38. Centred on Chapel


One of the main differences between mum’s and grandad’s diaries is the extent to which their lives and diaries centred around the life of the Methodist chapel that they attended. For mum (and grandma), chapel was at the heart of what they did giving a structure for their regular weekly schedule. For grandad, chapel provided interesting background. He attended special events, such as Sunday School Anniversaries, or particular musical events, such as organ recitals by Jack Helyer or to hear parts of The Messiah. Occasionally, he went to hear particular speakers, such as Arthur Lofthouse. He was supportive of the chapel and Sunday School in different ways, not least because his wife and daughter were so actively involved. He made things for use at chapel, such as a wooden clock as a concert prop, and bought other things, such as an electric clock for Sunday School.

Church or chapel?
At this time, mum and grandad use the term chapel to refer to the Methodist Church they attended. This was in line with the distinction between non-conformist chapels and the Anglican church at that time. My tendency would be to use chapel and church somewhat interchangeably but I have tried to use the terms as they used them at that time so predominantly referring to chapel. While in later life, mum did refer to attending church, she does not in the diaries for this period. When she does mention church, it is in the context of the Anglican church. For example, in March 1947, she noted “After that [service at chapel] went to church to see what they did. It was all smoky and noisy”.

Sunday School Prizegivings

Many of the chapel activities with which mum was involved related to Sunday School including regular Sunday classes and special events, such as anniversaries and prizegivings. Sunday School prizegiving (see box note 1) was held in January each year and, in December, there were missionary prizes (see box note 2) for raising funds for Methodist missionary activities (see box note 3).

[1] For Sunday School prizegivings, the prizes appear to have been books. For example, in 1949, mum won Enid Blyton’s “Island of Adventure”.

[2] In 1947, at the missionary prizegiving, mum’s prize was Moffat’s translation of the Bible. 

[3] In 1949, mum raised £9 12 6 for Methodist Mission which would be equivalent to around £230 today.
1948 edition of Enid Blyton’s “The Island of Adventure”. Mum won a copy of this book in the 1949 Sunday School prizegiving
Newspaper cutting related to Prizegiving – January 1949

Sunday School Anniversaries

The main Sunday School Anniversary was held across two Sundays in May or late April each year. The anniversaries were high-profile, relatively formal events and were an opportunity to dress up. They also had a fundraising element.

Whit Walks

Another key annual event was the Whit procession in which Sunday Schools from different chapels and churches participated. Bad weather meant that this was cancelled in 1946 but it did take place in other years.

Whit processions – these are mostly from 1947-1949 but the fifth photograph seems to show mum when she was younger than this.

Other Sunday School Activities

There were also special activities around Christmas. For example, in January 1947, mum noted that the Primary Sunday School gave “Xmas tableaux” at chapel and then had prizes. She also noted that the Junior Choir sang carols. As part of its Sunday School activities, the chapel maintained a cradle roll, that is a listing of all babies that had been christened there. For example, in August 1949, mum noted helping Mrs Hill with this.

Mum the Sunday School Teacher

From an early age, mum not only attended Sunday School but she also contributed to its running. From July 1947, when she was still only 12, she played piano for the Primary Sunday School. From July 1948, she started to take Sunday School classes. She shared the beginners’ class with Mrs Cross, Mrs Hill, Sheila Cobb or Joan Storer. For example, in February 1949, she noted telling the story of Martha and Mary using flannelgraph. This involvement perhaps reflected the close involvement grandma had in organising and running Sunday School.

Chapel Services

Mum also attended chapel services including special events such as Mothering Sunday and Harvest Festival. In 1949, she and grandma attended a Watchnight Service on New Year’s Eve. Services were also taken by different parts of the chapel and these were referred to as “efforts”, e.g. Ladies Effort (see box mote 1), Choir Effort etc. The Sunday School were also involved in chapel events (see box note 2).

[1] In November 1948, the Ladies Effort was “Under the Juniper Tree” although I am not completely sure if this refers to the Grimm fairy tale  or, perhaps more likely, the biblical story of Elijah.

[2] An example of Sunday School involvement in chapel services was in September 1947. Mum noted that as part of Harvest Sunday, the children gave a play in the afternoon called “June’s Dream”.

