Gateway to Flash Village Hall

Flash Village Hall – In the beginning

15 May 2020

A bit of a blurred photo but this is day 1 of our beloved Village Hall as we now know it.

By Ian Butterworth

Work Camps

Towards the end of the second world war, it was realised that there would be a need for both reconstruction and reconciliation and that one step towards a more peaceful world would be to bring together young persons from different countries to live and work together in order to create bonds and promote understanding. Organised by the Quakers, The Friends Work Camps Committee arranged its first work camp in 1948.

In 1956 the FWCC arranged half a dozen camps in England with about 80 participants, but the work-camp movement was by then far more than a few camps in Great Britain. In 1955, the International arm arranged more than 80 camps in more than 20 different countries, sending volunteers to each other’s camps, and it is said that in 1954 worldwide as many as 69,283 volunteers took part in 1,859 camps.

What follows is a report by Richard K. Brown of the FWCC of the second of two camps which built the majority of our Flash Village / Quarnford Memorial Hall.

Richard’s report has been typed up in full below.

The Building of Flash Village Hall

Friends Peace Committee                                  Friends Service Council

Report of Quarnford Work Camp
3rd August – 2nd September 1957

Quarnford is the name of the northernmost parish in Staffordshire. Covering a wide
Upland area, it has a population of about 250. At its centre is the village of
flash, at over 1500 feet, one of the highest in the country, which lies just off 
the main Buxton to Leek Road and consists of 13 houses or farms, including a post 
office and the public house, a school, a Methodist chapel and an Anglican church.
THE VILLAGE HALL.  The idea of a village hall was first mooted in 1948 but 
due to many delays, building was not begun, on a site between the village and the 
main road, until 1955.  By August 1956 the building, being undertaken mainly by 
voluntary labour, had reached ground floor level and than a junior work camp spent 
three weeks building the stone and brick walls. Due partly to bad weather progress 
was slow, and the local people, occupied with the hay harvest, could give little 
help.  When we arrived in 1957 the hall was basically as it had been left by the 
previous year’s camp with about 3 feet of stone and brickwork wall in on three 
sides but considerably less on the long fourth side.
The hall is a rectangular building, about 60’ x 27’, with an extension, 18’ x 20’, 
for the entrance lobby and cloakroom. As Quarnford is a rectangular building, 
about 60’ x 27’, with an extension, 18’ x 20’, for the entrance lobby and 
cloakroom. As Quarnford is part of the peak National Park the exterior has to be a 
stone, but the inner leaf of the cavity walls is of brick. Site slopes steeply saw 
that, the floor is over 4 feet above ground level on the downhill side. 

COMPOSITION OF THE CAMP. 20 people, 9 girls and 11 men, took part in the 
camp, coming from eight countries Israel France (2), Germany, USA, Holland, 
Switzerland, Turkey (2), and Great Britain (11).  We had hoped to have 2 Poles 
taking part but unfortunately they were unable to get passports or visas at the 
time, so that the proportion of British campers was higher than it would have 
otherwise been.  There were a good many comings and goings,: 12 of the camp stayed 
for the full period; 3 came for only two weeks,  though one of these was able to 
return for the final weekend;  2 arrived about a week late; and 3 – all from 
abroad – left at the end of the third week.  Two members of the camp were involved 
in being Best Man at weddings, which took them away for two days, and one was 
absent for 6 days to attend interviews.  Nine of the camp had taken part in work 
camps before, all of them Quaker ones.  Twelve of the camp were friends, or had 
strong links with the society, but we also had campers with Moslem, Jewish, 
Methodist, Dutch Reformed Church and Lutheran backgrounds.  The average age of the 
camp was 20½, and ages ranged from 17 to 32. 

All except one of the camp understood English well and spoke it fairly 
fluently.  We were able to provide good interpreters between English, French and 
German, and though too much English was spoken too fast, language was never a 
serious problem. 

      ACCOMODATION.  Once again the camp had the use of the Methodist Chapel 
Schoolroom for eating, cooking and living accommodation, for which it proved very 
adequate.  Sleeping accommodation was provided for the girls in the Chapel above,  
and for the men in two rooms which formed the loft at the Vicarage, some 200 yards 
from the Chapel, and opposite the site.  The latter was adequate, but more crowded 
and draftier than the Chapel.  Satisfactory washing facilities were provided for 
the girls in a small room, where the camp laundry also functioned, and for the men 
in the Vicarage scullery.  All water at the Chapel had to be fetched about 20 
yards from the village spring, and all dirty water carried out to the drain 
nearby.  Toilet facilities consisted of 2 earth closets at the Chapel and an Elsan 
at the Vicarage.
At the Chapel lighting and cooking (on 4 gas rings,  2 of which could be 
used with an oven) were by calor gas; an open fire helped to keep the schoolroom 
dry and warm, and a coal fired copper in the girls’ washroom pro- 
vided large quantities of hot water when needed.  We also had two hurricane 
lanterns for the Vicarage loft, and a Tilley pressure lamp to provide extra light 
in the schoolroom or wherever it was needed. 

