People living in and travelling through the area known as ‘The Walton Estate’, situated on the west side of Chesterfield Town Centre, may venture along Moorland View Road whilst journeying home, visiting family and friends, or just seeking provisions in the few shops nearby. They may wonder how and why the large brick building known as ‘The Walton Evangelical Church‘ was founded. On arrival, all will receive a warm welcome. Here is the story of how eight families, living in Walton, yet attending The Holmgate Evangelical Church in Clay Cross, had a vision to plant a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ; highlighting His life, the purpose, teaching, death and resurrection. In other words, promoting His gospel.
How the Church Began
The timeline below details how Walton Evangelical Church was established between 1974-1985-1990. Links to various articles and newspaper cuttings are included and listed in the Appendix at the bottom of the page.
1974 – 1981 Rev John Rosser (1) had pioneered the building of The Holmgate Evangelical Church, which was started in January 1974 and had its opening services in July 1981.
1985 There were eight families living in Walton and attending The Holmgate Evangelical Church – the Allsops, the Birds, the Cardings, the Gatwards, the Roberts, the Taylors and the Whites as well as the Rossers who had moved into the area a few months before. A Walton Home Bible Study Group was formed.
1985 Plans were passed for a public house to be built on the land, designated by the local Council for Social and Community use, despite a small petition by local residents. The site was off Moorland View Road, Walton, Chesterfield.
4 Dec 1985 Rev John Rosser began negotiations for the purchase of the land in Walton. The developers then changed their plans enabling shops to be sited on the corner where the pub was due to be built allowing the Church to be built on the adjacent land.
4 Dec 85/ 23 Jan 86 A joint venture with the Chesterfield Ragged School to establish a Church in Walton was explored but this did not proceed. The Ragged School later gave a generous gift (of £350) towards The Walton Evangelical Church project.
23 Jan 86 The Walton residents agreed to pursue the project alone and begin services in the area so that the eventual church building would be the “permanent” base for a group of believers. Application was made to the Walton Village Hall Management Committee for a letting on Sunday mornings.
27 Feb 86 The Holmgate Evangelical Church Walton residents agreed outline building requirements and decided to negotiate the purchase of the whole of the remaining land (including space for four bungalows – to raise funds for the church), submitted an outline planning application and move to contract in part to mitigate against the possibility of a housing developer putting in a bid for the whole site. On this basis the Development Company agreed to divert the sewer and put in a service road and turning circle at the end of the road.
10 Mar 86 The Walton Village Hall Management Committee approved the request for our letting, changing their rules to allow a first Sunday morning letting ever agreed.
19 Mar 86 The Holmgate Evangelical Church agreed to proceed with the land purchase, full planning application and look to start meetings in the Walton Village Hall.
March 86 The Marath Development accepted the offer of £50,000 for the land and the acquisition of the site for the Church building and four bungalows with garages, was agreed in principle subject to full planning permission being granted.
April 86 A first leaflet (2) was delivered to houses in the Walton area.
4 May 86 The first service was held in the Walton Village Hall. Additional chairs were provided on loan by The Holmgate Evangelical Church. These were stored in the Taylor’s garage and Max Taylor took them up to the Village Hall and returned them every Sunday for 3 years until May 1989. The Walton families continued to worship at Holmgate in the evening. A Sunday School was started immediately with two classes held at the local home of the Roberts and one class at the local home of the Taylors. The classes continued with up to thirty children attending for three years up to the opening of the Church building.
15 June 86 In a similar way to the start of the Holmgate Evangelical Church project, a Gift Day was organised by the Holmgate Church to test the case for purchase of the land. Just over £27,500 (including £2,000 loans) was raised on the day.
June 86 Newspaper articles appeared in the Derbyshire Times (3) and the Star (4).
25 June 86 Following the successful Gift Day, The Holmgate Evangelical Church decided to proceed with purchase of the land. The balance outstanding from the Gift Day was provided in interest free loans.
21 July 86 The land purchase was completed.
Sept 86 Mid week children clubs were started in the Village Hall. An invitation card had been produced (5)
Oct 86 A second leaflet (6) to all homes in the Walton area was distributed.
5 Nov 86 A Holmgate/Walton Bonfire Party was organized on the Church site, and following a short Gospel message by Rev John Rosser, we had the first confession of faith.
