An earlier time in old building's life

 

The Quaker Chapel - also referred to as The Friends' Meeting House.          Picture: Nantwich Museum

 

 

THIS building and its surrounding land has undergone many changes since the time the photograph was taken. The trees on the right (one in the far distance) have been felled. The gravestones have been removed and the land levelled. And the building has been extended with a single-storey construction surrounding it.

   It is, of course, now the Nantwich Players' Theatre which stands at the Pillory Street end of the Waterlode car park, opposite Nantwich Museum.

   It was in the Museum that Andrew Lamberton, a volunteer there, found the photograph in the archives. Unfortunately, details of who the quartette are was not written on the print.      

   They could be Quakers visiting the building where their ancestors worshipped, or staff members of Nantwich Rural District Council Rates Office who opened the building as a service to local farmers visiting the town.

   They are not members of Nantwich Players who converted the building into their theatre which opened 1983. The amateur dramatics group didn't move in until the late 1970s. The land surrounding the building was levelled and became the car park it is today in 1972.

 

THE building opened in 1724 as a chapel for 13 local families of Quakers. Two of those families were the Stretches and the Harlocks who ran the Stretch and

Harlock's store on The Square. The commercial

 

 

premises still stand, but are now divided into a number of businesses. 

 

TWO features of the building when it was a Quaker Chapel (also referred to as a Friends' Meeting House) were a slightly raised area with rails at the front for the elders, at the right-hand side of the building as seen in the picture (marked Elders' Bench on the sketch, right), and a balcony at the other end of the main room for worshippers. The main area for worshippers was the ground floor.

    In the days of the building's use as a rates office, a room was created under the balcony with the erection of a wall dividing it from the main room. The balcony and the flight of stairs leading up to it were retained, and were, in fact, still present when Nantwich Players took over the building to store their scenery for productions they staged at the Civic Hall.

   [The sketch is believed to have come from a booklet on the local Quakers, held by Nantwich Public Library.] 

   John Brough, who is a Vice-President of Nantwich Players, says the door in the "office" area led to a small backyard at the far end of which was an outside toilet - presumably installed for the Rural Council staff.

   He adds that the artist's impression of the building doesn't show two large windows on the right-hand wall, over the "elders' bench". With no windows on the far wall of the building, the main hall would have been very dark. 

Gravestones at Nantwich Burial Ground

AS well as finding the picture in the Museum, Andrew found a list of the inscriptions on the gravestones, which he believed was compiled by a local historian, the late Evan Lane, around the time when the car park was created.   

    Andrew also said: "On consulting Hallís History of Nantwich (printed 1883), I found he refers to Quaker families resident in the town '100 years ago' - that would be around 1780. He mentions Adkins, Bellis,

 

   "Thomas Worsdell's wife, Elizabeth, was five years older than him and I think her gravestone should give her age as 79 and not 49 as recorded (see below)*.

   "There was no other Elizabeth Worsdell living in the town at that time."

 

Some of the details on the gravestones were indistinct, which is why there are gaps in the list

 

Claridge, Fallows, Morrey, Mulliners, Stretch andTunstall.

  "Hall follows this list with 'When the burial grounds in the town were closed by order of the Board of Health in 1850, special exception was made in the case of the Quakers owing to the smallness of the society; and during the last thirty years (1850 to 1880 or so) only about half a dozen interments have taken place.'

   "In a postscript he adds information supplied by Samuel Harlock of Brookfield House. I think he may have been misinformed as 12 graves within that time period existed." 

Andrew also made the following notes on some of the names on the gravestones. He said:

   "Thomas Bellis was a cheese factor living in Barker Street.

   "Thomas Clarke Worsdell was a retired coach maker living next to the Wilbrahamís Arms in Welsh Row where his daughter, Sarah, had a draperís shop in 1861. Sarah later had a fancy repository (toys and gifts) shop at the same address for at least another 20

years.

   

 

Died                                   

4 August, 1808   

20 July, 1816

22 July, 1816 

1 December, 1855   

18 April, 1862

12 January, 1863

------, 1866  

2 February, 1871

4 July, 1872

-----, 1872  

-----, 1874

28 November, --------   

------------, --------

4 June, 1878

15 September, 1878

4 April, 1888

25 December, 1891

 

 

Name

Walter Ernest Harlock 

Joseph Stretch

Mary Esther Harlock       

Thomas Bellis

Thos. Clarke Worsdell

Elizabeth Worsdell

Samuel Ashley

Thomas Ashley

Mary Atkinson

Henry Bursey  

Daniel Worth  

-----, wife of Daniel Worth

Samuel Worth   

Thomas Atkinson   

Frederick Parsons  

Arthur Griffiths     

Martha Ashley  

 

Aged

----------

10 years

1 month

63 years

73 years

49 years *

68 years

61 years

79 years

---------

---------

---------

---------

84 years

59 years

----------

83 years

 

Fortnightly

meetings

WHILE there is no Quaker Chapel in Crewe or Nantwich, local members meet at Poole Methodist Church on the first and third Sundays, and at Coppenhall Methodist Centre on the second and fourth Sundays. All at 3pm.

   The Quakers - also referred to as The Religious Society of Friends - are Protestant Christians. The movement was started by George Fox in 1652.

   What's On - churches.

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