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Uxbridge Quaker Meeting House

A Grade II Listed Building in Hillingdon, Hillingdon

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.5479 / 51°32'52"N

Longitude: -0.4775 / 0°28'38"W

OS Eastings: 505666

OS Northings: 184322

OS Grid: TQ056843

Mapcode National: GBR 14.49P

Mapcode Global: VHFT4.NCX6

Plus Code: 9C3XGGXF+52

Entry Name: Uxbridge Quaker Meeting House

Listing Date: 6 September 1974

Last Amended: 13 July 2020

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1080107

English Heritage Legacy ID: 203023

Location: Hillingdon, London, UB8

County: Hillingdon

Electoral Ward/Division: Uxbridge North

Built-Up Area: Hillingdon

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Uxbridge St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: London

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Summary


Quaker Meeting House built in 1817, with an extension to the south built in 1962 from designs by Hubert Lidbetter.

Description


Quaker Meeting House built in 1817, with an extension to the south built in 1962 from designs by Hubert Lidbetter.

MATERIALS: stock brick laid in Flemish bond with a slate roof.

PLAN: rectangular plan with porch on the west.

EXTERIOR: the meeting house comprises two double-height meeting rooms on either side of a central lobby, which is entered via a doorway on the main north front. There is a gabled porch to the smaller (originally women’s) room on the west side. Attached on the south side is a lower extension of 1962, by Hubert Lidbetter.

The original building has a shallow hipped roof and three high round-headed windows with gauged brick arches and glazing bar sashes on the north elevation, two lighting the main meeting room and one the smaller room. A similarly-detailed half window is placed over the main north entrance, which has double doors each of three flush-beaded panels under a flat gauged brick arch.

At the west end the porch has a hipped roof and double doors under a gauged brick arch, these doors each of five flush-beaded panels. The porch is flanked by windows similar to those on north side. The east elevation facing the street is plain and windowless. On the south side, the addition of 1962 has a shallow pitched roof.

INTERIOR: the main entrance on the north front gives onto a lobby which originally had shutters on both sides which could be opened up to create a single internal space. The shutters to the smaller meeting room were destroyed in a fire in 1988 and not reinstated, and that room now has a modern character and finishes. However, the main meeting room survives intact, with its shutters on the west side operated by sash cords, allowing them to be raised into the roof space. It also retains its perimeter panelled dado (partly renewed in 1988) with fixed seating and, on the east side, the elders’ stand, raised by three steps and with a panelled front. The stand is reached by two short flights of stairs, each with turned newels of late C18 or early C19 character. The walls above the dado are plastered and painted, and there is a flat lath and plaster ceiling. In the roof space, the original king-post roof structure of sawn softwood survives. To the south, the 1962 extension contains a kitchen, schoolroom and WCs.

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.

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.

Friends met in private houses in Uxbridge from at least 1676 (as witnessed in a letter from John Sands to George Fox, quoted in Trott 1970, p2). By 1678 a room was rented at the George Inn, in the High Street in Uxbridge and in the same year land at the north end of the yard (adjacent to the present York Road) was given by the Heale family, owners of the inn. In 1691, soon after the passing of the Toleration Act, a small meeting house was built on land given by William Winch next to the burial ground, at a cost of £159.10.2. The builder was John Hudson, a Quaker bricklayer from Ruislip. The boundaries of the burial ground were renewed and slightly extended in 1723.

The meeting house was built on inadequate foundations and in 1755 it was demolished. It was replaced with a new meeting house on the same site that year at a cost of £245.17.0. However this too was found to be structurally unsound and was demolished in 1817. It was replaced with the present Uxbridge meeting house, a large structure of two chambers, the larger for the main meeting room and the smaller for the women’s business meeting, each giving off a central lobby with shutters on both sides which could be opened to create a large single space. The cost was £1,520.3.11.

The burial ground was enlarged at the same time. Originally behind high walls and gates, the burial ground was last used in 1928. In the 1950s part of it was given up for the widening of York Road, in exchange for which Friends accepted a piece of land to the south, upon which an extension, housing kitchen, schoolroom and WCs was built in 1962, from designs by Hubert Lidbetter. He was the most prolific architect of meeting houses with a career spanning the 1920s to the 1960s. He designed four large urban meeting houses; the inter-war examples are in a classical tradition: Friends House, London (1924-27) and Bull Street, Birmingham (1931-33). Liverpool (1941, demolished) and Sheffield (1964, sold and adapted for alternative use) were in a simple mid-century style influenced by modernism. But more typical were his numerous smaller meeting houses of a domestic neo-Georgian character.

Burials from the surrendered part of the Uxbridge Quaker burial ground were reinterred in the south-west corner of the site in 1960 (as recorded on a stone plaque on the 1962 building).

Reasons for Listing


Uxbridge Quaker Meeting House of 1817 with a later extension, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* embodying the modest simplicity of Quaker meeting houses, the external structure, built in the early C19, retains much of its original character and fabric;

* for the survival of the little-altered large meeting room and its original fittings including the full-height shutters and fixed seating in the elders' stand.

Historic interest:

* one of the oldest meeting houses in Greater London which has been in continuous use since 1817 and is the successor to earlier meeting houses built in 1691 and 1755.

Group value:

* with the Grade II-listed burial ground wall.

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