This pleasant side of the Calton Hill, known as the "green side", is an area of historical interest. In 1518 ground was conferred to "the Freris Carmelitis for theyre Chapel of Holy Cross". After the reformation the buildings fell into neglect. Although not one stone of this foundation remains, an official of the Carmelites in Rome, until recent times, still bore the title "Il Padre Priori Di Greenside".
In the 16th century, the highly contagious, deforming disease of leprosy was common in Scotland. The remains of the monastery buildings were used as a leper colony. An area of Greenside was also at that time given over to fairs and jousting at which, it is said, Mary Queen of Scots was a spectator.
The present church, a daughter church of St Cuthbert's in the West End, was built to a design by the architect, James Gillespie Graham, in his "robust Gothic" style, and it opened its doors for worship on Sunday the 6th of October 1839 . This was to serve the residents of Playfield's Georgian terraces that encircle the Calton Hill.
There have been many notable ministers and members of the congregation. One family deserves a particular mention, the Stevenson family. High in merit in the roll of famous engineers, together with Watt and Telford, stands the name of Robert Stevenson. Among his works was the design and erection of twenty lighthouses in Scotland including what seemed to be the almost impossible Bell Rock Lighthouse.
Robert Stevenson, an elder, took much interest in our congregation and in the care of the church building. This work was continued by his three sons who also founded, in memory of their father, a chapel in the area of lower Greenside for the benefit of the poor of the parish.
One of these sons, Thomas, also an engineer, was father of Robert Louis Stevenson, the poet and novelist, and there is no doubt that he attended as a boy. He referred to Greenside in his "Random Memories" as "The Church on the Hill". The Church is also mentioned in his book "Tales and Fantasies".
In recent years the work and witness of Greenside has been greatly strengthened by unions with other congregations in this area. In 1974 we united with Hopetoun Church in McDonald Road, in 1975 with Abbey Church at Abbeyhill and in 1978 with Hillside Church (formerly known as Lady Glenorchy's North Church) next to the Playhouse theatre.
The wills of Robert Stevenson, Robert Louis Stevenson and James Gillespie Graham, Greenside Church architect, can be found at http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/.
The records of Greenside Church up to 1901 can be researched in the National Archives of Scotland without charge. Lists of these records can be found on its website at http://www.nas.gov.uk.