Nonconformity played a large part in the religious life of the people of Somercotes, Leabrooks, Birchwood and Pye Bridge. Although many of the chapels which were opened in the 19th century have closed, several do still remain. The Anglican Church of St. Thomas was dedicated in 1854 and the Salvation Army has had a presence in the village since 1867.
There are many photographs of the churches and chapels in the Photo Gallery.
1. THE CHURCH OF ST. THOMAS, NOTTINGHAM ROAD, SOMERCOTES
Somercotes was, until 1835, part of the parish of Alfreton and the parish Church was St. Martin of Tours. As the population of the area began to swell many in the congregation who lived in Riddings and Somercotes found the situation unsatisfactory, and after a campaign to have their own parish and church, the ecclesiastical parish of Riddings was created in 1835 and the newly built Church of St. James opened. By the mid-19th century, the population of Somercotes was becoming much larger than the neighbouring village of Riddings and it was seen necessary to establish a Chapel of Ease under the direction of St. James.
In 1849 a small Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was built on Nottingham Road, where the Church of St. Thomas now stands. In the early 1850s there was division within the Methodist movement, and the Congregation of Somercotes, which kept faith with the traditionalist Methodist movement, agreed to sell this chapel to the Church Wardens of Riddings for a sum of £400.
An advertisement for the opening of the original chapel was printed in the Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties, on 6th April 1849.
OPENING OF THE WESLEYAN NEW CHAPEL, SOMERCOTES
The OPENING SERVICES of this Chapel are intended to be held as under:—
ON Monday, April 9th, 1849, the Rev. Dr. BEAUMONT, of London, in the Afternoon at Three, and in the Evening at Half past Six. On Sunday, April 29th, the Rev. D WALTON, of Bolton, in the Afternoon at Half past two, and in the Evening at Six. On Monday, April 30th, the Rev. D. WALTON, in the Afternoon at three, and in the Evening at Half past six. On Sunday, May 20th, the Rev. W. TARR of Wednesbury, in the Afternoon at Half past Two, and in the Evening at Six. On Monday, May 21st, the Rev W. TARR. In the Afternoon at Three, and in the Evening at Halt past six. On Sunday, June 17th, Mr. DAVID GREENBURY, of Malton, in the Morning at Half past Ten, and in the Evening at six. On Monday June 18th, Mr. DAVID and in the GREENBURY, in the Afternoon at Three, Evening at Half past Six.
A Collection at the close of each Sermon to assist in defraying the cost of the building. Tea will be provided on Monday April 9th, April 30th, May 21st, and June 18th, at 8d. each, the entire proceeds given to the Chapel Fund.
The same newspaper also printed a short notice regarding the opening: “NEW WESLEYAN CHAPEL, SOMERCOTES – It will be seen by an advertisement in another column that a new Wesleyan Chapel is about to be opened at Somercotes, near Alfreton. The Rev. Dr. Beaumont, Rev Danial Walton and the Rev W. Tarr will take part in the services. Mr. David Greenbury is also expected. From the well-known ability and piety of the various ministers, the services no doubt will be of a most interesting character, and our Wesleyan friends in that neighbourhood have our hearty wishes that their cause may be successful”.
Once the purchase had been finalised the Church Wardens laid out plans to have the building adapted for Anglican worship. Notices were printed in local newspapers, including the Nottingham Journal printed on the 17th September 1852: “TO BUILDERS—Parties desirous of CONTRACTING for the Work to be done at the NEW CHURCH at SOMERCOTES may see the Plans and Specifications by applying at the Parsonage House, Riddings, on and after Wednesday, the 15th instant. Sealed Tenders addressed to the Rev. John Mee, Riddings Parsonage, Alfreton to be sent in on or before Tuesday, the 28th instant. Lowest Tender will not necessarily be accepted. Riddings, September 8th, 1852”
The building work added a stone chancel to the existing brick built chapel after receiving £800 in a donation given by Thomas Haden Oakes, who also financed a stained glass window.
Dr. Lonsdale, the Bishop of Lichfield, consecrated the church and dedicated it to St. Thomas the Martyr, on 22nd July 1854. The stained glass window was placed in the chancel to commemorate the event.
The consecration was reported in the Derbyshire Courier on 29th July 1854: “CONSECRATION OF SOMERCOTES CHURCH - The new church at Somercotes was consecrated on Saturday last, with the customary solemnities, by the Lord Bishop of the Diocese. The church is capable of accommodating 450 persons, and will be a great boon to the parish. Divine service commenced at 11 o’clock, the Lord Bishop and the clergy walking in procession at that hour from the west door to the communion table, repeating alternately the 24th Psalm. The service of consecration was performed by the Lord Bishop, assisted by the Rev. T. Lund, the prayers and lessons being read by the Rev. J. Mee. The Bishop selected for his text the 25th chapter of Numbers, and the 12th and 13th verses: ‘Wherefore say, behold I give unto him my covenant of peace; and he shall have it and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.’ A collection was made, amounting to £34 17s 4d. The musical portion of the service was very efficiently performed the Riddings choir. On the conclusion of the service, the Lord Bishop, with the clergy, proceeded round the adjoining burial ground, and consecrated it.”
PHOTO: An early photograph of the original Church of St. Thomas
Kelly’s Directory for 1881 comments on St. Thomas’s as follows: “The chapel of St. Thomas was erected by subscription, assisted by a grant from the Incorporated Church Building Society in 1851 and restored in 1878.” The Incorporated Church Building Society was established in 1818 to provide funds for the building and enlargement of Anglican Churches. It is not known how much the sum borrowed for St. Thomas’s was.
As the population of Somercotes continued to grow more pressure was placed on the accommodation offered by the church. In 1887 further modifications were made in order to increase the capacity of the church, which resulted in its temporary closure. It re-opened at the beginning of October that year, in time for Harvest Festival celebrations. The Derbyshire Advertiser & Journal, published on 14th October reported on the event: “SOMERCOTES - Re-opening of the Church - On Sunday, Somercotes Church, which has been closed for alterations and repairs, re-opened, and harvest festival services were celebrated. An outer porch has been erected, and pitch pine seats for the choir placed in the chancel. By this means the church will seat a greater number of persons. Crowded congregations were present at each service, and collections were taken to defray the cost.” According to Kelly’s Directory of 1891, the church then had capacity for 500 worshippers.
An organ was purchased and installed in the church during January 1894. Prior to this it is likely that music would have been provided by an upright piano or harmonium. It was built by Messrs Lloyd and Co., of Nottingham. The Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald published on 13th January 1894 printed a long article on the dedication of the new organ, part of which is transcribed as follows: “ORGAN OPENING AT SOMERCOTES CHURCH - On Tuesday, in Somercotes Church, near Alfreton, the dedication and opening of a new organ took place in the presence of large congregations at both afternoon and evening services. The movement for the provision of an organ has been initiated during the ministry of the Rev. R. B. Davies, who a year or two ago went to Somercotes as curate-in-charge, alter successful work at the Blue Bell-hill Mission Church, Nottingham. Mr. Davies is about to leave Somercotes to engage in missionary work in Zululand, but before he bids farewell to his congregation the important movement for placing an organ of adequate power in the Church will, it is hoped, be in every way successful. The instrument, which was opened on Tuesday, has cost £280, and of this sum £180 has been raised. It is hoped that before the Rev. gentleman leaves the parish, as he is expected to do about Easter, the liberality of the supporters of the Church will have wiped off the adverse balance now remaining… The full contemplated completion of the organ will cost an additional £50, and it will be possible shortly to give the order for this desirable work to be done…” The article continued with a lengthy description on the technical details of the organ and a full transcript of the Dedication, conducted by the Lord Bishop of Derby. After a recital on the new organ there was a public tea, after which the congregation presented the Rev. R. B. Davies, with portable altar, which the newspaper reported “…will be of service to the reverend gentleman in his varied labours on the mission field.”
From its opening in 1854 the vicars of the Church of St. James at Riddings oversaw the running of St. Thomas’s, but in 1892 the Rev. R. B. Davies was appointed Priest-in-Charge. He remained at Somercotes until February 1894, when he left for his missionary work and was superseded by the Rev. C. R. Dickinson.
