which consists of the villages of Crich, Fritchley and Whatstandwell

Nonconformist Chapels in Crich

J. Hodgson, S. Hodgson and D. Cooper

Taken from the WEA booklet written to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977.

In addition to its splendid Parish Church Crich has four non-conformist chapels. This article describes them and some other chapels in the hamlets around Crich.

The oldest of Crich's chapels, is the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel opened in 1765. It is still used today for regular worship. It is with pride that we record the visits of John Wesley in 1766 and 1770. The external structure of the church is very similar to the original design, but alterations have been made inside by way of improvement. A balcony provides a clear view of the original pulpit from which John Wesley preached and which is used today for special services.

The records of the trustees yield some interesting insights into the running of the chapel. For example it is recorded that in 1864 a load of coal costing 8s. 8d. was purchased for heating. At the same date the trustees paid £1.2.10V2d for sufficient paraffin and candles to meet their requirements for the year.

The second of the Methodist chapels in Crich is that of the Primitive Methodists. This chapel is situated just off "The Common" behind the "Rising Sun" inn. Opened in 1855 it was used regularly for worship until 1967 when it was closed. Known locally as "the Prims" the chapel had a fine balcony. Adjoining the main building was another large room which housed the Sunday School.

Notable features of this chapel were the altar rail, communion table, cross and hymn-board all made by Mr. J. Argile, a local craftsman, and presented to the chapel as a memorial gift. These pieces can now be seen in the Wesleyan chapel where they were given and re-dedicated following the closure of the Primitive Methodist chapel.

The United Methodist Chapel is the third of the Crich chapels to be mentioned here. The chapel is known locally as Mount Tabor. Opened in 1864, this chapel was built by local quarrymen who gave their spare time to its building. Before and after their day's work in one of the quarries in the district they spent some time working on the construction of the chapel. For a time, before the building of the National School, the lower area of the chapel was used as a school room, each child paying 6d per week to attend. Nowadays this same area serves as the Sunday School.

Unlike the other Methodist chapels of Crich "Mount Tabor" has no balcony. This is replaced by tiered seating. The most notable item in the chapel is a splendid pipe organ.

The first Baptist Church to be built in Crich can be found in Roes Lane and is now a joiners shop. It was founded in 1839 and by 1853 arrangements were being made for a gallery in the chapel.

Between 1860-61, the church had a minister named W. Shakespeare, who was dismissed when it was learned he had applied to be a minister of a Unitarian Chapel.

By 1875 the chapel was in a dilapidated state and so the site of the present chapel was purchased for £660 as it has "... been felt desirable to a more general and central place."

The site contained a large old Mansion House and four cottages. The well for the Mansion House was discovered in 1970 when a rotten floor board was replaced in the Sunday School. The well was 18 ft. deep to water level and had 13 ft. of water.

By 1876 preparations were made for stone laying. Brother Fantan was to cut the stone out of the quarry, and Mr. Towe promised the lime. The memorial stone was laid on July 11th, 1877.

The new clock was installed in 1959 as the old one had long been out of action.

The church is now part of a group ministry with the Swanwick and Wirksworth Baptist Churches.

The strength of non-conformity in the district around Crich is shown by the presence of chapels in many of the hamlets around the village. The hamlet of Fritchley has two chapels and a church. The church serves also as the village school and is today attended by approximately one hundred children. The association of the church with the school dates from the construction of the building in 1869.

The benefactor of the school was Miss Annie (sic. It was Emma) Hurt, a member of a prominent local family. The first headmistress of the school was Miss Susanah Rodgers who conducted the first class on the 3rd January, 1870. Schooling here was slightly cheaper than at Mount Tabor, each child at Fritchley paying 4d per week for lessons.

The Congregational Church stands on the edge of the village green, at the centre of the community. The church was built in 1841, but the present facade is not the original. Inside there is a pipe organ. There is also a large school room adjacent to the church which today is used as a canteen for the school children. The church is still in use for services today.

The Primitive Methodist chapel in Fritchley was erected in 1829. By 1862, however, it was necessary to rebuild the chapel. One of the congregation at this chapel, Henry Sulley, is commemorated by a wall plaque. Born in 1820, Sulley became an expert stockinger whose work was exhibited in the Great Exhibition. Queen Victoria was so impressed by the work that she ordered a pair of fine cashmere stockings. Like other small chapels this one has tiered seating rather than a balcony.

A Quaker meeting room was established in Fritchley in 1869 and a new meeting house in 1897. You can read more about this building in the article beginning on this page.

The hamlets of Wheatcroft. Whatstandwell and Crich Carr all have non-conformist chapels. The chapel in Wheatcroft is believed to date from the end of the seventeenth century and could accommodate approximately 40 worshippers. The Primitive Methodist chapel at Crich Carr was built of stone given by a local quarry owner, Mr. J. Sims, who personally laid the foundation stone in 1877.

Mrs. Joyce Hodgson – housewife - has lived in the village all her life. She has many local interests including education and local history.

Susan Hodgson – born in Crich, is employed as a bank clerk. Is assistant Guide Guider and enjoys camping and music. Interest in history began after a G.C.E. course on the History of Crich.

Dave Cooper interested in local history, particularly of Crich area. He is a school teacher in Matlock.

See photographs of Crich churches and chapels, plus more information –

Places of Worship Album

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