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Faringdon Quaker Meeting House

A Grade II Listed Building in Faringdon, Oxfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.6584 / 51°39'30"N

Longitude: -1.5889 / 1°35'20"W

OS Eastings: 428532

OS Northings: 195589

OS Grid: SU285955

Mapcode National: GBR 5VP.TB5

Mapcode Global: VHC0L.DLV1

Plus Code: 9C3WMC56+8C

Entry Name: Faringdon Quaker Meeting House

Listing Date: 10 July 1986

Last Amended: 3 July 2020

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1048464

English Heritage Legacy ID: 249394

Location: Great Faringdon, Vale of White Horse, Oxfordshire, SN7

County: Oxfordshire

Civil Parish: Great Faringdon

Built-Up Area: Faringdon

Traditional County: Berkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Faringdon

Church of England Diocese: Oxford

Tagged with: Quaker meeting house

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Summary


This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 20/07/2020

Quaker Meeting House. Built in 1672-1673, with later alterations.

Description

Quaker Meeting House. Built in 1672-1673, with later alterations.

MATERIALS: limestone rubble stone walls, brick quoins and dressings, stone tile roof coverings.

PLAN: the single-storey meeting house is rectangular on plan, with a hipped roof, and a small flat-roofed porch to the south-west.

EXTERIOR: standing opposite the Grade II-listed Duke of Wellington public house, the meeting house is situated in the Quaker burial ground, behind a high rubble-stone wall. It is oriented north-east to south-west, built in rubble stone with brick quoins and dressings. The steeply-pitched hipped roof has stone tile coverings.

The main (south-west) front comprises the flat-roofed entrance porch that incorporates a bead-moulded stone surround (that until 2014 had a double-leaf door). The former three bay main elevation to the north-west front now comprises, from right to left, two window openings just below the eaves with eight-over-eight wooden sash windows, and a slightly lower window opening, built-up in 1687, with brick surround and flat arch with a keystone. The stone infill to the former doorway can be seen below the window in the central bay.

The rear (north-east) elevation facing into the burial ground includes a small, centrally-placed window below the eaves. Two timber lintels set into this wall indicate former openings suggesting that this elevation may be derived from an earlier building on the plot. The south-east elevation includes one centrally-placed window opening with brick dressings for a further eight-over-eight sash window. The lintel of a door opening placed immediately to the left of that window interrupts the window opening’s brick dressings on that side.

INTERIOR: entered from the porch through a new (2014) double-leaf six-panel door with glazed square upper lights, the meeting room comprises a single space with a flat ceiling. The ceiling is supported by two off-centre beams and includes two hatches; the roof space is reported to include remnants of the former timber partition. The roof structure (not seen) is reported in the meeting house’s Quinquennial Inspection Report to include substantial oak trusses and triple purlins. The meeting room has a dado throughout. To the north-east wall the dado is ramped where the Elders’ stand formerly stood. The dado is also ramped either side of the main entrance and the windows. The floor is timber-boarded.

History

The Quaker movement emerged out of a period of religious and political turmoil in the mid-C17. Its main protagonist, George Fox, openly rejected traditional religious doctrine, instead promoting the theory that all people could have a direct relationship with God, without dependence on sermonising ministers, nor the necessity of consecrated places of worship. Fox, originally from Leicestershire, claimed the Holy Spirit was within each person, and from 1647 travelled the country as an itinerant preacher. 1652 was pivotal in his campaign; after a vision on Pendle Hill, Lancashire, Fox was moved to visit Firbank Fell, Cumbria, where he delivered a rousing, three-hour speech to an assembly of 1000 people, and recruited numerous converts. The Quakers, formally named the Religious Society of Friends, was thus established.

Fox asserted that no one place was holier than another, and in their early days, the new congregations often met for silent worship at outdoor locations; the use of members’ houses, barns, and other secular premises followed. Persecution of Nonconformists proliferated in the period, with Quakers suffering disproportionately. The Quaker Act of 1662, and the Conventicle Act of 1664, forbade their meetings, though they continued in defiance, and a number of meeting houses date from this early period. Broad Campden, Gloucestershire, came into Quaker use in 1663 and is the earliest meeting house in Britain, although it was out of use from 1871 to 1961. The meeting house at Hertford, 1670, is the oldest to be purpose built. The Act of Toleration, passed in 1689, was one of several steps towards freedom of worship outside the established church, and thereafter meeting houses began to make their mark on the landscape.