Although at Somercotes for a relatively short time, the Rev. Davies appears to have been very vocal in his support for the church and the local community, something that was carried on by his successor. By the time the Rev. Dickinson took office, there was already much discussion about the need to build a new church fit for purpose, and due to the growing population which was outstripping all of its neighbours, to have a separate parish for Somercotes.
The movement to support both the new church and the establishment of a separate parish had many well-known sponsors, including Thomas Haden Oakes and Charles Seely. Funds towards the building of the new church were raised through collections, bazaars, afternoon teas and dances, but substantial donations towards the cost were also received.
The Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald, published on 4th January 1896, printed an article on the subject of the church: “PROPOSED NEW CHURCH AT SOMERCOTES - SALE OF WORK - The Church people of Somercotes are working most assiduously to raise funds towards the erection of a new church, the estimated cost of which is about £4000. A few months ago a bazaar was held for the same objet, which realised £165, and in order to dispose of a number of articles that were not sold on that occasion a sale of work was held on Monday in the Boys' school. The opening ceremony took place shortly after three o'clock, and in a few remarks the curate-in-charge, the Rev. C. R. Dickinson, MA, stated that the matter of a new church lay very near to the hearts of church people in that locality, and it was by efforts of that kind, together with the donations from those interested in the good work, they hoped in the spring to be able to commence building operations. Some people had a good deal to say against bazaars, but it brought workers together and promoted a good feeling. They were glad to see Mrs Morewood present for she had kindly consented to open the sale of work. Up to the present, £1620 had been forthcoming, including premises. Since Colonel Seely gave his handsome donation of £1300, the Bishop of Southwell promised £100, Messrs Kempson &and Co., of Pye Bridge, £20, and a donation had been received from the Rev. R. H. L. Currey, vicar of St Luke's, Derby, formerly at Somercotes. They hoped shortly to have the plans of the new church, and anticipated making an appeal throughout the county for support. Mrs Palmer-Morewood, of Alfreton Park, said she was pleased to show her interest in the great work, and to perform the opening of the sale of work. She was glad to hear they had got half the amount required, and she hoped they would soon have the satisfaction of seeing the new church erection. They were fortunate in having the liberal assistance of Colonel Seely and Mr. Oakes, who were always willing to assist a good cause. She always felt the truth of saying ‘Where there’s a will there's a way;’ they were working with a will, and she hoped in a short time they would see the walls of the new church rising. It was her desire that that effort would bring in a substantial sum, and that ail might yield to the temptation of becoming the possessors of such beautiful articles that adorned the stalls.” The article continued with votes of thanks and other details.
The Rev. Dickinson left Somercotes later that year, and was replaced by the Rev. F. C. Mahony. It was the Rev. Mahony that would play a large part in successfully petitioning the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to establish the Ecclesiastical Parish of Somercotes. It was fitting, therefore, that when the new Ecclesiastical Parish was founded in 1898, the Rev. Mahony became its first vicar.
As Curate-in-Charge at St. Thomas’s there was, perhaps, no-one better placed to appeal to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners on behalf of the congregation, and explain to them the inadequacy of the current situation given the rapidly growing population and the plans to replace the church with a new building. The Commissioners agreed with the Rev. Mahony but there was a cost to this, of which the congregation was expected to pay a contribution of £1,000. This was raised through functions, events and donations.
On 6th December 1898 the Rev. Mahony was inducted as the first vicar of the new parish by the Lord Bishop of Southwell. After the ceremony, a supper was held in Boys’ school, which, according to local newspapers, was well attended. A collection was raised and the proceeds were donated to the building fund for the new church, which the congregation was still proceeding with.
By 1901, the funds for the new building were sufficient for work to begin. The Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald, published on 13th April that year printed another lengthy article on the subject, parts of which are transcribed as follows: “PROPOSED NEW CHURCH FOR SOMERCOTES …. It is a project to build a practically new church. The present edifice cannot adequately meet the demands now made upon it, both in point of convenience, comfort and adornment. Besides, the fabric was only erected to meet the demands of that time and it has never been looked on as being anything but a temporary erection…” By this time the Rev. Mahony had been joined by his brother, the Rev. W. P. Mahony, who was Curate at the church. The Diocesan Architect, Mr. Percy H. Currey submitted plans for the rebuilding of the church to the Church Council, which were duly passed. The newspaper articles again comment on the “handsome donations” received from Mr. James Oakes, J.P. and Sir Charles Seely, who, it is believed, both not only gave generous donations but were also passionate supporters and advocates of the vicar and his plans. The newspaper article continued, reporting on a speech given at the opening of a fund raising bazaar: “… They were glad to see Mr. James Oakes present and to find time to help them in the midst of a busy life as the vice-chairman of the County Council, as a magistrate and an active partner in the firm that bore his name. Like his uncle, Mr. Thomas Oakes, who for many years was a generous helper and supporter of religious and philanthropic work in the district, Mr. Oakes took a real, a true and a deep interest in everything that had a tendency to promote the welfare of the people who lived in that parish, and the parishioners whom they lived among. They were grateful to the family of Mr. Oakes and his family for the very handsome donation they gave to the Church Endowment Fund and now towards their Church Building Fund. They also deeply appreciated his kindly and friendly negotiations with Sir Charles Seely, the result of which that they were now able to invite tenders from builders and contractors for the erection of the church…”
Tenders went invited for the work which was awarded to the Derby firm of Ford & Co. Work began late in 1901. The following advertisement appeared in the Derby Daily Telegraph on 6th April the following year:
Wanted, Labourers and Stonewallers, at Somercotes Church – Apply to the Foreman on the job – Ford and Co.
As the work commenced the old brick nave was removed and replaced by a stone nave with north and south aisles to which porches, choir and clergy vestries were added. The walls were built of Coxbench stone with dressings of red stone from Coxbench and Chevin Quarries, and the roof made of pitch pine covered with boarding, felt and slates.
Once the rebuilding of the Church had been completed, it was capable of seating 412 worshippers, and was consecrated by Dr. Ridding, Lord Bishop of Southwell on 15th October 1902. (At this time all Derbyshire parishes came under the jurisdiction of the Dioceses of Litchfield or Southwell. The Diocese of Derby was not created until 1927).
A lengthy report of the consecration was published in the Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald on Saturday 18th October 1902. A full transcript follows, as written in the newspaper. (Note that the war referred to by the Bishop in his address is the Boer War, which ended on 31st May that year).
“NEW CHURCH FOR SOMERCOTES- Consecrated by the Bishop of Southwell - Wednesday was a red-letter day in the annals of the church at Somercotes, when a new church was consecrated by the Bishop of Southwell. The history of the church in Somercotes contains many varied chapters. Years ago, before Somercotes has attained extensive dimensions, it was under the care of the Vicar of Riddings. The ecclesiastical parish of Riddings joined the parish of Alfreton at that remote period. Up to the year 1852, there was no church accommodation in Somercotes but about then the necessities for it began to be manifest. At that time there was situated in the place a Wesleyan Chapel, near which was a tract of land which could be utilised as a burial ground. Dissensions had arisen in the society and records show that the members were not very contented. On February 10th 1852, an appeal was issued by a committee, amongst whom were Mr. W. Palmer-Morewood. The Rev. Thomas Lund, Rural Dean, the Vicar of Alfreton, Mr. Jas Oakes (now deceased), and the Rev. Jno. Wood, a late Vicar of Riddings, for funds to provide church accommodation in Somercotes. Finally, the chapel and the ground were purchased and the land was conveyed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners on the 5th June 1854. Services were commenced in that year by the Church. In 1854 a chancel was built to the chapel and on 22nd of July 1854 this was consecrated by the then Bishop of Litchfield as St. Thomas’ Church.
For many years the ministrations at this church were carried out under the supervision of the Vicar of Riddings until 1892, when the Rev. B. Davies was placed as Curate-in-Charge. His ministry closed in 1894, when he was followed by the Rev. C. R. Dickinson. The latter was succeeded in 1896 by the Rev. F. C. Mahony, who is now Vicar of Brassington.