Scripture Examinations

There was a process for transitioning young people from Sunday School to chapel attendance, including a system of Scripture examinations which mum took between 1943 and 1951. There is an interesting description of earlier experience of these exams in Edith Searson’s book “I remember” (pp28-29). She thoroughly enjoyed these which is in very marked contrast to my own experience of them! What is striking from her description is that she had missed out on other opportunities to study which she would have liked. These exams and the study needed for them may well have been her only opportunity to have done the kind of studying she would have liked to have done and that I took somewhat for granted.

Mum’s Scripture Examination certificate for 1943

Membership Class

Mum attended a membership (see box note 1) class in April 1948 and became a member of chapel that same month. From July 1948, she began attending a preparation class (see box note 2). Other people taking the preparation class included Mrs Cross, Sheila Cobb and mum’s friend, Joan Storer. These classes continued throughout this period. In May 1949, mum noted that she “had sacrament” and it appears that this might have been the first time she took communion. She was 15 at the time.

[1] Membership in the Methodist Church is both about being a member of a local church and “confirming” the promises made at infant baptism.

[2] My understanding is that the Preparation Class would have been about preparing for membership but mum had already become a member, albeit a junior one. Perhaps it was preparation for new members or specifically for junior members.
Mum’s Junior Membership Certificate 1948

Music at Chapel

Many of the chapel activities, including special events, related to music. This included visits of particular choirs and singing groups including the Pye Hill Male Voice Choir, the Lyric Quartette Party, the Gresley quartet (see box) and the Gleemen. There were also performances of specific pieces, particularly “The Messiah”. Bourne had its own choir and junior choir and there was often community hymn singing after services. Mum was actively involved in the Bourne choir from the age of 14. In her book(let) “I Remember”, Edith Searson noted that she was accepted as a choir member when she was 16. The choir held an annual supper in January each year.

According to mum’s autograph book, the Gresley quartet also visited chapel in 1949 and the members of the quartet then were J Storer, F Jackson, Walter Sydney Poulson and Len Winfield. In her book(let) “I Remember”, Edith Searson noted the visit of the Church Greasley Male Voice Choir in the 1920. I don’t know if this is the same or linked group or something different. The spelling is different. Mum referred to a quartet while Edith Searson referred to a male voice choir. It is further complicated by the fact that Greasley is a parish to the north of Nottingham and Church Gresley is a village in South Derbyshire.

Harrison Slater

One speaker mum and grandad frequently noted was the elocutionist Harrison Slater (see box). During this period, he came to Bourne for the gift weekend in November 1949. This coincided with the visit of the Gresley quartet(te). Mum kept the programme for that visit and also had his signature in her autograph book.

It appears that Harrison Slater was relatively well-known. He is mentioned by both Edith Searson in her book(let) “I Remember” (p48) and by Mark Ashfield in his book “Horses, Herbs and a Cockatoo” (p5).
Programme for visit of Harrison Slater in 1949
Harrison Slater’s signature from mum’s autograph book

Behind the Scenes

With all these events, there was a lot of preparation behind the scenes. Grandma was very involved in these and mum helped her from an early age. This included, for example, taking things to chapel ahead of Harvest Festival in 1947. It also included cleaning, making food and carrying out repairs, e.g. of the banners used for the Whit processions. All the concerts and performances required practices and there were a lot of these!  I was aware that the Sunday School Anniversary was a big and important event but one thing that surprised me was how early the practices started and for how long they ran, from February to April/May most years. These practices started off weekly but were held at least twice per week as the dates of the anniversary got closer. There were also intense periods of practice for other concerts put on by Sunday School and by the youth club (but see box).

I am not completely sure how much practicing went on at some of these youth club sessions as mum noted in 1949 that she “watched practice from back row. There was me with B[arbara] Coupe and K[en] Beecham”. Mum included a diagram of the seating arrangements with Ken between her and Barbara!
New Sunday School banner -1953

Mum Takes on Upfront Roles at Chapel

Over this period, mum began to take “up front” roles in various services performances and concerts.

