Visit – Derby Blackfriars

IMG_1783The Friary is a pub and hotel located on the former remains  a former Dominican priory situated in Friargate in Derby.  I only discovered the history through visiting the pub prior to visiting Pickford’s House and as it turns out it was built around the same time.

The Blackfriars were part of the Dominican order and were distinguished by the black caps or robes they wore hence the name.  Derby Black Friary was in fact a Priory as its head was a prior.

The location for the Priory was just outside the city walls of Derby to the west in the parish of St Werbergh’s – the now redundant church from the 1600’s is literally just down the road and I will add a photograph of it to this post in the coming days (the oldest surviving part is dated 1601).  The friary/priory was situation on the land now occupied by the current building in the area known as Friargate and dedicated to The Annunciation of Our Lady.

The friars that occupied this friary were known as The Friar Preachers of Derby due to the fact they went out preaching amongst the public rather than being a closed monastic order.  It appears that the Dominican Order were barred from owning land except for that of their building so unlike other priory’s within the area did not receive land donations.

On the latter point above there were 3 priory’s within the area – one a community of Benedictine nuns and another a community of Clunian monks.  Derby Blackfriars was founded during 1224 and 1238 during the reign of Henry III who was a patron or benefactor during its building of the priory and his wife Queen Eleanor was also known to be a patron.

The friary survived until 3 January 1539 when it was handed or surrendered to the Crown during the period of the dissolution of the monasteries within Britain and in the preceding period many friars had left for Ireland, Scotland and Flanders – by the time of the dissolution there were just 6 left.

Eventually during the 1600’s the area that became known as Friargate was built upon as the city of Derby expanded beyond its walls and as Pickford’s House shows it became a fashionable area to live in during the next century.  The Derby Friargate railway station is situated there, now disused, but the bridge is known as a local landmark and instantly recognisable plus there is the old Gaol too within the street.

The house that now stands on the grounds of the original friary was was built around 1730/31 for one Samuel Compton who was the son of Abraham Crompton who founded Derby’s first bank.  It seems there was a building at the back of the building that was believed to be part of the original friary still existing and stones from the friary were apparently used in the building of the new house. Sadly for historians now who are interested these buildings were demolished during the 19th century and around about the time of Pickford’s House being built it was extended for the first time.  further modifications took place and after being sold by one Mrs Boden (widow of the owner of 1875) to a family called Whitaker it was converted it, much to her annoyance, into a hotel in 1922.

IMG_1760In 1996 it changed again into its current form of a public house – it states online that it is also a nightclub  but part of the pub is very much a sports pub and it this incarnation as to how I discovered it when visiting prior to going to Pickford’s House.

Unfortunately I have been unable to go into the rest of the house for obvious reasons and there are no signs of any of the art work that may have been displayed at the time but the carving itself becomes the art – it is stunningly beautiful and detailed and I will be doing a series of sketches for my textiles work as I go back and take further close up photographs.

Sadly there is very little information on the wood carvings within the public area and further study is definitely required to work out the origins or the motifs used – I am aware of course that this may become clear as I re-read the chapter in WHA of the 17th century and go forward into the 18th and 19th centuries too.

IMG_1763It was the carvings that first struck me – very ornate on clearly a dark wood which research of the time suggests would be oak. The room we had lunch in is suggestive of a great hall with two fireplaces and distinctive carving over both fireplaces.

IMG_1764The fireplaces are similar in design with elaborate decoration above in layers that is reminiscent of the architecture of classical times with spindles in place of columns and cornices carved in great detail.

IMG_1774On the fireplace near where we sat there were two individual carvings of what appear to be portraits – one man is definitely military so I wonder if this was a member of the family or allegiance due a particular army (bearing in mind the unsettled nature of the time and the wars that were on-going throughout the world as mentioned in my blog on Pickfords House.) Information on other house on Friargate suggests ownership by one Sir John Gell who was a Parliamentarian commander for the area during the Civil War so this does tie in with this carving.

IMG_1775The other I am finding harder to work out at the present time without knowing the style of uniform of local organisations or in deed religious orders around the time the current house was built but it is suggestive of being perhaps suggestive of one such order which brings into question whether Samuel Crompton was a religious man or whether this was done by a later owner.  It is certain that Samuel’s son became a baronet and an MP whilst he himself was a banker like his father.

IMG_1765The other notable art around the fireplaces, aside from the carving, is the tiles on the fireplaces which immediately reminded me of the Flemish delftware – my instincts seem to be correct although I cannot ascertain the exact date of these tiles except for the fact that they are believed to be originals and dating from the period of the house being built.  When I say my instinct was correct it transpires that in the second half of the 16th century some Flemish potters emigrated to England whilst fleeing the Spanish Inquisition and from this point what is known as English delftware came into existence.