Somercotes, before Mr. Mahony’s advent, had increased to such dimensions that it was evident the existing arrangements were not in the best interests of the Church, and Mr. Mahony set to work to put matters on a more satisfactory basis.
To make Somercotes a separate Ecclesiastical parish an Endowment Fund was opened. It was necessary to raise £1000 in the place, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners decided to add £700 to that amount in order to complete the scheme. With the liberal assistance of the family of Sir Chas. Seely, Messrs Jas. Oakes, Mr. C. R. Palmer-Morewood J.P., and others the money was raised , and on 29th of October 1898, Somercotes was made a separate Ecclesiastical Parish, and the Rev. F. C. Mahony was instituted to the living as the first Vicar of Somercotes.
Mr. Mahony then proceeded to raise funds for a new church, for which it was expected over £4000 would be needed. The old church only accommodated about 270, and a new church was absolutely necessary. On 22nd of August 1901, the Vicar and churchwardens were empowered to take down the nave, and build a new nave with north and south aisles, south porch, and vestries for clergy and choir. Plans were drawn up by Mr. Percy H. Currey, of Derby, and these were accepted by the congregation. The amount of the contract was £3912, while it is anticipated about £120 will be needed for chancel alterations. With other expenses it is estimated that the total outlay will reach about £4300.
Some estimate can be made of the way in which people have devoted themselves to the task of raising money when it is stated that the Vicar and his co-workers have paid now £3550 of the total cost. Valuable help has been received from Sir Chas. Seely and his two sons, Mr. C. H. Seely, MP and Mr. F. E. Seely, who gave between them £1700 to the Endowment Fund and the Building Fund. Messrs Chas. Oakes have also given the same amount to the two funds, while Mr. C. R. Palmer0Morewood has given £200. It should be added that Mr. Chas. And Mr. Frank Seely each gave also gave £100.
The first Vicar, the Rev. F. C. Mahony has not stayed in the parish to see the consummation of his two schemes, he having been preferred to the living of Brassington. His mantle has fallen upon his brother, the Rev. W. P. Mahony, who assisted his brother for several years, and who was instituted to the living on the 11th of May this year.
The church was originally a square brick building to which a stone chancel was added in 1854. This chancel formed part of a scheme of entire re-building, but this work was never carried out. The work jus completed comprised the removal of the old brick nave and the erection of a new nave with north and south aisles, porches and choir and clergy vestries, the chancel and organ chamber of the old church being retained. The new scheme required the erection of a much larger nave than was contemplated when the chancel was built, and the harmonising of the new and old portions was a matter of some difficulty. The church now, as completed, will accommodate 412 worshippers. The new nave is 57ft. long and the width of the nave and the aisles is 48ft. The nave is seated with chairs, and the pulpit, font and choirseat etc. are those which were formerly in use at the old church. The general contractors are Messrs Ford & Co. of Derby, the amount of the contract being £3912.
The pulpit used in the old church, which is retained, was erected in memory of Lady seely, the late wife of Sir Chas. Seely, by the workmen of Birchwood Colliery and friends in May 1896. Her death took place on December 8th, 1894. The choir seats have been renovated and the organ tuned and improved. A handsome oak eagle lectern has been purchased by the Ladies Working Party, and this was used for the first time on Wednesday.
Wednesday was the day fixed by the Lord Bishop of Southwell to consecrate the new church. There was a large congregation. Miss Seely and Mr. C. H. Seely MP, Major and Mrs. Leach attended, and in addition, Mrs. S. C. Wardell (Doe Hill House), Mr. J. G. Wilson, Miss Wilson and Mr. William Wilson (Alfreton), Mrs. Vaughan Radford (Carnfield Hall), Mrs. J. H. Lewis (South Normanton), Mr F. C. Pogmore, Mrs. W. Round (Stonebroom), Ald. Oakes JP and Mr. Chas. Oakes were also present. The clergy present were the Revs. W. P. Mahony (the Vicar), F. C. Mahony (Brassington), J. H. Lewis (South Normanton), H. Rogers RD (Riddings), R. E. St. Aubyn Arkwright and R. M. Cole-Hamilton (Alfeton), C. Harrison (Selston), W. Round (Stonebroom), G. E. Atkins (Tibshelf) and A. Cotton (Riddings). The Rev. A. N. Bax was the Bishop’s Chaplain.
The Choir and the clergy entered by the south door, and the congregation joined in singing “All people that on Earth do dwell”. This Vicar presented the Bishop with the petition for consecration, which he handed to the registrar, who read it aloud. The Bishop, having assented to it, he and the clergy, preceded by the churchwardens with their wand of office, walked in procession through the church repeating the 24th Psalm. The Vicar then presented the deeds of conveyance and endowment to the Bishop, who laid it on the Alter. The Bishop afterwards delivered the sentence of consecration, which was read by the registrar and signed by the Bishop, who ordered it to be registered in the Registry of the Diocese.
The Rev. F. C. Mahony then conducted a short-ended evening service, the lessons being read by the Rev. C. Harrison and the Vicar.
The Bishop gave an address, in the course of which he said that though the war was not desirable he ventured to think that it had produced many lessons which would make for the advancement and the prosperity of the nation, which had been awakened out of its lethargy and its sleep, to a point of thoughtfulness, progress and enthusiasm. There was a need for the nation to wake up in intellectual things, in educational things and secular things. As a nation they were called upon to work. They had reached a point of contentment and self-complacence, when they were not willing to work the hours they once did, and which they were once proud of doing. Just now there was a movement which concerned them all. Years ago their forefathers had fought for religious education, which now appeared to be attacked. Religion was one of the fundamentals of the greatness of the Empire. Were they to lose that religious aspect of their education? There was a need for waking up from sleeping in order to maintain the spirit in the schools.
An offertory was taken for the building fund and the sum of £33.7s.10d was the result. The choir rendered capable musical help, under the direction of Mr. E. Moore, the organist being Mr. S. Marriott.
After the service there was a tea in the National Schools, which was attended by over 100 people. Those who presided over the tables were Mrs. Hole, Mrs. Weightman, Mrs. Arnold, Mrs, Exon, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Bates, Mrs. Tarlton, Miss S. Smith, Mrs. Prince, Mrs. Hicking, Miss D. D. Hole, Mrs. Boam, Miss Mintoff and other helpers. In the evening there was service, the preacher being the Rev. G. E. Atkins of Tibshelf.”
Over the years the Church has had many benefactors who have helped not only with the fabric of the building, but also with the internal fittings. In 1896, Sir Charles Seely gave the carved ornamental stone pulpit to the church, in memory of his wife, Emily, as noted in the above newspaper transcript. The High Altar, Reredos and oak panelling were dedicated in 1910, in remembrance of Thomas Haden Oakes who did much for the spiritual and physical welfare of the local population. George Beastall gave the stained glass window which depicts the Resurrection in memory of his wife Ann which was dedicated in 1921 (George died on 18th November 1940 and his grave is located at the west side of the church}.
A Chancel Screen was given to the church by Ann Naylor, in memory of her parents and brother, but unfortunately this was damaged in the fire of 1980 and only the lower half along with two angels from the Upper Screen, still survive. A stained glass window in the Resurrection Chapel was given in memory of Mabel and Henry Hemstock and their infant son, also named Henry, while in the Sacristy a window was dedicated to Margaret Ellen Gillet in 1963, who was a verger at the church. On the south aisle is a window dedicated to Thomas Daykin.
Changes to the internal layout of the church have also taken place in the past. The organ console was originally in the Chancel, with the inner workings located in the vestry. The Vestry was converted into the Resurrection Chapel in 1948, and in 1958 the organ was finally moved to its present location. At the time it was situated on a balcony which was reached by a spiral staircase, but sadly this organ was destroyed by the 1980 fire and replaced with the present organ.
In 1945 electric lighting was installed in the church. A plaque on the wall in the sacristy commemorates the dedication and reads: “The electric light in this church was installed in October 1945 to the Glory of God and in memory of the Rev. Birtwistle M.A. and his fellow workers; Hezekiah Hicking, Daniel J. Jaques, Walter Poyser, James Tarlton, Edward Moore, Arthur Gillet, William Randle and Frederick Taylor”
A new Communion Rail was installed in 1963, along with the statue of Our Lady.
