Home E About E Our background E College history

From Derbyshire, to Devon, to Dorset—and now across the UK. Ours is a long and rich history of biblical, theological and practical training.

Dale View, Matlock


Birth of a vision
David Clifford, encouraged by a Christian US Sergeant, spends six months travelling in America. Whilst there, he receives a vision to start a new training initiative back in the UK to enable and equip young people for evangelism. Clifford subsequently purchases a large house in Matlock, Derbyshire, as premises for a new college and conference venue.

Matlock Bible College
Matlock Bible College starts with just eight students, plus John Welch as Principal and lecturer, and Clifford as Vice Principal. Intentionally practical from day one, early students are even given medical training—covering minor surgical procedures, basic medicine and obstetrics—in response to the needs of post-war missionaries working in remote areas of the world.

Premises in Matlock and Dawlish


From Derbyshire to Devon
With student numbers increasing, the college relocates to Dawlish, Devon. Meanwhile, the word ‘Matlock’ is replaced with ‘Moorlands’ in the college’s title, inspired by the fact the area surrounding the new premises includes Dartmoor, Exmoor and Haldon Moor. By 1967, the college is thriving and student numbers are at an all-time high.

Social and political turmoil in the 1960s


Facing a period of unrest
At a time of political and social change globally, and unrest within the UK Church over the rising charismatic movement, Moorlands College encounters difficulties and is re-established in Verwood, Dorset, but no staff or students transfer from Devon. Student numbers at the college plummet from over 100, down to just seven.

The original Sopley Manor


The vision is passed on
Moorlands College re-opens in a large converted manor house in Sopley, with the support of an American mission—who provide Moorlands College not only with its new home, but also its new Principal: Dr Derek Copley.

Outside the new Cedars accommodation
New Cedars accommodation block; Dr Derek Copley


A time to build
Moorlands College grows its campus facilities over several years during the early 1970s, whilst the old manor house finally becomes so unsafe it’s pulled down. In 1995, under its new partnership with Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education, Moorlands College awards its first validated Diploma, followed one year later by a BA degree.

Cover of college newsletter, featuring Steve Brady, Spring 1999


The third Principal in 50 years
Rev Dr Steve Brady is appointed Principal; only the third person to hold the post in Moorlands College’s history.

The Hub dining room


Growth across the UK
Our training is now more accessible than ever, thanks to new regional centres opening at the invitation of others—very often college alumni. The first opens in the South West in 2013, supported by South West Youth Ministries (SWYM); and followed one year later by our Midlands Regional Centre. Back in Sopley, the campus facilities are not keeping up with the pace of college growth, and nearly £3 million is raised to build a new community Hub and Auditorium, opened in 2015 by Baroness Caroline Cox.

Aerial view of London


Farewell to Steve Brady
Rev Dr Steve Brady steps down as Principal and says farewell to the college to start his new position as Minister of First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman.


The fourth Principal in 70 years
Revd Dr David Hilborn joins our Moorlands College staff team as our fourth Principal in 70 years.

David H

Moorlands College and Wycliffe Bible Translators collaboration announced
Moorlands College and Wycliffe Bible Translators announce collaboration to establish a new ‘School of Language and Scripture’ at Moorlands College. The School will offer a new Masters programme (MA in Language, Community and Development) and it will be aimed at UK and international students serving with Bible translation organisations around the world.


Teaching went online in March 2020 due to the global pandemic and students adapted brilliantly to the change. Lectures and placements continued virtually and the college continued to support students through their studies but also through the vast changes caused by Covid-19.

In September 2020, the college returned to a blend of face-to-face and online delivery of teaching. A new Moorlands College centre, with a new cohort of students, was launched in Belfast (Moorlands NI @ Youth Link).

The demands of the world and the nature of education may be continually shifting, but the need for biblical and theological training never dwindles.