IT has been described as one of the most important buildings in the Borders.

And the historic Polwarth Church is about to be brought back to life as a theatre.

The current building, which dates back to 1703 but incorporates sections from as far back as the mid-13th century, has been closed as a place of worship since 2004.

It was later sold by the Church of Scotland to neighbouring Marchmont Estates and has remained vacant ever since.

But plans by Marchmont Farms Limited to re-open the building as both a church and a theatre have been approved by Scottish Borders Council.

A spokesman for the local authority said: "Polwarth Church would be repurposed from its existing use a church to become a building that could be used as a church, music hall and theatre.

"Whilst the planning service acknowledge that it may be unusual to find a music hall or theatre in a rural location such as this, it would repurpose a building that would otherwise lay vacant - thus having the potential to fall into a dilapidated state.

"The proposed development would repurpose and provide security to a listed building that is of great significance, safeguarding it for some time to come.

"Polwarth Church's intended use would be directly related to leisure and recreational purposes.

"The principle of development is considered to be acceptable."

It is believed there has been a Christian Church on the site since at least the tenth century.

But it was following the Reformation that it entered the history books.

Sir Patrick Hume, who was a strict Presbyterian and brought up at Polwarth, studied law and represented his country Parliament.

But the defender of the Covenanters was forced into hiding after being implicated in the Rye House Plot to murder Charles II.

For four weeks he hid in the vaults of Polwarth Church - being supplied food by his daughter Grizell - until making his escape to Europe.

He lived under cover, with a price on his head, in Utrecht assuming the alias of a surgeon called Dr Wallace.

It was some four years later in 1688 that Sir Patrick Hume returned to Scotland with William of Orange.

His estates were restored to him and in 1696 became Lord Chancellor, and honoured the next year with the title Earl of Marchmont.

Hume financed the rebuilding of Polwarth Church in 1703.

The approved plans for the A listed building will see minor interior and exterior alterations carried out.

The Laird's door to the south elevation will be reinstated and a dilapidated lean-to store to the north will be removed.

Internally, the pulpit and alter rail will be fitted onto casters to allow for flexibility in use of the space to adapt from a church to theatre and musical venue.

The plans also include a new outbuilding which will be used for toilet, changing and ticketing facilities.

The local authority spokesman added: "The proposed external alterations to the church would be of an appropriate scale, character and appearance, which would improve the church's condition and overall appearance within the locality."