The Friends' early years
A page from the Record of the Friends, 1953, the Friends' annual publication, published 1953-1961, featuring a letter from Dean Matthews
The Friends' early years
The early years were a time of great activity for the Friends.
The membership grew rapidly; from the 80 or so members who attended the first meeting in 1952, to 673 the following year, and 1,230 by 1955.
The Friends took care to fulfil the aims set out at the first meeting in a ‘modest but useful' way (Dean Matthews' words). The first thing they did was to re-lacquer the candelabra in the North and South aisles in time to commemorate The Queen’s coronation on the 3rd June 1953.
In the early years contributions were also made towards Cathedral maintenance, flowers, and Sunday evening service sheets. Christmas cards and guidebooks were sold in a prototype shop at the entrance to the Whispering Gallery, raising £100 in 1954 (over £2000 in today’s money).
A photograph of Miss Jennings, the Friends' first Secretary, in her office in the Cathedral Chapter House, 1950s
The activities of the Friends were captured in The Record of the Friends. Produced between 1953 and 1962, the Record was published annually and included an introduction from Dean Matthews, updates on architectural improvements, articles about the history of St Paul’s, and stories from Friends.
The Record was edited by newly appointed Secretary, Miss Jennings, who was a driving force behind many of the Friends' activities and schemes during this period.
A photograph of HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother attending a Friends' Festival, 1950s
Each year the Friends have also held their annual Festival, followed by a tea, and a recital by the Choristers in the Stationers Hall, which was attended by their Royal Patron, HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
The Royal Family also made other significant visits to the Cathedral during the 1950s. In March 1956, HRH Princess Margaret came to visit the galleries and the Triforium, while in July 1957, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visited the Cathedral with Prince Charles and Princess Anne. The young prince and princess especially enjoyed climbing inside Wren’s Great Model, getting so covered in dust that the Cathedral Librarian needed to wash their knees for them!
The front page of the first edition of Dome magazine, published October 1963
Friends with a capital 'F'
In 1962, 10 years after the founding of the Friends, the Council of the Friends adopted a plan to expand and “re-brand” the organisation, and to actively attract more members. The Record was replaced with a new publication, Dome magazine.
At a special service for the Friends Festival that year, the Canon Chancellor, Revd. Frederic Hood explained:
‘All those of us who love St Paul’s and work for it are in the same position. We are utterly dependent on God. We passionately desire to serve the community – and by this we mean our regular congregation, our many visitors, the country, the Commonwealth, the world.
But, like Moses of old, we are not able to bear this alone; it is too heavy for us. So we depend on our Friends, with a capital ‘F’...We are agreed that the time has come for a great forward move. For this we have many plans. We dare to envisage twenty thousand or more men, women, boys and girls, each committed to God within the life or his own church, yet as, so to speak, part of our world-wide congregation, with St Paul’s as a dynamic centre.’