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Bridport Quaker Meeting House

A Grade II Listed Building in Bridport, Dorset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.7303 / 50°43'48"N

Longitude: -2.7576 / 2°45'27"W

OS Eastings: 346629

OS Northings: 92566

OS Grid: SY466925

Mapcode National: GBR PP.0K74

Mapcode Global: FRA 5734.X33

Plus Code: 9C2VP6JR+4X

Entry Name: Bridport Quaker Meeting House

Listing Date: 28 November 1950

Last Amended: 20 July 2020

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1228011

English Heritage Legacy ID: 402504

Location: Bridport, Dorset, DT6

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Bridport

Built-Up Area: Bridport

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Bridport St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

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Summary


Quaker meeting house, at least late C17 in origin; substantially altered or rebuilt and refitted in the early C18, with later alterations and additions.

Description

Quaker meeting house, at least late C17 in origin; substantially altered or rebuilt and refitted in the early C18, with later alterations and additions.

MATERIALS: it is constructed mostly of local Forest Marble limestone rubble brought to course and some brick, under gabled and hipped roofs of slate with ashlar copings.

PLAN: the meeting house and adjoining building, a possible former tenement (serves as a smaller meeting or committee room), define the south and east ranges to a small central courtyard and have an L-shaped footprint with the late-C20 additions to the rear.

EXTERIOR: the west front which faces onto South Street has two tall, mid-C20 rectangular windows with timber mullions and transoms and leaded panes under modern timber lintels which flank a former central entrance that has been blocked. Beneath the left-hand window is an area of infill since this was, at one time a doorway that led to a staircase and the north gallery (not extant). There is also evidence for some rebuilding. A passageway at 95 South Street leads into the courtyard which is shared with the adjacent almshouses (listed at Grade II*). The courtyard (north) elevation has two ground-floor cross-windows and two casement windows of two lights; all have timber frames, iron casements and lead glazing bars, and probably date to the early C18. To the left is a single-storey entrance lobby under a catslide and an attached modern brick boiler house. The entrance lobby has a modern timber door and to the right return is a leaded two-light casement which lights the gallery stairs. At right angles to this, the adjoining building has one multi-pane window with glazing bars in its west elevation. The rear (east) elevation of the meeting house has two first-floor casements and an attached late-C20 lean-to extension of red brick at ground-floor level; this is linked to a late-C20 kitchen addition by a glazed corridor of uPVC. Above the corridor, in the south elevation of the adjoining building is an opening with a C20 window.

INTERIOR: the galley staircase is located in the entrance lobby and has stick balusters and a plain handrail. Beyond the stairs is a pair of doors (resited) with raised and fielded panels and L-hinges which lead into the meeting room. This is a rectangular space, with plain plastered walls, a flat ceiling and the exposed ends of the principal rafters are visible in the north end of the room. The windows in the north and east walls have wrought-iron catches and stays; and there is secondary glazing. There is no fixed furniture. At the east end, carried on two timber posts, is a gallery which has a timber front of raised and fielded panelling and modern timber rails above. The space beneath has been enclosed by a modern partition to provide cupboards within the hallway. A gallery on the north side of the room was removed in the mid-C20. The adjoining building which serves as a smaller meeting or committee room retains several four-panel doors and a blocked fireplace with a C19 surround and bracketed mantel.

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. 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 or Friends 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 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 were first noted at Bridport in at least 1657, and for some time they were held in a barn on South Street. In 1697 the owner, Daniel Taylor, who was a successful merchant and one of Bridport’s most prominent Quakers, gave the barn to the Friends. It has been their meeting house ever since. The building fronts onto South Street and forms the south side of a small courtyard; the west and north sides are defined by the almshouses which was established here in 1696. That same year Taylor had provided a plot of land, towards the south end of South Street, for a Quaker burial ground, and was himself buried there in 1714. The meeting house was substantially altered or perhaps rebuilt around 1707. The interior was refitted in 1720; the windows and door in the courtyard and east elevations may also have been added at this time. A building on the east side of the courtyard, possibly a former tenement (now the committee room), was adapted and brought into the meeting house. It is described on a plan of 1873 as ‘new, meeting room’. In 1956-58 the original entrance in the street front of the meeting house was blocked and the building was then accessed from the courtyard. At the same time internal alterations were undertaken, including the removal of the north gallery and the Elders’ stand. An outbuilding to the rear was altered around 1900 to provide toilet facilities, and a kitchen extension was added in the 1980s; the two connected by a glazed corridor. In the early C21 a boiler house was added.

Reasons for Listing

Bridport Quaker Meeting House which dates from at least the late C17 and was altered or rebuilt and refitted in the early C18 and C19 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* the building retains its essential historic form and character, and has a simple, vernacular style that typifies the modest nature of Quaker meeting houses;
* the interior provides evidence for the division of space and internal arrangements.

Historic interest:

* as an important survival which illustrates the history of Bridport's Quaker community since at least the late C17.

Group value:

* for its strong association with the nearby burial ground (walls listed at Grade II) and the adjacent almshouses (Grade II*), and also with a high number of other listed buildings on South Street.

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