Bath Quaker Meeting House Upgrade

Published: Friday, April 11, 2014

 

A project to update community facilities and turn the Bath Quaker Meeting House into an accessible building is nearing completion, thanks to funding part-provided by the National Churches Trust.

In 2013, the National Churches Trust supported the Bath Quaker Meeting House with a £10,000 Community Grant to help replace a cramped tea-bar, library and toilet with a spacious kitchen and fully accessible toilet. The project is designed to make the building more accessible so that it can increase its value to the local community.

 Unusual beginnings

The Meeting House began its life in a highly unusual way: as a Masonic Hall. Built by the Freemasons in 1817, the architect was William Wilkins, who also designed the National Gallery in London.

Many of the building’s strange architectural features stem from its Freemason origins: for example, on the front façade where you would expect windows you instead find stone-filled recesses, left “blind” because the light coming in from the two lanterns in the roof was sufficient for the Freemasons’ purposes. The Freemasons left the building in 1841, and it was used by several groups before becoming a Quaker Meeting House in 1866.

 “A comfortable and flexible environment”

The Grade II Listed Bath Quaker Meeting House has always been very important to its local community: as its congregation proudly note, its “gloriously spacious meeting room has a unique ambience and offers its users a comfortable and flexible environment right in the centre of the city.”  However, in recent years the building has faced difficulties due to its declining infrastructure; most notably, a lack of disabled access and a lavatory and kitchenette described as “not fit for purpose.”

In 2013, the congregation set out to “breathe new life and purpose into this unique historic building – for ourselves, for our community and for generations to come” and to “fulfill its potential as a meeting place for groups working for social justice, rehabilitation and sustainability – principles reflecting our Quaker values – and as a venue for public events, music and the arts.”

The National Churches Trust was proud to support the project with a £10,000 Community Grant towards installing new communal features: disabled access, a new lavatory and a new kitchen.

 Valuable to local people

Clerk Katie Evans reports that “work on the Bath Quaker Meeting House is progressing well. Our new kitchen and refurbished accessible toilet should be finished soon. The highlight of the works for us is going to be having disabled access – the entrance way has been re-done and we're just waiting for the disabled access platform lift to be installed.  It should be in place before Easter 2014. After that, we're looking forwards to replacing the grubby worn-out acoustic panels in our main meeting room, and then to further work on making the Meeting House more environmentally friendly.”

Through the support of the National Churches Trust and other funders, the Bath Quaker Meeting House will become even more valuable to local people, realising the congregation’s vision to make the building “accessible, sustainable and full of life.”

 

Help us to help more churches, chapels and meeting houses

The National Churches Trust relies solely on the generosity of our supporters to fund our work. Last year we helped to rescue over 140 churches, chapels and meeting houses with grants totally close to £1.5m, but sadly we currently receive far more requests for help than we can possibly answer That means that we have to turn down three out of every four places of worship that apply for a grant. 

The good news is that there are many ways in which you can help us to help churches; by becoming a friend, making a donation, or leaving a legacy in your will.

Find out more about how you can support our work and the UK's churches, chapels and meeting houses:    

  • Friends enjoying a cup of tea in the new kitchen

  • The new accessible lavatory

  • The east entrance re-worked to accommodate a disabled access platform lift.

  • The new kitchen in action

  • A very happy congregation

  • Friends enjoying the new space