Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Hidden corner of Old Town set to be transformed

A storytelling garden will be created at Trinity Apse, a hidden medieval relic in the heart of the Old Town.

Mar 20, 2013

The new initiative is part of the EWH Green Heritage project funded by the Climate Challenge Fund, with additional support from the City of Edinburgh Council.  

EWH will be working with young people from Panmure St Ann’s Centre, the Canongate Youth Project and the Get Ready for Work scheme, which helps people aged 16-18 who are not in training, education or employment. The young people will be attending horticultural training, gardening workshops and biodiversity activities to gain the appropriate skills. There will also be an opportunity for hands-on training in conservation, through work to the carved stones still on site.

The finished garden will be used as a community space for organic gardening with the help of the Patrick Geddes Gardening Club, but also as an atmospheric setting for storytelling sessions and drama workshops.

Naomi Webster, Green Heritage Youth Officer for Edinburgh World Heritage said: “This project is a great opportunity to involve young people in regenerating a corner of the World Heritage Site, and to create something that all the community will enjoy. Trinity Apse is also one of the treasures of the city, and its quirky history deserves to be properly told. ”

Cllr Richard Lewis, Culture Convener, City of Edinburgh Council, said: "The creation of Trinity Apse Garden is a fascinating project, combining education and practical experience with conservation and archaeology to create a brand new and quite unique visitor attraction in the heart of our Old Town. I look forward to enjoying the finished product in the summer."

An additional part of the project will be to interpret the rich history of Trinity Apse for visitors. It was originally part of Trinity College Kirk, built around 1460 but then taken down in 1848 to make way for Waverley Station. In the 1870s the apse was reconstructed in Chalmers Close in the Old Town as part of a new church, but in the 1960s this was demolished leaving behind just the medieval building.

Left: Trinity College in the mid-1700s.

The important role that this medieval building plays in Edinburgh’s history will be reflected in the choice of heritage plants for the garden, as well as the incorporation of archaeology currently on the site into the design.  

The project is supported by the City of Edinburgh Council and its near neighbours the Scottish Book Trust, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Carrubbers Christian Centre and the Cockburn Association.

Trinity College Kirk was founded in 1460 by Mary of Gueldres in memory of her husband King James II. With the building of a railway station in 1848, the Kirk was distmantled and each piece of masonry numbered, to allow it to be reconstructed on another site.

The plight of the Kirk was the cause of much controversy, with Lord Cockburn and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland leading the calls for its preservation. Cockburn described its demolition as, '...an outrage by sordid traders [who] would remove Pompeii for a railway, and tell us they had applied it to a better purpose in Dundee.'

However it was not until the 1870s that the remains were re-used as part of a new church in Chalmers Close.

The painted altar panels from Trinity College can be seen today in the National Gallery of Scotland. These have been attributed to the Flemish artist Hugo van der Goes, regarded as one of the most important early Netherlandish painters. The National Museums of Scotland also hold the communion silver and many carved stone details from Trinity College.

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