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Wandsworth Quaker Meeting House including frontage building and boundary walls

A Grade II Listed Building in Richmond, London

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.4564 / 51°27'23"N

Longitude: -0.1917 / 0°11'30"W

OS Eastings: 525731

OS Northings: 174599

OS Grid: TQ257745

Mapcode National: GBR CC.Y2F

Mapcode Global: VHGR4.MNHC

Plus Code: 9C3XFR45+H8

Entry Name: Wandsworth Quaker Meeting House including frontage building and boundary walls

Listing Date: 7 April 1983

Last Amended: 3 July 2020

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1299826

English Heritage Legacy ID: 207169

Location: Wandsworth, London, SW18

County: London

District: Wandsworth

Electoral Ward/Division: Fairfield

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Wandsworth

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Wandsworth St Anne with St Faith

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

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Summary


Quaker Meeting House. Built in 1778 to the rear of an earlier house of probably late-C17 or early C18 date. A women’s business meeting room was added probably in either 1798 or around 1811. The frontage building was widened and re-faced in 1927 with later alterations made by Hubert Lidbetter in 1957, and again in 2019.

Description

Quaker Meeting House. Built in 1778 to the rear of an earlier house of probably late-C17 or early C18 date. A women’s business meeting room was added probably in either 1798 or around 1811. The frontage building was widened and re-faced in 1927 with later alterations made by Hubert Lidbetter in 1957, and again in 2019.

MATERIALS: the frontage building is of brick with later red brick re-facing in Flemish bond and yellow stock brick to the side and rear. The meeting house is of brown brick laid in Flemish bond. Clay tile covered hipped roofs to the main (double-hipped) and women’s meeting rooms (single-hipped) with king-post trusses.

PLAN: the frontage building, facing north onto Wandsworth High Street, is of two storeys, rectangular in plan, the western three bays comprising the original building and the two eastern bays the extension of 1927. Behind the extension is a covered passageway along the eastern boundary giving access to the single-storey, square-plan main meeting room of 1778 at its southern end. North of the main meeting room is the smaller single-storey, late-C18 or early-C19, women’s business meeting room (now the library). To the north of this, the former yard of the frontage building has been roofed over to create a number of rooms including a kitchen and there are ancillary rooms in a flat-roofed block attached to the east. Both of these structures date to the 1957 alterations.

EXTERIOR: the two-storey north elevation of the frontage building originally consisted of three bays with a centrally placed entrance. It was rendered with a hipped roof and had a boundary wall and monumental gateway to the east. The building was extended to the east by two, slightly recessed, bays and given a flat roof behind parapets with concrete copings when re-fronted in red brick in 1927. The regular fenestration (the former doorway has been replaced by a window) is of six-over-six horned timber sashes set in square-headed openings with creased tile voussoirs and concrete sills. The two ground-floor bays of the eastern extension have arched openings, one blind containing a timber notice board, and the other forming the main entrance and provided with timber gates incorporating cast-iron security bars. The eastern return of yellow stock brick is blind and extends to a rendered section of the boundary wall above which is the eastern wall of the covered passage.

The only externally visible elevation of the meeting room is the south, facing onto the burial ground. This is of three window bays with tall openings with segmental lintels, timber sills and six-over-six horned sashes. The rebuilt parapet to the double-hipped roof has stone copings. A stone below the windows reads: ‘REBUILT/ 1778’. To the east of the building is an entrance to the covered passageway with a stone hood supported on timber brackets with a pair of timber doors with margin glazing.

INTERIOR: the main meeting room is entered from the east, off the covered passage, via a recessed opening with panelled timber returns and a pair of three-panel timber doors. The covered passage retains many of its original flagstones, a single timber column with cast-iron Tuscan capital and base (a remnant of the four columns that once supported the covering to the side approach from 1798). The walls of the passageway (including the east wall of the meeting house) have ashlar facing at the southern end.

