Historic Mansfield chapel hosts heritage event to celebrate food traditions
One of Mansfield’s most historic buildings is to fling open its doors to the public as part of a national heritage festival.
The Old Meeting House Unitarian Chapel, on Stockwell Gate, dates back to 1702, which makes it the oldest non-conformist place of worship in Nottinghamshire.
Over the weekend of September 17 to 19, it will take part in the National Heritage Open Days event, which is England’s largest festival of history and culture, celebrated by thousands of organisations and volunteers.
The national theme of the festival is ‘Edible England’ to mark all the traditional and local customs surrounding food. So The Old Meeting House has organised a weekend entitled ‘Food Glorious Food’, featuring a fun day with games and activities for children, special talks, a photography exhibition, music and a quiz.
"Our open days are always very popular,” said co-ordinator Viv Brown. “The chapel might be 300 years old, but it is very warm and welcoming, with its beautiful stained-glass windows.
"We will be giving away hot cross buns to local children on the Saturday to maintain a 120-year-old local tradition, and after our Harvest service on the Sunday, we will be handing all the donated produce to a food bank in Mansfield, run by the Trussell Trust.
"We always like to promote our town of Mansfield, as well as the chapel, which has a regular congregation of about 35 people.”
The event will be opened on the Friday by the Mayor of Mansfield, Coun Andy Abrahams, and overseen by the chapel’s inspirational first woman minister, the Rev Maria Pap, who hails from Transylvania.
The first talk, also on the Friday, will be given by Kath and Peter Faulkner about Penford’s Mill, a former corn mill in Mansfield that supplied wood for alterations to the chapel made in the 1880s.
The second talk, on the Saturday, will be given by one of the chapel’s former ministers, the Rev Derek Smith, who is 92 years old. He will explain how exchanges of food were made between the chapel and one in Mansfield, Massachusetts, USA in the 1920s, including a huge gooseberry pie.
The two chapels still have a close connection, with the one in the States planning to take part in the Harvest service by sending over a reading and a choir piece.