Historic church spire in need of urgent work to prevent collapse

An historic Scottish church spire could collapse unless work is carried out urgently, experts have warned.

GV of Pitenweem Parish Church

Pittenweem Parish Church in Fife – the spire of which is said to be in a “dangerous condition” – was founded before 1200, although most of the building, described as an “impressive medieval church” by the Scottish Church Heritage Research group, dates to the 16th century.

Its prominent tolbooth tower was added in 1588 and the spire which surmounts it, behind a balustraded parapet, dates from the 17th century.

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The tolbooth tower and its bailies’ loft, where local worthies used to meet, is joined to the church on its east and south sides and their histories are said to be intertwined.

Now Fife Council property service officials are seeking special ecclesiastical listed building consent for restoration work at the church on the Kirkgate in Pittenweem.

Experts commissioned to oversee the project revealed part of the structure could come down if it is not soon shored up.

Paul Higginson, associate with Cupar-based Arc Architects, said: “We have been appointed by Fife Council to recommend conservation repairs to the spire and parapet as it has been determined to be in a dangerous condition, with the loss of mortar, severely weathered stone and decay around iron fixings, with potential to fall.”

Fife Council confirmed that at this stage, there were no indicative costs or timescales for the work, but the urgency of the situation “is fully understood”.

Alan Paterson, from the local authority, said: “The Tolbooth, which is part of the church, is a ‘common good’ asset, which the council is responsible for. We are trying to secure funding for repair works and in the meantime are preparing specifications to cost the work and applying for appropriate approvals.

“As it is a category A-listed building, it may take some time to go through the appropriate planning processes.”

Scaffolding was placed around the tower by the council last year to make it safe until restoration work can begin, but some locals are concerned about delays.

Conservative councillor Linda Holt said residents had been “dismayed” to see their landmark clock tower “festooned with scaffolding” since last year at a cost of more than £50,000.

She said: “It has been subject to neglect and a grievous lack of maintenance over years by the council. This is why it is now in such a dangerous state.”