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Beauty in simplicity

The deliberate simplicity of Quaker places of worship

by Margaret Bailey, volunteer

Quakers have their origins in the religious and political turmoil of the mid 17th century. George Fox, the main protagonist of the movement, turned his back on the established church and claimed that each person can have a direct relationship with God, with no need for priests or steeple houses. Instead Friends met for silent worship in barns, orchards, hilltops and homes.

Intolerance and persecution were constant threats, but Quakers were singled out by the 1662 Quaker Act. A few meeting houses were built in this time of persecution, indicating that there were Friends determined to openly demonstrate their faith even in the face of persecution, but most are from after the 1689 Act of Toleration.

Historic meeting houses sit well within their landscape, often reflecting local building traditions and materials. They are simple spaces, often plainly plastered and lime washed with a floor of plain stone or boards. Many historic meeting houses have bench seating facing a raised platform or stand for Elders. Some retain wooden partitions used to create a distinct spaces.

Today, they are an escape from the hustle and bustle.


Come to Good

After more than 300 years it seems like the Meeting House has barely changed, a cob and straw thatch building dating from 1710 and containing glass dating from 1640. Come to Good is a tiny village, a few houses and a farm which huddle away in a protective valley.


St Helens

The house has a wonderful atmosphere of calm, the people using it for worship are warm and friendly, and visitors leave feeling an inner peace. It was established as a place of Quaker worship in 1679 and is the oldest building in St Helens.



The Pales Quaker Meeting House was built in 1717 and has been in continuous use as a place of worship since that time, the thatched building and attached cottage are Grade II* listed buildings and the adjacent graveyard has been in use since the mid 1600s.



Built between 1681 and 1684, this tiny meeting house is a very simple single storey building of local stone with a slate roof, and is just as simple inside. It stands in a peaceful garden that is also a Quaker burial ground.





The date carved in the stone above the door of this simple meeting house shows that it was built in the same year as the Toleration Act of 1689. Not in use for 150 years it is a remarkable survivor. It is left unlocked and can be visited at any reasonable time; a sign invites visitors to picnic!


High Flatts

By the early 1650s, meetings were being held in the barn. The hamlet, which had already acquired its local name ‘Quaker Bottom’, expanded as the local Quaker farmers extended their interests in various trades such as milling, tanning and iron founding.



1725 Meeting House surrounded by 12 acres of its own woodland and with a 16 bed group bunkbarn and independent hostel (converted stables) in the secluded Lake District Rusland Valley.



Hidden among trees, and reached by track and footpath, this tiny meeting house is hard to find and reach. It was built in about 1700, and consists of a brick built cottage and meeting house under one roof.





Standing in a beautiful valley deep in the Chilterns, this Quaker meeting house dates from 1688 and was one of the first to be purpose built. It is a simple brick building with a hipped tiled roof. The interior is plain and unassuming with simple panelling to the lower walls.



Brigflatts, Cumbria, is one of the most famous Quaker meeting houses. Known and loved by Friends all over the world for the simplicity of its lime washed stone walls and interior woodwork; panelling, columns and balustrading. The peace and tranquillity leave a lasting impression.



Built in 1670, Hertford is the oldest Meeting House built by Friends that has remained in unbroken use. The building’s harmonious simplicity, including reused timbers, is in keeping with simplicity, truth, equality and peace. George Fox visited on at least three occasions.


Broad Campden

The meeting house is a former (possibly Tudor) cottage which was converted to meeting house use in 1663 and extended in 1677, making it the earliest in the country still in use. It is a simple building constructed using coursed and squared local Cotswold stone.



Quaker Meeting Houses : Historic England

There are thousands of practising Quakers in Britain, with around 500 meetings around the country. Historic England has been working on the Quaker Meeting Houses Heritage Project with the Religious Society of Friends to survey of all Quaker meeting houses in England.

Find out more