We were very grateful for the use of the Chapel premises again and especially to 
Mr Poole for his constant kindness and concern for our welfare. 
We are also grateful to the Vicar, Mr Thompson, for the use of his loft and 
especially for welcoming the frequent invasions of his scullery where the men 
enjoyed the comparative luxury of water out of a tap.

      TIMETABLE AND ARRANGEMENTS.  At our first housemeeting on the first Sunday 
evening we agreed our timetable, which, when the minor changes made later were 
incorporated, was as follows: 

            06.00 a.m.  Cooks rise.
            06.30       Wake camp.
            07.00       Breakfast followed by Quiet Time.
            08.00       Work.
            10.15       Break:      15 minutes.
            12.55       Stop Work.
             1.00 p.m.  Lunch   (soup and sandwiches)
             2.00       Work.
             4.00       Tea break:  10 minutes.
             5.30       Finish work.
             6.30       Supper   (Main meal of the day)
             9.00       Cocoa
            10.30       Lights out.
In practice we kept to this only moderately well.  We were hardly ever at
Breakfast by 7 a.m., or on site at 8 a.m., and other meals were occasion-
ally late.  On the other hand work rarely finished at 5.30 p.m. Especially
later in the camp were late to bed, inevitably disturbing others to some
      We agreed to work a 5½ day week, finishing work at 12.30 p.m. on Sat-
urdays.  In practice a good deal of work was done on Saturday afternoons, 
And weekend arrangements were made at the time to suit the circumstances.
      Cooking was undertaken by two people each day under the general super-
vision of the caterer, one man and one girl, each person working in the kitch-
en for two days, a change being made every day.  This worked very satisfactor-
ily, though during the last weeks of the camp, when there were fewer men, the
rota was a daily one, and two girls often undertook all the cooking.  After
breakfast the whole camp helped with potato peeling when necessary, and this
was valuable in helping reduce the pressure on the cooks.  Due to the willing-
ness of one or two in particular, volunteers were always forthcoming to deal
with supper washing up and making cocoa in the evening.  Although there was
some difficulty at first in adjusting supply to meet the varying quantity de-
manded by the camp, on the whole the standard of food, both in quantity and
quality, was high, and the variety especially in view of the distance from
shops and the restricted facilities, was excellent.  Notable culinary ach-
ievements were the four “birthday teas”, each celebrated with a different sort
of birthday cake.  We also enjoyed a number of “foreign” dishes, and were
grateful for gifts of fruit and vegetables from local garden.
      Though some clothes were washed privately, we had washdays on 4 Mon-
days during the camp, when two volunteers dealt with the camps’ laundry, work
which took the whole day.  This arrangement was very helpful, particularly to
the men, and we were grateful to those members of the village who helped us by
providing clothes lines and irons.
WORK.  Our basic task was to build as much as we could of the walls of
The hall, continuing where last year’s camp had finished.  Our aim was to
reach the eaves, 9 feet above the damp course, and although this was somewhat
arbitrarily suggested it might have been possible of achievement if everything
had been in our favour.  Unfortunately the weather was extremely poor,
and we had a great deal of rain, wind and mist.  A certain amount of working
time was lost completely, and our general progress, particularly during the
first 3 weeks, was greatly hampered by bad conditions.
Our major occupation was laying on the uncoursed stonework which formed the
10 inch outer leaf of the wall. For this we generally worked in pairs, and
all of the camp became comparatively proficient so that progress, though slow
at first, was steady.  However, the concentration on this was consistently inter-
rupted for help from one or more with specialised tasks.  On our second day we
unloaded some of the hall’s pre-cast concrete parts – a window box in 4 sections 
each weighing about 12 cwt.; a 20 foot lintel weighing 1¼ tons; a porch and
lintel (15cwt), another lintel (12 cwt) and window sills and jambs.  This
occupied most of us for the whole day.  We dressed and settled accurately into
position a large number of corner stones.  We built up – in one case from damp
course level – two exterior, stone cheeked doors of the hall, and at the
end of the second week completed the smaller one by putting on the two stone
lintels.  We removed part of the floor and foundation wall and laid a concrete
bed to have the window box at the right height, and then manoeuvred the four
sections across the site on rollers and placed them in position.  During the
third week we cut and fixed all six corbels in position, calculating as accur-
ately as possible the right height.  We also determined the position of the 
six standard windows for the hall and the five smaller ones for the cloakrooms
and lobby, and laid level cement beds to take the sills at the right height on top 
of the stone walls.
Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, the pre-cast sills, jambs and
lintels for five of the windows were not ready until the beginning of the last
week of the camp, and thought we were never held up by the shortage of work, their
absence restricted our efforts on the two long walls of the hall.  As soon as
they arrived and were unloaded, another tricky operation as the lintels each
Weighed about 12 cwt, we were able to start settling the sills and jambs in
Position – a job requiring considerable accuracy – and building up the stone-
work between the windows.  As the corners were by then complete, we were able
to use many of the large stones previously reserved in case of need as corner-
Stones, and thus were sure of a solid piece of walling to take the weight of
the lintels.  At the same time we built up the sides of the 5 smaller windows,
which had no pre-cast parts – and found and built in stone lintels over all of
them.  On the last Saturday we were glad to be able to complete the main door-
way by placing in position, with the help of a tractor and hydraulic lift, the
porch and lintel.  However, this was the only time when we had mechanised
assistance, and considerable ingenuity in using all the tricks of mechanics - 
rollers, ramps and levers – was displayed in moving and lifting heavy weights
at other times.

