Patrick Geddes – heard of him? Possibly not, he died in 1924, however…

by Richard Anderson

 … he was a man of many diverse talents and interests including town planning (on top of biology, sociology, education and ecology).

His name appeared above a school house (below) I walked past this Bank Holiday weekend in the well preserved historic settlement of Culross, Fife and it jogged my dim memory when studying planning many moons ago!

This Mr Geddes was a benefactor for Culross who died in 1923 not Patrick Geddes the planner who having decided to concentrate his mind on Town Planning, set up in the 1920s the College Des Ecossaise in Montpelier to advance his thinking and teaching.  One of his controversial ideas, was consciously waring against the gridiron plan which was resurgent in 19th Century colonial town design – clearly the good burghers of Edinburgh saw different with the New Town, indeed for 20 years he was an active member of the Cockburn Association a campaigning conservation body still very much respected and prominent in Edinburgh/Scotland today!

So this is not the same Patrick Geddes, as this one dies in 1932, nevertheless it got me thinking, even moreso when driving through a settlement next to Culross, Charlestown, itself a planned settlement.

So where from here, Bank Holiday, visiting Culross with family (as we were dragged there as kids begrudgingly) only now appreciating its preserved beauty, skipping to Charlestown then speeding through Edinburgh’s New Town to just miss my train back to London.

First Culross, salt-panning, coal, limekilns, and a port (all gone), believed to have been founded by Saint Serf in the 6th Century, its prominence recognised by Historic Scotland who have since the 1930s been working on preservation and restoration – lovely!  However as can been seen below, the modern might of industry is evidenced over The Forth in the form of Ineos’s oil refinery – more of that over the coming years not least versus wind and tidal power around the UK both particularly prominent in Scotland.

For TV/film buffs, the image below may ignite memories of “Outlander,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “The Little Vampire,” “Kidnapped,” and “The 39 Steps,” trust me there are far more than 39!!

(Apologies for the incongruous car and bins!)

Second, Charlestown, only 3 miles east of Culross.  Here, in 1756, The 5th Earl of Elgin decided to benefit his hard limekilns, coal and harbour workers in the form of a planned village. 

(Limekilns above, Mum glad(ish) to show scale!

Like me – what on earth are Limekilns – above!

However, no grid lines, crescents or planned services, rather a planned village in the inverted shape of ‘C” and ‘E,’ why so – well his own initials, his name being Charles Elgin.  Benefactor, philanthropist, social engineer, if so why not implant your own initials in historic built form!

Finally, the whiz across the Forth (my great, great uncle, David Anderson was a partner in Anderson Mott and Hay who designed and constructed the first Forth Road Bridge) to have a rapid white knuckle hurtle through parts of Edinburgh’s New Town courtesy of F1’s next driver (my Mum!) only to just miss the train back to London.  Did allow ½ an hour to have a drink and gaze across Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns – all worth it, plus a tourist advert for Edinburgh!

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