Friday, 15 May 2009
Old Kennett Meeting House
This is a model of Old Kennett Meeting House, which is one of the surviving buildings on the Brandywine battlefield in Pennsylvania. Kennett Township, in Chester County, was formed on part of the land granted by King James II to William Penn in 1682. It seems to have been inhabited by Lenape Indians and a small Swedish community was already in residence when the English arrived. The name "Kennett" seems to have been taken from one of the first settlers' home village, Kennett in Wiltshire. The area had a large Quaker community (including Penn himself) and it was these people who built this meeting house. The Quakers had previously crossed the Brandywine to attend meetings at Brandywine Hundred, but due to the creek's inaccessibility at certain times of year the Quakers built their own house in Kennett. The original building of 1710 was enlarged twice, in 1719 and 1731. Meetings still take place there during the summer. Penn's guarantee of freedom of religion ensured that many Quakers across Europe emigrated to Pennsylvania to escape persecution at home.
The House was on the western side of Brandywine Creek, near Chadd's Ford. It formed part of Brigadier General Maxwell's initial line of defence against Knyphausen's attack. The British and Hessian troops were camped around Kennett Square, closely watched by a detachment of light infantry who had decided that a nearby tavern offered the best vantage point. Shortly after 9am on 11 September 1777, these troops saw Queen's Rangers and Ferguson's Riflemen on the move towards them and realised that some sort of attack was imminent. After firing off a few shots the light infantry fell back and took up a position behind a stone wall on the western edge of the Old Kennett grounds. As further American troops arrived and the British deployed into line, a firefight started. Apparently the Quakers were having a meeting at the time; worshipper Jacob Peirce recorded that "while there was much noise and confusion without, all was quiet and peaceful within." Maxwell's troops skirmished with the British before eventually falling back across Chadd's Ford.
The model was made by Paul McDonagh of Paul's Modelling Workshop . I saw Paul's ad in Wargames Illustrated, was impressed by the work on his website, and got in touch. I was lucky to find a whole load of photos of the House (see here for what the original looks like) on a very useful website, the Historic American Buildings Survey. The cost of the model was £65 plus £8 p&p, which I think is pretty reasonable, and the lead time a rather impressive 2 months.
The roof of the model lifts off and the windows are hollow, as you can see from the pic below. As Paul bases all his models I asked him to add the small graveyard which is to the east of the House. Although none of the gravestones currently on site date from before the early 19th century, records show that the graveyard was in use during the 18th century. Some of the casualties of the Brandywine battle were apparently buried here. Paul's modelled the graves very well: in keeping with their traditions of simplicity, Quaker gravestones are unadorned and quite small. As always with old buildings, it's difficult to know exactly what they looked like over 200 years ago. I suggested to Pual that the walls be in natural stone rather than whitewashed, which is how the building looks now. We also left in the small annexe to add some interest, although I suspect that is a later addition.
I'm very pleased with this model. Paul clearly knows his stuff technically and understands the requirements of wargamers, scaling and what is likely to work on the tabletop. Now where did I put my photos of Wright's Tavern...