A History of 12 North Street
Although evidence suggests that a building existed on this site during the late medieval period it is believed 12-20 North Street was built in the late 17th century. The oldest window in the property is on the first floor to the right of the fire escape. On the ground floor, the inner entrance door is original.
The earliest recorded owner of the house was Alexander Bell in 1723. Six separate owners followed until 1937 when the house was sold to local architect, James Hoey Scott.
Census records indicate that 12-16 North Street was a four-roomed dwelling, each room containing one family. In 1842, a report for the Poor Law Commission illustrated the poor sanitation and overcrowding endured by the fisher family inhabitants. A late report in the 1930s recommended demolition.
In 1937 James Hoey Scott started the reconstruction of 12-20 North Street that would save it from demolition. His plans converted eight dwellings into one large house. It was one of the earliest such restorations in Scotland. Once complete, a medical officer reported that it was, “the best illustration of what can be done towards preserving old buildings”.
In 1962, the St Andrews Preservation Trust purchased the house for £5000 dividing it into two self-contained buildings. The first building was to serve as the Trust’s headquarters, while the second was sold privately, subject to conditions safeguarding its architectural features. Miss Janet Low, of the famous Dundee supermarket chain William Lows, funded the conversion.
For many years, the Trust staged summer exhibitions in 12 North Street. The popularity of these, and the increasing number of bequests, led to the establishment of a permanent museum in 1981. At the time, 12 North Street was the only public museum in St Andrews. The Museum’s first full season was in 1983. The first full-time curator was appointed in 1991.