IMG_1767The blue tiles for me personally are by far the more fascinating and I would like to go back and get some close up photographs so I can add these to this post at a later date.  The other tiles that were of note but for me, less attractive, are the ones to the left and I wonder whether these were of the family pets of the owners at the time because they are very much reminiscent of such – I am being left with more questions than answers as I look at this house frustratingly.

IMG_1769In the pub there is also a window protected by another layer of glass and this is believed to be original and contains at its centre what appears to be an Amorial window with heraldic decoration.







This window is suggestive of being either the family coat of arms bearing in mind Samuel Crompton’s son became the 1st Baronet of Wood End, Yorkshire so rather than being original to the date the house was actually built in 1730 this suggests the window was added nearly a century later – that is if it is in reference to the son.

Whatever the origins of the window the colours are simply beautiful and the work simple and striking – there is some damage sadly to the window in the lower half and it would be benefit from some restorative work to keep it for future generations.

IMG_1778I must re-visit the seating areas either side of the fireplaces – these are ornately carved like the fireplaces themselves and are in the same wood throughout – it appears to be the oak which has clearly aged and developed the beautiful patina of time. There are carved and elaborate canopies over each area and it would suggest that at least with one fireplace this was an area of entertaining family or friends and an obvious show of wealth due to the elaborate nature of the work.

If I go back to my original statement of this room being reminiscent of a great hall I wonder if this room was one or two rooms originally but it differs considerably from Pickford’s House – I am aware of course that Pickford’s is built 40 years later and both houses had considerable alterations done over time and with subsequent owners but the fireplaces appear to be original and in their original locations.

The carvings and decoration of the room including the stained glass windows show a family of considerable, but not aristocratic wealth, and if the room that is the main room of the pub now was either the dining room or/and morning or drawing room then the work show a very different taste to that of Joseph Pickford.  The Crompton’s were, as said, the first bank owners of Derby and later the son became an MP in Yorkshire so the display of wealth and the nature of the property are fitting.

IMG_1784Friargate is known to be one of the finest Georgian streets in Britain and certainly in Derbyshire and as said was one for the fashionable and wealthy of the time and so it remained for many decades and is now a bustling area of good restaurants and pubs including one in the former St Werbergh’s Church.  As you enter The Friary the carvings on the wood to either side of the windows within the close porch areas and within the porch area too speak of the wealth of the former owners.

The later owners the Boden family were a local industrial family who founded a lace mill within Derby and worked for the temperance movement which was against the consumption of alcohol – this last bit of information discovered through some final research explains Mrs Boden’s objection to the conversion of the house, after she sold it, to a hotel.

Derby Pubs The Friary 3The final two photographs are ones I have discovered and are much better than the one I was able to take of the exterior and show the house both as it would have looked at the time of its construction and also as it is now.  The house is believed to have been designed by a Richard Jackson and is in the Palladian style of the Georgian period and not unlike Pickford’s House just up the road.

the friary 2I feel this house is more striking in its slightly simpler design although it has certainly had considerable alterations done to the façade including above the entablatures and to an extent these alterations have taken away some of the original character of the building.

There are suggestions in the photograph that the road is a little lower as has happened in many areas but nonetheless this house is incredibly striking and a definitive display of wealth of the original owner.

When you consider Pickford’s House and you start to look at Friargate you realise just how wealthy this area was and you wonder about the occupations and the lives of the people who lived there.  The architecture of the outside of this house is one with influences of Classical antiquity as was common with the Palladian style and also grand and imposing – it is what I would call ‘a statement house’ which befits the original and subsequent owners.

Finally what I am finding frustrating is local history is not easy to find within my area and this is a huge shame because it feels that areas are being under used and if the history was known it would attract more people to look and be interested – Derby during the 1700’s and beyond has a fascinating history so totally tied in with the industrial revolution and yet our museums are closing.   I can now begin to understand how the art and architecture of the time was such a huge part of the lives of people and how it was used within the homes although the actual painted art is lacking in this property it is displayed in other ways in the aforesaid beautiful oak carving.

In essence I have managed to find two very different town houses albeit one that was unexpected – in all honesty I find the history of The Friary the more fascinating although I am not able to write about the art and the way it was used in the same way as Pickford’s House.


British History (date unknown). Friaries: The black friars [online]. Available at: [Accessed February 2016]

Derbyshire Peak District (date uknown). Derby Pubs – The Friary [online].  Available at: [Accessed February 2016]

Trinity Court Potteries (date unknown). History of English Tin Glazed Earthenware [online]. Available at: [Accessed February 2016]

Wikipedia (2015). Derby Blackfriars [online].  Available at: [Accessed February 2016]

Wikipedia (2016). British and Irish stained glass (1811-1918) [online].  Available at: [Accessed February 2016]

Wikipedia (2014).  Sir Samuel Crompton, 1st Baronet [online]. Available at:,_1st_Baronet [Accessed February 2016]










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