Edinburgh’s abandoned church which housed a huge cannabis haul worth £75,000


St Kentigern’s Church on the Union Canal was closed in 1941, then used as a nursery and garage before being completely abandoned – or so it was thought.

In April 2015, police seized 105 cannabis plants from St Peter’s Place Church. Detective Inspector Stuart Harkness, who investigated the find, gave the drugs a market value of up to £75,500.

Police followed intelligence gathered from local residents and worked with the Organized Crime and Counter-Terrorism Unit to carry out the raid. In the same month, officers discovered £65,000 worth of Class B drugs at Tiki Tots in Morningside in the attic of the games centre.

READ MORE –Edinburgh’s abandoned church will be turned into a new luxury housing complex

Many had assumed that St Kentigern had become completely derelict, with attempts to demolish the church having been rebuffed 10 years earlier. The developers have submitted plans to demolish the building and erect a modern structure with a bar, restaurant and private apartments.

Edinburgh’s heritage watchdog, the Cockburn Association, chimed in, with director David McDonald saying: “As well as the attractive scale and aesthetics of the building, it is also one of the very few buildings in historical interest on this section of the Union Canal.

“Saving this building will help save a diversity of building styles on the canal frontage.”

The Cockburn Charity fought to save St Kentigern’s Church from demolition (Image: Wikimedia Commons – Kim Traynor)

With the 19th century church saved, it is now part of modern Union Canal developments – probably not what the architect had in mind when building the church in 1897.

On the Union Canal, Scottish architect John More Dick Peddie designed the Episcopal Church shortly before working on the Caledonian Hotel. The church takes its name from Saint Kentigern, otherwise known as St Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow.

Born near Edinburgh in the 6th century, Kentigern’s grandfather was King of Lothian. When her mother became illegitimately pregnant, the King of Lothian sent her and her unborn child adrift on the Firth of Forth.

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They reached safety at Culross, and when Kentigern reached adulthood he traveled west and laid the foundations of what we now know as Glasgow. As for St Kentigern’s Church, it had a relatively short life and closed in 1941.

Five years after the discovery of the drug, a Scottish housing charity has been given the green light to convert the church. LAR Housing Trust, which has more than 30 sites across the country, has been granted permission to convert the building into mid-rise rental accommodation.

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The organisation’s chief executive, Ann Leslie, said at the time: ‘The houses will have a really positive impact on the local communities in which they are located.

“This site does just that, as the church is a beautiful building in a beautiful part of town and once converted will allow families who have their roots in the area to be able to stay there. It’s a huge and complicated job and we will soon be launching a call for tenders for the work.

The derelict building is currently being renovated (Image: Google Maps)
The derelict building is currently being renovated (Image: Google Maps)

“This site certainly has a colorful past, but the exterior facade of the building is stunning and once converted it will be a special place to live.”

Work was due to start in spring 2021, but was delayed due to covid-19. A short walk from the site, Edinburgh Live found workmen transforming the forgotten church – retaining its historic look.

Luckily, the neon glow of the builders’ high-vis jackets was the only green thing in sight.


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