OldCiren - Cirencester, Gloucestershire, UK
I was walking down Dyer street the other day and thought of how different it was to when I was a boy. Many of the buildings are still there - but many have been altered; and many have been demolished. The building I remember the most though; now long gone, was the Congregational church that was demolished in 1972 and a Waitrose built on the site. It’s now newsagents and an Argos that blot the landscape where there was once and Italianate fronted Church.
The Congregational Church was constructed in 1887/88 to replace the old Chapel it had once occupied in Sheep street on land which had been leased from the then Earl Bathurst. The lease had expired and the Earl didn’t wish to renew it. He gave them time to move though and the Congregation found land at Watermoor road but decided instead to spend £900 to build a spacious building in Dyer Street with seating for 430 with a vestry, a kitchen, assembly rooms and an Infants School.
I never attended the Church services, but I do remember going there many times for meetings of the Life Boys of which I was a member. The Life Boys merged into the Boys Brigade in 1966.
The Congregationa Church was the meeting place for many social organisations and I think the British Boys Scouts also met there for a while under the leadership of the much respected old Cirencestrian, Percy Pooley.
As far as I remember the organisations that met at the Congregational Church were autonomous, but at the time they all seemed to me to be connected as many of the same people were in each. The Boys Brigade were the most prominant organisation at the Dyer Street Congregational Church; probably because it was founded around the same time in the 1880’s buy also because the Boys Brigade espoused many of the same Non-Conformist values held by the Congregational Church.