St Stephen’s puts trust in community’s deep pockets

A HISTORIC church in the New Town could be handed over to a trust to ensure its future development as an arts and community centre.

St Stephen’s in St Vincent Street is a city landmark with its imposing facade and grand flight of steps, and its 162ft tower is a prominent feature on the Capital’s skyline.

The church has not been used for worship for nearly 20 years, after its congregation merged with St Bernard’s Stockbridge to form Stockbridge Parish Church in 1992.

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But the church has retained ownership of what is now known as the St Stephen’s Centre and ensures it is maintained.

Although the building is well-used during the week by community groups and as a venue at festival time, the congregation says it does not have the money to install a lift to meet access requirements or develop the centre to its full potential.

Stockbridge minister the Rev Anne Logan said it was hoped a trust could be formed to take on responsibility for the building, in the same way as the Mansfield Traquair Trust, which took over the former Catholic Apostolic Church at the other end of the New Town.

Ms Logan said: “We can keep it going on a day-to-day basis and keep it breaking even. What we cannot manage is the redevelopment. We are reasonably hopeful there will be people within the community with the resources who might be prepared to step in.

“We can see what needs done, but we just don’t have the resources within the congregation to do it. We thought if we were to stand aside there might well be people who could do it.

“We feel it is a very valuable resource for the community – not just in Stockbridge, but the wider community – if it could be made to meet the access requirements.

“The hope is it would continue as a community and arts centre.

“It could be looked after by a trust, something like the Mansfield Traquair building.”

St Stephen’s was designed by the architect William Henry Playfair and opened on December 21, 1828. It is built from Craigleith stone and is grade A listed.

Ms Logan said: “The boundaries of the World Heritage Site were carefully drawn around St Stephen’s deliberately to include it, so it is a very important building.”