photographer Anne Thorne at work here, and again this was a learning curve to figure out the best angle to do the picture justice) and they now all bear a label with a photo and description making them easier to identify when required for an exhibition. Anne and Linda are now able to find their way around when repacking items from exhibitions but there is still a lot to do and Jennifer is sure to find more and more tasks for the enthusiastic duo.

The article below was written by Volunteer Frances Humphries for our Volutneer Magazine "The Museum Times".


by Frances Humphries

As a youngster I was told of two toll houses in St. Andrews.  I lived close to one – the Argyle Street Toll (called the Argyle Port Toll) which was at the beginning of Hepburn Gardens at the short drive-way down to Cockshaugh Park and which is still there.  At this one I also remember the horse trough and the weigh-bridge which were sited at the side of the cottage. The second toll which had disappeared was on Abbey Walk, opposite the Cottage Hospital at the corner of Abbey Walk and Balfour Place (called the Shorebridge Toll). The other toll I was familiar with was the one on the Guardbridge Road which is still in place. (not of course in St. Andrews).

A group of museum volunteers have been working in the museum store at Queens Gardens.  Joy Steele was my partner and we worked away opening boxes, checking the content to make sure they were accessioned (with a number) and were what they should be.  One of the days we were working our way slowly through a box of documents when my eye caught an address on a letter dated 1821.  I could not believe what I saw -  THE TOLL HOUSE, LARGO ROAD.  Was this just a house name or was it a toll house?  I thought long and hard about it and decided it was logical to have a toll on the main road leading from St. Andrews to Largo.  Having read many books on the history of our town I had no recollection of seeing anything relating to a toll house on that road.  The next step was to try to find some confirmation of this.

This I found in a Valuation Roll of 1915 – there it was Toll House, Largo Road. The entry stated ‘old tollhouse and garden owned by James Ritchie, solicitor, and tenanted by Andrew Kirk’.  I then started to read The Roads of Fife by Owen Silver (published in 1987) and although I could not find anything written about this toll there was a map showing the tollbars recorded 1817-1850 with the three in St.Andrews and all being in use in 1816.

The next question was where was this Toll House?   Unfortunately I have so far been unable to definitely place this.  I spoke to an 87 year old St. Andrean who remembers her mother talking about a toll house at the beginning of the Canongate, roughly where the telephone box is now to be found. How accurate this is I do not know but I will continue to look for answers.

Toll houses were built beside the toll-gates and acted as both house and office for the person employed to collect the tolls.  These tolls were used for the upkeep of the roads. Many of the toll houses were simple cottages but a few were of a distinctive design with a round room.  An example of this is the one found on the Guardbridge Road.