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Spiceland Quaker Meeting House and Former Cartshed

A Grade II* Listed Building in Culmstock, Devon

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Latitude: 50.9187 / 50°55'7"N

Longitude: -3.3057 / 3°18'20"W

OS Eastings: 308317

OS Northings: 114059

OS Grid: ST083140

Mapcode National: GBR LR.QJC6

Mapcode Global: FRA 36ZP.00H

Plus Code: 9C2RWM9V+FP

Entry Name: Spiceland Quaker Meeting House and Former Cartshed

Listing Date: 5 April 1966

Last Amended: 23 September 2020

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1147652

English Heritage Legacy ID: 95893

Location: Culmstock, Mid Devon, Devon, EX15

County: Devon

District: Mid Devon

Civil Parish: Culmstock

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Culmstock All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

Tagged with: Quaker meeting house

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Quaker meeting house with former caretaker's accommodation. Built in 1815 on the site of a late-C17 meeting house, with a lean-to extension of probable mid-C19 date and small late-C20 additions. Repairs and alterations in the late C20 and early-C21 repairs. To the north-east is a former cartshed of pre-1840 date.


Quaker meeting house with former caretaker's accommodation. Built in 1815 on the site of a late-C17 meeting house, with a lean-to extension of probable mid-C19 date and small late-C20 additions. Repairs and alterations in the late C20 and early-C21 repairs. To the north-east is a former cartshed of pre-1840 date.

MATERIALS: the meeting house is constructed of local stone rubble under a hipped, slate roof. There are brick chimneys in the west elevation and at the west end of the rear elevation.

PLAN: the building has a rectangular footprint with small C20 additions on the north and south sides of the western lean-to and another to the north elevation of the meeting house. It comprises a large meeting room to the right (east) and to the left (west) a former small meeting room which has been part of the domestic accommodation since the late C20. There is a first-floor gallery at the west end.

EXTERIOR: the principal elevation faces south and has four bays. There is a segmental-arched entrance containing a pair of timber, three-panel doors (repaired 2014), each with raised and field upper panels and a plain, slightly-recessed lower panel. Over the doorway is a semi-circular arched niche that has a stone plaque inscribed: BUILT IN 1670./ REBUILT/ 1815 (original date is not correct). To the left of the doorway is a tall, round-headed sash window with small panes and marginal lights which dates from 2003. To the right are two matching windows, and another in the east elevation, also early-C21 replacements. The rear elevation contains a square-headed, multi-paned window and a stone tablet inscribed: DANIEL HENSON BUILDER 1815. There is a small modern lean-to addition with two small windows. The west end of the building has a single-storey lean-to with a late-C20 gabled entrance porch on its south side and a small lean-to extension to the north, both of late-C20 date. The west elevation of the lean-to has two casement windows, and there are two casements at first-floor level in the west wall of the main building.

INTERIOR: the interior is simple and unadorned. The entrance doors open onto a small lobby or porch below the gallery which leads to the large meeting room and, to the left, the former small meeting room (later sub-divided) which has been incorporated into the residential accommodation. The large meeting room has a modern timber floor, plain plastered walls, a flat plaster ceiling and a chandelier which may be original. The windows have early-C21 internal timber shutters. At the east end are two tiers of bench seating and at both ends are steps with ramped handrails and slender balusters to access the upper tier. This has a panelled back and front with a balustraded rail. The first-floor galley at the west end of the room has a panelled front that breaks forwards at either end. The partition wall beneath the gallery which divides the large meeting room from the former small meeting room (now private accommodation) has raised and fielded panelling and vertical-sliding shutters. Other joinery includes unfixed wooden benches. The roof timbers include king-post principals.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the former cartshed is built of cob and stone rubble under a thatched roof. The east end has been partially rebuilt in brick and has a roof of metal corrugated sheeting. The south elevation is open-fronted and the roof carried on timber uprights. The eastern third of the building has been encased in brick and contains a late-C20 door and a casement window. The roof of the open-fronted part consists of principal, tie-beam rafters, a single row of purlins and common rafters.

To the north-east is a late-C20 timber building which provides further meeting space.


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. 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 built 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 facing a raised stand for the ministers and elders. 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.

Quaker meetings, in the form of open-air preaching, first took place at Spiceland north-east of Uffculme probably in around 1668 when George Fox, founder of the Quaker Movement, is believed to have preached there. By 1683 (the date of 1670 over the entrance of the current building is most likely incorrect) a ‘large and convenient’ meeting house had been erected at Spison as it was then called. A burial ground was also established. The earliest known grave is that of George Russell who died in Exeter jail in 1682 where he was imprisoned for his Quaker beliefs. Many members of the Spiceland meeting were associated with the local woollen industry, including Mark and Robert Cadbury, whose brother John established a chocolate manufacturing business in Birmingham. In 1815, despite a decline in members, a new meeting house was built on the same site, erected by a builder named Daniel Henson. A lean-to extension was added at the west end of the building, probably in the mid-C19 to provide accommodation for a caretaker. There were, however, no regular meetings at Spiceland from about 1886 until the 1950s when it was re-opened. The building underwent repairs in 1960, with further repairs and alterations carried out in the late C20 and early C21. The west end of the building has been rearranged to provide additional residential accommodation, and a new burial ground has also been laid out to the south-east.

Reasons for Listing

Spiceland Quaker Meeting House of 1815 and the former cartshed are listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* a purpose-built, Quaker meeting house of a simple, but characterful design which illustrates the resources and confidence of the Friends;

* the meeting house interior retains a range of historic fittings, including gallery, bench seating and moveable shuttered partitions;

* later alterations and additions have not diminished the historic character of either the meeting house or the adjacent former cartshed.

Historic interest:

* the site has a very long association with the Quaker Movement and is understood to have been visited by George Fox who preached there in 1669.

Group value:

* the buildings have strong group value with each other and with the adjacent burial ground.

External Links

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