The first vicarage was situated on Somercotes Hill, across the road from New Street. Later, a former colliery manager’s house was leased by the Oakes family for use as a vicarage which was situated on Birchwood Lane. The present vicarage, sited next to the church, was built in 1964 on land originally owned by the National Coal Board. In 1970, part of the land was used for the construction of the Parish Hall.
PHOTO: A photograph of the Church of St. Thomas after the rebuilding in 1901
THE 1980 FIRE
On the night of the 30th January 1980, the church was devastated by a fire that gutted the roof and destroyed the organ. The damage was estimated at £200,000. It is ironic that the year prior to the fire the congregation had raised £10,000 to install new lighting and heating. The main aim of the refurbishment was for fire prevention.
The insurance did not cover the total cost of repairs and additional money had to be raised to meet the total cost. The Derbyshire Times Extra, published on 12th February 1980 reported: “Although St. Thomas’ Church is insured, thousands of pounds still need to be raised. Examination of the building revealed that a new base needed to be laid, and this is not covered by insurance. An appeal fund has been launched and letters are being sent to pubs, shops and places of employment in the area, in a bid to raise the money needed”
The flames of the fire were so fierce that they could be seen as far away as Swanwick. Many local people recalled the fire and the bravery of the congregation who formed a human chain, while the fire burned, to rescue as many of the furnishings as they could. The parish worked hard to raise funds for the rebuilding of the church which took over 12 months, during which the Parish Hall was used for Sunday morning services. The Church finally re-opened at Easter in 1981.
During the rebuilding work the font was moved from the back of the church to its current position. A glass screen was erected across the back of the church to form a foyer and a new sacristy was constructed in part of the north aisle.
PHOTO: A photograph of the altar at the Church of St. Thomas (2012)
A new organ, by J.J. Binns, was installed by Woods of Huddersfield, and dedicated on 4th March 1983, followed by a recital by Peter Gould, organist at Derby Cathedral.
THE FIRST WAR MEMORIAL
Like nearly all other towns and villages throughout the country, the people of Somercotes wished to commemorate the servicemen of the Parish who had lost their lives in the Great War. A public subscription raised funds for a tablet to be erected within the Church of St. Thomas, which was designed by Mr P.H. Currey of Derby. Sir Charles Seely was asked to perform the unveiling which took place on Wednesday, 28th July 1920.
The ceremony was reported in several local newspapers. The article published in the Derbyshire Courier on 31st July 1920 is transcribed as follows: “SOMERCOTES’S FALLEN - War Memorial Unveiled by Sir Chas. Seely - In the presence of a crowded congregation, Sir Charles Seely, Bart., on Wednesday, unveiled a tablet which has been erected in Somercotes Parish Church, in memory of those from the parish who made the supreme sacrifice in the war. The clergy present were the Rev. T. Bertwistle (vicar), Rev. W. P. Mahony (Derby, former Vicar of Somercotes), and the Rev. F. E. Christian (Vicar of Riddings). The choir rendered Sir J. Stainer’s anthem, ‘What are these arrayed in white robes?’ Mr. E. Bettison presiding at the organ. The Rev. W. P. Mahony delivered an impressive address, in which he said there could be no finer tribute to the men who had made England's history, fought her battles, and protected the dear island, than a memorial in the precincts of their own temple. After removing the Union Jack from the tablet, Sir Charles Seely expressed the hope that the names of the fallen would never forgotten by those for whom their lives had been given. At the close of the service the ‘Last Post’ was sounded by Scout Esmond Wiggington”.
The newspaper article also contained the list of the 75 servicemen whose names appear on the tablet (which are all listed elsewhere in this history). In 1927, the Somercotes War Memorial was unveiled which stands in the Churchyard. It lists the name of 81 servicemen in total. By 1927 some soldiers had died of their wounds sustained during the war, and the criteria for inclusion on the Memorial was relaxed so that family members of soldiers who had previously moved from the village could have somewhere to honour their sacrifice.
THE ORIGINAL CHURCH HALL
For many years the congregation of St. Thomas’s had been trying to secure premises for a Church Hall, but it was not until 1936 that they finally succeeded. Three years previous, in 1933, the old Infant School on Sleetmoor Lane (opposite the Salvation Army Citadel) closed. The building stood empty for a while, but the parishioners of Somercotes took on the task of converting the old building into a Church Hall. Funds were raised through Afternoon Teas and other events, but a donation of £1,000 from Mr. William Henry Abbott (1860-1947), who owned the Abbott’s Grocery Stores in Somercotes and elsewhere, secured the building and its conversion.
The Church Hall was opened in October 1936. It quickly became a success, holding many different functions throughout the years, but it was as a dance hall that it would be remembered fondly by the younger generations of the 1940s and 1950s.
The Ripley & Heanor News, published on 16th October 1936 printed an article on the opening of the building: “CHURCH HALL FOR SOMERCOTES - OPENING CEREMONY - The members and friends of St. Thomas's Church, Somercotes, have been working very hard since 1924 to get a church hall and their aim was realised on Wednesday afternoon when Mr. J. H. Abbott, an ardent churchman, chorister, and Sunday School worker, opened the hall. The Vicar (Rev. R. E. Birtwistle, M.A.) presided, and was supported on the platform by Mr. W. H. Abbott and Mrs. Abbott… The ceremony commenced with a hymn, prayer by the Rector of Morton, short address by the chairman and the Rev. L. W. Latham, and a financial statement by Mr. Ricking, who said in 1924, after a special effort, the sum of £143 was set aside as the nucleus of a fund for a church hall. Since then the ladies by means of fortnightly teas brought the sum up to £250, and in 1931, Mr. Abbott gave £1,000 to the Building Fund, so that the hall was almost free of debt… The new Church Hall is the old Infants School transformed, with an excellent platform and large concert room, dressing room, and tea room behind…”
2. THE CHRISTADELPHIAN HALL
The Christadelphian Hall was situated on Leabrooks Road, Somercotes, but its exact whereabouts are not clear. It is believed that it was probably in the building which has since been used as a Billiard Hall and Snooker Club, on the corner of Leabrooks Road and Mansfield Street.
Dates for the hall being used for worship are also unclear. It is likely that it was established sometime around 1900 and was probably closed in the mid-1930s.
Christadelphians aim to get as close as possible to the faith and practice of the early Christian church. They describe themselves as "a lay community patterned after first century Christianity". Their name comes from a Greek phrase, Christou adelphoi, which means “brothers (and sisters) in Christ”.
3. FREE UNITED METHODIST CHAPEL, LEABROOKS
This chapel was situated on Chapel Street, Leabrooks and was opened in 1859. According to Kelly’s Trade Directory of 1932, the chapel was rebuilt in 1896.
The opening of the newly rebuilt chapel was reported in the Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald, published on 4 November 1896. The article read: “LEABROOKS. OPENING OF THE NEW CHAPEL. The members of the Free Church had the pleasure on Sunday last of opening their new sanctuary for public worship. The building has been erected at a cost of £650, to accommodate 450 persons, and the preacher for these special services was Mr T H Marsden, of Sheffield, who delivered two appreciative and inspiring discourses to large congregations. Anthems were creditably rendered by the choir at each service, and the soloists were Miss Elliott, of Swanwick; Mr Joseph Sharp, of Riddings and Mr T Parkin. The collections realised the highly satisfactory sum of £16”.
The chapel closed in 1973, and the event is recorded in the London Gazette published on 4 December that year “The Registrar General, being satisfied that LEABROOKS METHODIST CHURCH, Chapel Street, Leabrooks, Alfreton, in the registration district of Chesterfield in the County of Derby, is no longer used as a place of worship by the congregation on whose behalf it was on 23rd December 1946 registered for marriages in accordance with the Marriage Act, 1836, has cancelled the registration. Dated 27th November 1973”.
4. LEABROOKS CEMETERY CHAPEL
Leabrooks Cemetery opened in 1895. The graveyard is a burial site which is registered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and holds the graves of servicemen from various conflicts.
