We are pleased to report that steps are being taken to safeguard the future of the Rose Hill United Reform Church building. This is a prominent Grade II listed landmark which offers one of the pleasantest and most convenient meeting rooms in the town centre.
The Civic Society is seeking to have the building designated by the Borough Council as a ‘Community Asset’. The practical effect of this would be that, if it is offered for sale (which it will be in the near future), any local organisation that wishes to purchase the building will be given six months to raise the necessary funds before it can be put on the open market.
The building is held in trust by the regional synod of the United Reformed Church, which, we understand, will shortly make available its valuation of Rose Hill. It is always difficult to put a figure on a building like this, which offers great potential but in the short-term needs substantial expenditure on roof repairs.
Some would argue that in its present condition the building has a negative value, but the synod is obviously required to realise the largest possible sum. A parallel step to the valuation is for realistic estimates to be obtained for the cost of repairing the roof, and this is also in hand. Once these two figures are available it will be possible for intending purchasers to make a well-informed offer.
The Civic Society committee feels strongly that every effort should be made to retain Rose Hill for community use, especially small- and medium-size musical events, for which it is by far the best building in Chesterfield. It has excellent acoustics and a good organ. More generally, the building is central, close to a large car-park and a short walk from town centre bus stops. It has full disabled access and has been refurbished internally in recent years to a very high standard, including a well-equipped kitchen which, because of Covid, has barely been used since it was put in. Community use would also safeguard the fixtures and fittings in the church.
As well as those relating to the history of the Rose Hill congregation over the last two centuries, the church also houses several plaques and other items from the former Congregational church on Chatsworth Road, and it is important that these all remain in situ.
There are also negative reasons in favour of community use, chiefly the unsuitability of the building for several other purposes. Lack of parking makes either residential or office use unlikely, and the layout of the building, which is physically connected to the Eastwood Memorial Hall next door, would make conversion into flats almost impossible. Any conversion of this sort would do irreversible damage to the interior, which can and should be avoided.
One possibility is that another Free Church congregation might like to take over the building, but anyone contemplating this would have to demonstrate considerable financial resources, given the work needed to the roof. All things considered, we believe that conversion for use by the community as a whole is by far the best future for the church and for the town, and that the problem of funding can be overcome.