Church plans to use lottery funds for heritage plan

The Rev Fiona Bennett, left, and Rachel Fitzerald celebrate the funding for the Augustine United Church.  Picture: Ian Rutherford
The Rev Fiona Bennett, left, and Rachel Fitzerald celebrate the funding for the Augustine United Church. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A CITY-CENTRE church has won lottery funding to launch a major project to repair its roof and create an interactive exhibition about its history and heritage.

Augustine United Church on George IV Bridge plans to install a permanent audio-visual display telling the story of the congregation from its foundation more than 200 years ago as part of a progressive social movement and highlighting its work today. The church was first based in a “dark, dingy, comfortless” building on the site where the National Museum of Scotland now stands in Chambers Street.

It moved to its current site in 1861 to make way for the museum and the new Gothic-style church building was likened at the time to a wedding cake because of all its spires and turrets. The interior has changed several times over the years to meet practical needs.

Augustine’s minister the Rev Fiona Bennett said the new exhibition would give visitors information about the church’s architectural, cultural and theological heritage.

She said: “Augustine started as a Congregational church and was rooted in a movement for social change at that time, trying to make a difference to the world around it.

“When the church moved sites, the whole area around the Cowgate was a deprived area ravaged by disease and the council was looking to develop the area. Augustine was sold to build the museum and the new church became part of the reinvestment in that part of town.

“The exhibition will look at some of that heritage and also how it is being lived out by the congregation today in our own time and context.”

As well as holding services on Sundays, Augustine hosts hundreds of people each week for a diverse range of activities, from the choral union to a drop-in centre for the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

Christian Aid has its Edinburgh office at the church and Jubilee Scotland, a group campaigning on global debt, is also based there.

The church has been awarded initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £31,500 to progress the project proposals, paving the way to apply for a full grant at a later date.

The roof repairs will see slates replaced and a layer of insulation added to increase energy conservation.

The exhibition will be based in the church’s front porch. Volunteers will be trained as guides to give tours of the church and the plan is for the building to be open on various days during the year.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com