Obituary: Catherine ‘Kitty’ Cruft, 87

Kitty Cruft enjoyed exploring other countries. Picture: contributed

Kitty Cruft enjoyed exploring other countries. Picture: contributed

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A researcher who made an outstanding contribution to Scottish architectural history has died at the age of 87.

Catherine “Kitty” Cruft was born in London, in 1927. Her family moved around southern England before finally settling in Colinton when she was a teenager in 1942.

She attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart School at Craiglockhart because it boasted a renowned music teacher.

In 1951, Ms Cruft graduated from the University of Edinburgh and began to literally set her legacy in stone.

She started as a researcher at the Scots Ancestry Research Society, alongside working as a research assistant for Scottish National Building Record (SNBR).

Many of Scotland’s great country houses had been damaged during the Second World War, and a significant number were due to be demolished.

So, in late 1951, alongside SNBR director Colin McWilliam, Ms Cruft embarked on an ambitious survey to record these soon-to-be-lost pieces of history, until both were laid off in the late 50s due to governmental financial constraints.

However, this was merely the beginning, as in 1956 she took responsibility for the listing survey of Edinburgh, which led to her appointment as the leading officer of the Scottish National Buildings Record.

Then, in 1966, she moved to the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments in Scotland (RCAHMS), where she championed the record and had a profound impact on everyone involved in Scottish historical architecture over the next 40 years.

By the time she retired from the RCAHMS, the National Monuments Record of Scotland had flourished under her curatorship, research under her became internationally renowned and she was made an 
OBE for her tireless effort and countless key contributions to her field.

She also got honorary fellowships of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland.

Ms Cruft was known for her love of music and travelling, exploring Italy and France extensively, as well as camping in Canna as a Girl Guides leader.

There, she got a reputation of travelling heavy, with tractors sometimes needed to transport all her equipment off the ferry from Mallaig.

She was also a keen skier, speeding down Alpine slopes before a broken leg in 1964 ended her winter pursuits.

She also made history as the first single woman in Scotland to get a mortgage to buy a flat in Colinton.

However, during the later stages of her life Ms Cruft spent time in care, her extraordinary mind plagued by dementia.

She died in Edinburgh on January 13 at the age of 87.