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Interpretation Board
Interpretation Board

Heritage information board marks first step in preserving Temple Old Kirk

A group of dedicated volunteer residents has successfully installed a new interpretation board at Temple Old Kirk in Midlothian, thanks to grant-funding from the Greencoat Carcant Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund.

More visitors are coming to Temple village, and the group has ambitious plans to help preserve the historically significant 13th century site for years to come.  

Temple Old Kirk dates from at least the 13th century, and is believed to have prior connections with the Knights Templar and the Knights of St John.  It has long been a well visited local architectural and historical feature, with over 100 visitors a month, but has fallen into dangerous disrepair over time.  By 2019 it had been fenced off for over two years because of deterioration of the stonework in the walls.  A 30-year old interpretation board was equally faded, barely legible and offered negligible information about the church’s historic significance nor the community that lived in Temple, with visitors resorting to knocking on nearby doors to ask residents for information.

The Kirk is owned by Midlothian Council but was not on the Buildings at Risk register.  A draft Moorfoot Neighbourhood Plan (2017) had identified the need for community input into plans for restoration, after a previous proposal from a group associated with the Knights Templar with no local representation had caused a local outcry and was rejected by the Council.

Fortunately, a group of local volunteers got together with a shared ambition to help preserve the building and encourage support for its potential as a significant feature of local heritage.  With a grant of £1,500 from the Greencoat Carcant Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund, the group was able to take the important first step of creating a good quality, locally informative interpretation board.  

The group has faced delays in receiving formal permissions and agreements, compounded by restrictions and supply issues during the Covid pandemic.  Consultation with residents, conservation architects and Historic Environment Scotland also took longer.  Undaunted, the group worked tirelessly, finally succeeding in installing the board at the site entrance in 2023.  The group re-designed the Board to give space for local village and churchyard messages and events.  

The interpretation boards make the Kirk a more attractive place to visit, reducing annoyance to site neighbours and encouraging regional tourism.  Well-known coach and mini-bus tour companies now come by regularly with visitors to enjoy the churchyard.  Having now also registered as a Scottish charity, the group has ambitious plans to further develop the site in partnership with the Council and heritage organisations.  Over 50 local residents are now involved in taking plans forward.  

Chair of Temple Old Kirk Friends, Mali Purkayastha, said: 

All of us at Temple Old Kirk Friends, Trustees, Members and Volunteers, are delighted to see such a material improvement to the visitor experience in the churchyard. The new interpretation panel has made it possible for us to present more information in a more useful format as well as updates on activities and events happening in the churchyard and village, and will be an important way for us to communicate developments and progress with the wider project of renovation and repairs. We look forward to lots more happening in the churchyard and to more visitors being able to appreciate the wider significance of the Old Kirk for the local area and its residents.

Malcolm Jack, Community Funds Manager at Foundation Scotland said: 

Temple Old Kirk Friends have faced so many challenges to get this tremendous new interpretation board in place.   I know it marks an important milestone in their longer-term plans to preserve this locally important heritage site for the benefit of residents and visitors for years to come.  We’ve worked alongside the group and the Fund decision-making Panel to extend this grant as flexible as possible over the last four years, and the group deserves huge credit for its perseverance in the face of so many unexpected obstacles.