Back in 1986, SWACS was founded after a car was driven into Jonathan’s Cave and set alight, resulting in the destruction of an important panel of Pictish carvings. As a result, barriers were erected at Jonathan’s Cave, but the design and materials used proved inadequate for the location and were soon breached.
Since then, there has been no protection of the nationally important heritage that can be found at the Wemyss Caves – in particular the precious and unique Pictish carvings.
Every weekend over the summer months, we clear up and document evidence of bottles smashed against the cave walls, spray painted graffiti over the carvings, fires inside the caves and drug use. These constant damaging impacts of a very small minority of people using the caves are putting the survival of the carvings at risk.
Three Covid-disrupted years ago, we began investigating options for measures we could take that would allow as many people as possible to enjoy the site while ensuring its precious contents are protected. Our consultation process with the local community and others showed overwhelming levels of support for protective grilles that could be locked at night but open during the day.
We can now announce that, thanks to significant grants from Historic Environment Scotland (through the Historic Environment Repair Grant programme) and Fife Environmental Trust (through the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund), these protective grilles will be installed at Jonathan’s and Court Caves this summer.
Some of you may have noticed that work has already started with the removal of the brick wall at the village end of the Court Cave passage. This will be replaced with a metal grille and there will be a lockable gate at the other end of the passage. Other grilles and gates will be installed inside Court Cave, to protect the wall where the carvings are concentrated, and at the entrance and side chamber at Jonathan’s Cave.
Working with our conservation architect, we have managed to create structures that will incorporate images from within the caves they will protect. They are currently being fabricated by Kirkcaldy-based contractors Legge Steel and will be installed in the coming weeks.
We are exploring ways of funding the eventual employment of a site warden, but initially we will open and close the gates every day using our own team of volunteers. If you live within easy reach of the caves and would like to join our team you would be very welcome – email email@example.com.