A Big Well-come in Derbyshire

12 January 2023

Wellspring Wirksworth is one of four places of worship to be found in Wirksworth, a small town situated within the Derbyshire Dales, just the south of the Peak District National Park. It was inaugurated as a Methodist/Baptist LEP in September 2014, after several years of joint leaders meetings, vision evenings, and shared services. Deciding which building to retain was probably one of the first major decisions to make. Both buildings dated from the late 19th century and had serious limitations. The Methodist worship area had been modernised with carpet and flexible seating, whereas the Baptist worship area had fixed pews and a sloping floor. The Baptist hall and kitchen were better, but the Methodist building was in a more prominent position in the town. The Baptist church had no land or space around it, whereas there was a yard at the back of the Methodist building. As selling both properties and rebuilding from scratch was not an option, it was decided to sell the Baptist premises and adopt the Methodist building, which was was completed in October 2014.

Meanwhile, the newly appointed Trustee body began the exciting work of uniting the two congregations; we quickly adopted the strapline ‘Doing Church Differently’, as patterns of worship, meetings, and mission events were planned. We were clear we wanted to be neither Baptist nor Methodist but a new church, Wellspring, that was enriched by both traditions and sought out different ways of being church. We wanted to be open and available to our thriving and busy town where many leisure and educational groups needed spaces to hire but with only one large hall and inadequate kitchen, we were limited in what we could do.


Following the appointment of a full time Baptist minister in 2017 (whose previous career had been in property), we began in 2018 to consider seriously the possibility of building on the yard that was used as a tiny car park. Initial plans were drawn up by a church member and this inspired us to what was possible.  A town-wide consultation process began and there was a lot of enthusiasm and support from voluntary groups, other churches, schools, and charities.  An architect with proven experience working with churches was appointed, and soon came up with an imaginative and exciting design which made really good use of the small space, offering a commercial standard kitchen, coffee bar area, a refurbished community hall, a wide new entrance with staircase up to the worship area, a medium sized meeting room, and on the 2nd floor a large storage area and a church office.  We were very grateful for the scale model that accompanied the plans, as many of us could not believe all that was possible in such an unprepossessing space!  The design can be viewed here.  


Planning permission was granted in October 2018, tenders were invited in the autumn of 2020 and a local company was appointed. Due to the effects of Brexit and the Covid pandemic, the building costs had risen significantly beyond those predicted by the Quantity Surveyor and a value engineering process was undertaken to identify savings that would bring the cost of the building closer to the funds we had secured at that time. Nevertheless, we were still faced with a significant funding shortfall but after prayerful consideration, we took the decision to proceed with the project in the firm belief that that the necessary funds would be raised.

In November 2020, work began on clearing the site and we immediately hit our first problem. Fill deposited some 40 years ago was found to be contaminated, necessitating a number of expensive lorry trips to a specialised tip, delaying progress and eating into the contingency budget. Once this issue was resolved, we were able to bury a time capsule in the foundations, telling the story of the life and activities of the Church. As work progressed, the builders uncovered a number of other problems related to the original C19th building including dry rot, and electrical and drainage issues, all leading to further costs and delays.

Developing the Annex ran in parallel with work led by one of the managing trustees for Wellspring to be recognised as an eco-congregation.  While we were able to incorporate a number of energy-saving measures in the new building, budget constraints meant that difficult trade-offs were sometimes necessary. Nevertheless, in April 2021, we were successful in achieving a silver eco church award from A Rocha.

well-spring-worship-areaWhen in 2021 the new building slowly took shape, the sense of awe and excitement grew – we couldn’t wait to get into the new part – the Annex – and the completely refurbished old building.  After inevitable delays, the keys were handed over and in April 2021, several hundred people came to a Big Welcome weekend to look round and to marvel at the transformation. A few months later, the potential of the building was beginning to be realised by both church and community - several people have joined the worshipping congregation, and the hall and meeting room were beginning to be well used as well as the kitchen and community hall. Our prayer, grounded in our Mission Statement and new strapline, is that in all that the building offers and becomes, God will be made visible.


