In 1659 a boarding school for boys without fathers was set up in Heriot’s Hospital. Although there was a chapel in the building the pupils also attended the services in Greyfriars where a section was set aside to accommodate them.
The church was converted into a barracks when Oliver Cromwell’s troops occupied Edinburgh in 1650. Heriot’s was also used to accommodate soldiers who had been wounded at the Battle of Dunbar. The church was used as a military barracks for three years. In addition to ransacking the church, the soldiers destroyed the pews and fittings.
The Reverend Robert Traill was appointed minister of Greyfriars in 1649. Born in Denino in 1603 he studied at St Andrews University. He was chaplain to the Scots Army at the Battle of Marston Moor.
The Reverend George Gillespie was minister of Greyfriars from 1642 to 1647. Born in 1613 he studied at St Andrews University.
The National Covenant was signed in Greyfriars kirkyard in 1638. The stone stands at the gable end at the east end of the church close to the main gate. Andrew Ramsay was the minister when the historic document was signed. He was elected Rector of Edinburgh University in 1646.
The foundation stone for Heriot’s Hospital was laid in 1628 on the land lying to the west of Greyfriars kirkyard. The money to build the hospital was provided by George Heriot the King’s moneylender. The church tower can be seen to the left of the hospital.
A sum of money was set aside by the Town Council to build a church at the southern end of Greyfriars burial ground in 1602. The buttresses, stones and doors from the ruins of the Convent of St Catherine of Siena on the Burgh Muir were used to build Greyfriars, the first post-Reformation church to be built in Edinburgh. The building was finally completed when the tower was finished nineteen years later.
Greyfriars Kirk which stands in the centre of the City of Edinburgh is closed during the present global situation. The kirkyard is still open to visitors. The church is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year.