Methodism in Buxton & the First Chapel - 1780s to 1810s
We know that John Wesley first preached in Buxton in 1783, which was towards the end of his life. Travelling by horse into the hills of the Peak District must have been challenging! At that time, Buxton was a small village in the hills, before the Duke of Devonshire developed the town as an inland spa – the Crescent was only just being built.
The first small chapel was built about 1797 in Higher Buxton, near what is now the corner of Dale Road and High Street. No pictures have been found, and descriptions are very slight.
At that time, Buxton was part of the Macclesfield Circuit. A separate Buxton Circuit was eventually formed in 1813, with two ministers directed to live here.
Soon after its erection in 1797, the first chapel was found to be unsound in structure and inconvenient in position. It was, however, 52 years before a better chapel was built on the present site, that of the cock-pit in the Market Place! The land was obtained from the Duke of Devonshire, either as a gift or for a nominal sum.
Wesleyan Methodist Church - 1840s to 1940s
The architect of the new church was James Wilson of Bath and it was built by J. Ward of Congleton for £1000. Some of the materials of the old chapel were carted up the hill and re-used, as was some of the timber from the grandstand of the Fairfield Racecourse – but with no further betting allowed in this new Methodist Church! The new chapel was opened on 21 September 1849.
In 1865, Wesley Villa was first rented as a manse, and was then purchased in 1868 together with the land between the chapel and the manse. Wesley Villa is still the Superintendent Minister’s house for the circuit.
As Buxton developed as a spa, the church was too small for the numbers attending. In 1875, Robert Rippon Duke (the architect of the Devonshire Royal Hospital Dome and the Pavilion Gardens Octagon) prepared a cruciform plan for extending the church. This used the existing nave but nearly doubled its length. New schoolrooms were built between the church and Wesley Villa.
The present, fine organ was built in 1895 by Alexander Young of Manchester, and is described in more detail here.
Significant extensions were made to the school rooms in 1937-8. Unfortunately, these extensions had some flat roofs, which have continued to give problems into the 21st century!
The centenary of Buxton Wesley Chapel was celebrated in 1949 in many ways, including the publication of a booklet called ‘The Story of a Hundred Years 1849-1949’.
The Merge - 1960s to 1970s
For many years, there had been two Methodist Churches close to each other in this part of Buxton: Wesley and London Road. With declining congregations, the churches amalgamated in 1966. Although the initial thoughts were to keep London Road (as it was in better repair), Wesley was eventually chosen as a more central site and London Road was sold.
Significant changes were made to ‘modernise’ what was now called Buxton Methodist Church, including putting a lower false ceiling into the church, and removing the old church pews. The church was reopened in 1971.
Rennovation - 1980s to 1990s
By the early 1980’s, major repairs were needed to the church. After a great deal of discussion, the Donald Buttress Fuller Partnership (architects from Manchester) were appointed with a brief for a renovated church. On Easter Day 1988, we celebrated the old church and we then worshipped in the main schoolroom for nearly a year.
The work involved constructing a concrete and steel ring beam around the whole of the church, taking off the roof and erecting a new steel-framed roof with about 12,500 new Welsh slates, restoring stonework, electrics, heating etc.
A Thanksgiving Service was held on 11 March 1989.
This had been Phase 1 of our Vision 2000. Now it was time for phases 2 and 3. Everyone was delighted by the renovated church, but all the schoolrooms were dilapidated! This time a local architect, Paul Dinsdale, was appointed with a brief to create a suite of community rooms of high quality. That scheme was carried out and completed in 1994.
Phase 1 cost £300,000, and phases 2 and 3 each cost about £200,000 making a total of about £700,000 – a tremendous fundraising achievement!
Improvements - 2000s to present
The premises are old and are exposed to the tough Buxton weather at about 1000 feet in altitude. We continue to maintain these fine buildings which are used by many outside organisations.
In recent years, we have fulfilled our plans for improved disabled access and the installation of solar panels to reduce the environmental impact of our church.