by Joe Earp
July 3rd 2015 marked the Centenary of when Christ Church (Chilwell’s Parish Church), was consecrated.
In the Doomesday Book (1086) Chilwell is listed as a separate village, and by the early nineteenth century had a population of 600 or more. Despite this it was not an ecclesiastical parish in itself but a civil township of the parish of Attenborough.
By the 1800s the population of Chilwell was in need of a church for itself. In the 1840s, the Vicar of Attenborough, Rev. Joseph Shooter, petitioned the Ecclesiastical Commissioners with a proposal for providing Anglican services in the parish. They pointed out that the united parishes of Attenborough and Bramcote, had a population according to the 1841 census of 1,768 people in an area of 2,930 acres, but were served by a single clergyman with two churches (Attenborough and Bramcote) two and a half miles apart.
The majority of the population lived in Chilwell, with 772 in 1841 and rising. To add to this the walk from Chilwell to Attenborough every Sunday was becoming to much. At least one old source mentions about churchgoers complaining about their Sunday best becoming dusty because of the long trek from Chilwell down Attenborough Lane to St Mary’s Church.
Despite the protest for Chilwell to have a church of it’s own nothing further was done. By the 1880s it was common for services to be held in the local schoolroom, and there was a curate living in the area (the Rev James Crabtree in 1887).
The initiative for building a church in Chilwell came from Frederic Chatfield Smith, Esq, of Bramcote, otherwise known as Banker Smith because of his connection with Smiths Bank (the oldest provincial bank in England).
A plot of land was provided by the Charlton family for £50 in February 1901. Building plans were submitted to Stapleford Urban District Council on 21st August 1901 by Mr MJ Hughes of Arromia Buildings, Bangor, Wales, for a Mission Church on the north side of Main Road. Originally a mission church it was built between 1901 and 1903. Although opened in 1903, the church wasn’t officially consecrated until 3 July 1915. Therefore the church is often reckoned to date from 1915.
Perhaps the most colourful incident in the church’s history is the fire from August 1970. The Beeston Gazette reported on the incident at the time, “The sanctuary and chancel of the church were extensively damaged by fire, while the Vicar, the Rev. LL Abbott, was on holiday. The fire started in a scout hut near the church and quickly spread to the church roof, which was completely gutted during the blaze. New choir stalls, which were only installed two years ago, a new fitted carpet and other furnishings were among the valuable items which were damaged beyond repair. Firemen stopped the fire from spreading to other parts of the church and many other valuable items were saved- including the table and cross and the communion silver”.
Luckily the fire did not completely destroy the building and the church has survived to enjoy it’s 100th anniversary this year. Throughout the summer and autumn the church will be celebrating the Centenary with various events and projects. Please check the church’s website for more details: http://christchurchchilwell.org.uk/