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Nostalgia: The churches that didn't have a prayer

THE Tron Church. One of Edinburgh's most iconic buildings with its slender soaring steeple. Once a place of worship, then a tourist information centre, now lying empty, the building itself looks unalterable, part of the historic fabric of the Royal Mile.

But in fact the church's tower is nearly 200 years younger than the rest of the church, rebuilt by brothers Richard and Robert Dickson in 1828 – the church itself was built between 1636 and 1647. The original square tower, made of lead-covered wood, came tumbling down in the Great Fire of Edinburgh, which burned on the Royal Mile for two days in November 1824 and left ten dead and 400 families homeless.

But at least the church – named after the salt-tron public weighing beam which once stood outside – survived. It remained a place of worship until 1952, when the congregation moved to the Tron Kirk Moredun, and while it's had a chequered history since – it was empty for many years before becoming a tourist information centre and is now unused again – it's still one of the city's landmarks.

But one church that looks unlikely to ever reach that age now is the Kaimes Lockhart Memorial Church of Scotland. Earlier this year, the congregation there was forced to abandon their premises when tests on broken floor tiles revealed asbestos.

Now, as revealed in the Evening News this week, members of the church have discovered that the concrete building is crumbling so badly that it only has a few more years' life left in it. The 1950s building is to be torn down, although the congregation will carry on meeting.

At least the church still has worshippers – the historic Trinity College Church on Jeffrey Street had been empty for four years, its congregation united with Lady Glenorchy's in Roxburgh Place, when it was torn down in 1964. Pleas to find new uses for the 1872 building, a partial reconstruction of a 15th century church which was moved when Waverley was created, went unheeded. St Ninian's Church on Coburg Street in Leith had been disused for ten years when a Guy Fawkes night blaze burned it out in 1969. There are still gatherings of people on the site of the Tabernacle church on Greenside Place – but these days they are audiences at the Playhouse rather than the Baptist who met there to pray between 1801 and 1864.

Nothing remains of the John Ker Church in Polworth, built in 1893, but demolished in 1984 to make way for flats. Nor of the Haymarket Church, dating from 1875 but bulldozed in 1960, the site having been sold to Woolworths. But a small part of the Hillside Church at the top of Leith Walk has survived – the Gothic front fascia was preserved when the rest of the church was pulled down in 1989.

 
 
 

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