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Latitude: 52.4585 / 52°27'30"N
Longitude: -2.1501 / 2°9'0"W
OS Eastings: 389898
OS Northings: 284513
OS Grid: SO898845
Mapcode National: GBR 1BY.WRM
Mapcode Global: VH91H.PG6P
Plus Code: 9C4VFR5X+9X
Entry Name: Stourbridge Quaker Meeting House
Listing Date: 9 December 1975
Last Amended: 7 May 2019
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1262874
English Heritage Legacy ID: 433924
Location: Wollaston and Stourbridge Town, Dudley, DY8
Electoral Ward/Division: Wollaston and Stourbridge Town
Built-Up Area: Stourbridge
Traditional County: Worcestershire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Midlands
Church of England Parish: Stourbridge St Thomas
Church of England Diocese: Worcester
Quaker Meeting House, 1689.
Quaker Meeting House, 1689.
MATERIALS: constructed from brick with a tiled roof.
PLAN: the meeting house is rectangular on plan, orientated east-west, in line with Scott’s Road. It stands at the north-eastern corner of a walled enclosure, formerly a burial ground.
There are modern extensions to the building on the east (excluded from the listing).
EXTERIOR: the building is a simple, single-storey structure with a pitched roof. The north elevation, facing onto Scott’s Road, is blind; render covers two window openings, blocked in the C18. The west gable, which appears to have been rebuilt in stretcher bond, is also blind, and has a projecting chimney, the stack to which has been truncated. The south elevation faces onto the former burial ground. It is rendered, with the brick dentil course at the eaves exposed. It has three windows: tripartite leaded casements in metal frames, the detailing to which is subtly different, and there is a dormer window lighting the internal gallery.
Modern extensions have been built onto the east gable and south-eastern corner (excluded from the listing).
INTERIOR: the meeting hall is a lofty room with a gallery at the east end. The walls are rendered, and have tongue and groove dado panelling with attached benches. The east end is enclosed by a folding panelled-timber screen, one panel of which is in use as a doorway. The original flooring has been replaced with timber boards. There is a raised elder’s stand at the west end of the hall, replacing a fireplace. The hall is lit by three windows on the south elevation. Two northern windows, and a southern doorway, have been blocked. The gallery, originally for women’s meetings, is supported on modern timber stanchions, and has a moulded handrail and splat balusters. It incorporates one of the two roof trusses as the frame for a second folding screen, which can be closed to separate the galley from the main hall. In the south-eastern corner of the gallery is a brick-lined fireplace with a chamfered stone lintel, and a replica grate and hood. There is a solid panelled balustrade around the stair void. The gallery is lit by a dormer on the south, and a window in the east gable end. The second principal roof truss is left exposed above the main hall; deep timbers form the rafters, tie beam and king post, which is flanked by two narrower timber posts. It is ceiled beneath the collar, from which rise two raking struts in the loft space. There are two ranks of deep purlins.
To the east of the main hall is a small, panelled ante-room, now in use as a library. It has a small built-in cupboard in the south-west corner. There is a doorway in the south-east corner, and a double-doorway in the gable end. There is a panelled staircase with a winder stair in the north-east corner, and an under-stair cupboard with a panelled door. The building has a good collection of historic strap hinges and door and window-furniture.
There is a brick-lined cellar under the central section of the building. It has a series of segmental-arched alcoves in the walls, and a blocked doorway in the north-east corner.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the walls to the former burial ground are a mixture of stretcher bond and English garden wall bond with shaped brick copings. Small sections have been rebuilt in modern materials, and a pedestrian gateway has been inserted into the northern stretch.
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 in member’s houses, barns, and other secular premises followed. Persecution of non-Conformists 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.
Noake’s Guide to Worcestershire notes that a meeting house was built in Stourbridge in 1680, though its location is unconfirmed. It is unlikely to be the present meeting house on Scott’s Road, which was described in 1689 as having been ‘newly erected’.
The plot of land for the new meeting house was provided at a peppercorn rent by Ambrose Crowley, a Stourbridge ironmonger and Quaker. The building was initially just a shell, with a fireplace at the west end. As funds allowed, furnishings and fittings were added; the panelling, benches, gallery and folding screens are said to date from the late C18 or early C19. The original fireplace in the west gable end was blocked, and an elder’s stand built in its stead. Renovation work in 2002 revealed two blocked window openings in the north wall; the infilling bricks were dated to the early C18. A lintel in the south wall reveals the location of a blocked doorway, showing that the main entrance was once directly into what is now the main hall; it was subsequently moved to the east, probably when the lobby area was created by the insertion of a folding screen.
C20 alterations include the substantial rebuilding of the western gable end, and the removal of the gable parapets on both ends. Extensions have been made, in a number of phases, at the east end of the building and burial ground; these are excluded from the listing.
Stourbridge Quaker Meeting House, 1689, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* embodying the modest simplicity of Quaker meeting houses, the external structure, built in 1689, survives well, and the historic development of the building is apparent in the building fabric;
* internally, there is an excellent collection of fixtures and fittings, which reflect the congregation’s historic mode of worship.
* dating from 1689, the meeting house was one of the first built following the passage of the Act of Toleration, a significant milestone in the establishment of the new faith group;
* for its association with the adjacent and contemporary burial ground, enclosed by original walls.
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