      We spent comparatively little time bricklaying, as it was discovered
at the beginning of the camp that it was impossible to lay bricks and stones
on the same stretches of wall at the same time, and stone laying, slower yet
more urgent, had to be done first.  The half brick inner wall was taken to
the height of the sills all around the main hall, and to the height of the
door lintels at the ends, which at one end involved building the doorway.
Unfortunately due partly to frequent changes of personnel our brick laying
was of a low standard and rarely completed satisfactorily.

      We were also continuously engaged to a greater or lesser extent in
routine maintenance and jobs.  One person each day looked after the mixing the
mortar by hand:  scaffolding was erected, extended, taken down and re-erected
as needs, changed.  From time to time an effort was made to clear the site of
rubbish, or, after rain, of water:  and two people spent a day sorting out
stone from a ruined building, which we later helped cart to the site, as we
did extra stones for lintels.

      At the end of our four weeks six members of the group stayed on for a
few days and were glad to be able to complete all the remaining stretches of
wall to the top of the jambs and to set out and lay a few courses of brickwork
at the cloakroom end.  They were also able to undertake all the clearing up on
the site.

      When we left Quarnford, both ends of the hall and all 8 corners were at
the height of the eaves or higher;  the window box was in position; the two
exterior doorways were complete; all pre-cast sills and jambs were built
in, and the stonework surrounding the five cloakroom windows was complete.
The main interior doorway was ready for the casting of the lintel, and the
stonework between the larger windows was ready, after a little attention, for 
the pre-cast lintels.  We were fairly close to achieving our target.
      WORK ARRANGEMENTS.  A Work Committee, consisting of the leader and 3 
others, was appointed at the beginning of the camp and was responsible for
assigning jobs (details of which were read out at the end of Quiet Time each 
morning) and generally considering the progress of the work.  In the middle
of the camp, and at the end of the third week, changes were made so that in
All eight people served on the committee, the leader providing some continuity
throughout.  On the whole it worked well, particularly at the beginning of the 
camp when daily meetings were held, and although it was less active towards the
end, its activity was then less necessary.

