Former Perth city centre church set for new lease of life

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St. Paul's Church redeveloped steeple

Photo Credit: Perth & Kinross Council

More than two centuries after it was built, a Perth city centre church is about to get a new lease of life as a unique outdoor performance space. Perth & Kinross Council bought the dilapidated Category B-listed St Paul’s Church in January 2017 in order to return the 1807 building, which occupies a prime spot on Perth’s Old High Street, back into public use more than 30 years after it closed its doors for the last time.

While the building’s unique octagonal shape has been retained and its steeple and clock repaired, the roof of the church has been removed to create a distinctive outdoor public arts and performance space. The £2.2 million project has seen the restoration of features such as the crenelated wall head and bartizans – the corner turrets – that had previously been removed because of safety concerns. These now give the building a more castle-like appearance.

Traditionally, the clock tower has only ever had three faces but the removal of the roof means that it now boasts clocks on all four sides of the steeple. It’s not just the appearance of the building that has been rejuvenated. The bell mechanism has also been restored with the original bell in place. The bell will sound during the day once the building opens – a sound that has not been heard in Perth for decades.

Despite repeated efforts over the years, no viable use for the building had been found. The building was becoming dangerous and harming the appearance of a prime High Street location as it deteriorated. Perth & Kinross Council then purchased the building and work began on the church in 2017 with scaffolding due to come down at the end of May 2021.

The open air venue will be available for public use and can host events during the day and evening, with the space suitable for everything from concerts and performances to markets.

This project will return St Paul’s Church to its rightful place as a Perth landmark

Perth & Kinross Council leader Councillor Murray Lyle said: “After the church was closed in 1986, it fell into a state of disrepair and several plans to convert it fell by the wayside. “The Council stepped in and our investment has not only restored the building but transformed an eyesore into a new civic space that all of Perth can be proud of. “It not only ends decades of neglect, it will also complement the cultural and events spaces in Mill Street, Perth Theatre and, once completed, Perth City Hall. “Perth is becoming an increasingly vibrant place to live and work and this will play a huge part in our recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic.”

St Paul’s Church was built in 1807 and was one of the first churches built in Perth after the reformation. To transform the church, the roof was removed and work carried out the stabilise the walls and the steeple. While working on the steeple, rotting oak beams were discovered. These had to be removed and replaced with concrete. All stone work and rendered paneling infils required the use of lime mortar in accordance with Historic Environment Scotland guidelines.

05 July 2021 By Oliver Johnstone