£100,000 for the next stage of our Renovation

Rare Neoclassical Edinburgh church gets share of £1 million grant to adapt it for the future  

In the changing landscape of Scotland, St Mark’s Episcopal Church in Portobello, Edinburgh is determined to adapt its church to make it fit for the future. And a share in a £1 million grant from the National Churches Trust will ensure this Category B Listed church is ready to serve the community for generations to come. 

The £100,000 grant will mean the church is able to make vital repairs to the floor, ceiling and external walls and windows.  

As the condition of the building deteriorates, the church faces crumbling plasterwork. This could present a safety risk if further large pieces fall with people in the building.  

Without these repairs, the church cannot proceed with the exciting plans to improve the facilities within the church. These include a new kitchen and accessible toilets, which will ensure the church can meet the needs of the local community and be a welcoming space for all. 

The church space is currently used for all sorts of community activities including coffee mornings, yoga and Pilates, book clubs, children’s drama and dance classes, concerts and exhibitions.  

Since Covid-19 the rental income of the church from the groups it hosts has decreased. By improving the facilities, the church will be able to attract a wider pool of groups to rent the space out to and provide a vital income stream to keep the church open and thriving today and tomorrow. 

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust, said:  

“The National Churches Trust is excited to be able to support St Mark’s Church to enable them to carry out urgent repairs. This will safeguard the unique heritage of this historic church and keep it open and in use for the benefit of local people.” 

“Whether seeking quiet reflection, access to community services or a place to worship, the National Churches Trust helps hundreds of churches each year and with the support of local people, keeps them thriving today and tomorrow.”  
Rev Canon Dr Sophia Marriage, Rector of St Mark’s, said: 

“This marks a significant milestone in our fundraising as we move towards the 200th anniversary of the church and work to ensure that the St Marks building and congregation can serve the people of Portobello in exciting ways for the next 200 years.” 

“We are immensely grateful for this generous grant of £100,000 from the National Churches Trust, which provides a massive boost to our ongoing fundraising work and considerably helps towards the repair costs which were the starting point for the vision to make the church more accessible, flexible and welcoming for worship and for the many different community activities that meet there.” 

“We are also greatly encouraged by the partnership that this grant opens up, which shows how much the National Churches Trust supports the vision for the renewal of community infrastructure at a time when increased fabric costs and the withdrawal of community funds threatens these spaces which are integral to the flourishing of people.” 

How the grant will help the church 

The grant will enable the church to make vital repairs to the floor, ceiling and external walls and windows. 

More about the church   

St Marks, built in a unique neoclassical style. The church was opened on 19 May 1826 and consecrated on 21 August 1828 by Bishop Sandford. 


St Marks was one of the first Episcopal churches to be built in the Edinburgh Diocese after the repressions of the Penal Laws that followed the Jacobite risings in the 18th century.  


The building has a category B listing and is of a villa like Neo Classical design, fronted with an imposing semi-circular Doric arched porch with flat topped dome which conceals a cupola lantern that lights the inner vestibule and stair to the gallery. 


St Mark’s Church, with its surrounding graveyard, is a landmark structure on Portobello High Street. The graveyard contains some architecturally significant monuments. Many of these monuments are attractive designs in a mix of Gothic and Classical styles. 


£1 million pounds of urgent funding for local UK churches  

The £1 million was made possible thanks to a £500,000 donation from a private donor to the National Churches Trust, the UK’s leading independent charity helping churches, chapels and meeting houses remain open and in use. 

With increasing numbers of churches facing closure, a heritage hero has helped raise £1 million to pay for urgent repairs at 18 historic churches across the UK. The 18 ‘Last Chance Churches’ all had one thing in common: they were in desperate need of funding to keep their buildings open and serving local people.  

This incredible gift led to an outpouring of wider support – with more than a thousand ordinary people, businesses and trusts matching this donation and raising more than £1 million for struggling churches. 

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust, said: 

“Churches are the beating hearts of communities. It is estimated they provide £55 billion a year in social good. If a church is not weatherproof and watertight, there is only so much they can do. Making vital repairs to these 18 iconic churches means that they will be able to stay open and in use for the benefit of local people. Food banks, warm spaces, community cafes and other vital services that are a lifeline for the community will now be kept open.” 

“All of these churches have communities that depend on them and were desperate to stay open. One of the churches we’ve helped – the oldest Catholic Church in the Valleys – has had to close 25 per cent of its church and can no longer run a warm space due to the failing roof.  This money is making a tangible difference to local communities right across the UK. Every church that is kept open keeps a community alive.”  

“This campaign provides proof that the public think that the UK’s historic churches, the services they provide, and their heritage are worth investing in.” 

Another brilliant Scottish church received a grant to help them stay open, thanks to this pioneering new way of being funded. You can read their story here.

Pioneering a new way that churches could be funded 

The UK has some of the most historic and beautiful churches, chapels and meeting houses to be found anywhere in the world. But more will close, ripping away vital community services, and destroying local heritage, if urgent action is not taken to fund repairs: 

·        In England, there are now 900 places of worship on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register – with 53 more added in 2023.  

·        In Wales, 25 per cent of historic churches and chapels have closed in the last decade. 

·        The Church of Scotland is actively planning to close as many as 40 per cent of its churches. 

Private philanthropy has an increasingly important role to play in helping to keep historic churches open and in good repair. Thanks to the generosity and imagination of a dedicated supporter of church heritage, we are delighted to pioneer how this can be successfully done through our match-funded ‘Last Chance Churches’ appeal. 

There is an opportunity to generate more private donations through tax relief or other financial incentives. In France, President Macron recently launched a plan to provide €200 million for repairs to historic churches over four years, with new tax incentives that effectively quadruple the value of private giving.  

In the UK, ways to increase private giving to church buildings could include a state matched funding scheme, with the value of donations doubled. 

Sir Philip Rutnam, Chair of the National Churches Trust, said: 

“The UK’s churches include nearly half our most important historic buildings. At present the burden of caring for this heritage falls almost entirely on local people – the same people who run an astonishing array of community services.  

“This is not sustainable, and it is clear that the future of thousands of buildings will be at risk unless we move quickly to a new approach. Our campaign has shown the potential for match funding and philanthropy to play their part in responding to the growing crisis.  

“We now need the next UK Government to act and to introduce a matched funding scheme that galvanises different sources of funding and secures these incredible buildings for the future.” 

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