Local Church to host Heritage Day

First Parish Church in Derry, New Hampshire, will host its fourth annual Heritage Day this Saturday, May 19, 2012. The day will celebrate the history of Nutfield, which was settled by sixteen Scotch-Irish families seeking religious and political freedom in 1719 and once contained the towns of Londonderry, Derry, and Windham. During the event, visitors can expect to be treated to a number of educational, cultural and fun events.

The First Parish Church in current East Derry, as of 1895.

Held from 9 AM until 3 PM, Heritage Day will encompass several historical landmarks in Derry. These include the church Meetinghouse and cemetery, Taylor Library, the Upper Village Hall, the East Derry Historic District, the Historical Museum, and many more.

“Heritage Day is a great, fun way for everyone to learn more, whether it’s finally seeing the inside of the old meetinghouse you’ve driven past for years, discovering where Derry’s founders lie in the cemetery, or learning the value of those curious antiques passed down from your relatives,” said Rev. Sue Remick, interim senior pastor at First Parish.

Events during the day include:

  • Antique appraisals by antiquities and collectibles expert and resident Hercules Pappachristos from 10 AM until 12 PM. The informal verbal appraisals are only $5 per item with up to five items per person. Photos are suggested for large furniture; coins, stamps, and jewelry aren’t covered but private appraisals can be arranged.
  • Highland Games Exposition and Contest. Features historical talks at 10 AM and 1 PM and a chance to watch or try some of the games. Demonstrations include the caber toss (the throwing of tree trunks) and the stone put (similar to the shot put). Contests include the sheaf toss (open to all, attempt to throw a bag of wheat higher than others) and the mini caber toss (open to all, a safer version of the regular caber toss).
  • Tours and talks of Forest Hill Cemetery. Features TJ Cullinane and the Friends of Forest Hill.

    The First Parish Church as seen from Forest Hill Cemetery in East Derry.

  • Historic games and crafts for kids sponsored by the Girl Scout Troops of the church.
  • Bagpipe and Irish Step Dance performances featuring local bagpiper Kirk Brunson and award-winning dancing team Hilary and Lauren Gorgal. Bagpipe performances will be held throughout the day and site; dancing demonstrations will be held at 1 and 2 PM.
  • Live craft demonstrations by Mike Gibbons of Nutfield Pottery and flax spinner and weaver Shirley Walker.
  • Displays and guided tours of the church.
  • Lecture by Derry town historian Richard Holmes at 10 AM. The talk is titled “Derry’s History and Our Forgotten Famous Citizens.”
  • The History Museum will be open with special hours from 10 AM until 2 PM.
  • Breakfast, lunch and refreshments available throughout the day.
  • Much more!

To learn more about this event, visit the First Parish Church online. To read a brief history of the church’s meetinghouse, select Read More.

First Parish Church was established in 1719 by the original settlers of Nutfield, which today includes Derry, Londonderry, Windham, and parts of Manchester.

The current meetinghouse was built in 1769 as a single-story structure, and was cut in half and stretched 24 feet in 1824. An original slender steeple was replaced with the current federal-style tower at that time.

In 1845, the meetinghouse was divided into two floors, with the church sanctuary on the second floor and town offices and meeting space on the first. A major sanctuary remodeling in 1884 added the current stained glass memorial windows, new furnishings, and new finishes. The meetinghouse’s appearance has changed little since that time.

In 1953, the first mechanical heating system not fueled by wood or coal was installed, repairs were made to the tower, and the existing sanctuary flooring was put down. In 1973 (the Noyes Building) and again in 1985 (Currier Hall), successive large additions south of the original building provide new classrooms, offices, restrooms, and a fellowship hall. In the 1990’s significant repairs were performed on the tower understructure and visible steeple cupola.

A professional architectural assessment in 2011 identified multiple structural issues requiring repair and rehabilitation, including the foundation, roof and tower timber frames, electrical, and exterior trim and finishes. Planning and fundraising efforts are now underway to accomplish these improvements by the Church’s 300th anniversary in 2019.

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