Letham Glen is an early-20th-century public park and a valuable community asset, laid out in a sheltered, picturesque glen incorporating, relict industrial features and walks long-used by townsfolk. The site was previously on the Historic Scotland Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes, but was removed in August 2015.
Type of Site
Location and Setting
Letham Glen is situated on the north-east outskirts of Leven. It extends northwards from the junction of the Windygates Road (A915) and Scoonie Road (A955) along the Scoonie Burn. Scoonie Burn rises in Kennoway and runs through several tributaries to flow into Largo Bay.
The designed landscape is laid out along the length of the deep den cut through the Methil-Elie coastal terrace. The steep slopes in the south-west of the den show signs of land slip in the vicinity of an old coal pit (1854, 1st ed OS 6"). The site is self-contained and there are few views from the surrounding area into the deep, sheltered den which is well wooded, however its main entrance on the Scoonie Roundabout is marked by an imposing arched gateway.
The extent of the designed landscape has changed little since laid out in the 1920s. Higher, flatter land to the east of Letham Glen and extending to the Cupar Road, has been developed for mid-20th century housing.
The main Entrance Gate lies at the south end of the Glen, on Sillerhole Road/ Scoonie Brae. It is a triumphal vehicular entrance arch of channelled ashlar. The arch has a deep frieze inscribed '19'Letham Glen' '25'. There are square section gate piers with deep cornice and flat coping framing 2-leaf decorative metalwork gates.
A Boundary Wall on Sillerhole Road, along the south-west of the park, is a low ashlar retaining wall with copes. Within the park is a raised pond for waterfowl enclosed with a castellated wall. A Doocot, built c.1925 is a picturesque, rustic masonry cylindrical building, with entrance holes and alighting ledges above leading to a pigeon loft. A series of five footbridges cross the Burn, have a variety of arch styles and are lined with coursed rubble stone.
Drives and Approaches
The main approach to the park lies at the south, through the entrance gates. The major route through the park leads from here, northwards along the length of the burn, on its west bank. A path into the glen, identified in the leasing agreement in 1925, still leads from the Cupar Road into the east of the glen. Two rustic cast iron benches survive on this path, indicating major views over the glen to Leven, which are now obstructed by housing.
A path also exists on the west side of the Glen leading out to Sillerhole Road.
Areas of woodland clothe the slopes of the den and become more dense northwards, in its higher reaches, as the glen becomes narrower. There are a variety of broadleaf trees, principally sycamore and beech.
A terraced walk runs along both sides of the Glen, with a number of rustic benches set along it. Picturesque waterfalls and rock outcrops lie at the north point of the Glen.
A Formal Garden with bedding, ornamental cherry trees and seating areas lie directly north of the main entrance.
The site of the outdoor swimming pool was converted into a formal Sunken Garden. This is sited beyond the formal garden, on the west side of the Scoonie Burn, with a rockery and a central raised flower bed with dry stone walls (originally a fountain?). Further northwards, beyond the pond and Doocot, are traces of a water garden, now drained and overgrown. There is an area of open space, perhaps the of an open air theatre, the base of which still remains.
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The following is from the Historic Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Scotland website:
Reason for Inclusion
An early 20th century public park and a valuable community asset, laid out in a sheltered, picturesque glen incorporating, relict industrial features and walks long-used by townsfolk.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
Early 20th century.
Letham Glen was originally part of the Durie Estate, owned by the Gibson Family 'some of whom were particularly eminent in the law department' (O.S.A., p.110), until the later 18th century when it was acquired by Mr Peter Christie.
One of Leven's main economic activities was the production of coal, a large amount of which was mined on the Durie estate, including the terraces to either side of Letham Glen, originally known as Sillerhole Den (1854, 1st ed OS). Coal was mined on the Durie estate for about a century. It 'was drained by a water engine' and 'consisted of three seams, the two upper, each four feet thick, and the lower eight feet'The third seam, called the main coal, was considered the best in the county. Considerable quantities of it use to be exported to Holland, where it met with a ready sale: and it is said, even at this day, that the best Scotch coals in that market go under the name of Durie coals.' (N.S.A.,1836, p.265) During the 1890s coal pits were situated on the west and east sides of the glen, with a sandstone quarry on its north-east edge (1854, 1st ed OS).
In the early 1920's plans were underway to extend the burgh of Leven, with housing extending to the boundaries of the Durie policies. The landowner, Mr Christie, had no objections 'provided low-lying ground near Scoonie Bridge; situated between the Scoonie Burn and the old road Leading to Sillerhole Houses, shall be entirely excluded' (Leven Town Council Minutes, June 1921). In addition the burgh were undertaking relief-works for unemployed miners, one scheme involved building an open-air swimming pool in the Glen.
In 1923, the Leven Town Council appointed a committee to look in to the possibility of establishing a Public Park in the burgh and proposed the acquisition of Spinkie Den (as Letham Glen was by then known). Mr R. Maitland Christie refused to sell the land, so consideration was given to its compulsory purchase. By April 1925, he agreed to 'feu the whole area including cottage and gardens and Scoonie Bridge for an annual fee of £115'. The feu was to include the growing of timber, entrances at Scoonie Bridge near the quarry, near Dikeneuk Cottage and a 6ft wide path out to the Cupar road. (Leven Town Council Minutes, April 1925).
That same year Mr John Letham, (Fernbank, Lower Largo) donated £1000 to the Town Council to allow for an investment income which could pay for the lease of 'Spinkie Den'. In 1925 Spinkie Den was renamed Letham Glen to commemorate this gift. The Council approached Mr Maxwell Hart, a Glasgow landscape architect, who had laid out a new Bowling Green in Leven, to prepare plans for laying out the glen. These were completed in 1926. The site of the swimming pool was converted into a sunken garden and the side of the glen were lair out with rock-lined walks. The laying out of the public park was contemporary with the development of Leven's promenade. In 1946 there was still a fresh water swimming pool, putting greens and a 'platform with railings'Leven's open-air theatre' (Dingwall, 1946).
Part of the site is designated as Letham Glen Nature Centre. In recent years there was an 'Animal Centre' including a range of birds and small mammals, for the attraction and education of children.
Early 20th Century (1901-1932)
- Key Information
Parks, Gardens And Urban Spaces
Early 20th Century (1901-1932)
Open to the public