Mum’s “up front” roles: 1946-1949
 In January 1947, at the Sunday School prizegiving, the children selected their favourite hymns and the stories around them. Mum chose “There is a Green Hill”.* That same month, she played Peter in “Stories of the Master” over two consecutive weeks and again, at chapel, in February and, at the Salvation Army in March. In September 1947, she gave a recitation at the Forest Side Harvest as part of a performance by the Bourne Junior Choir. This was entitled “The Chemist’s Mistake”.** At the Sunday School Anniversary, in 1948, she gave recitations on the afternoon of 25 April and the evening of 2 May. In January 1949, at the Primary Prizegiving, she played Peace in the play “Peace on Earth”. That same month, she appeared in a play as part of a Rainbow Follies concert at Bourne. On Palm Sunday in 1949, mum was involved in a play entitled “The Third Day” and, again on Good Friday. In November 1949, she played the part of a “Welsh Lady” in the Ladies Effort.

* The hymn starts “There is a green hill far away, without a city wall…” and I can remember being puzzled by this as a child. Why did a green hill need a city wall (that it was now without) and where had it gone? It was a long time before I realised (or was told) that “without” in this context means “outside”.
** I have not managed to locate details of this recitation but there is a short silent film by the same name.

In the Local Press

Some of these concerts and services merited mention in the local newspaper. These included the Primary prizegiving in January 1949, in which mum played Peace in a play entitled “Peace on Earth” and a service on Palm Sunday in April 1949 in which mum was in a play called “The Third Day”. This second press cutting not only mentions mum’s role in the Palm Sunday play and that she played piano for Ladies’ Bright Hour that month, it also mentions that dad (R Drew) was also in the play. This is the first mention I have found of dad in any of mum’s papers. He is first mentioned in mum’s diaries three years later in 1952.

Newspaper cutting related to Primary Prizegiving in January 1949
Newspaper cutting related to Palm Sunday service in April 1949

Other Churches and Chapels

Mum and especially grandma also attended special events at other churches and chapels, particularly Methodist ones. These included other anniversaries, particularly those in which family members were involved e.g. Jim and Marilyn (see box), and those relatively nearby, e.g. in Annesley (see Chapter 54) and Newstead (see Chapter 54). In the case of Newstead, in 1948, mum not only went to their anniversary but she also took part in at least one of their practices. She had to walk home (approximately 3 miles) and got in at 9.45pm. Other events attended included Harvest Festivals and special musical performances. She also attended chapel when on holiday including in Blackpool in 1948, Chapel St Leonards in 1949 and while visiting Dorothy Lofthouse in Eston also in 1949. Mum and grandma also sometimes went to services of other denominations, including Anglican (with her schoolfriend Shirley Sadler), Baptist and Salvation Army.

Family members also sometimes came for Bourne events, such as Sunday School Anniversaries.

Social Events at Chapel

There were also a large number of social activities organised in or around chapel. Many family members and friends had birthday parties at chapel. Family members included Ian, Lynne and Carole and friends included Brenda Scothern, Barbara Purvis and Christine Searson. In October 1949, Mr and Mrs Munns, the parents of mum’s friends Hazel and Joy, celebrated their silver wedding anniversary with a party at chapel. Parties were also held for parts of the chapel including the primary and junior choirs and the concert party. Various teas, suppers, picnics and other and meals were also held over this period, often linked to other events. There were also “socials” organised for the chapel as a whole and for particular parts, e.g. the choir. There were also film shows and beetle drives.

Newspaper cutting about a social activity in October 1949

Trips and Outings

There were also a variety of trips and outings organised through chapel. In 1946, mum and grandad went on a youth club trip to Skegness. In 1947, the youth club outing went to Scarborough. In 1948, mum went on a Sunday School outing to  Markeaton Park in Derby. On that trip, it rained and they had to play in the schoolroom. Mum also went on a  number of ladies’ outings including to Scarborough in 1946, to Trentham Gardens in 1947 and to Chester and New Brighton, Merseyside in 1949. A number of girls mum’s age went on the ladies’ outing to Trentham Gardens as mum noted that she went to the bathing pool with Hazel [Munns], Joy [Munns] and Beryl. I am not entirely sure who Beryl was. Mum mentioned her three times in her diary between 1947 and 1951, always with Hazel and Joy Munns.

