THE 1980 PILGRIMAGE REPORTED

IN "THE FRIEND"

 

Just as in 1930, the Second Pilgrimage was reported in the "The Friend," the weekly Quaker journal. However, unlike the scene fifty years before, the Lower Hazel Burial Ground was now disused and visitors entered that small walled area to be greeted by a wild growth of deep grass and seedlings. We had good reason to be grateful for the efforts of local Friends, who tackled this jungle prior to our visit.

The front page of the July 18th issue carried a picture with the caption "A picnic in a burial ground: Thornbury Friends clear the summer growth from the old burial ground at Lower Hazel, in preparation for tomorrow's visit by members of the Sturge family - a pilgrimage like the one made fifty years ago to the day."

The story continued inside. "In 1930 THE FRIEND printed an account of a pilgrimage made on 19th July by some sixty members of the Sturge family to their ancestral hearths in the Thornbury area of the Severn Valley. Many more Sturges are expected there for tomorrow's reunion. The 1792 meeting house was sold out of the Society, and the present Thornbury meeting, revived four years ago, meets in Friends' homes. Lower Hazel burial ground, last used in 1969, is believed to have served pioneer meetings in Olveston and Thornbury. Nearby is a farmhouse where George Fox and Margaret Fell spent their honeymoon."

 

The 8th August issue contained the following account of the day written by Sylvia Lewin. "On the morning of July 19 some 150 members of the Sturge family, with a dozen guests, sat in silence in the old meeting house at Frenchay. It was the focal point of an enthralling and evocative day. The silence was broken as Grace Sturge, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday, gave thanks for the privilege of nearly four centuries. It was exactly half a century since she, like several others present, had made a similar "pilgrimage" to the family's earliest homes in the surrounding Severn Valley villages.

"The company lunched in a marquee at the beautiful manor house of Gaunts Earthcott, now a restaurant, where Thomas Sturge was living by 1603. There followed a hilarious attempt to get everybody into one photograph in the wild wind and rain, before they piled into three coaches for a tour of the pleasant and welcoming houses from which several generations of forebears once farmed their land. It was moving to be at Olveston Meeting House where they had worshipped; even more so to see Lower Hazel burial ground, tiny and tranquil, where many of them lie. (Later Sturges had left the land for Bristol, Birmingham and other parts of Britain as well as for New Zealand and Canada. All were well represented on this occasion.)

"Tea was awaiting the "pilgrims" on their return to Frenchay, where Roger Angerson had greeted them earlier and where the help of lovcal Friends did much to enhance the day. Here, too, a varied exhibition of heirlooms attracted much attention. The visit ended with the enlightening talk by Roger Sturge, of Bristol Meeting, on the implications of Quakerism for the family from the seventeenth century onwards, and an amusing account by Joyce Cook of Chester on the information she had gleaned from wills left by some members of it.

"Peter and Betty Sturge of Dorking had only to listen to the torrents of conversation to be aware of the success of the pilgrimage they had organised; but they hope that someone else will mastermind the next one fifty years hence."