PHOTO: The Cemetery Chapel, Leabrooks
The Cemetery serves Somercotes, Riddings and Swanwick. Kelly's Directory of 1932 relates that "a cemetery of about 4 acres, situated at Leabrooks, was opened in 1895, and is managed by a Burial Board of 8 members, representing the Urban District Council of Somercotes and Riddings, and Swanwick Wards: the mortuary chapel is a neat structure of brick with stone facings in the Gothic style, and was erected at a cost of over £600".
The Cemetery is currently managed by Amber Valley Borough Council.
5. THE METHODIST CHAPEL, BIRCHWOOD
Between 1839 and 1867, a total of five Methodist Chapels were built in the area. The most impressive was the Wesleyan Reformers Methodist Chapel at Birchwood. This place of worship was built in 1853 by John Smedley (who founded Smedley’s Hydro in Matlock and built Riber Castle).
A Methodist Chapel already existed in Somercotes and was situated on Nottingham Road. In the early 1850s there was division within the Methodist movement and the Somercotes Congregation, which kept faith with the traditionalist Methodist movement, agreed to sell this chapel to the Church Wardens of Riddings for a sum of £400. It became the Church of St. Thomas. The Methodist Congregation then appealed to John Smedley of Lea Bridge for help in establishing their own church, and he built the chapel for them on Birchwood Lane.
The Derbyshire History, Gazetteer & Directory dated 1857 states “The Wesleyan Reformers’ Chapel, situated in Birchwood Lane was erected by John Smedley Esq., of Lea Bridge. It is a handsome building with tower and one bell. In connection with which is a good school, eligible for all the children in the village. The school-room is lighted with gas and heated with hot water, will accommodate about 200 children; average attendance 126”. The school room mentioned was effectively the first school in the village. Each pupil was charged a small fee to attend.
PHOTO: Birchwood United Methodist Chapel (2014)
John Smedley was the son of John Smedley Snr, who was a partner in a mill at Lea Bridge. John Smedley Jnr began work as an apprentice at the mill and in 1825 took over the management of the factory. He diversified and expanded the business, becoming very wealthy in the process. He developed an interest in Hydrotherapy and built Smedley’s Hydro in Matlock, as well as building his home, Riber Castle. As well as an industrialist, he was also a well-known philanthropist, and built or sponsored several Methodist Churches in the area. He died on 27 July 1874. The Smedley company is still in business today, and their premises at Lea Bridge is now the oldest working factory in the world.
Initially the chapel was built for a congregation of Wesleyan Reformers, a movement which united with the Wesleyan Methodist Association to form the United Methodist Free Churches in 1857. Later Directories would refer to it as a United Methodist Chapel.
PHOTO: Birchwood Band of Hope - Senior Members 1912
Back Row (L/R) H. Robinson, A.H. Bilson; E. Wright, W. Hayes, G. Truman, S. Hardwick, F. Coupe
Middle Row: B. Martin, G. Clark, W. Naylor, T. Burnham, M. Giles, S. Wood
Front Row: H. Hooley, John Wilson, E, Jepson, G. Naylor, J. Gent, L. Jepson, F. Naylor
In 1874, after the death of John Smedley, the chapel was purchased by members of the congregation for £800, which was reported to be about half of the original cost. In 1910, the present schoolroom was built, although by then several National Schools had been built in the village.
The chapel interior houses a balcony at the tower end, and staging at the opposite end for use at special events. The Derbyshire Ancestral Research Group currently hold their meetings in the schoolroom.
6. THE MISSION ROOM, MUCKRAM LANE, LOWER BIRCHWOOD
The first Anglican Church service at Birchwood seems to have taken place as early as 1840. The Parish Church of St. Thomas’ 150th Anniversary Magazine records that “In 1840 the Bishop of Lichfield granted permission to the Vicar of Riddings to perform and celebrate Divine Service in a building situate at Birchwood”. This pre-dates both the Church of St. Thomas and the Birchwood United Methodist Chapel. It is not known exactly where on Birchwood Lane this building was located, or for how many years it may have continued as a place of worship. The fact that such a service did take place acknowledged the growing need to provide some form of worship for the small but flourishing community. It was not until much later, however, that a dedicated building was erected.
In the early 1890’s the Church approached Sir Charles Seely to ask if he would provide a place of worship at Lower Birchwood for the local population. At the time Sir Charles was head of the Babbington Coal Company, which operated the Birchwood Collieries and owned much of the surrounding estate. It was common in such circumstances for the Church to lease or rent the land for a nominal sum and Sir Charles Seely provided approximately one acre of land to that effect. It was situated off Muckram Lane and was the site of a former brickworks. Sir Charles also defrayed half the cost of the building itself.
The Mission Church opened on 22 March 1893. Details of the opening service were reported in the Derbyshire Courier, published on 25 March, which read: “On Wednesday evening the opening of the Mission Church took place. The choir at the parish church, robed at Mr. Merriman's, sang in procession the hymn ‘Through the night of doubt and sorrow.’ The service was fully choral. A passage of scripture was read by Mr. T. L. Luff Mr. Towson, the licensed lay readers, upon whom the conducting of the services will mainly depend. An address was delivered by the Rev. R. B. Davies, curate-in-charge. The total cost of the building, which is pleasantly situated, is £6O. The Babbington Coal Company have given half the money, and also found labour to erect the structure, the dimensions of which is 35 feet by 15 feet. Other subscriptions have been given, until the debt prior to opening was £9. The offertory at the service realised £l. The building was supplied by Messrs. Boulton and Paul, of Norwich.”
The decision had been made to purchase a prefabricated mission hall from the company of Boulton & Paul, who by the 1890’s were producing a range of buildings which were manufactured in sections that could be easily assembled on site. It was a quick and inexpensive way to erect a variety of buildings. Their range included standardised churches, chapels, mission and gospel halls as well as hospitals and school rooms. The chapels often became known as “Tin Tabernacles”. The new churches were usually sited on rudimentary brick or rubble-and-mortar foundations; they had a bolt-together wooden frame, an inside wall lined with tongue-and-groove match-board pine and the roof and outer walls were clad with corrugated iron sheeting.
The finished building at Muckram probably looked similar to the church erected at the Butterley Railway Museum for the Midland Railway Trust, and comparable to the St. Barnabas Mission Room that had been opened at Pye Bridge in 1887. It was lit by three hanging paraffin lamps and was heated by a large combustion stove. The Altar was a small draped table and there was a lectern and a harmonium. It had seating for 100 worshipers, although the average attendance in the 1850’s was 40.
PHOTO: The Mission Chapel at Butterley Railway Centre
The Chapel is recalled in a book titled “Farewell to a Muckram Lad” by Les Burt. In this book he describes the chapel as the “Mittie”, which was made from corrugated iron, painted with red oxide and lined inside with varnished boards.
Such buildings not only had a religious function, but often became the focal point of a community, as would have been the case for the people of Lower Birchwood and Muckram. During 1893 a coal dispute resulted in the miners being locked out of the colliery, causing hardship for families throughout the area. They resumed work in October that year and a special Harvest Festival was held at the newly erected Mission Church. The event was recorded in the Derbyshire Courier published on 21 October, which also followed the report with further information regarding the buildings use during the dispute: “BIRCHWOOD - Church Mission Room - A special service was conducted in this Mission Room on Sunday evening last by Mr. G. C. Towson, lay reader, on the occasion of the harvest festival. A novel feature among the offerings was barrow-full of newly got coal from the Bircbwood Colliery on the resumption of work. The interior of the building had been decorated with corn, flowers, etc., by the Misses Tomlinson, Mr. Tomlinson, and Mr. Mellors. There was a fair congregation, and the offertory realised 10s. 7½d which was most satisfactory considering the depressed circumstances of trade.” - “School For Pit Lads - During the miners’ lockout a number of pit lads applied for admission to the Somercotes Boys’ School. Mr. Hicking, the schoolmaster, took in as many as he could, to the number of 20, but was obliged to refuse admission to about ten more for whom he had no room. These went to the infant school and asked to be admitted there, but Miss Jones was unable to admit them as the school was already full. Accordingly the following morning, a temporary school for the pit lads was opened at the Birchwood Mission Room by the Rev. R. B, Davies, curate in-charge and 26 scholars were enrolled. By the end of the first week the number on the books was 84 and the average attendance for the week was 38. The school met five days week, from ten to twelve, and from two to four. The syllabus of instruction includes religious teaching, reading, writing, and occasional singing and drilling. Through the kindness of a friend a football has been provided for recreation three days a week, and illustrated papers which the lads can take home in the evening and change the following one. We believe that this is the first school of the kind that has been opened, and it speaks well for the lads of Somercotes that they should have thought of such good way of occupying their spare time.”