The meeting house interior is a large square space, lit by the windows on the south side. It has an original boarded floor and plastered and painted walls and ceiling, the latter with four circular cast-iron ventilators. The room has square-sunk softwood dado panelling. This steps up at the elders’ stand on the west side, which retains its original doors and fixed seating. The remaining perimeter fixed seating was removed in 1957 but the stepped stands remain. In the north wall opposing four-panel doors with a panelled recess between them provide entrance to the smaller women’s business meeting room. This has square sunk dado panelling and a timber floor. It is lit at high level from the north and east sides, the window openings on the east side being the original (but truncated) arched openings with timber windows with glazing bars. The north wall has a large rectangular serving hatch to a kitchen and a four panel door with timber surround giving access to the roofed-over corridor behind the frontage building. The original king-post roof trusses survive above both meeting rooms (not inspected).

The ground floor of the frontage building consists of a single room (originally two rooms opened out in 2019), with panelled dados and a surviving C18 cupboard on the south side of the chimney breast in the west wall (the other cupboards are modern copies of the historic panelled cupboard). The floors are of modern woodblock. The first floor is occupied by a caretaker’s flat which is understood to have been modernised but was not inspected (2020).

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: to the south of the meeting house is a walled burial ground with a number of grave markers. The boundary walls are of yellow stock brick laid in Flemish bond. The western wall is abutted by the higher wall of the adjoining building. A memorial stone of 1697, now set into the eastern boundary wall records Joan Stringer and reads: ‘HERE LYETH Y/ BODY OF/ JOAN STRINGER/ THE GIVER OF/ THE GROUND/ WHO DYED IN/ THE YEAR/ 1697’.


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 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, and that 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. 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.

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 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.

Friends first met on the site of the Wandsworth meeting house in 1673, subleasing a small house, shop and three sheds from Joan Stringer, who was herself a Quaker. A meeting house is reported at this time, most probably an adaptation of the existing buildings. A burial ground was laid out to the rear, and a memorial stone of 1697, now set into the boundary wall, records Joan Stringer as ‘the giver of the ground’. A notable early member of the Meeting was William Mead who had been tried for unlawful assembly in 1670 along with William Penn (later founder of Pennsylvania). The refusal of the jury to find them guilty led to their own imprisonment and the subsequent Bushel’s Case which established the right of juries to be free from the control of judges.

The first meeting house was demolished in 1778 and replaced by the present building, built at a cost of about £600. It stood behind an existing house facing onto the High Street, and was accessed via a passage at the side. This passageway was roofed over to form a lobby in 1798. The freehold was purchased in about 1811, and it may have been about this time, or possibly slightly earlier, when the passage was roofed over, that a small women’s business meeting room was built on the former yard between the meeting house and the frontage building. The small meeting room was separated from the original meeting room by a solid wall rather than the more usual shutters.

The meeting house was one of the first buildings in the area to have a piped gas supply (by 1846), and an iron stove was later installed in the large meeting room. The frontage building underwent neo-Georgian re-facing and widening in 1927. Alterations by Hubert Lidbetter in 1957 included the first-floor rear extension of the frontage building, remodelling of the covered way at the side and removal of most of the fixed perimeter benches in the large meeting room.

The meeting house has been in continuous use since its foundation. There are a number of notable burials in the burial ground to the rear of the building including Henry Christy (1810-1865) who was from a family of textile merchants, became a banker, and ethnologist, leaving his collection of prehistoric artefacts and Mexican pre-Colombian art to the British Museum, and Daniel L Hanbury (1825-1875) a pharmacologist and botanist who, with another Quaker, established Allen & Hanbury Pharmaceuticals, which later became Glaxo Smith Kline.

Reasons for Listing

Wandsworth Quaker Meeting House, built in 1778 with an earlier frontage building, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a well-preserved, late-C18 meeting house, the earliest surviving in Greater London, typical of the architecture associated with the Quaker movement and embodying its modest simplicity. The other elements of the site including the, originally earlier, frontage building and early-C19 women’s business meeting room, all add to its overall character;

* for the good internal survival of the original meeting room.

Historic interest:

* for the light it throws, by virtue of its discreet location behind an existing house and its various later alterations, on the history of Quaker and other Nonconformist congregations;

* for its association with the adjoining contemporary burial ground.

Group value:

* with a number of Grade II listed buildings on this part of Wandsworth High Street.

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