Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Join Us – and be part of the change’


The USPG conference comes to an end at lunchtime today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

The annual conference of USPG, which has been taking place in the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, comes to a close today [Wednesday 27 June 2012].

We began with Morning Prayer at 7.45, using a new office from the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Our final session this morning is “Join Us – and be part of the change.” We heard from three supporters of USPG of their involvement with the society over the decades, and the changes they have seen, and we heard of their experiences in Malawi, South Africa, Egypt and Hong Kong,


An episcopal reminder ... a window in the old house at the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

This morning , we also received greetings and blessings from Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, who is the President of USPG, who was supportive of the rebranding of USPG as Us.

In the absence of the Right Revd Michael Burrows, Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, chair of USPG Ireland and a trustee of USPG, I have been asked to celebrate the Closing Eucharist at mid-day, using the rite in the Church of Ireland Book of Common Prayer.

Given the proposed rebranding of USPG, I suppose this may the last Eucharist at a USPG conference per se.

Next year’s conference will be for the newly-named and newly-branded “Us.”


The High Leigh Sunken Well and Donkey Track, dating from the mid 19th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

In an earlier posting this morning, I wrote about how there are at least three listed buildings along Lord Street, leading to the High Leigh Conference Centre. I described the Quaker Meeting House, at the east end of Lord Street, and the King William IV Public House at the end west end of Lord Street, but said I had failed to find the High Leigh Sunken Well and Donkey Track, which is a listed building.
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But in an early morning walk down to the lake this morning, I found the sunken well and the donkey track in the grounds of High Leigh.

The High Leigh Sunken Well and Donkey Track date from the mid 19th century, includes a sunken circular pen for donkeys to draw water from well, approached by serpentine grotto passage, built of yellow stock brick and flint. The pen is about 6 metres in diameter and 2 metres deep. It has a low circular timber roof on later red brick supports. There is a tunnel on the west side. The grotto entrance on the south side has walls and an arch of imitation rock made of yellow stock brick and cement.

Before my flight back to Dublin, I plan to spend the afternoon in Cambridge, catching up with some old friends and visiting some places with the Fitzwilliam name – including “Fitzbillies” near Pembroke College, the Fitzwiliam Museum and Fitzwilliam College – for photographs and to think about some ideas I have for an essay on the Fitzwilliam family in Dublin and Co Wicklow, and these peculiar Irish links with Cambridge.

Meeting house and public house in a quiet street


The King William IV Public House at 197 Lord Street is a 17th century timber-frame building, with modern brick and roughcast walls, and an old tile roof (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

The High Leigh Conference Centre, which is the venue for the USPG conference this week, is at the western end of Lord Street in Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire. Along Lord Street, there are at least three listed buildings along Lord Street: the Friends Meeting House or Quaker Meeting House, which is at the east end of Lord Street; the King William IV Public House (No 197), at the end west end of Lord Street; and the High Leigh Sunken Well and Donkey Track.

I am told the sunken well and the donkey track are in the grounds of the High Leigh Conference Centre, although I have been unable to find them on each visit.

As I was walking back from the White Swan to High Leigh on Tuesday afternoon [26 June 2012], I stopped to look at the Quaker Meeting House, close to the High Street.

This meeting house was built in 1829. It is built of yellow and grey brick, with stucco dressings. It has a slate roof that is pedimented on the north side with large, stuccoed mouldings. The central, two-fold door has an oblong, crossed-glazing-bar fan, a broad architrave and cornice on large, leaf-ornamental consoles. There are flanking sash windows in moulded frames, single-storey side bays with recessed panels, and side elevations with 6/6-pane sashes. At the front door, there are cast iron foot-scrapers.


The Quaker Meeting House in Lord Street, Hoddesdon, is truly a Georgian architectural gem (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The Quaker Meeting House is truly a Georgian gem, for it was built a year before the death of George IV in 1830.

At the other end of Lord Street, at No 197, is the King William IV. But, while William IV reigned from 1830 to 1837, the King William IV on Lord Street is a much earlier building, predating even William III.

Some of us ended us ended up there last night – including conference delegates form England, both parts of Ireland, and some with mission and church experience in places as far apart as India, Japan, Brazil, South Africa and Chile.

The pub is a 17th century timber-frame building, with modern brick and roughcast walls, and an old tile roof. It is a two-storey, four-bay building with a four-window range, and the windows have replacement sashes.


The earliest parts of the William IV have chamfered and stopped floor beams and a central chimney breast with wooden lintel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Despite the brick cladding and the carpets that cover the wooden floors, the earliest parts of the inn comprise the two west bays to the left of the first photograph at the top of this posting. These two bays have chamfered and stopped floor beams and a central chimney breast with wooden lintel.

The east bays, seen on the right-hand side of that top photograph, now house the pool room and the gents’ lavatories, but were once two separate cottages.

The two chimney stacks, on the east and the west, were remade in the 19th century of yellow stock brick, but the external east stack has a lower half in 17th century red brick. There are later lean-to additions to the rear and to the west of the pub.

And some of us even enjoyed the fact that this was almost a normal English summer’s evening, worth sitting outside to enjoy the balmy atmosphere of the end of the day.