Most of the early funds were raised by church members, notably by buying plants from wholesalers and selling them to the public. Nevertheless, at the time that we started talking to architects and the Planning Authority, we had very little funding in place.  In retrospect, this was not as rash as it appears, since possessing an architect’s 3-D model and outline planning permission served us very well later in convincing big-money donors that we were in earnest. 

We applied successfully to the Methodist Circuit and District, to TMCP, the Connexion and Methodist Insurance.  A number of national and local non-denominational charities and the county council also awarded us generous grants.  We soon learned that every charity has different objectives, asks different questions and wants figures grouped differently so in preparing funding applications, each application needs to be tailored to the objectives of that particular charity. Nor is the potential size of the grant commensurate with the amount of work required in submitting an application.

Our applications were assisted by the fact that we are active in our locality (dementia café, free meals, parent & toddler, brigades) and that we had carried out a survey of the local community as well as that our town is scheduled for new housing.  


We decided not to apply to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and were unsuccessful with the local Landfill Communities Fund and with the National Churches Cornerstone Fund.

As noted above, soon after building work started, unforeseen problems with the site and existing premises became apparent and the projected cost rose way above the level of funding we had secured.  At this stage, we had to fall back on our members: no longer just to engage in fund-raising activities but to dig urgently and deeply into their pockets for sacrificial donations and ten-year loans.


Organisations and funders supporting the project comprised Allchurches Trust Ltd; The Beatrice Laing Trust; British Infant Schools Charity for Wirksworth; Derbyshire County Council Community Priorities Programme; East Anglia Methodist District (The Hunter Rowe Trust); East Midland Baptist Trust Company Ltd; The Garfield Weston Foundation; The Joseph Rank Trust, Longcliffe Community Fund; The Methodist Connexional Priority Fund; The Methodist Insurance Fund; Mid-Derbyshire Methodist Circuit; The Norwood and Newton Settlement; Nottingham & Derby Methodist District; Open Gate Trust; Rotary Club of Wirksworth; Trust for Methodist Church Purposes (Crossfield Agnew Trust); The proceeds of sale of Wirksworth Baptist Chapel; Wirksworth Charities Plant Stalls; Wirksworth Hidden Gardens & Courtyards; Members and friends of Wellspring Church; The community of Wirksworth and district.


From the start of the project, and despite a number of set-backs, there was never any doubt that an outstanding community resource could be created. The new building was designed around the needs of our church and local community and six months on from opening has attracted a wide range of users such as U3A groups; Christian Aid; Amnesty International; Women’s Institute; Transition Wirksworth (a local eco group); Derbyshire County Council; choirs; ecumenical meetings; a Ukrainian conversation group and the Wirksworth Arts Festival.  At times all of our spaces are in use simultaneously but the impact is far greater than merely providing rooms ‘for hire’. Wellspring has partnered with some of these groups to provide: a summer school teaching sustainable cooking skills to disadvantaged teenagers; a monthly Repair Café; and a Ukrainian social.

Now that we have suitable space, a children’s Summer Holiday Club was run during August and has led to more children coming to our Brigades and a separate group formed for older children.


Having never had second a meeting room this beautiful new space has come into its own - used as a prayer space, for evening communion, and Bible studies.

Pre-existing monthly ventures such as Memory Café and Easy Meals have benefitted from our enhanced premises.

Our café is not just ‘a nice place to have coffee after a service’ and is frequently full of ‘non- church’ folk. The stylish new street-level entrance certainly helps to create a non-threatening environment, as does the platform lift.

All this endorses our vision to create a community building in which prayer and worship takes place – Café services have been held in the café, and around fifteen new people have settled with us for Sunday services in our refurbished worship space on the first floor (itself able to be let out for larger meetings utilising the new AV system).


Looking back, we might describe the above as organic growth that has happened because of our new building. Looking forward, Wellspring is well placed to respond to the challenges of the ‘cost of living crisis’ by offering Warm Spaces to our community. Many hundreds of people have crossed the threshold during and since our Big Well-come weekend in April, and the potential for further growth is enormous.

Click here to learn more.  
For further information, please email our Minister, Rev. Kevin Price