25 Nov 86 The Holmgate Evangelical Church decided to appoint a second Assistant Minister because of the Walton project
Feb 87 Building work started on the bungalows (7)
May 87 The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) loaned The Walton project £20,000.
June 87 A Church in Sussex had closed and an agreement between the FIEC and the church was settled with 50% of the sale proceeds going to the Sudan Interior Mission and the other 50% to a FIEC church building project. Some months later the FIEC decided to give that 50% for the Walton building project. Great timing. Thank you Lord!
7 Feb 88 Subsequently £84,000 was received and further gifts amounting in total to £120,00 were received.
24 July 87 Stephen Dunning was appointed as Assistant Minister at The Holmgate Evangelical Church and he and his wife, Pat, moved to Chesterfield. Together with John Holden and his wife Barbara who was already Assistant Minister at Holmgate, they also contributed heavily to the manual labour on site.
1987 – 1990 During the whole project period, The Holmgate Evangelical Church took on four Careforce Workers who were provided with board and lodgings and they worked for the Church:
Jenny Beechey (who lived with the Taylors)
Sarah Chatterton (who lived with the Roberts)
Jane Warwick (who lived with the Roberts)
Ian Taylor (who lived with the Roberts)
The Architect for the church building was David Botham, a member of the Chesterfield Ragged School congregation. He provided all his services free of charge in service to the Lord.
Oct 87 The Holmgate Evangelical Church ran a competition to come up with a name for the road to the bungalows and a number of people came up with “The Way”, but the prize fund could only run to one Mars bar and this was awarded to Jeremy Brewer. The Chesterfield Borough Council approved the name.
29 Mar 88 The first digger to start the trenches for the footings of the church building moved onto site.
25 Apr 88 The first building blocks were laid.
14 June 88 The baptistry was concreted.
Experts had been brought in to do the bricklaying and joinery but all the labouring was done by over 100 church members from Holmgate and Walton. Rev John Rosser was Clerk of Works, supported hugely by his wife Mary. They literally both worked all the hours God sent. Stanley Briddon and Luther White hardly missed a day on site from the beginning to the end of the project. The Site Office was the home of Joy and Gladys Hibbert who must have made thousands of cups of tea and served thousands of biscuits to the site workers. Mervyn Bray from Derby, organised the setting out of the site, erection of the steel and beams. The stained glass window (8) above the worship area was designed by Marrion Carding, an Art teacher and one of the original families. The pulpit was designed and built by Jeremy Brewer, an Elder at the Holmgate Evangelical Church. Roger Buswell was the electrician. David Wombwell from Holmgate was the plumber and Peter Holden (brother to Holmgate’s Assistant Minister) fitted the central heating and Tony Carter from Holmgate provided invaluable help with the electrical work, heating system, public address system and choice of organ. Even the Students at New Tribes Mission base in Matlock Bath were roped in to help lift the big worship area beams from the delivery lorry – the crane had failed to turn up.
Chris Hall did a huge amount of joinery particularly boarding the worship area ceiling and he and his wife Maggie later joined the Church as members. Chris and John Sutton, together with great assistance from Malcolm Straw, did a great deal of the joinery. Malcolm, a builder by trade, was a great help on the church building project for his building knowledge, skills and labour. When the roller shutter for the kitchen was put in place Chris took pen to paper to write this little ditty to the tune of the “Laughing Policeman”:
“It was on a Friday evening the boys put up a screen
It was the ugliest roller blind that you had ever seen
That the ladies will not like it of that you can be sure
So we’ll have to take it down again and substitute a door”
Max Taylor responded in similar vein:
“For those of you with cultured taste like Mr. Hall, you’ll find
I’m not a gothic, classic or romantic roller blind.
But if you do not like me I couldn’t care a fig
Because I’m heavy metal and I’m going to make it big”
Ivan and Rita Malyon (9), members of Holmgate, lent the use of their large garage for the painting of the worship area ceiling boards which all needed three coats of fire protection paint. If the boards had all been laid out end to end they would have stretched six miles.
The cost of the church building including land purchase was £225,000. The land cost £50,000, the Church building £175,000 including fixtures and fittings. The bungalows cost £92,000 giving a grand total spend of £317,000. £130,000 was raised from the sale of the four bungalows giving a net cost/spend of £187,000 met in substantial part by the gift of just over £120,000 from the FIEC, and then The Holmgate Evangelical Church gift day and interest free loans. £20,000-£25,000 was in hand at the end of the total project and was used to fund the strengthened ministry team.