Over the years the building served as a place for children’s parties, as a school room, a place where Coroner’s Inquests were held and for many other events as well as for religious services. The caretakers were unpaid valuable members of the congregation. The Brocklehurst family were one time caretakers at the Mission Church and their eldest daughter, Maud, held weekly Saturday night dances there which became known as “Maud’s Sixpenny Hop”. Annie Gadsby, wife of a local farmer was also a caretaker and school teacher. Her funeral was reported in the Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald on 12 January 1924: “BIRCHWOOD RESIDENTS FUNERAL - The interment of the late Mrs. Annie Gadsby, wife of Mr. Harry Gadsby of Shady Farm, Birchwood, took place at Swanwick Churchyard on Saturday. Deceased had been for many years an earnest worker and school teacher at the Birchwood Mission Church, where she will be sadly missed. The service was conducted by the Rev. R. Birtwistle”
The Somercotes Parish Magazine also printed various articles relating to the Mission Church, some of which are transcribed below:
October 1920: “On Sunday Sept. 12th Services were held in the above room. In the afternoon the Scouts made a good show and the children listened attentively to the Vicar’s address. In the evening, Mr. W. F. Croft of Tibshelf took the service and preached an excellent sermon. The room was full on both occasions, the collections were good and the children sung the hymns well.”
This was the first service that had been held at the Mission Church for several years, possibly due to the war effort depleting the congregation, although the exact reason is not known. The article continued:
“Many have pleasant memories of services in past years and we are looking forward to reviving them when more help is available.”
September 1925: “Progress is reported at the Mission Room. The services seem fairly well established now and we are looking forward to a happy winter session. Now the evenings are getting darker and the weather colder it will necessitate some provision of light and heat. To meet this need arrangements have been made to have gas put in, with a radiator for heat. This will make the room nice and comfortable, so we feel we can give a hearty invitation to all who join with us in our services of worship and prayer to Almighty God. Of course these improvements involve an outlay of money (about £15) and we should be glad to receive donations towards the same. These donations should be given to the Vicar or to Mr. Stirland Tomlinson.”
This article is interesting as previous to this date it was believed that the Babbington Coal Company provided coal for heating at no cost to the church. This was probably true in the early years of the Mission Chapel, but it seems that by 1926, some 33 years after its erection, heating and lighting was a problem and the building may have been in need of some repair and refurbishment. The gas was probably provided from the collieries own gas works, as was the houses at Muckram.
November 1926: “We are trying to beautify this little room by having a new Altar Table and Screen. The Screen has now been erected.”
July 1928: “As promised some time ago, the room has been renovated, painted and varnished and now is in a very good condition and looks well. We are grateful to the Babbington Coal Co. for another kindness added to the many which they have shown us in times gone by...”
By the mid-1930’s attendance at the Mission Church seems to have waned and its continued service to the community must have been in doubt. By the end of the 1930’s the situation became worse for the church as the Babbington Coal Company sold their entire Somercotes and Birchwood estate, including the Birchwood Collieries, to the Sheepbridge Coal & Iron Company of Chesterfield in 1939. Whether or not this sale had any influence on the decision is not known, but the Mission Church closed its doors for good around this time.
The Mission Church building was dismantled and moved nearer to the colliery in 1940, where it was used as a canteen for the mine workers. Its later history is told by Les Burt in his book. Sheepbridge Iron & Coal Company closed the colliery in 1941 and their estate was sold at auction the following year. The building was sold and again dismantled and re-erected on land in Somercotes owned by John Bakewell, who ran both a bakery and plant nursery business. In the 1970’s the nursery was closed and the land sold for re-development to a builder. Some years later, the old Mission Church was used as a store by the builders during construction of the bungalows on Hilton Park Drive, and was eventually demolished in 1991 after almost one hundred years.
7. THE MISSION ROOM, PYE BRIDGE
The Mission Room in Pye Bridge was founded in 1887 and run by the Church of St. James, as Pye Bridge was then part of the Parish of Riddings. The Derby Mercury, published on 29 June 1887 records the opening as follows: “A Church Mission Room – The inhabitants of Pye Bridge have hitherto been destitute of any place for the holding of religious services, and as it is some distance from Riddings or Codnor Park, the want of a local building as long been felt. Through the kindness of Mr. T. H. Oakes JP, a Church of England Mission Room has been opened at Pye Bridge and services in future will be held in it. In addition, Mr. Oakes has promised to consider the utility of arranging for an infant’s school to be held there. In connection with the opening Mr. Oakes provided a meat tea to 150 of the inhabitants.”
The opening was also reported in the Nottinghamshire Guardian, published on 2 July: “Mission Room at Pye Bridge — Through the munificence of Mr. T. H. Oakes, J. P., there has been opened at Pye Bridge a Church of England Mission room. Hitherto Pye Bridge has been without facilities for the holding of Church of England services, being a small place re- moved from both Riddings and Codnor Park. The new building is of a substantial character and is admirably adapted for the purpose for which it has been designed. Mr. Oakes has also promised to take into consideration the utility of arranging for an infants' school to be conducted in the room by next winter. In connection with the opening Mr. Oakes entertained about 150 of the inhabitants to a meat tea, which was provided by Mr. D. Jaques, of Somercotes. In the district of Alfreton this is only one of the many instances of Mr. Oakes’s liberality.”
According to Kelly's Trade Directory of 1895, the Mission Room had seating for 120 worshippers, and was also used as a classroom for infants. The building was not only used for worship but also for many meetings, including trade union meetings and Coroner’s Inquests.
During the 1920s extensive additions and improvements were made which were reported in several newspapers. The Ripley & Heanor News, published on 31 December 1920 reported: PYE BRIDGE - Towards the new vestry at the Mission Room £20 has now been collected. The Pye Bridge Choir collected £3. 0s. 2d. by carol singing, the proceeds being in aid of new hymn books” and further reported on 8 July 1921 that “The Mission Room has been nicely decorated during the strike. This useful bit of work was undertakes by Mr. Alf. Walters and the brothers White of Pye Bridge. The whole has been done voluntarily, and the only cost has been the materials.”
The obituary of Charles Henry Oakes Jnr in the Derbyshire Advertiser & Journal dated 22 November 1929 stated that “...only as recently as this year he was responsible for enlargements at St. Barnabas Mission Room, Pye Bridge…” The building work on the Mission Room seems to have required its temporary closure, as the following year the Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald, published on 14 June 1930 ran an article on its reopening for worship: “Reopening services in connection with St. Barnabas Mission Church, Pye Bridge, were held on Thursday week, when the Vicar (the Rev. H. Simmons) preached. Special services were held on Sunday and conducted by the lay-reader, Mr. J. Rawson, Selston. A new altar cloth, embroidered by the Misses Goodacre and presented to the Church in memory of their parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Goodacre, was used for the first time on Thursday.”
Certainly by the 1930s the Mission Room had become much more than just a chapel of ease for the Church of St. James at Riddings. It had become a meeting room where many different gatherings took place. On 12 February 1937, the Ripley & Heanor News printed several articles relating to local plans to celebrate the upcoming Coronation of King George VI: “The preliminary meeting to discuss Coronation festivities for Lower Somercotes and Pye Bridge was held at St. Barnabas Mission Room, Pye Bridge, on Wednesday night, when Mr. J. H Mountain was appointed chairman, Mr. A. E. Hendey secretary, and Mr. A. White treasurer. Mr. W. Rye stated that the sum of £13 would be available for the festivities, and it was decided to organise house to house collections. Mrs. C. Vertigan and Mrs. J. Raynor were appointed for Pye Bridge and Messrs. T. Smith and 0. Stevens for Lower Somercotes.” On 28 January 1938 the same newspaper reported: “On Wednesday a tea and concert was given in St. Barnabas' Mission Room by the kindness of the choir, parents, and friends to the old residents of Pye Bridge. There was a fairly good attendance…”
As well as a meeting room for various organisations the Mission Room was also occasionally commandeered for civil functions, acting as a polling station during elections for example. On 6 May 1950 it was also used for the distribution of new Ration Books to the local population, something that had already been repeated previously.
