After a year of discussion, on the 31st October 1978, four Edinburgh churches, Christ Church, Morningside, Morningside Congregational Church (where Eric Liddell was a member and taught Bible Class - now known as Morningside United Church), Morningside Baptist Church and North Morningside Parish Church agreed: "To encourage the setting up of a Centre as proposed, subject to sufficient interest of individuals within each church joining the Centre as individual members." The notes of the time go on to say: "Subsequent circulars and signatures establish that such interest greatly exceeds the minimum required." A steering committee was then appointed to progress the proposal.
"The Steering Committee set up by the four churches two years ago has now completed its work.. Your steering committee now asks for your full support in setting up and establishing the Holy Corner Church Centre." Purpose of the Centre: "To act on behalf of Morningside Baptist Church, Christ Church Morningside, North Morningside Church and Morningside Congregational Church as an expression of their joint Christian witness to further the provision of community services to all members of the community of whatever age and whatever circumstance, irrespective of denominational life." They state that: "Whatever we do apart we can do more effectively together." The meeting held on 30th January 1980 for the inauguration of the Holy Corner Church Centre became "an historic milestone in the life and development of our churches".
Charitable status was granted in July 1981.
In October 1981 the Centre purchased North Morningside Parish Church for the princely sum of £20,000.
In October 1982 Morningside United Church (an historic union of members of the former North Morningside Parish Church and Morningside Congregational Church) gave an interest free loan of £10,000.
In May 1984 the Council of the Holy Corner Church Centre agreed the setting up of a separate trading company. "The Sycamore Cafe" provided teas, coffees, snacks and lunches at reasonable prices. It also sold cards, books and souvenirs.
In 1986 the Pastoral Foundation was established in offices in New Hall. The Pastoral Foundation was originally set up to provide training services for ministers and church leadership teams. Over the years they have developed into a highly regarded counselling service that is now known as The PF Counselling Service.
As plans got underway to refurbish the former church building by holding an architectural competition, the then minister of Morningside United Church, Revd. J. Stewart Miller suggested linking the Holy Corner Church Centre name with Eric Liddell. On Feb 23rd 1987 the jury met to consider competitors' plans and choose a winner of the competition to design a Centre capable of serving the local community well into the 21st Century. Nicholas Groves-Raines Architects was chosen as the winner. April 1987 was a busy month in which the trustees agreed that the development and building scheme should be promoted as the "Eric Liddell Centre". The 1987 AGM reports progress and growth in the following activities: Fellowship of Healing, Pastoral Foundation, Lunch Club, Napier Club, Job Club and The Sycomore. It was also agreed that a central office for the benefit of churches and Centre should be set up. It was noted that they would require to raise £1m for the building scheme.
The Eric Liddell Centre Appeal was launched on 18th February 1993. The Executive Committee advised the Board on 17th November 1993 that a tender in the sum of £598,695 had been accepted. By this time £410,604 had been raised. The Centre continued to develop new services including The Corner, a drop in service for people with mental health problems created in partnership with Christ Church , Morningside. The Tuesday and Thursday Clubs were also added to the Centre's portfolio in an effort to provide specialised day care for people with a diagnosis of dementia. A report by one of the trustees, Professor John Richardson, on the future management of the Centre in 1993 recommended the appointment of a manager for the Centre. A group was set up to progress the recommendation by "bringing in a person who could drive through sufficient activities to make the Centre financially viable". Some photographs taken during the rebuilding work. There are more here:
Phase 1 of the Eric Liddell Centre development was completed and opened in 1994 at which time the Centre was visited by HRH the Prince of Wales. Many of the Centre?s users still talk about their delight at meeting and chatting to Prince Charles!
The 1995 AGM heard of the appointment of a Community Projects Manager who started in October 1995 initially funded for two years by the three local churches. Operating in the completed ground floor of the Centre and in the former church hall, the Centre had approximately 300 users attending eight groups at this time. There were 2 tenancies. The Centre was also working closely with the newly set up 3Ms Development Project, a partnership of local charities, community groups and politicians, who were committed to researching the needs of the local community.
