Ruined church gets a new lease of life

A RUINED Norman church that has lain empty for 400 years has been transformed into a tourist attraction.

Work has been completed on the four-year, £120,000 project to repair St Andrew’s Kirk in Gullane, East Lothian, and preserve it for the future, with an official reopening set to take place later this month.

The Gullane and Dirleton History Society worked with East Lothian Council to have the ruin stabilised and preserved, with the main funding for the work coming from Historic Scotland.

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The St Andrew’s Church ruin has long been a landmark at the west end of the village. Dating from the 11th century, it served as a place of worship until 1612, when it was abandoned due to persistent sandstorms.

Over the years it deteriorated and became overgrown and, according to chairman of Gullane and Dirleton History Society, Jim Sinclair, “it was in serious danger of becoming another example of lost heritage”. Mr Sinclair added: “The old St Andrew’s Church is a rare example of a Norman church in the Lothians and its Romanesque features are similar to those of St Margaret’s Chapel – the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh.

“The improvements to St Andrew’s Church have elevated it to one of the prominent heritage attractions for residents and visitors alike. Essentially, it is a heritage memorial and we hope people will come from other areas and see it for its unique nature. It is a very old building, one of the oldest in the Lothians.

“We have stabilised the building, removed all the ivy growth and highlighted the main features of the church through information and interpretation boards to illustrate its 500-year-old life.”

An inaugural event will take place on April 29 at 2.30pm. Visitors will be offered a guided tour, and short speeches by Mr Sinclair, Councillor Ruth Currie, and minister of Gullane Church, Christine Clark, will take place in the nave.

A guidebook is being prepared, which will include a guided tour of the church as well as its historical background. Reconstruction drawings have also been produced to show how the church may have looked when it was in use.

Mr Sinclair said the church looked “fantastic” following the work: “It is absolutely transformed from what it was. My wife is very pleased indeed that the work is now complete, she will see a bit more of me now!”

In September 2008, the society launched a public financial appeal to raise funds for the work. Grants and donations came from Historic Scotland, East Lothian Council, the Tyne Esk Valley Group, Gullane Area Community Council and more than 100 individuals and organisations. Local residents and organisations contributed around £11,000.

The society, which has been campaigning for restoration of the site since 2003, also hopes that a number of memorial stones that have fallen down within the graveyard will be re-erected within the next year.