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Gainsborough Quaker Meeting House

A Grade II Listed Building in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire

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Latitude: 53.3997 / 53°23'58"N

Longitude: -0.774 / 0°46'26"W

OS Eastings: 481615

OS Northings: 389909

OS Grid: SK816899

Mapcode National: GBR RY14.70

Mapcode Global: WHFFZ.2TQ2

Plus Code: 9C5X96XG+VC

Entry Name: Gainsborough Quaker Meeting House

Listing Date: 12 May 1977

Last Amended: 10 March 2020

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1168215

English Heritage Legacy ID: 196321

ID on this website: 101168215

Location: Gainsborough, West Lindsey, Lincolnshire, DN21

County: Lincolnshire

District: West Lindsey

Civil Parish: Gainsborough

Built-Up Area: Gainsborough

Traditional County: Lincolnshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire

Church of England Parish: Gainsborough All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Lincoln

Tagged with: Quaker meeting house

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Quaker Meeting House built in 1704 with a later single-storey schoolroom added on the north side in 1876; kitchen and toilets were added in the C20.


Quaker Meeting House built in 1704 with a later single-storey schoolroom added on the north side in 1876; kitchen and toilets were added in the C20.

MATERIALS: the original small meeting house is of red brick laid in a garden wall bond with a pantile roof. The later extension is also of red brick and has a slate roof.

PLAN: rectangular plan.

EXTERIOR: the original small meeting house building is two storeys and has a pitched roof covered in pantiles with a brick chimney stack at the south-east corner. The south front facing the burial ground has rectangular sash windows to the ground floor centre and left. The centre window has been narrowed and has a small datestone over it. Further to the right is an upper-floor window with a small-paned sliding sash and a blocked window below. The east end wall has a central doorway with an early C19 timber surround and a timber casement window over. The west end abuts other buildings.

The north side towards the street is now largely obscured by the single-storey schoolroom building of 1876 and the C20 flat-roofed toilet extension behind it. The schoolroom range has a pitched slated roof and a small-paned sash window in the gable end towards the street.

INTERIOR: the meeting room has plain plastered walls, a tall timber dado with some perimeter seating and a modern flat ceiling (inserted immediately below the original ceiling, which still survives above). Across the west end is a bench for the Elders, almost certainly of early C19 date, made of painted timber with a tall panelled back, a moulded handrail with stick balusters and a lower front rail with heavy turned end-newels; at either end of the stand are small single seats, an unusual feature.

Across the east end of the room is a loft or gallery on two timber piers with moulded capitals. The panelled gallery front has moveable shutters to the upper space. The stair to the gallery is partly C18 and partly C19. The upper space has a corner chimney with a Victorian cast-iron chimneypiece.


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.

Gainsborough Quaker Meeting House was erected in 1704 and has a stone with this date on the south (rear) wall fronting the small burial ground, which presumably also dates from 1704. Alterations were made to the building in 1809 and most of the existing fixtures appear to date from this time. The burial ground was closed in 1855.

A single-storey schoolroom was added on the north side of the meeting house in 1876; kitchen and toilets were added in the C20. The building suffered minor damage in the Second World War but was repaired in 1951 and the roof was re-covered in 1982. A full refurbishment was completed in 2015 with a new ceiling installed immediately below the original ceiling.

South of the meeting house on the side away from the road is the small rectangular burial ground enclosed by red brick walls and reached by a passage across the east end of the meeting house. The brick entranceway to the street may be contemporary with the 1876 northern extension. There are several small C19 grave markers mostly laid flat.

Reasons for Listing

Gainsborough Quaker Meeting House built in 1704 with a schoolroom added in 1876, 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 C18, retains much of its original character and fabric.

Historic interest:

* its C19 extension illustrates the development of the meeting house type, including the provision of educational facilities;

* for its association with the attached and contemporary burial ground.

Group value:

* with the adjacent County Court Buildings (Grade II*) and opposite a number of Grade II-listed buildings on Market Street.

External Links

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