Quaker meeting houses are generally characterised by simplicity of design, both externally and internally, reflecting the form of worship they were designed to accommodate. The earliest purpose-built meeting houses were built by local craftsmen following regional traditions and were on a domestic scale, frequently resembling vernacular houses; at the same time, a number of older buildings were converted to Quaker use. From the first, most meeting houses shared certain characteristics, containing a well-lit meeting hall with a simple arrangement of seating. In time a raised stand became common behind the bench for the Elders, so that traveling ministers could be better heard. Where possible, a meeting house would provide separate accommodation for the women’s business meetings, and early meeting houses may retain a timber screen, allowing the separation (and combination) of spaces for business and worship. In general, the meeting house will have little or no decoration or enrichment, with joinery frequently left unpainted. Ancillary buildings erected in addition to a meeting house could include stabling and covered spaces such as a gig house; caretaker’s accommodation; or a school room or adult school.

Throughout the C18 and early C19 many new meeting houses were built, or earlier buildings remodelled, with ‘polite’, Classically-informed designs appearing, reflecting architectural trends more widely. However, the buildings were generally of modest size and with minimal ornament, although examples in urban settings tended to be more architecturally ambitious. After 1800, it became more common for meeting houses to be designed by an architect or surveyor. The Victorian and Edwardian periods saw greater stylistic eclecticism, though the Gothic Revival associated with the Established Church was not embraced; on the other hand, Arts and Crafts principles had much in common with those of the Quakers, and a number of meeting houses show the influence of that movement.

The C20 saw changes in the way meeting houses were used which influenced their design and layout. In 1896 it was decided to unite men’s and women’s business, so separate rooms were no longer needed, whilst from the mid-1920s ministers were not recorded, and consequently stands were rarely provided in new buildings. Seating was therefore rearranged without reference to the stand, with moveable chairs set in concentric circles becoming the norm in smaller meeting houses. By the interwar years, there was a shift towards more flexible internal planning, together with the provision of additional rooms for purposes other than worship, reflecting the meeting house’s community role – the need for greater contact with other Christians and a more active contribution within the wider world had been an increasing concern since the 1890s. Traditional styles continued to be favoured, from grander Classical buildings in urban centres to local examples in domestic neo-Georgian.

Faringdon meeting house was built in 1672-1673, only a few years after the earliest purpose built Friends meeting house at Hertford (1670, Grade I-listed). A Particular Meeting had been established in Faringdon in 1668, and the meeting house was built at the temporary suspension of legislation against non-conformity granted by the Declaration of Indulgence of 1672. There may have been an earlier agricultural building on the plot, that had been purchased to provide both meeting house and Quaker burial ground.

In 1681 Faringdon Monthly Meeting decided to build up the two windows in the north-west elevation, for reasons of security: this was during a period of persecution prior to the passing of the 1689 Act of Toleration. The western of these two windows was later unblocked and the doorway in the north-west elevation was converted into a third window opening when the entrance was moved to the south-west wall, perhaps in 1716. A porch sheltering that entrance was added, perhaps in 1836, using a bequest of Friend James Reynolds. The first edition of the Ordnance Survey County Series 1:2,500 map (Berkshire, 1876) shows in plan a small structure to the north-east wall, but this is not mentioned by other authorities.

The building was out of use as a Quaker meeting house from 1880 for about a century, until Faringdon Meeting was revived in 1975. Repairs were completed in 1980 and again in 1995. The latter works included new flooring and reinstatement of panelling, new plastering and brickwork, and other repairs at a cost of more than £10,000. The Elders’ stand and a shuttered partition dividing the meeting room were removed at an unknown date. In 2014 alterations made to the instruction of Andrew Townsend, architect, included removing the steps and wooden gates of the street entrance, installing an entrance ramp, and making adjustments to the porch.

Reasons for Listing

Faringdon Quaker Meeting House, situated on Lechlade Road, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as an historic survivor of a C17 Quaker meeting house which retains its historic form and character from the time of construction;
* as evidence of the development of the meeting house type, including simple plan form and plain, vernacular style typifying the modest nature of these buildings for worship.

Historic interest:

* as one of the oldest purpose-built Quaker meeting houses still in use in the country;
* the meeting house includes evidence for the turbulent history of early Quakerism, especially during the 1670s and 1680s, through its construction and early alterations.

Group value:

* with the Grade II-listed Duke of Wellington Public House.

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