Quakers question sums in Old Jordans sale

There are rumblings of unrest among the normally peace-loving Quakers over the sale of the Old Jordans estate to an investment company.

As we reported last week the sale of the five acre heritage site includes the world famous Mayflower Barn along with Jordans Farmhouse, secret meeting place for the Friends in the 17th century.

The two buildings were built from ships' timbers that took the Pilgrim Fathers to America and will forever be associated with the best known Quaker of all time, William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania.

The headline above the story in last Friday's edition of the Quaker's weekly publication, the Friend, claimed Rivercrest Investments paid £1.85million for the estate in Jordans village. The guide price was £2.5million when the property was launched on the market in March last year.

David Bartlett who worked at Old Jordans as a resident Friend from August 1999 to April 2000 is among the faction within the religious movement who maintain that "crucial questions remain unanswered".

This week he sent the Free Press a copy of a letter he wrote to the Friend "which they've decided not to print," says Mr Bartlett.

"What is the net value of the sale once the outstanding debts have been paid in full?" he demands. "I ask because I was told by a very reliable source over six months ago that debts totalled in excess of £1.5m which would suggest there won't be much change out of the advertised sale price. If that is the case, should there not be an independent investigation into how a Quaker asset with a positive balance sheet seven years ago came to such an end?"

"There is real concern about the way the estate has been handled," Mr Bartlett insisted. He also asked for details about Rivercrest Investments.

Valerie McFarlane, clerk to the trustees of Old Jordans, confirmed on Wednesday that Rivercrest Investments does have development interests. The company has been put forward for an architectural award for its restoration of the former chapel and parish school now known as Wren House in Hatton Garden, London's jewellery quarter.

"They intend doing a substantial refurbishment to Old Jordans over the next year," said Mrs McFarlane. "They have assured us they want to do what is best for the buildings. As part of the project, they intend to create a footpath from the estate along the site of Jordans Lane to the burial ground."

Neither the burial place of William Penn, which has become a place of pilgrimage for travellers from far and wide, nor the more recent 1688 Friends Meeting House, that was partially damaged by fire in a blaze that destroyed the roof and rear of the building last year, were included in the sale of the estate.

The trustees hope proceeds from the sale can be used to restore the Meeting House after the deal is finalised on March 31.

Mrs McFarlane added that any questions about finance or the management of the estate should be addressed to herself as clerk to the trustees of Old Jordans. "The sale has not been completed yet," she said.

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