Edinburgh's Tron Kirk to reopen doors next month after Scottish Historic Buildings Trust takes over restoration

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Visitors will once again be able to step inside the historic Tron Kirk after a national heritage body agreed to breathe new life into its walls.

Keys for the much-loved 17th century church were handed to the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT) in a deal which the council hopes will secure its future and take forward its restoration.

SHBT has signed a five-year lease and will now lead the restoration of the old town landmark by carrying out a feasibility study and community consultation.

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It's hoped that this will convert to a 125-year lease when renovations are ready to start.

The historic kirk in heart of old town reopens on 1st JulyThe historic kirk in heart of old town reopens on 1st July
The historic kirk in heart of old town reopens on 1st July

Bosses at the trust said they envisage a sustainable future for the building, which is at risk of disrepair after it was estimated that repairs on the building will cost around £2.5m.

Previously it was used by Edinburgh World Heritage who bid successfully for the lease in 2018. But it pulled out of a deal with the council in which it had set out proposals for a multi-million pound refurbishment of the medieval kirk to create a visitor centre for Scotland's World Heritage Sites.

SHBT was then selected as the top bid to lead the restoration project, beating off competition from business owners who outlined plans to raise £2m annually from an indoor market trading in goods sold by local businesses.

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The charity which has restored more than 30 buildings across the country already manages two other historic buildings in the Capital under leases from the council.

Now it’s bringing in Scottish Design Exchange (SDX) to the Tron on July 1 which will see the kirk open as a market for artists. The social enterprise business also has a shop on George Street.

Local traders will sell a variety of products varying from original art, glass, ceramics, jewellery and woodwork.

Maggie Wright, chair of Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, said: “Scottish Historic Buildings Trust is privileged to be working with the City of Edinburgh Council to reopen the Tron Kirk, which has been a part of the Old Town of Edinburgh since the 17th century. We are delighted to welcome SDX to this much-loved Edinburgh landmark. Their tenancy represents a ‘meanwhile use’ of the building and will provide an engaging space for locals and tourists to explore as we consult with the community on its long-term future.”

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Councillor Mandy Watt, depute leader of Edinburgh council, said: “Together we’re securing the future of Edinburgh’s historic Tron Kirk and I’m delighted to see the keys handed over.

“This is a building which has withstood centuries of change. It has survived the Great Fire of Edinburgh and two World Wars. In recent years, however, it has been at serious risk of disrepair.

“Scottish Historic Buildings Trust has an excellent track record of preserving buildings like this. Their work securing sustainable futures for Riddle’s Court in the Old Town and Custom House in Leith are two great examples.

“I’m confident they will do the same with the Tron Kirk, which has acted as a gathering place for the people of Edinburgh for almost 400 years. It’s great that we’ll see this tradition continue when doors reopen on July 1.”

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