Saint Faith’s Church was the second place of worship to be built in Belper Lane End. The first was a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, built in 1849, which held services on Sundays and also ran a Sunday School. In 1879, Father Hillyard, the vicar of the parish church of Christ Church, Belper, located approximately 1 ½ miles away, decided to hold services at Lane End on Wednesdays, reasoning that this would allow him to bring a different (Anglican) form of Christian worship to the community thus reaching more people. The excellent relations that existed between the two congregations is evidenced by the fact that these early services all took place in the chapel and, no doubt, some people were happy to attend both.
In 1890, Christ Church and Belper’s Anglican Convent of Saint Laurence joined forces to purchase land and build a church on Dalley Lane. This enabled the Father Hillyard and the Sisters to hold Sunday evensong and Sunday School as well as continuing the Wednesday services.
Saint Faith’s continued to thrive throughout the 20th Century and played a full role in life of the community in and around Belper Lane End, witnessing births, marriages, deaths and events of local and national importance. In 1928, Christ Church discontinued its curacy and responsibility was given over to the Sisters of the Convent of Saint Laurence who ran services for the next 30 years.
By the 1960’s much of the work was undertaken by Basil Wesson, who lived in Belper Lane End, and served as organist, lay reader and Sunday School teacher. In 1972 he was ordained as a curate and, with his wife Clarice, became the mainstay of the church which throughout the sixties and seventies was well attended, especially for the major festivals, and also ran a thriving Sunday School and Youth Club. Although the 1980’s saw a slump in the numbers attending Sunday School, the efforts of several Sunday School teachers were successful and the School continued throughout the nineties. Basil Wesson took full orders and so was authorised to administer all the sacrements and to conduct baptisms, marriages and funerals.
At the end of the 1990’s, Saint Faith’s was formally handed over by the Convent to Christ Church as the nuns were no longer taking an active part in religious life at Belper Lane End, and indeed, in 2001, the remaining nuns left Belper and joined the Diocese of Southwell. At Lane End, life continued under the leadership of Rev. Wesson, supported by Clarice and much loved by the community.
Times were changing, however, and Rev. Wesson died in 2003. Christ Church found it difficult to support Saint Faith’s: the Sunday School closed and services became infrequent and irregular. The final service was held on 3rd April 2005 and the Diocese of Derby decided that the future lay in the sale of the building for residential development with the work originated by Father Hillyard and the Sisters of Saint Laurence continued by the funding of a Youth Worker for Belper.
The community, however, thought otherwise. An action group was formed, The Friends of Saint Faith’s, which successfully coordinated opposition to the planning application for ‘change of use’ for the building and sought to persuade the Diocese to reconsider. The group also organised various events to make the case for continued religious use for Saint Faith’s including organising an annual Harvest Festival in the field across the road.
Sadly, the Diocese would not entertain any proposal to re-open the church within the Church of England and stale-mate ensued until 2012 when a local business-woman purchased the church and the two adjoining cottages and made the church available for worship and community use. The first service of this new era was held on 27th April 2012.
In 2014, further developments saw the church and the cottages for sale again, with the community and congregation generously offered first refusal on the church. This time a group of local people were able to buy the building and entrusted its management and maintenance to the Saint Faith’s Community Association, the successor to the Friends of Saint Faith’s.
Since 2014, this structure has maintained and developed Saint Faith’s. Services and social events are held regularly and the church, now partly functioning as a community hall, is once again a hub for the community.
A fascinating book providing a wealth of information about the progress of religious worship in Belper and the history of Saint Faith’s Church, Belper Lane End and North West Belper is available. Contact any member of the Committee or the author Rod Hawgood for a copy of ‘Faith on a Derbyshire Hillside’ (email@example.com).