Chapel is given new lease of life

Poet Ian McMillan joins trustees Janet Allan and Philip Kendall and Sara Crofts of the Heritage Lottery Fund to officially open the Spring Bank Arts Centre
Poet Ian McMillan joins trustees Janet Allan and Philip Kendall and Sara Crofts of the Heritage Lottery Fund to officially open the Spring Bank Arts Centre

THE REALISATION of a community’s vision to breathe new life into a historic former chapel in New Mills has been celebrated.

Celebrated poet Ian McMillan joined local dignitaries, builders, conservationists and generous supporters of the £750,000 project at the official gala opening of Spring Bank Arts last week.

Opening the Spring Bank Arts Centre, New Mills

Opening the Spring Bank Arts Centre, New Mills

The Victorian Grade II Listed building on Spring Bank, formerly known as St James the Less, has been beautifully-restored into a new, fit-for-purpose community arts studio.

Leading the project has been the St James the Less Preservation Trust, which purchased the building from the Diocese of Derby when it closed as a place of worship, while the main source of the funding has been provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

In his speech, Philip Kendall, Chairman of the St James the Less Preservation Trust, hailed the restoration of the building, which was gifted to the people of New Mills by local philanthropists John and Mary Mackie over 140 years ago.

“The Spring Bank Arts vision has been partly realised by one generation, and it is now up to us to hand over in due course to another generation of enthusiasts who will put this gift made by John and Mary Mackie to the continuing use of the community that those benefactors so greatly loved,” he said.

The restoration of the former chapel has included the construction of a new annexe, along with the painstaking restoration of some of the building’s original Victorian decorative schemes.

Additional work is still to be undertaken, for which funding is still being sought. This includes the restoration of the remaining CE Kempe stained glass windows, the installation of a sound and lighting rig and outside landscaping.

Sara Crofts, from the Heritage Lottery Fund East Midlands, said: “The building is fantastic, the work is fantastic, but the real celebration is the tremendous teamwork and effort that has gone into bringing this building back into life.”

Added Mr McMillan: “It is a really fantastic building. These are dark times we are living through, but here is this community endeavour for the arts. The building has a beautiful simplicity to it, and you get a sense of the real genuine excitement from the people here that it will be a real cultural centre for many years to come.”

Music at the gala opening was performed by New Mills School pupils Sean Rogan, on guitar, and Poppy Philligreen, on soprano saxophone.