THE £1.57million transformation of a former Methodist church into a new Darwen pub can be unveiled for the first time.

JD Wetherspoon is on course to open The Old Chapel in the former Railway Road Methodist Church next Thursday.

The firm has transformed the building, most recently used as a discount supermarket, and brought the forgotten upstairs floor back into use.

Lighting costing £150,000 has been installed which is remote-controlled to enable bulbs to be changed, and features mock candles like those which would have been used in the church, which closed in 1968. And a kitchen has been installed at a cost of £300,000. Manager Michael Johnson, formerly of The Commercial in Accrington, said he was looking forward to opening next week.

He said: “I have worked for 20 Wetherspoon pubs over 10 years with the company and this is certainly the most stunning building.”

Mr Johnson, 31, originally from Liverpool, has been a Wetherspoon’s pub manager for six years, having run the Robert Peel in Bury before moving to Accrington.

He said: “The thing that gets me is that every day you look on Facebook and there are pictures of the pub that people have taken and everyone is really excited.

“I cannot believe the fever it has generated.”

The pub will have door security from Thursday to Sunday and will sell local beers from brewers in the town, including Hopstar.

Simon Huggill, a methodist preacher and Darwen town councillor, said despite the building’s past, the Methodist community had not voiced any concerns about its new use.

He said: “Nobody has said anything to me and, if they did, they should have voiced their concerns at the planning stage.

“I think it will be fantastic. I am a tee-totaller but life does not stand still.

“It is a beautiful building and I am pleased it is being brought back to its former glory.

“I would certainly be happy to go in as a methodist and enjoy a soft drink.”

For a gallery of pictures of The Old Chapel, visit