Trentham Gardens in 1947
Mum, grandma and Mrs Hill in New Brighton in 1949


In 1948, mum and grandma went on holiday to Blackpool and it appears that this was part of a trip from chapel. I have relatively little information about this trip as mum kept notes about this in a separate book but this has been lost over time.

Blackpool 1948 – grandma at the beach
Sea at Blackpool – 1948
Party from Bourne Chapel in Kirkby that visited Blackpool in 1948
Mr Shackleton, the owner of the Castleton Hotel in Blackpool where the party from Bourne Chapel stayed in 1948
The Castleton Hotel in Blackpool where the party from Bourne Chapel stayed in 1948
The party from Bourne Chapel that visited Blackpool in 1948 showing Ken Beecham, Margaret Varnam, Ken Hodges, Joan Storer, Ken Roome (back row) Mrs Deakin, Auntie Olive, grandma, mum (middle row), Margaret Hawkins, Bernard Roome, Peggy Lilley (front row)

Youth Club and Methodist Guild

During this period, mum was very involved in the chapel youth club. Mum also referred to Methodist Guild (MG). Apparently, the Methodist (or Wesley) Guild (see box) was established in 1896 with the aim of retaining young people in the church once they left Sunday School. Presumably, that was its intention but it is not clear to me how this related to the chapel’s youth club. Between January and September 1948, mum appears to have used the terms Methodist Guild and youth club somewhat interchangeably. Activities for the Methodist Guild appear to have been very similar to those of the youth club, including dramatics, games and quizzes.

I am not sure if the Methodist Guild has any connections with Methodist Guild Holidays (now trading as Christian Guild Holidays) with which mum had a long association.
Chapel youth club: 1946-1949
The youth club involved a range of different speakers on different topics, including first aid, science, local government, the role of a pit deputy*, time spent in the RAF and the work of a sanitary inspector**. Some of the topics had a directly religious flavour including talks on John Wesley, Billy Bray, Hugh Bourne and William Clowes and a talk from the Baptist Minister. They also sometimes had devotional services and, at Christmas, they had a carol service and carol singing.
The youth club had a range of other activities including a visit by the Boys’ Brigade who gave a PT display, socials, drama/dramatics, plays, film shows, quizzes, rambles, games (including table tennis and skittles), PT and playing tennis. Mum brought two of her school friends, Jeanette Crowley  and Shirley Sadler, to youth club and, sometimes, other youth clubs, e.g. from Sutton, came for joint socials. On occasions, mum visited other youth clubs, e.g. in Bentinck. In 1949, mum and Joan Storer attended a circuit youth meeting in Tibshelf. The youth club had a “canteen” and they took turns to run it. The young people may have had some say in running the youth club as mum referred to elections being held. There was also an adult leader, Mr Purvis, but he resigned in November 1947.

* The pit deputy may have used a 20 questions format or it is possible that they played this as a game after he spoke.
** Which mum found boring
Programme for Wesley Guild group circa 1956. This group seems to have belonged to the Freeman Memorial Church in Bletchley, Milton Keynes. Group activities seem similar to the activities of mum’s chapel youth group in the early fifties. They were organised into different categories fellowship, literary, Christian service and social. In this period, the fellowship sessions were based on Stephen Neill’s book “The Christian Character” published in 1955.
Selection of Wesley Guild badges

Youth Concerts

Some of the performances mum was involved with at chapel were not particularly religious. For example, in January 1947, at a Youth Concert, she gave a recitation of Stanley Holloway’s Jubilee Sov’rin. She gave another recitation about Albert later that year. Also that year, she played the part of a “gypsy” in a concert put on by Bourne ladies.

While I associate these monologues more with my dad than my mum, this book appears to have belonged to mum. It may have been the one she used in 1947 as each verse has been ticked in pencil perhaps as she was confident she had learned it.

