For more information, do contact Pastor Chris Hand on (01773) 853180 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every edition there is an article from the Baptist Chapel. Use the links below to read these articles from the archive or read the latest one by clicking here.
Each denomination is able to point to their history, and as Christians who have the sub-title Baptist, we too are proud of our rich heritage of faith. Locally, it would appear that the evangelical zeal of the General Baptists in Derby led to the establishing of a number of village churches. Of those days, concerning Crich, the scantiest records remain, but they do show that a certain “Mr. G. Pike”, who I believe to have been the minister of Brook Street Chapel in Derby, “introduced preaching here (in Crich) in 1826.” There was no Baptist Chapel in Crich until 1839, the first Meeting House being down Roes Lane. “Ebenezer Chapel” was built, and there the Baptists met until they erected the new chapel in the Market Place, the official opening service being in 1878.
Our story concerns men and women of faith. Very few of them grabbed the headlines, and they were, essentially, ordinary folk. Farmers, quarry workers, manual labourers, housewives, lead miners, a few business people: none were remarkable, in one sense at least, but each played their part in establishing the Baptist cause in Crich, and it is on their legacy of faith and belief in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that we in our day now stand.
It is interesting to note that the Baptists of those early days drew their congregation from different places. Members came from Wheatcroft, Moorwood Moor, Holloway, Whatstandwell, Fritchley, Wingfield Park and Parkhead as well as Crich itself. Family names that we know today are found in our records: Cowlishaw, Berrisford, Bennet, Haslam, Petts, Dawes, Mills, Sims, Sheldon, Steeples, Mitchell, Harrison, Barnes, Wragg, Storer, Greatorex, Greenhough, Sellors, Swindle, Haynes and quite a few more that would be familiar to many of us.
Indeed one of our members, a certain Job Berrisford, lived with his wife Elizabeth and their children down the Dimple, somewhere near the Hat Factory. We know that he played a full and active part in the life of the church. Sadly, however, he died in tragic circumstances. Even as his time on this earth drew closer he evidenced such faith and belief in God, as his almost fi nal words tell us. It is recorded of him, “Mr. Job Berrisford, a member of the General Baptist Church, Crich departed this life February 8th 1843, in the 33rd year of his age. The subject of this brief sketch was accidentally killed on the limestone railway. He survived four hours after the circumstances transpired, testifying to all around him the happy effects of that religion which alone can make a dying bed feel – “soft as downy pillows are”. His constant language was, “Bless God, Oh what a good God I have. Sinners do not feel what I feel; if they did they would obey Him.” He expired with similar sentiments upon his lips. His mortal remains were interred in the Baptist burial ground. On the following Lord’s Day, in the evening, his funeral sermon was preached by the minister of the place, to a large and deeply affected audience, from Jeremiah 31:17, “There is hope in thine end”.
The fact that the first Crich Baptists had a burial ground is fact, but one thing has always defeated me: actually knowing exactly where it was (is). If any readers of this article know of its location, or can help me find it, I would be really very grateful.
One amusing anecdote that always makes me smile concerns the organ that they had in the ‘old place’. At a Church Meeting in December 1859, it is recorded thus: “That the Harmonium be withdrawn for the space of six months and Bro. Wildgoose be solicited to learn to play the same.”
In 1861 a remarkable event took place. The area, and indeed the Baptists, experienced a real revival. It is perhaps best described by the Minister of the time, a Mr. Shakespeare, when he wrote: “It should be here recorded that meetings for prayer and short exhortations had now been held, chiefly at friends’ houses, every evening (except Friday) for a month. The like gracious influences had been at work through the whole, and the like circumstances (i.e. awakened sinners commencing to pray earnestly for mercy and salvation) had attended all. Nor was this extra machinery set at work to bring about a revival. The revival came first, when Minister and people were not calculating upon it, and the extra meetings, as a matter of necessity came afterwards. The church was remarkably quickened, nearly every member being conscious of the Revival’s powerful influence. Such was the earnestness and importunity felt in prayer that words seemed feeble. The whole soul was poured out before God, and when words had ceased, sufferance was found in the deepest groans. There was no listlessness, no indifference: responses were many and earnest, and the prayer of one was the prayer of all. All classes out of the church were affected.” Such a move of God had its effect upon the community; it became a better place, there was less drunkenness, homes were more peaceful places and as far as the Baptists were concerned there was a sudden and dramatic increase in the number of people attending the church services and requesting baptism.
