Anyone can access Quaker Strongrooms, the blog, but not everyone has access to the strongrooms at Friends House. However, from time to time, groups of Quakers from meetings around the country make their way to Friends House, London, for a meeting visit. They gather in the Quaker Centre for coffee, learn about the central work of Britain Yearly Meeting, have a guided tour of the building and end in the Library, where they listen to a couple of short talks, spend some time looking at a display and are taken down to the strongrooms.
Last week a party of eight Friends from Woodbridge in Suffolk travelled to Friends House. By chance the previous meeting visit was from Bury St Edmunds, also in Suffolk, but further west. Over the past year groups have come from Kingston & Wandsworth, Ludlow, Lymington, Bournemouth, Farnham, York, Bedford, Nottingham, Coventry and Worthing. All seem to have been amazed by the breadth of our collections. The Great Books of Sufferings (described a few weeks ago on this blog), Elizabeth Fry’s diaries, photographs of Friends Ambulance Unit members in China during World War II, early Yearly Meeting minutes, a photograph album of Friends House shortly after it was opened in 1926 and the Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded jointly to Friends Service Council and American Friends Service Committee in 1947 for their post-war relief activities are just some of the items which were laid out for our visitors to see.
We always bring out material of local interest too. For Woodbridge Friends, the display included the estate agent’s brochure on the sale of their former meeting house in 1974 (Box 449/42), Mary Maw’s Exhortation or warning to the inhabitants of Woodbridge, and the villages adjacent, by a well-wisher, published in 1778 (Vol C/160), and the account by James Jenkins of his early years as apprentice to Hannah Jesup, grocer of Woodbridge, in the first volume of his Records and recollections (MS VOL S 196). Bernard Barton, the Quaker poet of Woodbridge, was also represented, with books of his poetry, articles about him from the Friends Quarterly Examiner and an article from The East Anglian concerning his grave in the Quaker burial ground.
Any Friends who would like to arrange a meeting visit to Friends House should contact Claire Martin in the Quaker Centre by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.