Despite the fact that it was well used at this time the Mission Room required constant maintenance, the funds for which were often raised through local events and collections. On 17 April 1953, for example, an “Olde Tyme Dance” was held in aid of the Mission Room at the Miners Welfare in Leabrooks.
Regardless of the money raised in support of the building, it was perhaps inevitable that the Mission Room would eventually close. It appears on a map that dates to the mid-1960s, but when it finally closed its doors for good is not known. The building itself is thought to have been demolished sometime in the 1970s.
MAP: St. Barnabas Mission Church at Pye Bridge (outlined), date of map unknown
8. THE NON-DEMONINATIONAL HALL, CEMETERY ROAD, LEABROOKS
No information is currently available regarding the opening date for this building. It was a large hall which had a front façade facing Cemetery Road at Leabrooks. This non-denominational hall was probably used for community events as well as for worship, and was used as a classroom for Leabrooks pupils in the 1950s when space at the Junior School in Somercotes was at a premium.
It closed probably in the 1960s or 1970s and is now a private residence, although due to its size and architecture it can still be distinguished from the surrounding buildings.
THE PENIEL CHRISTIAN CHURCH, LEABROOKS
The church was established in the house of Mr. George Kay who lived at Bank Street, Somercotes. He mortgaged his home to buy the premises at Leabrooks, which is situated on Main Road, just before Leabrooks Corner. Prior to the purchase the chapel had been used as a Primitive Methodist Church. Mr. Kay was Pastor of the Church at the time.
It opened on the 22nd June 1935 and was known as the Assemblies of God. The opening ceremony was reported in the Ripley & Heanor News on 28th June 1935: “LEABROOKS - The late Primitive Methodist Church, which has been closed for over two years, was reopened on Saturday by the Full Gospel Church, in fellowship with the Assemblies of God in Great Britain and Ireland. Mr. G. T. Shearman, tutor at Hampstead Bible School, London, performed the opening ceremony, which was followed by tea and a public meeting, at which the speakers were Mr. G. T. Shearman and Mr. J. W. Collis (North Wingfield). Friends were present from churches at Alfreton, South Normanton, and Rotherham. Services have been held during the week conducted by Mr. P. F. Winter (London).”
PHOTO: Leabrooks PCC (2015)
For some years after the opening the church was not registered for marriages, but a successful application was made and the Official Notice duly reported in the London Gazette: “OFFICIAL NOTICE: A Separate Building duly Certified for Religious Worship, named PENIEL ASSEMBLY OF GOD situated at LEABROOKS ROAD, LEABROOKS, ALFRETON in BELPER Registration District, the County of Derby was on the 24th August, 1948, registered for solemnizing marriages therein, pursuant to 6 and 7 Will. IV. c. 85. Dated the 27th August 1948. GRACE WILLOUGHBY, Superintendent Registrar, Belper.” Note that the name of the road has been changed since this Notice was printed.
The Church, now more commonly referred to as Leabrooks PCC (Peniel Christian Centre) is still open for worship.
9. THE PRIMITIVE METHODIST CHAPEL, LOWER SOMERCOTES
According to White’s Directory of 1857, the Primitive Methodist Chapel at Lower Somercotes was founded in 1839. It was built only a few years after the enclosure of Somercotes Common and before that area became developed. White’s Directory states that the chapel was enlarged in 1852.
The Census of Religious Worship, taken in 1851, lists the Primitive Methodist Chapel at Somercotes as having seating for 80, and 200 for “other” sittings.
This chapel was closed in the 1890s (it is mentioned in Kelly’s Directory of 1895, but may already have closed by this time).
10. THE PRIMITIVE METHODIST CHAPEL, MAIN ROAD, LEABROOKS
The Primitive Methodist Chapel was situated on Main Road, Leabrooks, on the same site that the Peniel Church is now currently using.
According to Kelly’s Directory of 1912 the church was opened in 1905, although it does not seem to have been registered for marriages until 1907. The London Gazette has the following notice for the church, in their edition dated 24 September 1907:
“A Separate Building, duly certified for religious worship, named PRIMITIVE METHODIST CHURCH, situated at Lea Brooks, in the civil parish of Alfreton, in the county of Derby, in Belper registration district, was, on the 21st September, 1907, registered for solemnizing marriages therein, pursuant to 6th and 7th Wm. IV, c.85. Dated 23rd September 1907”.
The church closed around 1935, as the Peniel Church opened in that year. The registration notice regarding the closure was duly recorded in the London Gazette on 16 April 1937:
“NOTICE is hereby given that the Building formerly known as METHODIST CHAPEL situated at Lea Brooks in "the civil parish of Alfreton in the registration district of Belper in the county of Derby which was duly registered for marriages pursuant to the Act 6 & 7 Will. IV, c. 85. is now no longer used as a Place of Meeting for religious worship by the congregation on whose behalf it was so registered, and that the registry thereof was therefore on the 12th day of April 1937 formally cancelled by the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages for England and Wales.—Witness my hand this 13th day of April 1937. GEORGE PYM, Superintendent Registrar”.
11. THE PRIMITIVE METHODIST CHAPEL, SOMERCOTES HILL
According Kelly’s Trade Directory of 1912, the Somercotes Primitive Methodist Chapel was built in 1898 and had seating for 250 worshippers. It was a replacement for an earlier Chapel situated at Lower Somercotes, which was built in 1839, (for which see the separate entry in this database).
The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser published a notice in their newspaper dated 3 December 1898 which read “A new Primitive Methodist Chapel has been opened at Somercoates, Alfreton, which has cost over £1,000”. A further article appears in the Derbyshire Courier, published on 15 April 1911: “Special services were held at the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Sunday, Mr. G H. Williams of Somercotes being the preacher. Miss Eliza Williams of Somercotes was the soloist, her fine rendering of “Abide With Me” (Liddle), “Angels of Light” (Marshall) and other pieces being much appreciated.”
PHOTO: A photograph of the original Chapel built in 1898
The first Chapel on this site was a brick structure which was built close to the road. Fronting the road it had a small wall with iron railings. It was demolished, around the early 1960s, and replaced by a more modern building which was set further back on the same site.
This new Chapel itself closed about 2005 and has been demolished. Its closure came as a consequence of the building needing repairs, and a dwindling, mostly elderly congregation.
There was a small, rectangular building to the right of the 1960s building – which was all that survived of the original 1898 chapel. It is faced with stucco, with an entrance door, and a single pointed arched window at the front. It was in use until the 1990s by a Funeral Directors who took over the premises, as a mortuary chapel. The same Funeral Directors now occupy the site where the Wesleyan Chapel stood on Nottingham Road.
12. THE SALVATION ARMY CITADEL
According to the booklet printed to celebrate the Salvation Army Silver Jubilee in Somercotes, the first officer, Eliza Leech, opened proceedings on 8th December 1886. There is little known about the first officers of the Salvation Army who came to Somercotes, but an official list of officers records that Eliza was replaced by Annie Lawrence on 14th April 1887. The list documents officers between 1886 and 1936 (the year of the Jubilee) many of whom spent only a few months in that position.
The earliest recorded newspaper article on the Salvation Army in Somercotes was published in the Derbyshire Courier on 20th December 1890 and relates to the non-payment of Poor Rates for the Belper Union. This article referred to a Captain Applin of the Salvation Army who occupied two cottages on Somercotes Market Place, one for himself and one acting as a “…Salvation Barracks” used for religious worship (and therefore presumably not subject to the payment of the Poor Rate). Interestingly, Captain Applin is not recorded on the official list of officers held at the National Headquarters of the Salvation Army.