The Baptists gradually outgrew the old chapel down Roes Lane, even though they had added a balcony in 1853. They also felt that the area around the chapel was a little run down, and when the opportunity came to move they took decisive action. A site in the centre of the village became available, when Wheeldon House, with its gardens and adjoining cottages, was put up for sale. It went to auction – therein lies a tale – and in 1875 it was sold to the Baptists for the sum of £660. They proceeded to demolish the old Manor House and built the new church, to the same dimensions, on the same site. The initial estimate for the new church was £349-17-0. This was substantially under what it actually cost, as in 1881 the debt on the new building was still over £1500.
I will add a little more of our story in the next issue. Readers may also like to know that the two talks on the “Baptists in Crich” given at the Baptist Chapel will also be recorded and put on our website at some point.
Alan Flint, Sep 08
It is remarkable the number of things many families are able to fit into the average week. Besides school, there are events, activities, outings and a host of different things that take up our time and attention. Indeed it can be quite an eye-opener reading Christmas circulars sent by friends in different places. We realize then just how busy some families are and how much they pack into their week. Recently we have been told that we are far wealthier than we were twenty years ago. The evidence from how much we fit into our leisure time certainly seems to bear this out.
But now here are some questions. What about God? Where does He fit into our thinking and planning? Do we have time for Him and for learning about His will and commandments? The answer to these questions is often, of course, in the negative. We have no time for Him and think little about Him. So what can we do about this?
Continuing our family theme through the spring and on into the summer, we are holding more of our Family Services on Sunday evenings. These are services lasting about forty-five minutes which are specially designed with the young in mind. There are readings from the Bible and a message which is given with the help of visual aids. We sing hymns and we finish with refreshments. It is suitable for all children of primary school age. These services are suitable for parents too! The dates are given below and you will be most welcome.
So we urge you to make time to hear the word of God for yourself and for your family. The Bible has wisdom for all ages and the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified has power to bless our families in 2008 and always.
‘Family’ is a much discussed topic at the moment. See how often in newspapers, on the television and in political debate, the issue of ‘family life’ is raised. Of course the spectrum of opinion is very broad and the diversity of views very great, but it is undeniable that a lot of people are thinking seriously about the issue and wondering where we are heading as a society. For example, recent reports have unearthed a sense of unhappiness as being the prevailing experience of many young people. Others wonder at the effect of long working hours on the quality of our interaction with our children. Then there is the effect of the media and culture at large. Perhaps you are asking questions and wondering what lies ahead if we follow current trends. Does the family have a future? What is the place of marriage? Has society moved on so much that we should welcome the idea of parents having a more marginal role in teaching the young? Indeed, have the roles of ‘mother’ and ‘father’ now lost any distinctive meaning so that we can virtually dispense with them altogether?
We all know situations where family life has failed totally. The list of such failures is long and sad: people who let us down; betrayals of one kind or another; promises that were not kept; and people we trusted who failed us completely. There are the stories of marriages and families that fell apart for one reason or another. It may well be that we ourselves have been victims of such failure and still have to live with the aftermath of it. Fathers who were not there for us. Tragedies that took away key figures from our lives when we were growing up. Mistakes we may have made in our youth or choices that were made for us that turned out to be disastrous.
So next we ask ‘Does the church have anything to offer?’ We believe it does. We have a book – the Bible- which though old in years, has wisdom for every age and generation. It offers analysis and predictions for societies. It lays down ground-rules and articulates principles. It may not always make for comfortable reading but it has proven its value through time and continues to see off challenges to its authority. After all, we believe it was given to us by a God who knows all things and possesses wisdom and truth.
In view of the importance of the issue we at the Baptist Church are beginning a long-term work to offer encouragement and counsel on family life. We are building up a resource base that is there for any in the community who may be looking to be better informed or who are looking for some help. We are gathering together articles and books, reports and statistics, which set out principles, give some insight or simply lay out some facts for us to consider. We are planning meetings for the years ahead to stimulate thought, challenge preconceptions and offer helpful counsel. We are starting a new page on our web-site which gives helpful links and provides stimulating counsel. Look out in the days ahead for events we are staging and do contact us if there is any help we can give.
For those who are hard pressed by the credit squeeze and the higher cost of living, Christmas can come as unwelcome news. There is the pressure to give presents with money which, strictly speaking, isn’t there. The debts can pile up and many are left to regret at leisure a budget overspend on Christmas gifts.
Yet Christmas is a time for presents. Christmas is often the season when we open our hearts to each other and give tokens of thanks to those whose efforts and love we appreciate. In like manner, it is also the time when the God of heaven and earth presented the human race with a gift of love.
