Historic Mansfield chapel takes part in food-themed national heritage festival

’Food Glorious Food’ was the theme of a successful open weekend at one of Mansfield’s most historic buildings.

Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 3:46 pm
Tyler and Alicia Moss-Burton were among the youngsters given a hot cross bun at the open weekend, to maintain the tradition of Mary Mallatratt's Dole, first established in 1894.

The event, part of a national heritage festival, attracted dozens of visitors to the Old Meeting House Unitarian Chapel on Stockwell Gate, which dates back to 1702.

Local food customs were celebrated, including Mary Mallatratt’s Dole, a 127-year-old tradition whereby hot-cross buns are handed out every Good Friday to children.

The chapel’s inspirational minister, the Rev Maria Pap, who hails from Transylvania, also invited anyone who had received hot-cross buns in the past to come back and have another for old time’s sake.

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The chapel's minister, the Rev Maria Pap, with members Peter and Kath Faulkner by a display explaining Mansfield's link with a huge gooseberry pie.

A total of 60 hot-cross buns were lapped up, as well as 60 portions of gooseberry pie. This marked another tradition, going back to the 1920s when exchanges of food, including a huge gooseberry pie, were made between the chapel and one in Mansfield, Massachusetts, USA.

This custom was the subject of a talk, given by one of the Old Meeting House’s former ministers, the Rev Derek Smith, who is 92 years old. And the Massachusetts chapel also played its part by sending pre-recorded readings and a choir piece for a Harvest Festival service. Fittingly, all Harvest produce, donated by chapel members, was given to a food bank in Mansfield, run by the Trussell Trust.

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“The whole weekend was brilliant,” said Viv Brown, one of the organisers. “The weather was lovely, and everything worked well.

Musician Tony Wade entertaining visitors to the open weekend.

"Maria was very pleased. She put a lot of work into it, as did the whole team at the chapel.”

The chapel has consistently taken part in the annual National Heritage Open Days event, which is England’s largest festival of history and culture, celebrated by thousands of organisations and volunteers.

The Ole Meeting House weekend was opened by the Mansfield mayor Andy Abrahams, and also featured a fun day, with activities such as badminton and table tennis, for youngsters, an exhibition of kitchen utensils and a quiz, staged by chapel members Peter and Kath Faulkner, and music by Tony Wade.

Peter and Kath also gave a talk about Penford’s Mill, a former corn mill in Mansfield that supplied wood for alterations to the chapel made in the 1880s.

Meanwhile, Mansfield Rotary Club hosted an exhibition and signed up litter-pickers for its Just Bin It initiative.

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