A CHURCH will close next year and bring to an end more than 120 years of worship.

Hollins Grove Congregational Church, in Darwen, will hold its last Sunday service this weekend ahead of the scheduled closure on January 30 next year.

Several local groups that use the space, including Darwen Brass Band and Blackburn with Darwen Woodturning Club, will now have to find new venues to hold their sessions in.

The minister of Hollins Grove Congregational Church, Rowland Dowell, described the decision as 'sad' and 'disappointing'.

Mr Dowell, who has been the pastor of the church since 1998, said: "Over the last few years we have seen declining congregations, difficulties getting preachers and the running costs are now too much.

"We have now reached a point that means we do not see a way out and the only alternative is to close.

"It has been a mixture of emotions of sadness and disappointment but really I can't see any alternative.

"The church will be holding its last service on Sunday and is insured until January 30."

The future of the church remains uncertain with bosses yet to decide what will happen to the building after it closes.

At one point the church catered to 450 people but now less than 10 people, on average, visit the church for the Sunday service.

Malcolm Brooks, the membership secretary for Blackburn with Darwen Woodturning Club, said: "It was surprising and sad to hear the news when the pastor rang me last week.

"We have used the space for the last five years and are now talking with Blackburn with Darwen Council to look at other spaces but we have not had any success yet.

"The club has eight lathes and associated equipment so we need quite an extensive headquarters but now can't find anywhere else to go."

The congregation at Hollins Grove started out in the late 19th century, using the space of school chapel, on Pitville Street, Darwen.

It moved to the corner of Blackburn Road and Hawkshaw Avenue after purchasing land there.

The foundation stone was laid in May 1881 and work on the two storey building was completed by the late 1880s.

Cllr Roy Davies, the Mayor of Darwen Town Council, said the closure of the church would be a sad loss to the community.

Since the 1970s the church has been member of the Congregational Federation, a small Christian denomination in the UK comprising just under 300 congregations.

He said: "It's a sad state of affairs and part of a worrying trend of people no longer attending church services."