The giving of this gift was totally unprompted. For example, there was nothing God saw on the earth in the lives of fallen men that drew His admiration or appreciation. No nations or peoples excited His interest or impressed Him as being perfect like Himself. Rather He saw a world under the power of sin and in rebellion against Him. As a God of holiness, looking down on this situation, He could have done nothing and left us to suffer judgement. Christmas tells us, however, that He decided otherwise. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16)’.
Showing a concern and a willingness to forgive that outranks anything seen in the world of men, the eternal Son of God became a man and dwelt on earth. He lived in a way that proved His holiness and love. Finally, He paid to God the debt our sins had incurred by dying on the cross. Christ, this gift of gifts, opens the door to heaven for sinners who will receive His pardon and grace. Here is the best gift to receive at Christmas. Why overspend on gifts and incur financial debt when instead we can receive God’s special Christmas gift, His own Son, and have our debt to Him cancelled? We cannot answer your financial queries and troubles. But we can tell you about the greatest gift of all. Why not come and hear more?
The nature of family life in the UK in 2007 has been much in the news of late. Many of the perceived social ills and social needs of the day are being attributed by commentators to strains and breakdowns in family life. Neither are these issues which are confined solely to cities. They affect more rural areas like our own just as much. Some of the questions are quite fundamental such as ‘what is a family’? But we might also ask what we can do to encourage and support families. Indeed, does the family, as we know it, have a future?
So we are holding a ‘Family Life’ seminar on Saturday June 9th to look at some of the issues facing us in the Twenty-First Century. We believe the Bible remains as relevant today as it ever did in terms of its teaching. This will be our starting point. The day is being led by the Rev Selwyn Morgan from South Wales. He has many years of experience in the ministry, helping different families and teaching about family life in general. It is an all-day seminar starting at 10am and going through to tea-time. We shall be serving refreshments through the day and there will also be an opportunity to ask questions. We are sure it will prove to be a stimulating and helpful day. Do come if you can. You will be most welcome.
The present financial and economic climate has certainly inflicted a lot of pain upon many of us and our families. I do not know how you have been faring. But this Christmas may not be quite the Christmas you thought you would be having six months ago. This is before we have factored in uncertainty about job prospects, interest rates, mortgage payments and suchlike. It may not be quite as happy a Christmas as we might all have wished.
According to the wiser heads among the economic pundits, one thing the recent economic instability has proved is that the ‘herd mentality’ is alive and well among us. Many have wryly observed that people move money around (assuming they have any to move in the first place!) as they follow what the crowd is doing. Whether the crowd is right or not is a moot point. There will probably be much ink spilt in years ahead as we look back, with the benefit of hindsight, and try to work out how it all went so wrong. But that is tomorrow’s story.
So here and now is a simple plea for us to consider. Please don’t ‘follow the crowd’ this Christmas.
Firstly, don’t consign Christmas to the pigeonhole marked ‘fairy tales suitable for children only’. It is suitable for children. It is suitable for everyone. But it is not a fairy tale. It was an event prophesied many years before it actually happened, and it had eye-witness accounts to authenticate its reality. Christmas is worth serious investigation rather than just a casual glance. Stand out from the crowd. Have a closer look.
Secondly, please don’t follow many of the crowd who reckon that a bit of religion at Christmas and maybe Easter is enough for the year. A trip once or twice a year to the dentist might be all we need. God is worthy of more than this. If we have got as far as preserving Christmas from the ‘fairy tale’ pigeonhole, then we need to take a step further and learn the wonderful but serious lessons Christmas brings us. What might these be? Christmas tells us there is a great God of holiness who rules over all the earth. It tells us we are far from Him because of our sin but that He has sent His own Son into the world to save us from our sins. It is a message of peace and reconciliation between God and man. Through faith in His Son who came ‘down to earth from heaven’, we are brought into fellowship with God and can speak with Him in prayer. We have the opportunity to serve Him all our days – not just at Christmas or at Easter. Not just on particular days or Sundays but every day.
So perhaps consider not ‘following the crowd’ this Christmas. Come and find out about the Christ of Christmas for yourself. ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.’ We will be happy to welcome you to our services.
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.
As we leave our early Crich Baptists, having been with them as they moved into their ‘new place’, I want to leap ahead a number of years to the period when my father-in-law, Clifford Gration, was introduced into church life. He was I think in his 91st year when he died, about 8 years ago, but one fortunate day I asked him to put down some thoughts on the Baptists in Crich, and it is with a selection of those memories of his, in a future issue of CACN, that I hope to conclude this very brief look back at Baptists in Crich.
Alan S. Flint (Mar 09)