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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Folk at the Meeting House

Free Tercentenary Celebratory Folk Music Event

Friends Meeting House

Hemel Hempstead Old Town

July 21st 2018

Arrive from 2.00 pm

Enjoy the Chesham Folk Club players, Roy Adams and Alan Bickerton singing and playing steel strung guitars; Annette Burrows and Bob Templeman duo with songs guitar,  ukelele and bouzouki, and from Hemel Hempstead the multi-instrumental Lea Rig Band.

The performance will be outside in our lovely garden – weather permitting

The programme starts at 2.30 and finishes 5.30 with a mid-programme break for tea.

We welcome everyone to listen, dance or sing along.  Bring a picnic!

Entrance is free but please reserve your place by email on hemelhempsteadquakers@gmail.com

Please note alcohol is not permitted in the Meeting House grounds.  

 

 

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300 years of Quakers in Hemel

Signatures of our earliest members from the deeds of the purchase of land in 1718.

Celebrations continue throughout 2018 at our wonderful Hemel Hempstead Friends Meeting House, located behind the Old Bell Inn on Hemel Hempstead Old Town High Street.

Since the 1600’s Quakers have met and worshipped mainly in silence. They have no clergy, no creed and no dogma. All are welcome to meetings. They are committed to peace, and the equality of all people, believing there is “that of God” in everyone.

A lively range of activities are arranged for summer and autumn 2018:

  • 21 July – open garden with folk music – come and enjoy local musicians play traditional acoustic instruments in our flower filled garden, 2.30 to 5pm FREE
  • 29 September – open garden with apple juice pressing and a play commissioned by  Quakers from ‘Spirit of the Old Town Ghost Walks’ to celebrate their historical links with the Cranstone family, ironmongers of the Old Town, and Elizabeth Stirredge – early Quaker non-conformist activist, author and prophet.
  • 28 October – musical celebration with ‘Shekoyokh’ klezmer band

    To reserve your place at any event, please email hemelhempsteadquakers@gmail.com

Our Anthology

We have also published an anthology of Quaker writings and art; memories of the 20th Century; the lives of local conscientious objectors and an in-depth local history going back to 17th Century when Quakers first started meeting at Wood End. The fully-illustrated 128 page illustrated book,  ‘We Go Deep’ is available from the Meeting House and to borrow from the local civic library.

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Our tercentenary Meeting for Worship

Attendees, visitors and Quakers at our Tercentenary Meeting for Worship, May 19 2018

 

We were pleased to welcome visitors from faith groups in our local community to celebrate 300 years of Quaker worship at the Friends Meeting House, Hemel Hempstead.

The weather was glorious – perfect to enjoy our new patio seating and a delicious lunch!

 

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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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13 January 2018 Hat Party and Talent Show

Plenty of food was brought by many, so first we ate.

Still seated, each table worked together on two assignments. First we nominated a fantasy set of responsible Quakers to fill the duties of caring for the Meeting. Harry Potter characters were popular. So was the Cheshire Cat, but he kept disappearing, so we settled for others – especially for Treasurer.

The second assignment was to answer questions set forth in a historic quiz with a question for each 100 years since the Meetinghouse was built in 1718, as well as a prediction for 2118. An optimistic response is pictured. Several other answers speculated on whether or not we will have decided by then what to do about a wall at the back of the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left: Jean played some delightful short works by Schubert. Right: Dame Clarice expounded on her successes in improving the NHS by installing treatment facilities in Tesco, paid for directly at the till.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left: Sonia sang Barbara Allan to Roy’s guitar accompaniment. Right: Bob and friend entertained us with ukulele tunes and favourite jokes (groaners!) of  Tommy Cooper.

This year, Alice, our very own dance instructor, taught the basics of the Minuet, appropriate in this year of our 300th anniversary.

 

                                  

Left: Young Bea, showed us how she’s following her mother with her own talented leaps and bounds. Centre: Unable to decide which hat, Roy brought, and wore, four, and told a very tall tale of the resulting adventures. Right: Jean carefully assembled these brooches onto her Quaker hat.

 

 

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‘I Am Me’

 

People Not Borders – I Am Me

at Our Meeting House.

Anne welcomes Sue Hampton, of Berkhamstead Meeting,

dynamic Trustee of People Not Borders.

Alison and Marjorie admire the textile images by Paula Watkins.

Tony contemplates the moving display of digital photographic art

by Greek-based Syrian teenager Abdulazez Dukhan.

The plates were painted by local supporters during Refugee Week

and raised nearly £600 in auction.

Their website describes fully all of the projects supported by People Not Borders.

You can donate ££ or clothing and supplies,

And, adults and school students are invited to join 

I Am Me: The Competition

Explore creatively what it means to be a refugee

 – in poetry, a short story or artwork.

Deadline 10th December.

Find out more on the website.

www.peoplenotborders.org

Buy the book, I Am Me, written by Sue Hampton, at 

https://www.suehamptonauthor.co.uk/product/i-am-me/

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We are hosting an exhibition of work by refugees, poets and artists

on November 4th and 5th 2017

2:30 to 4:30 each day

at the Friends Meeting House, 1 The Alleys,  Old Town Hemel Hempstead.

The theme of the mixed media art exhibition is ‘I am Me’

It seeks to help people understand and empathise with the experiences of refugees from Syria and other places.

Highlights of the show are textile images by Paul Watkins, a children’s book by local author Sue Hampton,

and a display of digital photographic art by Greek-based Syrian teenager  Abdulazez Dukhan.

The exhibition is curated by Berkhamsted humanitarian group People Not Borders.

Hours of opening on Saturday and Sunday are 2.30 to 4.30.

Entrance is free and there will be tea and cake available.

Quaker interfaith representative,  Suzanne Watts says,

“We are delighted to host this show, which is moving and inspires hope in humanity”

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Apple Day 2017

Quakers had lots of fun pressing two varieties of apples from the trees in the garden.

      

Using a scratter to mush the apples the crushed pulp was pressed in the wooden rotary press

and the juice squeezed out through muslin.

 

The taste it was agreed, was ‘like ambrosia’ – incredibly sweet.

The redness of the apple skin gave the juice a dark colour.

Around 8 litres were generated from a couple of boxes.  There was enough for a a couple of plastic bottles to take home for families – all of which was drunk almost immediately.

A dress rehearsal for our tercentenary celebration next year.

What would we do different? Have it on a sunny day.

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