The Church of Scotland has put its only church in Gibraltar up for sale, marking the end of the history of worship for the Kirk in the territory that dates back nearly two centuries.

The closure of St Andrew’s Church of Scotland comes as part of “radical reforms” over the next five years to ensure the Kirk can continue to pay ministers’ salaries and maintain its old properties.

The foundation stone for the church, located in the centre of Gibraltar, was laid in October in 1852, before it opened for service in May of 1854. 

The church was originally built as a garrison church for Scottish soldiers, who formed part of a number of Scottish regiments that were present in Gibraltar at the time. 

The building has gone up for sale for £1.3 million, with the listing describing it as 'an opportunity for retail, commercial or residential conversion'.

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Despite the sale, the church’s protected status under Gibraltar’s Heritage and Antiquities Law will ensure that the listed building will continue to form an essential part of the territory's architectural heritage.

Speaking at a farewell service in November, Sir David Steel, Governor of Gibraltar, expressed his hope that it would remain a place of Christian worship, and said that the widespread sadness felt by the Gibraltarian Presbyterian congregation, whose origins date back 182 years, should be balanced against the pride felt over the way it has served the community for almost 170 years.  

The Church of Scotland said that declining numbers in the congregation meant it could no longer maintain the building.

The Herald: St Andrew’s Church of Scotland was opened in 1854.St Andrew’s Church of Scotland was opened in 1854. (Image: Getty)

The sale of the church comes following the dissolution of the only Church of Scotland congregation in Spain in the town of Fuengirola in January last year, which was linked to St Andrew’s Church of Scotland until 2002.

The combination of the membership becoming older and the effects of Brexit and Covid-19 were cited as reasons why it was longer possible to sustain the congregation, the beginnings of which dated back to 1964. 

It comes amid reforms which began in 2019 following the approval of a radical action plan by the General Assembly, aimed at ensuring The Kirk is "lean and fit for mission in the 21st century” and achieves its mission of "inspiring the people of Scotland and beyond with the Good News of Jesus Christ through enthusiastic worshipping, witnessing, nurturing and serving communities."

The Church of Scotland said the reforms will streamline church structures through reducing the number of presbyteries, undertaking a large-scale review of Church buildings and developing new and creative mission plans that can be carried out with 600 full-time ministries supported by local elders and members.

A Church of Scotland spokesperson told The Herald: “The Church of Scotland is currently going through radical reforms that are necessary to determine how limited resources should be allocated over a five-year period to ensure that the Church can deliver ministry and mission for the future. 

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“Every presbytery, including the Presbytery of International Charges, has had to take difficult decisions in order to create a sustainable mission plan that accounts for reduced numbers of ministers and fewer resources.

"The former congregation of St Andrew's Gibraltar was dissolved at the end of 2022 after struggling with declining numbers for many years.

“A final service was held in the building last December, when thanks was given for the 168 years that the building had hosted worship. The church opened in 1854 to serve the Scottish military community, which was then serving on Gibraltar, and the building is listed under the Heritage and Antiquities Act.

“Without a congregation in Gibraltar, the Church of Scotland can no longer maintain the building and as a charity we have a legal duty to put it on the market and seek a fair price.

The Herald: GibraltarGibraltar (Image: Getty)

"We recognise that the building holds special significance for Gibraltar residents and any change to its future use will be subject to obtaining the necessary statutory consents. At the same time, this landmark building now needs a new purpose to safeguard its future use and the Church is open to offers from those with a practical vision for that future.

"With the right vision and planning, we are confident that a suitable future purpose can be agreed with Gibraltar's Ministry for Heritage."

The sale of St Andrew’s Church of Scotland in Gibraltar is one of dozens of churches, manses and offices that The Church of Scotland is selling off as congregations fall.

More than 40 of its properties are currently on the market or under offer, totalling £7.5 million.

These include a five-bedroom detached property in Edinburgh’s Gilmerton, which is on the market for £520,000, the A-listed Glencorse Church in Midlothian, which is on the market for £310,000, and the historic St Columba Gaelic Church in Glasgow city centre, which is currently under offer.

At present, the Kirk manages one of the country’s largest property portfolios, comprising more than 5,000 properties.