There is also reference to the Salvation Army using a room “…adjacent to the stables” on the Market Place, whilst the Jubilee Booklet states that an “…old stable” was actually used. The Alfreton Urban District Council had several stables on the Market Place for the stabling of horses used by the council.
By the 1890s Somercotes (and the surrounding area) already had a number of non-conformist chapels and the Salvation Army would have found a population willing to listen to their message. The Jubilee booklet records the names of several local people who joined the movement in its very early days, including J. Whilde, J. Burnham and a Mr. Hague. One of the main differences between the non-conformist chapels and the Salvation Army was the Salvation Army Band, which would have quickly recruited members. Without modern distractions, many young people learnt to play an instrument during what little free time they had. Within just a few years, the Salvation Army Band in Somercotes alone would muster over twenty musicians.
The premises on the Market Place continued to be used for just over seven years, when, in 1894 the Corps purchased land on Sleetmoor Lane and constructed an Army Barracks. Kelly’s Trade Directory of 1912 records that “…The Salvation Army hold their services and meetings in a corrugated iron building erected in 1894 in Sleet Moor Lane, and holding about 300 people…”. This building was probably a prefabricated structure similar to the Mission Rooms erected by the Anglican Church at Lower Birchwood and Pye Bridge.
The Salvation Army Band played a key role and was fundamental to the way the Salvation Army spread its form of evangelism to a wider audience. The Band would attend fetes, carnivals and parades, and would perform outside public houses at Christmas and other religious holidays.
The Salvation Army was probably unique in visiting public houses and clubs in order to raise funds, and more often than not found a sympathetic landlord and clientele who would generously donate.
Their work in running shelters for the homeless, running soup kitchens and helping women flee domestic abuse or prostitution was well-known, even in the early days of the movement, a mission that many local workers could appreciate.
In 1936 the Salvation Army celebrated their 50th anniversary in Somercotes with a range of Jubilee events, culminating in services held at the Barracks on 9th and 11th December. A special Jubilee souvenir brochure was designed for the event and sold for 6d. It is likely that even before the Jubilee celebrations a decision had been taken to replace the old corrugated iron Barracks with a new building. In 1937, during the building work, the Salvation Army used the premises of the former Somercotes Institute, located between the end of Seely Terrace and the Royal Tiger Inn, as a temporary base. This was noted in the Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald, published on 31st December 1937 which stated: “TO LET – Somercotes Institute - electric light and central heating: recently used by the Salvation Army…”
In December 1937 the new Salvation Army Hall was officially opened. Present at the opening ceremony were Mrs. Margaret Oakes (who performed the opening), Mr. R. C. A. Palmer-Morewood and Colonel Hugh Sladen. The opening coincided with the 51st anniversary of the Somercotes Branch.
Over the years many people from the locality have served with the Salvation Army, some of whom were members for many years. In particular, Bandsman Thomas Taylor served a remarkable 56 years as Bandmaster, retiring from the role in 1967. His service was recognised by the National Headquarters of the Salvation Army, which was among many other regional acknowledgements. Bandsman Robert Edward Gaunt was also a familiar name to Salvationists in Somercotes. Although not the only member to join the colours in World War One Robert was the only one to be killed in action. Robert worked as a ganger at the Swanwick Collieries prior to him volunteering for duty.He was posted to the 12th (Service) battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers and arrived in Francein September 1915. Robert was killed on action on 24th June 1916, aged 22. His family lived at 23, Coupland Place, Somercotes, just a short distance from the Salvation Army Hall. A memorial plaque was erected in his honour inside the Salvation Army Hall.
PHOTOS: Salvation Army at Sleetmoor Lane, Somercotes
The premises were registered for marriages in 1938, as noted in the London Gazette: “A Separate Building, duly certified for religious worship, named SALVATION ARMY HALL, situated at Sleet Moor Lane in the civil parish of Alfreton in the Belper registration district in the county of Derby was, on 30th July 1938, registered for solemnizing marriages therein… Dated 3rd August 1938.”
In 1986 the Somercotes Corps celebrated its centenary in the village. Events took place throughout the year, with an example being a music festival, held at the Citadel on Sleetmoor Lane on 26th April. Salvation Army bands from Belper and Ripley attended the event, as well as the Belper Songsters Brigade
It continues to operate as a place of worship.
13. THE SALEM METHODIST CHAPEL, SLEETMOOR LANE, SOMERCOTES
The Salem Methodist Church was opened in 1867 on Sleetmoor Lane, Somercotes. It was situated at the junction of Coupland Place and Sleetmoor Lane, but was demolished when Coupland Place itself was redeveloped in the early 1970s.
A newspaper report was published regarding an anniversary service held at the Church, which is transcribed below from the Derbyshire Courier dated 19 March 1870:
On Sunday last, March 13th, 2 sermons were preached in The Salem Chapel, Somercotes on behalf of the Trust Fund by the Rev. Charles Griffiths of Nottingham, selecting for his text in the afternoon Malachi iii, 16 and 17, and in the evening Hebrews xi, 24-26; the former stimulating and encouraging god’s people to punctually and regularly attend the services of the sanctuary; the latter showing the necessity of our young men making a proper choice of their companions and positions in life. The choir rendered good service. The anthem, “give ear to my words” at the evening service was given in good style. The day being fine the congregations were good, several not being able to obtain a seat in the evening. Liberal collections were made amounting to £7 1s. 1½d., being over £2 in advance of last year. The proceeds, together with £3 already in hand, will be appropriated towards the reduction of the debt on the chapel, making a total of £30 since the opening in March 1866; the interest on the mortgage being met from other sources."
The Post Office Directory of 1876 lists a “United Methodist Free Church at Sleet Moor Lane” and Kelly’s Directory for 1912 states that there is “a United Methodist Chapel on Sleet Moor Lane”
The closure of the church in 1971 was reported in the London Gazette, published on 18 May of that year, which read “The Registrar General, being satisfied that SALEM METHODIST CHURCH, Sleetmoor Lane, Somercotes, Alfreton, in the registration district of Belper, in the County of Derby, is no longer used as a place of worship by the congregation on whose behalf it was on 5th April 1871, registered for marriages in accordance with the Marriage Act, 1836, has cancelled the registration”. Dated 10th May 1971.
14. WESLEYAN METHODIST CHAPEL, NOTTINGHAM ROAD, SOMERCOTES
The Wesleyan New Chapel was opened on Nottingham Road, Somercotes in 1880. It replaced the Wesleyan Chapel that was closed around 1853 and sold to the Riddings Anglican Community for a Chapel of Ease. The Church of St. Thomas was built on the site of the old chapel.
The new chapel was certified for religious services on 18 October 1880 and the opening services were reported in the Derbyshire Courier of 6 November 1880: “SOMERCOTES - WESLEYAN NEW CHAPEL - The opening services were continued last Sunday when two sermons were preached by the Rev. T R Pickering, formerly of Ripley”.
The chapel was situated on the corner of Mill Street and Nottingham Road. It stood back from the road, the frontage having a central gateway through a small boundary wall, and a path to the main door which was flanked by grass and trees.
In 1930, the chapel celebrated its Jubilee, which made the 3 April edition of the Derby Daily Telegraph: “SOMERCOTES - Large Congregations attend Wesleyan Celebrations - Somercotes Weselyan Church members held their Jubilee celebrations yesterday…The Choir sang the anthem “Son of My Soul” and Miss Phyllis Wright was the soloist. The organist was Mr A Lathwell…”
The Chapel closed as a place of worship in 1957. Its closure was recorded that year in the London Gazette of 9 April as one of the buildings which "have wholly ceased to be used as places of worship by the congregations on whose behalf they were certified”
Sometime after its closure it was used as a warehouse to store cardboard cartons and other similar articles for Everlastic Ltd, who had a factory in the village. It was still used for this purpose in the 1960s. In the 1970s the chapel was structurally altered and converted to a car showroom and garage, The frontage was tarmaced to produce a forecourt and several outbuildings were demolished. In later years, the building was purchased by A. Storer & Sons, Funeral Directors, a more fitting business for the old chapel.