Origins of Ludlow meeting

An account of Ludlow Meeting 1947-1997

In 1731 Thomas Story, a visiting Friend, held a well-attended Meeting for Worship in Ludlow Castle.

The present Meeting in Ludlow started in 1947. Arthur Reynolds and family had come to Ludlow in 1946 to start a small furniture factory in Broad Street, near Ludford Bridge (factory no longer there), and they were joined by other Quaker craftsmen, Frank Burlingham and Frank Gregory and their respective families. All three families lived in Dinham House (divided into flats) and it was here that the first Meeting for Worship took place on 11 May 1947.

After Arthur Reynolds’ death in 1960 and the Reynolds family’s move from Dinham House, the Meeting was held for some years in the Friary Hall (next to Smithfield car par but now demolished). During cold winter months Friends took refuge in the Burlinghams’ home in Wheeler Road as the Friary Hall was not well-heated. From 1965 until 1977 Meeting was held in various rented rooms, a doctor’s waiting room in Broad Street, the Library of the Boys’ Grammar School in Mill Street and finally the Women’s Room in Church Street. None was really satisfactory and in October 1977 the Meeting was pleased to be invited by Garth and Julia Reynolds to meet in the barn next to their home in St Mary’s Lane. In 1986 Friends were able to buy the building and convert it into the present Meeting House.

From then on numbers have increased and an average of 20-30 attend Meeting nowadays.

Between 1960 and 1967 a monthly Meeting for Worship was held at Rock Farm, Middleton-on-the-Hill, home of Evelyn and Harold Smith, for the sake of several local families who found it difficult to travel to Ludlow with young children – this Meeting had the regular support of Friends in Ludlow.

Over the years Friends have tried to make provision for the children of the Meeting, arranging a Children’s Class when possible. From 1974-1979, as there was no separate room available, our children were welcomed by the Methodist Sunday School. In addition to Children’s Meetings many of our young people participate in Monthly Meeting Camp, held annually in August somewhere within the MM boundary.

The Meeting has always been active in the Monthly Meeting. In the early days before car-ownership was common, Arthur Reynolds used to hitch-hike to MM when no public transport was available, and in 1966 it was recorded that the MM Clerk (a member of Ludlow Meeting, John Voysey) travelled to MM by canoe (participating in the annual Hereford-Ross canoe rally in aid of MENCAP). Monthly Meeting has been held regularly in Ludlow, and in the early years there are references to applications being made to the Food Office for extra rations to help with tea. In 1961 MM was held at the Friary Hall and it was minuted at PM that ‘all participants should be warned of the slippery nature of the floor and asked to bring rubber-soled shoes’. In 1966 Quarterly Meeting was held in Ludlow, eighty attended and overnight hospitality was given to nine visiting Friends.

Ludlow Meeting has always enjoyed a good relationship with other Churches, from the days of the Free Church Council (1949) through the formation of Ludlow and District Council of Churches in 1969 and continuing today. There are many joint meetings as well as shared work for Christian Aid etc. Members also contribute regularly to ‘Christian viewpoint’, a 200-300 word slot in the local newspaper.

Throughout the years Ludlow has invited speakers, including Cuthbert Wigham, Hugh Doncaster, Reginald Reynolds and Joseph Pickvance. There is also reference to a meeting in September 1950 with ‘the Quaker Tramp’; no details are given and it all remains a mystery. In March 1989 Ludlow hosted a Woodbrooke-on-the-Road weekend, also attended by members from Clun Valley, Almeley and Hereford Meetings. Discussion and study groups have, of course, always formed part of the life of the Meeting.

Our Peace Testimony has always been important to Ludlow Friends, and over the years many letters on the subject have been addressed to MPs, government ministers, bishops etc. In May 1968 the Meeting was instrumental in getting The war game shown at the cinema in Ludlow. During 1992 Friends felt a growing concern about the evils of the arms trade and a minute was sent to MM. After discussion MM forwarded this concern to Meeting for Sufferings; after discussion there it was passed to Churches Together in Britain and Ireland for their consideration.

This account of Ludlow Meeting would not be complete without mention of some social events which help Friends to get to know each other in different ways – Christmas Parties, summer picnics in members’ gardens, visits to Ludlow during the 1970s by Friends from Farm Street Meeting in Central Birmingham; Friends have visited Ironbridge for a day and spent a weekend in the 1652 country. In recent years there have been visits to the Quaker Youth Theatre which staged a play at Ironbridge about the Darby family and to the Symphony Hall in Birmingham to hear the Leaveners in Embracing the tiger.

So much for the first fifty years of Ludlow Meeting – what of the next fifty?

Mary Olivier
June 1997