Lectures are held at the Methodist Church in Kingsbridge and on Zoom at 2:30pm normally on the last Wednesday of each month. They last for 1 - 1¬Ĺ hours including a question and answer session at the end.
The Shakers of North America: Their Beliefs, Architecture & Artefacts
John Ericson      Wed 24th October 2012
  Think Shakers. Think chairs. Think modern kitchen styles. Think celibacy. Our October meeting speaker, John Ericson, an expert on the rise and fall of the Shakers of North America, suggested that this last tenet of their faith contained the seeds of their eventual decline. Basing their beliefs and observance on the Quakers, the Shakers added such extras as gyratory circles to stamp out the devil and, more importantly, a firm belief in the immediacy of the Second Coming (hence no need to produce children) and a practical effort to create Utopia on earth.
The prime mover in the birth of the Shakers was Ann Lee, born in the slums of Manchester, who took eight followers to America in 1774 in the wake of the Pilgrim Fathers in the previous century. To some disciples she was the female incarnation of Jesus. Starting with a small settlement near to New York, Shaker villages spread to the Mid-West and some 5000 people were practising their faith in this way by the 1840ís. We may smile at some of their quaint rules and the segregation of the sexes, houses with separate doors for the Brothers and Sisters and meals in silence at separate tables, but they lived their faith through equality, communal ownership, pacifism, benevolence, humility, simplicity, cleanliness and hard manual work. Perhaps one of the best examples of true communism.
Village architecture had a neat, angular feel, including some large Georgian style houses for Ďfamiliesí of up to 100 people. Interiors were very plain with roped beds and lots of drawers and cupboards: everything had to be put away in the evening. Symmetry was the plannerís watchword. This said, we saw some fine examples of individual design, from a stunning spiral staircase to a circular, cathedral-like cowshed. Quality, simplicity and purpose went hand in hand.
The Industrial Revolution, Western expansion and celibacy took their toll. Today a handful practise but five villages are still open as museums. Remember that the circular saw, the wheelchair and various day to day hand tools, as well as distinctive chairs, owe something to the inventiveness of the Shakers.