      We were fortunate in having technical supervision from Mr Ken William-
son, a builder from Buxton, who visited us once or twice a week.  In be-
tween times the leader, who worked on the project during the previous year,
acted as ‘gaffer’.  We were grateful also for two visits from Mr Cartledge,
of Dobson-Chapman and Partners, the architects of the hall, and especially for
his help in obtaining scaffolding and other supplies for us, particularly the
second delivery of pre-cast parts.  We were very glad that some members of
the village, including some very young ones, were able to join us on the site, 
and were particularly grateful for the help of Mr Tunnicliffe, Mr Poole and
Barry Smith.  It was disappointing not to get more local help, though we 
appreciated the difficulties caused by the bad weather and the late hay harvest.
      We had no trouble with shortages of materials for the hall.  The stone
came from derelict buildings in the neighbourhood, with the exception of one
load of rather better coursed stone, and though a good deal of sorting and
dressing had to be done there was always enough.  Sufficient sand, limestone
dust, cement and bricks were on the site on our arrival and replaced as needed.
We also had sufficient tools – barrows and shovels from the county council,
and hand tools from the Work Camp Committee, or borrowed locally – though
chisels tended to blunt quickly and accidents to levels and rulers created a
shortage of never too plentiful items.
      A considerable stock of frame type scaffolding had been obtained, and
thought we could have used some extra fittings for diagonal braces, and we
needed the second delivery which came in our second week, we were never ser-
iously hampered on this account.  Despite borrowing as much as possible
locally, we were continually short of timber and particularly planks – and
much of our scaffolding was not really safe due to this lack.  Different
campers each week took care of checking the tools each evening, and due to
their efforts, and to several successful cavity fishing expeditions, losses
were insignificant.
CAMP ACTIVITIES.  We had a very varied and active social life, for
which a great deal of credit must go to the social committee of four members, 
two changing each week, which was all set up at the beginning of the camp.  House-
meetings were held regularly at the beginning of each week, and the first two,
which systematically considered all aspects of our life together, were very
drawn out.  The following two, considering only new matters, were much shorter,
but a thorough evaluation session was held on the final Sunday afternoon.  A
number of suggestions for our programme originated in housemeetings, but the
social committee, besides being responsible for the detailed arrangements for
our activities when agreed, also produced a great many excellent suggestions.
Two campers were successfully in charge of the Log, which received some note-
worthy contributions, but there were still a few gaps at the end of the camp.

      Quiet Time was held for about fifteen minutes after breakfast and was
generally considered helpful.  No preliminary readings were arranged, but an 
unusually large number of vocal contributions were made and much appreciated.

      Another regular feature of life together was singing before meals;
all of us learnt something new from the song book and there was welcome, if 
slight improvement in our singing ability during the four weeks.  Far too 
regular was the playing of “telegrams”, an ideal game when sheltering in wet
weather, and enjoyed then and whenever we were in a confined space.
The first Sunday saw a number of us joining in Meeting for Worship in
Buxton, or in the morning or evening Anglican and Methodist services in Flash, 
and we were glad to have several further opportunities to join all these
We had organised sing-song and two very successful evenings attempting
a varied and international selection of country dances, much helped by the 
presence of several experts and of flute, viola and guitar to provide music.
At the beginning of the camp we invited a few of the local people we had met
to a social, and at the end we ourselves entertained with a magnificent supper
and games, and singing.  During our third week the Village Hall Committee met
in the Schoolroom and we were much interested to sit in on their discussions.
      We talked a great deal, though only three organised discussions were
held – on Quakerism (spreading on to comparative religion); on Israel, Tur-
key, Cyprus and the Middle East generally; and on the aims of Work Camps - 
and the first of these was particularly lively.  Our general talk sometimes
crystallised into discussion involving some or all of us, and those on Race, 
Vegetarianism and Pacifism were particularly memorable.

      Several interesting visits were arranged – two involving an afternoon
off and extra work on Saturday, or in the evening.  The whole camp went by
bus to Hanley and then on to Wedgwoods’ for a conducted tour of the factory;
and we were very grateful to Mr Poole for arranging a visit to Hillhead Quarry,
where he was able o show us a good deal of the work involved in quarrying 
limestone.  We were glad one evening to visit Eric Curzon, a Buxton Friend, to
meet local Friends and to see films, taken by another Friend, Orion McGibbon,
of the European Friends Conference and the Pestalozzi Village in Switzerland;
and one Sunday to visit Orion’s home outside Tideswell, where we were enter-
tained to lunch, before going on to be shown around Tideswell Church – ‘the
Cathedral of the Peak’ = by the Vicar and to attend Evensong.

