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Pre-Raphaelite News

The PRS Project Funding Award

The Pre-Raphaelite Society is delighted to announce that our first ever Project Funding Award has been made to The Patons of Dunfermline. Cat Berry, on behalf of the charity, explains what will happen with the money:


The Patons of Dunfermline is a charity dedicated to researching and promoting the work of 19th century Scottish artists Sir Joseph Noël Paton, Amelia Robertson Hill and Waller Hugh Paton. 

Sir Joseph Noël Paton, sometimes known as ‘the Scottish Pre-Raphaelite’, was lifelong friends with Sir John Everett Millais, Alice Mary Chambers and other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He was best known for painting fairies and religious scenes and became Queen Victoria’s Painter and Limner for Scotland. His childhood home, Wooers’ Alley in Dunfermline, with its magical woodland garden of twisting ivy-covered trees, mossy rocks and meandering stream, provided the perfect backdrop for his extraordinary fairy paintings of Oberon and Titania in the Scottish National Galleries, and featured throughout his early work and that of his siblings. According to the Art Journal, 1895, the art critic John Ruskin came to visit:

On visiting Wooers’ Alley, Mr. Ruskin bore quaint testimony to the peculiar charm of the place. Turning round under a clump of old limes, he exclaimed to Sir Noel: “Well, this is a perfect. A. P.” “But what is an A. P.?” he was asked in some bewilderment. 

“Why, an Airthly Paradise, to be sure,” he laughingly replied...

The Patons’ home, Wooers’ Alley Cottage was demolished in 1926. Now the garden - 3 acres of wooded glen in the centre of Dunfermline with a stream running through it – has become thickly overgrown with scrub and ivy over the last 100 years, heavily littered and a place for antisocial behaviour. Our local volunteers have been working tirelessly to clear up the woodland. As they have begun to cut back the undergrowth, they have made some exciting discoveries, including the walls of the original terraces, two sets of garden steps and evidence of planting from the time of the Patons. Next, we plan to restore and maintain this beautiful woodland garden, bringing back the native species and wildflowers which used to grow there in the time of the Patons – including the native fairies, which came to prominence at the time of the Patons and have existed in centuries of local folklore. 


This will take three stages:

1: Enhancing the biodiversity of the woodland by restoring the native wildflowers and trees. Using the Patons’ artworks and historic records, we have identified some of the native wild flowers which grew at Wooers’, including foxglove, harebell, primrose, violet, wood sorrel, red campion and oak trees. 

2: Installing signage to encourage visitors and community groups to walk through Wooers’ Alley, connect with nature, learn about the history of the garden and improve their physical and mental wellbeing. 

3: Engaging with children and young people by ‘restoring’ the old Wooers’ Alley Cottage digitally and the native species of fairies, which have lived in this woodland for centuries. Via a digital augmented reality (AR) platform and our website, visitors will be able to walk around the garden and see the famous Paton fairies in situ as well as seeing how Wooers’ Alley Cottage looked before it was demolished. The aim is to encourage young people to develop a relationship with the land, so that future generations will take care of the wildlife at Wooers’ Alley.


We are absolutely delighted with the news that the Pre Raphaelite Society will be granting £1000 to this exciting project. Part of the money will be spent on building a small scale model of Wooers’ Alley Cottage to enable our animators to more easily build a 3D model of Wooers’ Alley for our AR experience. The model will be publicly displayed in September 2024, as part of Sir Joseph Noël Paton’s belated bicentenary celebrations which will include an exhibition at Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries and guided walks through Wooers’ Alley. The other part will be spent on fully funding our website for the next three years, so that we can concentrate on communicating our research, further telling this so far untold story of the significance of Wooers’ Alley in influencing the Patons’ early work. 


The Patons of Dunfermline SCIO

Registered Charity: SC051857

PO Box 28679, Edinburgh EH5 3PR

Sir Joseph Noël Paton
with his daughter

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