Rainbow Follies

From June 1947, mum was involved in a Concert Party (see box note 1) based at Bourne chapel. They practiced most Friday nights. Sometimes, these practices took place at other people’s homes, e.g. the Marshalls. From 1948, mum starts to refer to this as Rainbow Follies (see box note 2). They put on a number of concerts during this period including at Bourne, Annesley Main Street Chapel (see Chapter 54), Annesley Sherwood Street (see Chapter 54), Forest Side (see Chapter 54) and Annesley Woodhouse (see Chapter 54). However, in September 1949, they decided to suspend the concert party for 12 months. Mum does not explain why but they did resume as there are photographs in mum’s albums from concerts they gave in the 1950s (see Chapter 54).

[1] Some of the entries are a little confusing as mum uses the abbreviation CP for both Concert Party and Choir Practice!

[2] Rainbow Follies is also mentioned in Edith Searson’s book(let), “I Remember” (p54). She says, “After the war had ended, everybody was ready to get back to pre-war ways when activities were resumed on week day nights. One of the new activities was the formation of a Concert Party. The ‘Rainbow Follies’ consisted of Bourne young people and soon got under way. Members being as follows Arthur [Cross], Pearl [Hodges nee Marshall], Margaret [Bostock], Hazel [Munns], Joy [Munns], Jack [?Bond], John [Overfield], Robert [Ollerenshaw], Margaret [Varnam], Roy [dad], Sheila [mum], Betty [Longden], Joan [Storer], Alwyn [Munns], Arthur [?], Bernard [?Roome], Ken R[oome] and Ken [Hodges] who directed, he always wore a white carnation at these concerts, following the lead given by Sir Malcolm Sargent. Among the items were duets by Hazel and Joy, who were sisters, singing “Sisters[perhaps the song from White Christmas] and “Side by Side”.  Duets by Margaret and Arthur “Garden of Happiness[perhaps the song written by Edward Lockton and Daniel Wood in 1917] and “Paradise for Two
Newspaper cutting from October 1948 concerning Rainbow Follies concert at Bourne
Later Rainbow Follies performance in Huthwaite December 1956

Saturday Night Events at Chapel

The chapel often had musical and other types of concerts on a Saturday. These included visiting groups including the Four Smudges, the Whirlwinds, Atomic, Joan McCourt’s choir (see Chapter 54), Sharps and Flats, the Boys’ Brigade, a Ukrainian choir, Keynotes (see box) and Comets, and performances by individuals including of Polyanna by Doreen Upright. There were also concerts by groups within the chapel including the Sunday Schools, the youth club and Rainbow Follies. There were also talks, including on the topic “Can we live to be 100?” The chapel also sometimes showed films.  There were also events and activities on other days including a games night some Wednesdays.

Mum noted that Keynotes visited Bourne on 10 December 1949. Edith Searson noted, in her book(let) “I Remember” that they visited the chapel several times and that they were based in Ripley.

Socialising Before and After Chapel

Grandma and mum often socialised with friends and family before and after going to chapel. Friends they visited included the Boolers, the Crossleys, the Deakins, the Hawkins, the Hills, the Munns, the Rossingtons, the Searsons and the Stubbs.

Hectic Schedule

All this meant that mum had a pretty hectic weekly schedule with chapel activities.  The diary extract below for a week in October 1948 illustrates this. On the Sunday, she took a class at Sunday School. During the week, she was at school during the day and in the evenings on Monday and Wednesday, she was involved in practising for a primary concert. On Tuesday, she did not appear to have any chapel activities that day. But, she did have a regular music lesson and sometimes on a Tuesday she had a chapel choir practice. On Thursday, she went to youth club [YC] and, on this occasion, Mr Searson spoke. On Friday, she went to a Rainbow Follies [RF] practice at chapel. On this particular Saturday, there was a concert at chapel. She also noted her regular Saturday trip to the library.

Mum’s schedule for the week beginning 3 October 1948

Spiritual and Religious Matters

Despite the extent of her involvement in chapel, mum did not really comment on spiritual or religious matters, for example, in terms of what she believed. She rarely, if ever, commented on the substance of sermons. However, in April 1948, she noted that a “special man” had preached at chapel. She gave his name as Johns Martin (see Chapter 54). Mum said it was “terrible” but she did not say why.