      A very enjoyable evening was spent at Mr Tunnicliffe’s home hearing
something of the history of Flash and seeing some slides of the Quarnford dis-
trict shown by Mr Hinds who kindly came over from Macclesfield.  We partic-
ularly valued the hospitality we received on several occasions from our friends
in the district.  We took full advantage of fine evenings and weekends to ex-
plore the fine walking country around Flash and amongst other places walked to
Lud’s Church, along the Roaches, to Three Shires Head, up Oliver Hill, and
down into the Manifold valley.  At the end of our first week we joined the
Derby camp in a joint walkfromMatlock, which was enjoyed despite the poor
weather.  All of the camp visited Buxton on more than one occasion to sample
its shops or its (wash) baths, visits were organised to the theatre and the
cinema, and fish and chips ceremoniously sampled.
      VISITORS.  Despite its somewhat isolated position the camp received
a good number of its visitors.  Once again we were very glad to see Mrs Evans,
Organising Secretary of Staffordshire Rural Committee Council – who first
suggested the project – on a number of occasions.  Two members of the Work
Camps Committee stayed with us; Mary Schicker for a night on the way north
to Edinburgh, and Joy Gillett for several days on the way south from Haverigg.
John kay spent 24 hours with us; his contributions to our Middle East dis-
cussion was much appreciated and we were sorry that the weather dealt so badly
with him.  Similarly we were sorry to give such a bleak first impression of
a work camp to the Committee Secretary’s secretary.  Alun Davis himself
visited us briefly at the very beginning and for a few days at the end of the
camp and his help on that occasion was as always much appreciated.  Two groups
of Friends from Buxton visited us, as did one from Macclesfield, and we were
grateful for their interest, and that of those who knew Quarnford from the
previous year, many of whom sent greetings and two of whom visited us.
      PUBLICITY.  We were fortunate in receiving very good publicity.  A
“Manchester Guardian” reporter and photographer visited us on the first
Thursday of the camp and a good account of Friends’ work camps in general,
and Quarnford in particular, illustrated by two photographs, appeared on the
following Wednesday.  We werenot such a novelty to the local papers as dur-
ing the previous year, but letters to three papers produced photographers
From two of them – the ‘Leek Post and Times’ and the ‘Buxton Advertiser and
Herald’ – and photographs and brief details of the camp were subsequently
      The account in the Leek newspaper caught the attention of the Midland Region
of the BBC and, on the last Friday of the camp, two members were interviewed,
the two minute tape recording being broadcast during the Midland Region News that
      WORK:  Our achievements were certainly satisfactory, both as regards
quantity and quality.  We got off to a very good start, and though there was
some slackening of effort during the middle two weeks, when it was difficult
to see progress, there was great keenness during the last week, resulting in
a lot of overtime and the completion of some really good work.  Despite the
Hard and heavy work and the very poor weather morale was extremely good and
a tribute to everyone’s good sense and good humour.
      Work organisation was in general satisfactory, though considerably 
more explanation of the plan of the building and the jobs to be done should
have been given.  We were a little disorganised at first when dealing with
major moving or lifting operations, but our coordination and team work imp-
roved considerably and became a notable and satisfying feature. That we
handled so many heavy weights without serious accident to men or the objects
themselves was a credit to all concerned and especially to our engineers.
There was generally a responsible attitude to the job, though this did not 
always extend to the use of accurate tools or clearing up tools at the end
of the day.
      Relations with Local People:   As in 1956 we received a warm welcome
from the inhabitants of Quarnford and are much indebted to them for helping
make our stay pleasant and enjoyable.  We were sorry not to get to know
more of them, and a social gathering in the middle of the camp might have
helped in this respect.

      We failed to attract any new workers to the site, and the apparent 
lack of local support caused some doubt as to the value of the project.  It
is difficult to see very much that we could have done, but I hope that this
year’s progress on the hall will encourage others to help and not merely
lead them to expect the job to be completed for them.

      Group Life:   Right from the start the camp was happy to do things to-
gether, and in retrospect it was happy about most of the things it did.  There
seemed to be very little free time, and some became very tired from such a
strenuous existence, but I think that on the whole the right use was made of
our opportunities.  Housemeetings failed to attract the active participation
of all, but all participated in making our life together and our household
arrangements run smoothly.  Some readings to have introduce Quiet Time would have
been appreciated, as would an opportunity to discuss Quiet Time itself earlier
than on the last day.  It was a pity that the group could not remain stable
throughout the four weeks but on the whole the changes caused little disturb-
ance.  It was a pity also that we were such an English group and more consid-
eration could have been shown of others’ language difficulties.

      Second Quarnford Camp:   Only the leader wad worked at Quarnford during
the previous year.  I am very glad that a second camp was held there.  It
gave an opportunity to make a real impression on the building, to get to know
more local people better, and to show further what a work camp can be.  It was
obviously right that a senior camp should be held there, and the difference in 
the spirit and achievements of the camp makes me doubt whether Quarnford was
ever really a suitable project for junior, though 1956 was additionally 
hampered by sleeping in tents.

      General:   None of the criticism stated or implied above must be allowed
to obscure the fact that this was a very good camp.  We were on the whole a 
homogenous group, but were not content merely to get along together
and did create something positive, which I think made the four weeks a really
valuable experience for us all.
(85)                                                        RICHARD K. BROWN

Last modified: 15 May 2020

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