The New College Strong Room revealed

A guest post from our Museums Studies student volunteers, Charlotte Johnson and Liz Louis.

We are two postgraduate students studying for an MLitt in Museum and Gallery Studies at the University of St Andrews. As part of our course we’re undertaking a practical placement and as such we are very pleased to be working on a project here at New College, in the strong room. When we started, we didn’t  know what sort of collection to expect, and we quickly realised that the sheer variety of objects we discovered, would send us on a whistle-stop tour of New College’s history and give us insights into the lives and relationships of the eminent Doctors of Divinity who served here. It is our task to document, research and properly store the collection and we have come across some fabulous items over the last 6 weeks.


Perhaps one of our favourites is a casket and scroll presented to the Rev. John Sinclair McPhail by his parishioners on Skye, on his having served 50 years in the clergy. It is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, with wood, silver, purple velvet, raspberry-coloured silk and a hand-painted declaration of their appreciation.

Fob watch

Another interesting piece is a large silver fob-watch which belonged to Thomas Chalmers, one of the leaders of the Disruption which led to the creation of the Free Church of Scotland and first principal of New College; it looks as though it was much used and much loved.

At this point, we don’t know much about any of the items, but each one of them has a story to tell, and our conservation and research efforts will make sure that they don’t stay silent. We wanted to take this opportunity to share some photographs of these treasures with you.

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