A CLOSED church which was set to be lost to the pages of history has been brought back to life as a community cafe.

The Ebenezer Baptist Chapel in Billington has been transformed into a new hub in the village.

The church, founded in 1879 by George Foster from Sabden, closed three years ago with congregation numbers having dwindled.

Reverend Philip Elson said at one stage it looked as if the site would be sold off to a private development company for housing.

However Billington residents Joanne Brindle and Natalie Haslam proposed turning the site into Ebenezer’s Coffee Shop for the village.

Through discussions with Ms Brindle, Ms Haslam and Mr Elson and the Northern Western Baptist Association, which owned the church, it was decided the building would remain and it could be transformed into a hub, called Ebenezer’s.

Ms Brindle, who now runs the hub with Ms Haslam, said: “We want this to be a place for people to come and feel welcome and comfortable.

“I’m really delighted we’ve managed to keep the building here and not lose it. It’s a fantastic place and now we’ve got the only community hub in Billington.

“We’ve been open for a couple of weeks and have already seen a large number of people.

“We had a 93-year-old lady in who said she has not been outside on her own for a long time, but she really wanted to come.”

The cafe has kept many original features, including the baptism pool.

The hub now acts as a cafe and a social centre, with informal church services held on a Sunday.

Mr Elson said: “It’s an important site for the church and the community.

“Because there was interest by a lot of people who wanted the building to be protected we spoke to the Northern Western Baptism Association who sympathised with our requests.

“If people come here to find faith then that is a bonus, however there is no pressure to come here for faith."

Ms Brindle said: “We are professional chatters, we really want everyone to come and feel welcome.

“That’s our aim, as well as providing great food and tea.”