which consists of the villages of Crich, Fritchley and Whatstandwell.

A brief history of Crich Baptist Church

by Alan S. Flint


photo of Baptist church

The purchase of the old Wheeldon House, in the Market Place, by the Baptists was not without a degree of difficulty. Indeed, the church’s report to the Local Baptist Association in 1876 reflects the apparently ongoing controversy: “We have not yet got our new chapel property signed over to us: our solicitors have entered the case in chancery. We hope however, it will ere long come out on the right side. The property and site is a very desirable one for a chapel, as it is in the centre of the village and Market Place. The cost of the purchase is £660 in the first instance, but we fear more will be added by law, which causes us much anxiety as we are poor.”

A painting of the Manor House, depicted from what I imagine would have been what we now know as ‘The Jubilee’, showing its formal gardens, surrounding cottages, a view across the Market Place and up Bowns Hill with the line of Cromford Road clearly identifiable, presently hangs in Chiddingstone Castle, in Kent. It hung I believe, in the old house before it was purchased from the sale of the effects of the Manor House and taken down to Kent. On this painting, a sketch of which is in Geoffrey Dawes’ book (A History of Crich), the Mansion House (the one across from the present Post Office), the former home of a Mr. Saxton, can be clearly seen, as also can the Mount at the top of Bowns Hill. I cannot be certain as to the date of the painting but it is likely somewhere between 1710 and the mid 1730s.

In the end wall of the cottages that now comprise the Baptist Manse there are two apparent doorways built directly on the top of one another. Dr. Patrick Strange of the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust once advised us that his examination of the two doorways led him to conclude that they were, in his opinion, distinctly Tudor in appearance, but could be older.
The Crich historian Joan Wragg always used to maintain that the remains of the Summer House belonging to the old Manor House still existed. The remains she identified as the original Summer House sadly seem to get less with the passage of years. Its decaying stone walls have been covered by years of shrubbery, but when looking beyond the new house that has been built on Sandy Lane they are just visible. As a matter of some small interest we know from our records that in 1878 the Baptists of that time took the slates off the old Summer House and put them on the eaves of the cottages.

At some point the cottages, now the Manse, had been thatched, as remnants of old thatching pegs were found in the roof-space by Dr. Patrick Strange when he examined the site for us some years ago. Of more interest to Dr. Strange was the fact that the roof had been supported by a series of short crucks, which he suggested were of some antiquity.
In 1970 when repairs were being carried out to the floor of the Baptist Chapel Sunday School the well of the old Manor House was discovered: it was 18 feet deep to water level, and had 13 feet of water in it at the time.

The New Chapel

It would perhaps be too time-consuming and not of compelling interest to go into the minutiae of how the new church was built, but suffice it to say that the width of the chapel was determined to be the same as the old house, 38 feet.

One would imagine that some of the stone from the old house would have been incorporated into the building, but we can say for sure that approval was also given to Brother Fantom to “cut stone out of the quarry for building the new Chapel.” This would likely have been the nearby Parish Quarry, although stone was at some stage taken from Duke’s Quarry at Whatstandwell for wall copings.

An estimate from Isaac Petts for building the new chapel, of £349-17-00, exclusive of materials and foundations, was approved. The cost though was considerably more than this estimate, because records state that even by 1881 the debt outstanding on the new place was still over £1500.
The windows were obtained from a firm in Derby. The old pipe organ also came from Derby (they still had to pay for someone to have lessons to learn how to play it). The pulpit, placed centrally, was designed and built specifically for the church.

The memorial stones that can be seen on the front of the church were laid in 1877, and each person invited to take part in this ceremony was given a silver trowel and a wooden mallet to mark the occasion. As the present Secretary I feel honoured to currently hold the mallet given to Mr. Samuel Bennett on that memorable day, July 11th, 1877. A record exists which lets us know that Wingfield Brass Band was present on this august occasion, and for their services received the sum of £2. Once the legal issues had been resolved work must have proceeded quickly as the 1877 Association report tells us that “the walls were up to the first floor windows.”

Our books tell us that the Baptists of 1878 received the princely sum of £50 following the sale of the old Meeting House they had left down Roes Lane. We are led to believe that the last service in the old building took place in 1878, as the new chapel was opened in July of the same year (one report does say August). The friends at the now closed Mount Tabor Methodist Chapel allowed us the use of their schoolroom for the tea.
An interesting report to the Local Association in 1879 observes: “The past year has witnessed the opening of our new, commodious and beautiful chapel, situated in the centre of the Market Place, It has cost about £2,400 towards which £900 has been realised. The opening services were held last August. The interior of the chapel is very compact and is pronounced the nicest country chapel in the county. It contains a good organ. The congregation is much improved since we left the old chapel. There is a new clock put in the front elevation, which cost £50 … the funds for the clock were subscribed by the public.” (Please note the present clock is not the original, but interestingly the cost was again partly supported by public subscription.)

The most well-known General Baptist of the late 19th century, Rev. John Clifford, preached twice at Crich, once in August 1879, and again in July 1881.

Postcard courtesy Joyce Lester

Gas lighting at the Baptist Chapel in Crich

Gas lighting comes to the Baptist Chapel in Crich



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