The 3Ms Social Needs Survey was published in November 1996 and was to hold a pivotal role in the future development of the Centre. In addition to the support that this research provided for the Centre and other local groups, it also highlighted the need for youth work in the area. The Centre is proud to have been a founding partner of the 3Ms Millennium Volunteer Partnership that was more recently renamed the 3Ms Youth Partnership. The Partnership was set up to address the need for youth work in the local community. The Ca(I)re Programme for Edinburgh's carers was set up to put the "I" back into carers lives, through running free courses to give them time away from their caring duties.
The Liddell Viewpoint programme commenced in November 1997. Meeting in the common room at Viewpoint Housing Association's premises at Gillespie Crescent this programme provided offsite, specialist day care services to people with a diagnosis of dementia. Recently, this service was relocated to the Centre's Bradbury Suite. The amalgamated service was registered with the Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care during 2007 and received its first inspection in February 2009. You can search for the report at the Care Commission website or download it directly from here.
By December 1998 an additional £1.2m had been raised for Phase 2 which was completed by November 2000. The Centre acknowledges, with thanks, the financial support provided by the National Lottery Charities Board; The Bradbury Foundation; the Tudor Trust; the Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust; the Lankelly Foundation and members who contributed to phase 2. The Business Plan of the time shows the Centre being used by 28 other groups and 446 users per week and anticipating growth to 746 per week on completion of Phase 2.
In 2002, The Sycamore Cafe underwent a revamp and changed its name to The 1924 Gold Medal Cafe. In the autumn of 2004, Mrs Patricia Russell (Eric Liddell's eldest daughter) and other members of the Liddell family attended the opening of a permanent exhibition of photographs depicting important moments in Eric Liddell's life in The 1924 Gold Medal Cafe. It continued to serve the community as Cafe Gold until it was closed in March 2009. The photographic exhibition has been relocated within the Centre.
With the support of Historic Scotland and Heritage Lottery, over £450,000 was raised to complete Phase 3 of the Centre's refurbishment. These Phase 3 works were completed in early 2008 and included the restoration of many of the Centre's wonderful stained glass windows and repairs to the tower and roof of the former café.
A new Capital Appeal was launched to (amongst other things) improve the access onto, and movement around, the ground floor of the building with a new disabled access ramp, Centre reception and coffee counter.
After £116,000 was raised for the Capital Appeal, work began on the building of the above access ramp, new reception and upgraded kitchen in the autumn. Tots Togs, a charity shop selling quality donated babies and young childrens wear was also opened in November.
London Olympic year proved to be a very busy year in the life of the Centre. Along with visits by numerous TV and radio crews and journalists, the new access ramp, Centre reception and upgraded kitchen were opened by Patricia Liddell Russell along with The Lord Provost of Edinburgh in June. Cafe Connect, a new Centre cafe run by volunteers was also opened. A permanent exhibition area on Eric Liddell's life and times was opened on the ground floor of the Centre. Shortly after, Sue Caton and Joan Nicol (Eric liddell's nieces) joined Scotland rugby legend Scott Hastings and the Centre's Fundraising Manager, Ewan Hastings, for a live BBC World Service show, which was beamed from the Centre to an estimated worldwide audience of 40million listeners. Local author Alexander McCall Smith joined "Chariots of Fire" film Producer Lord David Puttman and Sue Liddell Caton (Eric Liddell's niece) as a Centre Patron. The Centre's "secret" back garden was transformed from a jungle of overgrown weeds to an oasis of calm as a new resource for the clients of the Centre's Day Care service.
A new charity shop, The Bookroom, was opened in April selling donated books. Money was donated by a member for a new plate-glass window in the former church entrance, to help open up a new, formerly unused part of the Centre at the foot of the NW tower area. Thanks to funding the Centre was able to employ a co-ordinaor to help expand the fledgling Ca(I)re Programme Befriending Service.
Another enterprise, Eric’s Emporium, opened in April beside the other two charity shops. Along with Cafe Connect this created the world’s first charity shopping mall. A new service, as part of the Ca(I)Re Programme, Day Breaks gave carers and those they care for, time together doing healthy activities and art and crafts.
Since its establishment the use of the Centre has continued to grow to now servicing over 180 local groups, charities and companies serving approximately 2,000 people, of all ages, every week of the year. Nine other charities occupy office space in the building. We give thanks for a generation of members, volunteers, trustees, the public and numerous funders who have given their time, expertise and love to ensure that the vision they were called to achieve became and continues to become reality.