SHIRLEY -- On May 6, the public is invited to tour the historic Shirley Meeting House located on the Shirley Center Common at 41 Brown Road. The tours are part of Hidden Treasures 2017, a month-long program sponsored by the Freedom's Way National Heritage Area.

Tours will include a visit to the attic above the main hall, with its wonderful view of the Common, where the post and beam construction of the roof rafters and belfry tower can be seen. There, children will have an opportunity to ring the bell at the end of the tour. Tours will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and admission is free.

The Shirley Meeting House was built in 1773 to serve both as a venue for town governance and as a place of worship for the First Parish. A town meeting was held at the Meeting House on June 27, 1776 during which the townspeople voted to support the colonies' independence from Great Britain. A bronze tablet lists all of the Shirley men who answered the call to arms in April 1775. The militiamen trained on Shirley Common and stored their gunpowder in the Meeting House for safety, since the building was unheated.

On view during the tours will be the pewter communion set which was a gift from Capt. Bancroft of Groton, commander of the Shirley militia during the Revolutionary War, and the folio Bible, printed in London in 1769, which was a gift to the First Parish by Lydia Hancock of Boston, the aunt of John Hancock and Lydia Bowes Whitney, the First Parish minister's wife.


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The Meeting House also houses Shirley's first lending library, established by parishioners in 1839. 600 books dating from 1790 to 1890 remain on the bookshelves and can be viewed during the tour along with over 900 children's books from the same period and a collection of old hymnals.

Last but not least, the 1849 tracker organ built by George Stevens of Charlestown is in its original condition and will be open for display. Still visible on the walls behind the organ are the autographs of children who years ago had the task of powering the organ by pumping air into the bellows. This was an exhausting task that several of Shirley's elders still remember performing, though not fondly!

Details about the Hidden Treasures 2017 program can be found at DiscoverHiddenTreasures.org and information about the Shirley Meeting House at shirleymeetinghouse.org.