Nov 88 The felting and tiling was completed, thus making the building watertight.
31 Jan 89 The Holmgate Evangelical Church appointed Elders Designate, Stanley Briddon and John Allsop for The Walton Evangelical Church.
4 May 89 The Church building was used for the first time – as a Polling Station.
May 89 Prior to the official Opening a further invitation leaflet (10) was distributed to all homes in the area together with an advert placed in the local paper (11)
21 May 89 Following the usual morning service in the Village Hall, the congregation moved into the new church building and Rev John Rosser led a prayer of dedication. The congregation then sang the hymn “How good is the God we adore”.
27 May 89 The Church Opening and Thanksgiving Services took place.
There was a printed Order of Service (12) and visual and audio recordings of the opening services. Formal thanks were given to the range of people involved in the building project including the Architect David Botham, who was presented with a Highlands and Islands Family Train and Ferry voucher together with a book token. Pat Forbes from London was the soloist. Sylvia Briddon, from Walton, was the organist. Molly Chatfield from Holmgate provided flowers on the day. The Chesterfield Mission Choir brought the Opening Weekend to a close after the main evening service. The conductor of the choir, David Botham, led the time of singing. The Opening Services took place less than eight years after the Opening Services of The Holmgate Evangelical Church.
June 89 A Mother and Toddler group was established in the Church led primarily by Elizabeth Taylor.
9 Oct 89 At a special meeting at The Holmgate Church, it was decided to invite Rev Chris Kelly as Minister of The Walton Evangelical Church.
29 Oct 89 The Walton Evangelical Church held a Gift Day for a minister’s house. In total the sum of £62,380 (including £9,000 loans) was received and No.1 Caernarvon Close Walton, sited just across the road from the Church, was purchased.
1 Jan 90 Rev Chris Kelly (13) and Caroline, with children Natasha and Alex arrived, moved into the Minister’s house.
9 Jan 90 The Holmgate Evangelical Church formally established The Walton Evangelical Church as an Independent Church. A Constitution was approved and adopted. The following members were appointed Church Officers: Elders: Stanley Briddon and John Allsop; Deacons: Alf Gatward, Ian Roberts and Max Taylor; Trustees: Stanley Briddon, John Bourne, Alf Gatward, Ian Roberts and Max Taylor; Ian Roberts also became the Treasurer. There were 37 members from 21 families.
13 Jan 90 The Induction service took place for the Rev Chris Kelly as Minister. The speakers were Rev John Rosser from Holmgate and Rev Bill Dyer from Pontefract, where Chris had been Assistant Minister some years earlier.
22 Jan 90 The first Walton Evangelical Church Members’ Meeting was held.
(1): Rev John Rosser’s Recollections
Soon after finishing our new building at Holmgate I was lobbied by Walton members about a Church plant there. Wendy Roberts was the most troublesome! I had barely recovered and was being asked to do it all again. Pastor of two Churches, overseeing three Conference Centres and on the FIEC Council with its Committee work while building again – how crazy was that?
However it was a strategic opportunity. Eight families lived in Chesterfield (mostly Walton). Holmgate was built to seat 150, but we were regularly 175. Being able to support two Assistant Pastors and a succession of Careforce Workers, with the Conference Centres funding secretarial assistance, made it possible. FIEC gave us £120,000 from the sale of a closed Church. Add in a consistently committed congregational contingent of a hundred volunteers from Holmgate and Walton, with many very skilled people, all recorded in the history.
Two crucial contributions: Mervyn Bray brought a wide range of experience to the project, overseeing work on foundations, setting out, drainage and steel erection and travelling from Derby. What about our need for an architect to design the building, submit plans and oversee the work in more detail than normally required because there was no contractor – just me, an amateur Clerk of Works? David Botham was our hero with a huge involvement including sacrificing endless lunch hours to sort out problems all without charging a fee, just as Bob Crabb had done for Holmgate. Both were members of other Churches and we thank God for them. What a fitting climax on the Sunday of our opening weekend after the evening service, when David conducted the Chesterfield Mission Choir to conclude our celebration.
