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Edgbaston Quaker Meeting House

A Grade II Listed Building in Edgbaston, Birmingham

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.4695 / 52°28'10"N

Longitude: -1.9159 / 1°54'57"W

OS Eastings: 405808

OS Northings: 285735

OS Grid: SP058857

Mapcode National: GBR 5WD.VM

Mapcode Global: VH9Z2.Q6Z6

Entry Name: Edgbaston Quaker Meeting House

Listing Date: 1 May 2019

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1463029

Location: Birmingham, B15

County: Birmingham

Electoral Ward/Division: Edgbaston

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Birmingham

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Midlands

Summary


A Quaker Meeting House of 1893, designed by William Henman.

Description

A Quaker Meeting House of 1893, designed by William Henman.

MATERIALS: the building is of brick with stone dressings, under slate roofs.

PLAN: the building is roughly L-plan, with the main meeting room orientated north west-south east and the smaller meeting room adjacent, and an ancillary corridor and the main entrance to the east.

EXTERIOR: the building is characterised by the tall sections of the building which house the meeting rooms, and the lower ancillary and entrance range. The main entrance is at an angle, housed in a pedimented stone portico with a date stone showing '1893' and carved acanthus leaf detailing. The doorway has a deep, moulded arch, with low pilasters and engaged columns to either side, also with acanthus detailing. The double oak door has raised and fielded panels and brass fittings. The range beyond has windows in stone surrounds and dentilled eaves.

The two meeting rooms stand behind this lower range; the main meeting room has a gable facing south-east with an open pediment and Venetian window in stone surround. The gable for the smaller meeting room faces south-west and has the same treatment. The sides of the meetings rooms have further windows; some with flat-headed surrounds, further Venetian windows, and some with small pedimented surrounds.

INTERIOR: the main entrance opens into a small lobby with the main corridor beyond, all with terrazo flooring. There are timber panelled doors and tongue and groove panelling throughout. The smaller meeting room has an exposed timber roof structure with carved detailing to the trusses.

The main meeting room is larger with a similar roof structure of four bays. There is classical-style plasterwork around the walls, with pilasters, an entablature and a central pedimented feature along the rear wall. There are arched mouldings around the windows; these have timber surrounds and the surrounds to the Venetian windows and square, but sit within the arched plaster mouldings.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: there are two pairs of gate posts with timber gates giving access to the plot. The gate posts are of rusticated brick. The pair to the south has ornately carved stone caps; the pair to the east has lost its caps. The gates are timber with open panels along the top, with decorative iron grilles.


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 member’s 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.

The rich history of Quakers in Birmingham began in 1659 when meetings were held in Friends' homes. By 1681, Friends were meeting in a house in Colmore Lane, and by 1703 a purpose-built meeting house was in use in Bull Street, with a burial ground to the rear. A new meeting house was built in the 1850s to accommodate all Birmingham Friends, but overcrowding at Bull Street in the 1870s led to Friends settling new meetings in the suburbs.

Edgbaston Friends first met in a school room which they hired in Bath Row, which continued to be used until 1892. By this date a plot was offered for a new building at the corner of George Road and St James Road, part of the garden of 17 Frederick Road (the home of Charles and Eliza Mary Sturge), which formed part of the Calthorpe Estate. Lord Calthorpe was willing to give the Friends a licence to build a meeting house on the site provided it was a single-storey brick building to accommodate a meeting room, smaller committee room and ancillary facilities. The new meeting house was designed by the architect William Henman and cost £143. The building opened in 1893 and was first known as George Road Friends.

By 1989, the meeting house was in need of investment and by 1991 sufficient funds had been raised following two appeals. The two main roofs were renovated, reusing the existing Cumberland slates, and new heating and lighting was installed and a suspended ceiling that had been inserted in the meeting rooms were removed, revealing the original vaulted roofs above. Further alterations in 2009 updated the ancillary accommodation.

Reasons for Listing

Edgbaston Quaker Meeting House of 1893 by William Henman, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* it is an accomplished design, surprisingly architectural for a Quaker meeting house, by the well-known architect William Henman;
* it uses careful detailing to good effect, with good quality stone carving and brickwork;
* the interior retains its plan form and most of its features, which are of good quality.

Historic interest:

* as an example of a purpose-built meeting house from the late C19.

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