An 87-year-old landmark Nelson church which has seen its congregation decline by 85% over the past 30 years will close its doors for the last time on Thursday.
St Bede’s CE Church, in Railway Street, has served the parish of Little Marsden since 1929, following calls from residents who said they urgently needed a church.
But dwindling and ageing numbers as well as the high cost of maintaining the building led the Blackburn Diocese to earmark it for closure. It had been originally set to close on January 3rd but congregation members, who are mostly aged over 80, feared that would not give them enough time to organise a fitting final service for those who have been associated with the church over the decades.
Thirty years ago the Sunday service regularly pulled in 100 worshippers but now that number is as low as 15 some weeks.
The last weekend service will take place on Sunday at 9-30am before a farewell service on Thursday at 7pm.
After the closure most of the congregation is expected to attend church at St Paul’s in Halifax Road.
There are people who have been coming here for 60 and 70 years. Their children have got married here and have been baptised and confirmed hereParishioner
Parishioners said they hope the building will continue to be used to serve the community.
One said: “It’s a lovely church. I started coming here 30 years ago and we used to get 80 to 100 people but it’s started to dwindle for different reasons. Now we can have between 15 and 19 people.”
Another said the closure of the church would leave a huge gap for those who attend its weekly service.
“We’ve known for quite a while really that it was on the cards but I think the dates were finalised just before Christmas. It’s because of the falling numbers. People have other things to do on a Sunday now, they don’t attach the same importance to it. There are people who have been coming here for 60 and 70 years. Their children have got married here and have been baptised and confirmed here. It’s going to be a sad time but also a time when we are looking forward to a new chapter as well.”
Anyone who has been associated with the church over the years is invited to attend the services on Sunday and Thursday.
Although the current St Bede’s church building, which features three stained glass windows, opened in 1929, the idea was first mooted as early as 1912 when members of the Church of England Men’s Society branch at St Paul’s Church considered the provision of a mission in Clover Hill. The project raised £11 before it was abandoned. Two years later, the local Rural Deanery of the Church of England considered a new church and a committee was appointed. The committee soon decided there was an urgent need for a church in that area of Nelson and a site was identified in Railway Street.
Calls for the church were ignored and a small group of parishioners approached a joiner who offered part of his shop to be used for Sunday worship.
The first service was held there in May 1916 with a congregation of 25. By 1918 numbers had increased and the original vacant plot of land in Railway Street was bought for £630.
Two years later a redundant wooden building, which had been used as a hospital during the war, was bought from a firm in Reading. It was dismantled, transported by rail to Nelson and re-built.
It was then decided the church needed a permanent building and an architect was commissioned. The current building opened in 1929.