Derby Unitarians

Memories of Friargate

Irene Pratt
Irene Pratt
I was christened at Friargate Chapel 2.4.1913 and my whole life since has been involved in Friargate activities.

My parents were dedicated Unitarians; my father, Councillor Arthur Vernon Knowles, was a wonderful superintendent of our large Sunday School.

As a small child I walked to Friargate three times every Sunday. Almost every evening some social occasion was taking place: the Chapel had a football club, tennis and badminton club, music and drama society, swimming club, rambling club, recreation evening.

As young girls we could safely walk home after parties, after midnight on New Year's Eve.

Our rambles into Derbyshire were always days of joy and happy laughter.

Each Sunday evening now I sit beside my Sunday School teacher, Miss Eva Holmes, who will be 90 years young at Christmas. Some of the concerts she organised when we were children were fantastic and such fun. We always had a good audience - my sister played the piano and we sang our hearts out. This, of course, all before the days of radio, television and motorcars.

Every November we had a wonderful bazaar. The ladies' circle spent every Thursday afternoon making all manner of beautiful things for the sale which was always well attended.

We had many distinguished families in the congregation, but when the war came many railway families were moved to Watford to work. This was when the decline started. Eventually we could not afford the salary of a minister, so For many years we were served by numerous wonderful lay preachers, and Rev. Gordon Bolam shared oversight, and took service once a month. We shall never forget his inspiring help through those terrible years of vandalism. My husband, Francis William Pratt, whom I married in 1933, was chairman of the Chapel for many years, and it was a heartbreaking decision to sell the old building, which was demolished in 1975.

Now we have a modern comfortable building, but it does not compare with all the joyful days, and comradeship of our youth!

I'm sorry, I must be getting old. Here's to the Future!

- Irene Pratt.