AN EVANGELICAL conference has embarked on an ambitious expansion plan by buying a pencil factory in Cumbria.
Keswick Ministries, which holds the annual Keswick Convention in the Lake District town, has bought the former Derwent Pencil Factory, and plans to use the site to create a new base for both the conference and other ministries throughout the year.
The Cumberland Pencil Company produced pencils in Keswick for more than a century, until it moved its operations 20 miles west to Lillyhall in 2008.
The famous Pencil Museum, which welcomes 80,000 visitors a year and is home to the world’s largest colouring pencil — almost eight metres long and weighing 446 kg — is next to the former factory and is unaffected by Keswick Ministries’ moving in.
Jutta Devenish, Keswick Ministries’ director of communications and development, said that the conference had been considering expanding for several years.
“The CEO and board felt that God was leading them to expand the overall ministries, not just the convention,” she said last week. While the final scheme had not been decided, Ms Devenish said it was likely they would knock down the factory and construct a new building on the site.
“We also want to see how that site could serve the wider community in Cumbria,” Ms Devenish said: “maybe a conference centre, and a place churches could come for training and retreats.”
Keswick Ministries is hoping to raise £5 million over the next three years to complete its plans for the new site, which would double the space it currently owns. The scheme has the backing of the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, who said: “I wholeheartedly commend this development of Keswick Ministries, which I believe will extend its blessing still further.”
The three-week Keswick Convention attracts between 10,000 and 15,000 people each summer, and was 140 years old this year.