For more than 140 years, Keswick Ministries has united God’s people and strengthened the churches around the Word of God. The Convention has grown from a small gathering on the lawn at St John’s Church, Keswick in 1875, to become a global movement for spiritual renewal and growth. We now welcome between 12,000 – 15,000 Christians from across the UK and beyond each year split over a period of 3 weeks in the summer.

The Convention gives Christians from all walks of life the opportunity to spend a week or two in the beautiful Lake District, explore the area and attend the Convention with other Christians. For some, particularly families and those with disabilities, this is the only holiday they have a year. Many travel across Britain to spend time here. Our event is free of charge.

At the moment, we hold our annual Convention on two sites in Keswick. As both our sites are nearing capacity, we now have the opportunity to integrate our programme through the development of the former Derwent Pencil Factory site in Keswick.

This new facility will allow us to hold the Convention on one, integrated site rather than split out over two sites. The new venue will also see a 400-seater auditorium which is designed to allow for conferences and training events at other times of the year. This facility will also serve churches in the North of the UK and at times can be made available to other organisations needing a conference facility. This, in turn, will bring visitors to the town of Keswick at other times throughout the year.

You can see indicative plans for the new site by clicking here. Please read the Q&AS further down to for more details on how the three floors will be used.

Site plans from front

The new site will allow us to:

• Host our children’s and young people’s work, work for those with disabilities and missions exhibition alongside our adult programme.
• Expand our teaching and training programmes at other times of the year.
• Offer training for youth workers, preachers, leaders, pastors and mission workers.
• Encourage and resource local churches in Cumbria and the North.
• Strengthen and resource our UK and international partnerships.
• Provide a venue for businesses and organisations looking for a local conference and meeting space

Other things you might like to know about the new site:

• We have hired the local architect, Stuart Woodall from Day Cummins, to help us develop the plans for the site. Stuart understands the local design needs and has also included features into the design which account for possible flooding in the future.
• The total cost of the project is £10m. This includes a £5m refurbishment of the old pencil factory. We have taken local expressions of interest to see the façade of the building retained into account and our architects are working on plans accordingly.
• The extra space provided via the refurbished building will allow us to move some of the youth activities, which can be louder at times, inside the building.
• An independent study done in 2010 shows that conventioners bring approximately £2.5m to the town every summer. Since then we have grown considerably. We are estimating this number to now be at around £3m. For example, we spend about £100,000 on non-food related supplies with local providers each year. We also purchase the equivalent of £250,000 worth of accommodation for our 650 volunteers and staff each year. All food for our staff and volunteers during the Convention is sourced locally. All guests to the Convention stay in accommodation in the Keswick area. Many will stay in B&Bs and self-catering cottages, some in hotels and camping sites.

We have put some answers together below to questions people have asked about the Derwent Project and our work. We would love to hear from you. If you have other questions concerning the project, please email these to us at communication@keswickministries.org. We shall be glad to answer these for you.

Question Answer
Will the Pencil Factory be demolished as part of the Derwent Project? Based on the Architect’s and structural surveyors input, the plan is to now refurbish the Pencil Factory, not to demolish it.
What will happen to the façade? The plan is to remove extraneous metalwork, restore and renew the façade to its full potential.
What will happen to the letters at the top of the building? With the Design Team, we are looking at how the lettering might be included in the overall design.
Will the Pencil Factory site host a hotel?  No.
Will the refurbished pencil factory have beds? The refurbished building will see the number of beds we currently have at Skiddaw Street replicated. Keswick Ministries uses these beds for volunteer accommodation during the Convention and for small groups who use the facility at weekends. There are no plans to provide competitive, commercial accommodation.
Where will people who attend conferences or training at the Derwent site sleep? That would depend upon the size and nature of each conference.
Will the old pencil factory site have a restaurant? No. We will continue to feed our volunteers, during the Convention, from the dining facilities in the new building, just as we currently do at Skiddaw Street. We will continue to encourage participants at any of our events to use the town’s eating establishments.
Will the pencil museum stay on the site?  Yes.
What happens if the refurbished building floods? The design will include flood resilience and will see the lower ground floor raised by 1m to above the water level reached during Storm Desmond, December 2015
Will people still be able to park on the site? The Car Parks will be fully operational outside of the Convention weeks on both Rawnsley and Pencil Factory Sites. Provision will also be made for visitors to the Pencil Museum all the year round.
What will happen to the Skiddaw Street building, currently owned by Keswick Ministries? This will be put up for sale, in order to fund the refurbishment of the Pencil Factory. We have an obligation to the Charity Commission to obtain the best value for the site.
Will there be vehicular access and if so, where? There will be vehicular access for drop offs for example which will run behind the Pencil Factory.
How will people get into the site by foot? People access and egress during the Convention is going to be a key part of the next stage of our design process.
How will the site serve the rest of the Keswick community? It will provide a Conference Centre that will attract visitors to Keswick, more car parking for the town and continue to host the pencil museum. As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility goal, our intention is to make the Conference Centre available to the town of Keswick.
Will you use local builders for the project? We are already using local builders for the offices at Rawnsley Hall, and where possible we will invite local contractors to tender.