The history

1. The Bowling Green

Before the site became a church, it was home to one of the many bowling greens in Edinburgh. On this map you can see the area of the church marked as bowling green. Sadly, any historical information about this particular bowling green was difficult to find. However, the number of bowling greens present on the […]

Read More 1. The Bowling Green

2. The First and Second Churches

Before the building that we are in now was built, the site was home to two other church buildings. The first one of them was the Potter Row Church established in 1766. It was the result of a “walk-out” by a considerable proportion of the congregation at the nearby Lady Yester’s Church. The walk out […]

Read More 2. The First and Second Churches

3. United Presbyterian Church

In 1847, the 118 Relief Churches in Scotland formed a union with all the congregations of the United Secession Church and became the United Presbyterian Church. Therefore, the church on South College Street was renamed South College Street United Presbyterian Church. Overall, the middle of the 19th century was a period of significant changes for […]

Read More 3. United Presbyterian Church

4. The Third Church Building

The building that we are in now was constructed in 1856. It was designed by Patrick Wilson, an Edinburgh-based architect who designed churches, schools and residential buildings in the city and broader Scotland. At the time Wilson was also known as a strong advocate of purpose-built housing for the poor, and he worked closely with […]

Read More 4. The Third Church Building

5. The Union United Free Church

At the turn of the century, the membership of the churches started to face significant decline. Besides some spiritual disagreements, the inner city churches like the one on South College Street faced another issue – the movement of the population towards the suburbs as the city expanded. The declining membership of three churches – South […]

Read More 5. The Union United Free Church

6. University of Edinburgh Reading Room

The church building was acquired by the University of Edinburgh in 1961 and soon became one of its reading rooms. Sadly, it was impossible to find any visual material from this time. However, some memories from this period still remain. Peter Freshwater, the former Deputy University Librarian, and a student at Edinburgh in the early 1960’s […]

Read More 6. University of Edinburgh Reading Room

7. Before Reconstruction

When the Main Library was opened in 1969 on George Square, all the reading rooms could be relocated there, and their buildings were put to other uses. This marked the start of one of the saddest chapters in the history of the building. Following the reading room’s relocation to the Main Library, the building became […]

Read More 7. Before Reconstruction

8. Reconstruction

The architects of the refurbishment project were Reiach and Hall. The works were started in 1994 and finished in late 1996. The shell of the building was category b listed, and it was essential to keep it intact. However, much of the interior – including the timber galleries and the plasterwork, had to be removed […]

Read More 8. Reconstruction

9. The Study Space and Exhibition

For one year, 2022-23, South College Street Church is home to the Edinburgh Futures Institute. In order to make the space more home-like, the EFI Creative Projects Team brought in a curated selection of artworks, photographs, commissioned signage, large-scale printed cloth banners, stickers and specially-designed wallpaper, and a selection of plants. The majority of the […]

Read More 9. The Study Space and Exhibition

10. The Future of EFI

Following its short stay at South College Street, in Autumn 2023 the Edinburgh Futures Institute will move to its new permanent home in the former Old Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh on Lauriston Place. It is expected that the new building will become an attractive hub for learning, events and various community activities. The building will […]

Read More 10. The Future of EFI