Campaigners in bid to buy St Stephen’s church

The Church of Scotland put St Stephen's in St Vincent Street up for sale last year. Picture: Greg Macvean

The Church of Scotland put St Stephen's in St Vincent Street up for sale last year. Picture: Greg Macvean

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A LAST-minute bid has been launched to save a landmark church building as a community facility.

Campaigners worried that St Stephen’s in St Vincent Street could be sold to developers for £500,000 want to snap it up themselves and turn it into a local hub.

But they have just a few weeks to come up with a plan as a closing sale date of February 20 was placed on the site.

The News revealed last year how the Church of Scotland had put the A-listed building up for sale.

The newly formed group – the St Stephen’s Playfair Trust – is holding a meeting next week to outline its idea and establish how the money could be raised.

Trustee and artist Fran Hickox said the grand building had been used as a meeting place by organisations in Stockbridge and further afield for more than 20 years.

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

She said: “The potential loss of St Stephen’s is obviously worrying a lot of people.

“We are hoping the Trust will raise the asking price and then we can keep the church as a centre for the community and perhaps even extend it – it’s got such incredible potential.

“St Stephen’s coming up for sale has concentrated everybody’s mind on what more could be done if we buy it for the community. This meeting will give us a chance to gauge public reaction to the plans. The building has been well maintained by the church off the back of the small rent they have charged the organisations which use it.”

It is understood St Stephen’s is unlikely to be purchased for conversion into residential flats, as the interior would have to be completely remodelled.

St Stephen’s has had many community uses including a Fringe venue since 1966, a concert venue and a meeting place for self help groups including Alcoholics Anonymous.

But with little notice, the organisations have had to find somewhere else to meet, with most having relocated by last Christmas.

Stockbridge councillor Nigel Bagshaw said: “St Stephen’s has been a well-used facility in the past and it would be good if that were to continue. I’m sure there will be backing for the community space to be retained – the theatre workshop space has already been lost and it is a requirement that people have somewhere to meet.”

Built from Craigleith stone, St Stephen’s was designed by celebrated Edinburgh architect William Henry Playfair and opened on December 21, 1828.

The tower of the church is home to the longest pendulum in Europe and the interior and exterior of the building can be seen in several television and film productions including Shallow Grave and Rebus.