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Meeting House Green, Westminster Green

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In 1767 a group of Canterbury citizens petitioned the General Court for permission to be set off as a separate society in order to serve members who found the long trip to Canterbury Green a hardship. This request was denied, but a second petition in 1769 was granted. The new ecclesiastical society was "to be known and called by the name of Westminster."

The church common, an area of about 4 acres, was a gift of John Park, who specified that the land be used for a meetinghouse site, burial ground, and common. In 1770 Captain Sherebrah Butts and his seven sons built the meetinghouse. Butts was also captain of the local militia. On November 20, 1770, a counsel called from surrounding parishes signed the covenant that established the new church. In 1790 the society voted that anyone who desired could build "convenient and decent horse sheds on the meeting house green near the meeting house in said society." A description of the green in the early 1800s reports that "there were a great many of them (sheds)."

In 1803 the society voted to pay for "building and painting the new gates at the burying yard near the Meeting House in said society." The wrought-iron fence was made by the Backus Foundry in Canterbury.

By 1835 the building was in a state of disrepair and it was suggested that a new church be built in a modern style. This proposal was rejected and it was decided to repair the old building. At this time the portico, pillars, and steeple were added and the entire building was rotated (originally, the building faced eastward). The move was accomplished by raising the church on jacks and placing a cannonball under the center. Over a period of several days the building was moved, using sticks for levers. The cannonball was left in the center, where it probably remains today.

During the hurricane of 1938 the bell toppled out of the belfry and cracked. Today the church is known as "the church of the broken bell." The parsonage was built in 1969 by Mr. Albert Lindell.

In the cemetery are the graves of 25 Revolutionary War soldiers as well as graves of soldiers from every American war, with the exception of the Korean conflict.

Meeting House Green is significant as an early common that still maintains much of its late 18th- and early 19th-century character. The wishes of the original donor, John Park, that the site be used as a meetinghouse site, burial ground, and common are still respected today.

Meeting House Green is a good example of a green that still maintains these three functions on a contiguous piece of property.

 

 
 

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