The building enabled us to develop our ministry. The 50-60 who met in the Village Hall soon grew to 90 and I handed over to Chris Kelly in January 1990. The Church continued to grow significantly with many becoming Christians and I echo Chris Kelly’s sentiment in his contribution – those early years were encouraging and blessed times of spiritual and practical progress.
(2): First Leaflet distributed in the Walton area – April 1986
(3): Derbyshire Time article – June 1986
(4): The Star Article – June 1986
(5): Children’s club invitation – September 1986
(6): Second WEC leaflet – October 1986
(7): The Bungalows
Local builder Robert Webster (and later a member of the Church) handled the building of the bungalows
Feb 87 – Building work started
Sept 87 – Joy and Gladys Hibbert from Monyash in Derbyshire occupied the first bungalow. Later that month Miss Edna Field from London occupied a second bungalow
Nov 87 – Mr Rowland and Mrs Rachel King moved from Bexhill-on-Sea into the third bungalow
June 88 – Mr. Arthur and Mrs. Elsie Harmson and son Peter from Brighton occupied the last remaining bungalow
(8): Marrion Carding’s idea for The Stained Glass Window
As the church building progressed, it was clear that there would be a blank brick wall behind the pulpit area, unless some decoration were added. The diamond shape in brick was settled on early, but this still left the window at the apex, which, without decoration, would be simply plain glass, a mirror image of the window at the apex in the rear of the building. I was asked to work on possible designs, which resulted in three potential themes, namely The Sower, The man building his house on the rock, and The Creation Theme of Genesis: “Let there be Light.” The “Light” option was finally selected, largely because it fitted best into the size and shape of the available space. The window was then designed to show the moment when God created Light. The design moves through various colours to show mountains, grass and water along with other elements of the creation, culminating in the central section which presents the brightest explosion of light. As the sun shines through the window many effects of light are produced; particularly good is the illumination of the pinewood ceiling when sunlight streams through the window. The theme “Light” is appropriate as the Church is meant to bring God’s Light to the community.
(9): Ivan & Rita Malyon’s Testimony
We were worshipping at The Holmgate Evangelical Church. John Rosser was wondering where he could get the ceiling boards for Walton Evangelical Church painted and he approached us. We had a huge garage at the side of our house and John Rosser was not someone you could say no to! Deliveries of the timber would arrive together with teams of painters at all times throughout the day. Each board needed the fire protective coat and varnish. Four coats were applied in all. The work took a long time and each board had to be turned over and over. The army of volunteers gradually reduced ,probably because the smell of the varnish was very strong and enveloped the house – our next-door neighbour said he was surprised we could sleep with all the fumes present! One of the ladies from Holmgate Church involved her husband in the painting though he was not a Christian. He came along and we began asking questions as we shared the Gospel with him. Before long, he gave his life to the Lord Jesus Christ and began attending the Church. Praise the Lord!
(10): WEC invitation leaflet – May 1989
(11): Advert in local paper – May 1989
(12): Order of Service – May 1989
(13): Rev Chris Kelly’s Testimony
In June 1989 Ross and Joy Campbell (friends who were members of Holmgate Evangelical Church) gave us a holiday – staying at the Brewer’s cottage in Littlemoor. One afternoon both our families went swimming at Queens Park and Ross argued (nicely) with me in the changing room. He wanted me to come and preach at Walton, but I didn’t want to in case I became unsettled in the church in Broadstairs. However, Ross had paid for my week’s holiday, so I couldn’t be rude. Consequently I caved in and agreed to preach one Sunday. So, on the first Sunday in September we found ourselves having lunch with John and Mary Rosser after the morning service, and John was asking if I might be willing to become Minister at Walton. I was so sure that this was right, that I handed in my resignation at the church in Broadstairs at the end of September. This was a week or so before Walton (or rather Holmgate) had even had a Church Members’ Meeting to give us a formal invitation. This meant that I could serve my 3 months notice at Broadstairs and start at Walton on January 1st 1990. Strangely enough, one of the young Christians at the church in Broadstairs came to see me. She told me that upon reading the magazine ‘Evangelicals Now’, there had been an article about the opening of Walton Evangelical Church, and felt that I should be pastor there. I didn’t get the feeling that she wanted to be rid of me – just a confirmation that I wasn’t simply following my feelings in this matter. The move to Walton was smooth and being Minister at Walton was the start of just about the happiest 11 or 12 years of our lives.