Author Archives: sherief Hassan

Apple Day play brings our history to life

The Spirit of the Old Town’s Kimberly Black as Elizabeth Stirredge

 

Quakers and friends from other community groups got together on 29th September to celebrate the last weekend of a long hot summer in a garden ‘Apple Day’. The event was to mark the occasion of three hundred years of the establishment of the Quaker Meeting House in Hemel Hempstead’s Old Town. 

The event attracted dozens and drew in members of the Friends of Jellicoe Water Gardens who made the meeting house garden the final destination on their heritage walk along the Gade.  People of all ages basked in the Indian Summer sun, and enjoyed freshly pressed juice from the two trees in the garden, which was established as a walled burial ground for the Quakers in 1718.   

The highlight of the afternoon was an outdoor performance by Spirit of the Old Town of a short three-act play specially commissioned for the event. Called ‘300 Years in Hemel’ it explored the rich lives of three historical figures who lived and worked in Hemel Hempstead. Kimberly Black, founder of Spirit of the Old Town Productions, wrote and directed the play and performed the role of Elizabeth Stirredge, a Quaker prophetess who came to Hemel Hempstead in 1688. Her stirring monologue recounted her encounter with King Charles where she blamed him for the persecution of Quakers and other non-conformists around that time.  She leaves behind a published memoir, and is buried in the old Quaker burial ground in Wood End, which is now the site of a planned new housing development.

Joseph Cranstone Junior (1793 – 1878) and his son,  Lefevre Cranstone (1822 – 1893), were two Victorian Quakers whose lives made an impact on their local community and the wider world.

“Man of Iron”, Joseph, played with passion by Mark Crane, told the audience of his work setting up the iron foundry in the Old Town and his contributions to the local civic life and urban landscape. Lefevre, played by Tom Watkins, was an artist who left the town and the Quaker meeting to marry a non-Quaker and seek his fortune by travelling to the  US and Australia. His social documentary paintings of scenes of daily life are now on display in galleries and the US White House. ‘Lefevre’ told the poignant story of leaving his wife Lillia and children behind in Hemel Hempstead where she established a school in the town. Lefevre died in Australia.

Joseph Cranstone Junior was buried in the garden in an unmarked grave. The afternoon took on a greater resonance when  his final resting place was revealed to be the exact spot where Mark Crane was due to deliver Mr Cranstone’s final monologue. Mark said afterwards, “I felt the hairs at the back of my neck go up. It was an emotional moment!”

Around 20 kilos of apples were pressed and squeezed through the course of the afternoon and every drop was drunk.  After the show, Clerk of the Meeting, Audrey Pitchforth thanked the Spirit of the Old Town saying, “We have read the history but seeing the actors made the names come to life. It made us all realise that they were real people and it was very moving.”

The Apple Day was part of a series of events organised by the local Quakers in their tercentenary year. They have included a pilgrimage to the original burial site beyond the town boundaries in Wood End, a special Meeting for Worship and musical events. The final event will take place on 28 October at 7pm – a performance by the London Klezmer Quartet. The complete history of the Quakers to the present day in Hemel Hempstead is recorded in an anthology of writings called “We Go Deep” which is on sale at £5.00 from the Quaker Meeting House, St Mary’s Road.

Mark Crane and Tom Watkins played Joseph and Lefevre Cranstone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting ready for Apple Day

We are busy collecting apples off our two trees ready for pressing on Apple Day, 29 September.

There has been a bumper crop this year, but the apples are falling very early so we are wrapping them carefully to keep them fresh.

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Join us to Celebrate Apple Day

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300 years of Quakers in Hemel Hempstead: Our Pilgrimage to the old Quaker burial ground

We are delighted to be celebrating three hundred years since the establishment of the Quaker Meeting House and burial ground in Hemel Hempstead in 1718.

Easter Pilgrimage to the Old Burial Ground at Wood End, April 2018

Our first celebration was a pilgrimage to the site of the former meeting house and burial ground on the outskirts of town. Friends braved the cold, wet weather of an April Easter Monday. We stood silently on the patch of ground where it is believed the earliest Quakers are buried. The graves are unmarked. The site is in a field adjacent to the boundary between Dacorum and St Albans.

We travelled to Wood End by minibus.

Friends stood in silence on the site of the unmarked graves.

A team of Friends walked back to the Meeting House down the Nicky Line.

We were all looking forward to a cuppa …

There was a delicious spread waiting for us at the meeting house.

 

 

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Gilbert hits the floor at a hundred

gilberts 100 copyLocal artist Gilbert Rigg celebrated his 100th birthday on 1 November with a party and art exhibition at the local Quaker Meeting House in the Old Town. He was joined by around 40 friends and family from Hemel Hempstead and beyond.

Gilbert has lived in Hemel for 62 years. He was imprisoned for being a conscientious objector and then joined the Quakers after the second world war. He started painting in his teens and has used his art to express his feelings on contemporary issues. Subjects include artificial intelligence, celebrity culture, nuclear weapons, the arms trade and most recently, the futility of war. These subjects are juxtaposed against the pastoral backdrop of the Chiltern countryside.IMG_9518

In 2013 a sale of his work raised £500 for the Hospice of St. Francis in Berkhamsted.

Gilbert said this to the Quaker meeting on Sunday: “I have lived adventurously.”

For his photo, he refused to stand in front of the group but instead chose to sit on the floor with younger members of the meeting.

Gilbert’s story is one of several told in a short book by local Quaker, Audrey Pitchforth entitled ‘Faith into Action‘ which details the lives of several Quaker conscientious objectors from Hemel Hempstead meeting .

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Quaker Week 2015

0_151002-TheFriend-CoverThis week is Quaker Week!

For events see quaker.org.uk/events.

Visitors to the meeting house this week are invited to take a complimentary copy of ‘The Friend‘ magazine, featuring articles on Quaker work in diverse areas such as in Human rights, Conflict resolution, Climate change and Young adult leadership.

 

 

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Welcome to our new updated site

quaker_symbol_buttonWe have migrated from our old site which we felt wasn’t serving members of the meeting and the wider community.

Notices of events and activities of Hemel Hempstead Local Quakers at the Meeting House and other venues will be highlighted here along with other notices.

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