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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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