The Catholic Apostolic congregation moved out in 1958 following the death of their priest. The church stood empty from 1958 until it was taken over by the Reformed Baptist Church to whom the building was sold in 1974. Initially the nave was used for worship, then only the narthex. Eventually the church furniture (stalls, organ pipes, font etc) were disposed of so the nave could be used as a warehouse by the Banner of Truth publishing house. In 1988 the church was sold to a property developer who obtained consent for conversion of the building into offices (including a free-standing structure in the nave which would have blocked the view of the murals) but the scheme was never implemented. During the 1990s the church was a night club and entertainment venue ‘Cafe Graffiti’, with performances held in the main church but most activity being in the basement rooms.
Long-term lack of maintenance led to water getting into the building from failing gutters. By the 1980s, water was pouring down the walls, causing severe damage to the murals. Growing awareness of the importance of the work of Phoebe Anna Traquair and local concern over proposals for uses unsympathetic to the building and detrimental to the amenity of the area led to the formation of the Friends of Mansfield Place Church in 1992 and, to turn aspiration into action, Mansfield Traquair Trust in 1993.
By this time, the City of Edinburgh Council had been concerned for several years at the deterioration of the building. The City Council used its powers to undertake emergency repairs in 1993 to stop the worst of the leaks and commissioned Historic Scotland to undertake emergency stabilisation work to the murals in 1993 and 1995. By these actions, the rate of deterioration of the building was slowed and the murals were held on the walls, giving Mansfield Traquair Trust time to put together the rescue package of use, user and funding.
The City Council part-funded a feasibility study commission by Mansfield Traquair Trust which identified possible uses for the building and gave the Trust an indication of the likely costs of repair and conversion. At this time, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations became a partner in the project as future tenant should the Trust be successful in acquiring the building. The newly created Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the project a grant in November 1996.
With Mansfield Traquair Trust established as a credible potential developer with an end-use, end-user and the bulk of the funding in place, the City Council in 1997 served a repairs notice on the then owners followed by a compulsory purchase order. When the compulsory purchase order was contested, the City Council authorised an emergency repairs notice. This pressure from the local authority encouraged the owners to sell and the Trust purchased the building through an intermediary in February 1998.
After the building had been purchased, emergency repairs were immediately
carried out to give the Trust time to undertake the detailed design work
required before the main building repair contract could be tendered.