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Long Sutton Quaker Meeting House

A Grade II* Listed Building in Long Sutton, Somerset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.0302 / 51°1'48"N

Longitude: -2.7613 / 2°45'40"W

OS Eastings: 346711

OS Northings: 125925

OS Grid: ST467259

Mapcode National: GBR MH.HJ7P

Mapcode Global: FRA 563D.830

Entry Name: Long Sutton Quaker Meeting House

Listing Date: 17 April 1959

Last Amended: 8 May 2019

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1346103

English Heritage Legacy ID: 263241

Location: Long Sutton, South Somerset, Somerset, TA10

County: Somerset

District: South Somerset

Civil Parish: Long Sutton

Built-Up Area: Long Sutton

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

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Summary


Quaker Meeting House. Completed in 1717 and renovated in 1961.

Description

Quaker Meeting House. Completed in 1717 and renovated in 1961.

MATERIALS
The meeting house is constructed of coursed blue lias stone ashlar with Hamstone dressings under a hipped roof of Welsh slate with stone slates to the base courses.

PLAN
It is a rectangular, single-storey building of three bays and one bay deep. There is a burial ground to the rear (south), and the original plot is defined by boundary walls (Grade II).

EXTERIOR
The building has a stone plinth and a moulded stringcourse above the ground-floor openings which is broken by the upper windows in the west and east elevations. There is a moulded timber cornice below the eaves. The longer north and south walls each has two nine/nine paned sash windows with the original thick glazing bars, set in Hamstone surrounds with flat-arched heads and external timber, panelled shutters with L-shaped hinges. Towards the east end of both sides is a wide doorway set in a heavy, moulded timber frame with a heavy segmental canopy. The double doors have raised and fielded panelling. Above the central window of the north elevation is a small Hamstone plaque with a moulded surround and cornice which carries the inscription: Ex Dono/ Willm Steell/ Anno Dom/ 1717. The east elevation has centrally placed upper and lower windows with shutters; the lower window has six/six panes and a Hamstone drip-moulding. The west elevation has a single upper window with shutters and a drip-moulding.

INTERIOR
The interior is simple and unadorned, and comprises a single room, with a gallery at the east end above the entrance passage. The meeting room has plain, plastered walls, three decorative wall brackets for oil lamps, a coved ceiling with a plaster vault, a late-C20 large, steel lantern and a pine boarded floor. Across the full width of the west end is a stand with a plain panelled back and fixed seating along the open-railed front. There are further unfixed bench seats with solid shaped ends and railed backs, many of which appear to be original. The gallery projects into the room and inserted slender, metal props support the gallery beam. The passage is separated from the meeting room by a partition of fielded panelling with moveable shutters; at its centre is a pair of two-panelled doors with wooden latch and L-shaped hinges. The passage has a stone-flagged floor and the original gallery stairs. The staircase has heavy turned balusters and newels with knob finials, and is enclosed in later boxing. The gallery, formerly used for female meetings, has plain plastered walls and is screened from the meeting room by fielded panelling with sliding shutters. It is now used for storage.

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. 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.

Quaker meeting houses are generally characterised by simplicity of design, both externally and internally, reflecting the form of worship they were built to accommodate. 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 minsters 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.

Meetings began at Long Sutton in 1670 and were held in a cottage. In 1715 William Steele, a London Quaker who had bought an estate in Long Sutton, left land and a sum of £200 and in his will for a purpose-built meeting house and burial ground in the village. Part of Steele’s estate was also put in trust for the ‘poor of the people called Quakers in the County of Somerset’. The new building was completed in 1717, and at his express wish, Steele’s body was brought from London for burial at Long Sutton. The community of Long Sutton Friends decreased in numbers during the C18 and the meeting house closed intermittently in the 1790s and first two decades of the C19, but prospered after the closure of the Somerton meeting house in 1828.

The meeting house was extensively renovated in 1961, with repairs to the roof, porches, boundary walls (Grade II) and the cart shed. In 1985 a detached block providing a children’s room, kitchen and toilets, was erected to the west of the meeting house.

The burial ground is laid to grass and contains grave markers set in rows; none of these are earlier than the 1850s.

Reasons for Listing

Long Sutton Quaker Meeting House of 1717 is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:
* as a very well-preserved, purpose-built meeting house, built to a well-conceived and characterful design, which illustrates the resources and confidence of the Friends;
* the interior retains its original simple plan-form and a suite of original fixtures and fittings, and reflects the congregation’s historic mode of worship.

Historic interest:
* the meeting house is a relatively early example, which has been in almost continuous use for worship since 1717.

Group value:
* for its strong association with the adjacent and contemporary burial ground, enclosed by the original walls which are listed at Grade II.

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