Darley Abbey had no building for worship after the dissolution of the monasteries caused the demise of the Abbey of St Mary. Peter the Vicar told the story of the Abbey at a service of Nones on 7 May 2017 – and his talk is here nones – history of DA. Villagers had to travel to St Alkmund’s in Derby for Sunday worship, baptisms, weddings and funerals until the first Walter Evans, at great personal expense, donated money to build St Matthew’s Church in 1819. An Act of Parliament in 1818 made money available from Queen Anne’s Bounty for the construction of Churches in newly built industrial districts. From this fund Walter received £400 towards the building costs of the Church.
The Church was designed and built by Henry Moses Wood in the Gothic style. Most of the craftsmen were local and some of the stone used in its construction was quarried locally from King’s Croft Allestree, Pentrich, and Wirksworth. Much of the stone was cut against the grain and is the cause of some of the severe weathering. The Church of St Matthew was consecrated on 24 June 1819 which was also Walter Evans’ fifty fifth birthday. It was then a Chapelry of St Alkmund’s Church in Derby and as such was unlicensed for marriages. The first baptism took place on 15 August 1819 and the first burial on September 21st the same year. In 1847 St Matthew’s gained its licence for marriages and the first wedding was held on February 3rd that year.
Alterations have since been made to the original building. In 1886 the second Walter Evans installed a new organ at the East end of the Church, a new Sanctuary and new Vestries, one of which has recently been named the Walter Evans Room. The Fellowship Room was added to the West end in 1965, and was refurbished a few years ago when a new kitchen and choir vestry were added. Now that new housing is on the west side of the church, as is the car park and Walter Evans School, the door beside the Fellowship Room is used as the main entrance to the church. There is flat access.
The East End of the Church was substantially reordered in 2000 to open up the Chancel and relocate the Choir and the Organ in the Nave.
Currently the building is only open for Services and other events. We are working on having it open more often, but if you wish to visit in the meantime, please come on a Sunday, or phone the Vicar and we’ll see what can be arranged.