A CHURCH which has served as a continuous place of worship for more than 118 years has closed – with its services transferring to the more modern surroundings of a high school.

The final service at Leamington Road Baptist Church took place last week but the 80 or so church members are positive about 2014 and beyond after the move from their historic building on Granville Road, Blackburn to Pleckgate Community School.

The decision to sell the building, which opened in 1895, has been nearly two years in the making and was made by a consensus of the members, who have autonomous control of all church decisions.

Spiralling maintenance and repair costs which were anticipated to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds in the next few years, were the primary driver for the move.

The building has been sold in a closed bidding process with legal formalities completed last week. The identity of the new owners has not been disclosed.

Deacon of the church Paul Wicks said: “The church has an immense history and has served our fellowship well for generations but after evaluating the future costs we thought it best to sell and move on. The building is in relatively good shape but in the medium to longer term the costs of repairs and maintenance would have been very high.

He went on: “We have hired space in the school for three months but I anticipate we will be there for a while longer.

“That being said there are plans to look for other suitable premises for the church in north-west Blackburn.”

The land on which the church was built in the 1890s was vacated by Blackburn Rovers, who played for several seasons at Leamington Road, immediately before moving to Ewood Park.

In a delightful twist of fate, the church celebrated its centenary on the very day Rovers won the Premier league title in May 1995.

The inaugural Sunday morning service at Pleckgate Community School took place this weekend.

The church’s weekly activities have been transferred to other locations in the Corporation Park Ward area.

The tea and tots group and the luncheon club have moved to St Silas parish rooms, the scouts group will meet at Revidge Fold and an art class, and ladies’ afternoon group will now meet at East Lancashire Cricket Club.

Chaplain to the Bishop of Blackburn, Toby Webber, said that within the CofE Diocese he did not anticipate a trend of churches moving away from older churches to other premises following a recent survey.