Finedon meeting house

Should Quakers spend £50,000 on a Quaker meeting house built in 1690?

Quakers were active here during the Commonwealth. After the restoration of the king, one refused to pay tithes of forty shillings, and was distrained for fifty pounds. He later spent a year in prison. As soon as toleration was granted in 1689, they built their meeting house, but local people stoned them as they went to worship there. They refused to retaliate, but built a high wall around the meeting house to mitigate the attacks. The meeting lasted until 1912, when it was laid down and the building acquired by a local family.

The local history society keep it open, and developer bought it and sought planning permission to make it a house. It would be a small house- the meeting room is about fifteen by eighteen feet, and there is a narrow corridor at the back with a sink and an electric socket. There’s an old harmonium, which is still working. The lawn outside is a burial ground, reducing its potential uses.

The council refused permission. I don’t know how else the external structure may be preserved, how it could get an owner sufficiently interested to do the work on it. I needed it pointed out to me, but that pointing, of concrete rather than lime mortar, is ugly:

The history society has an exhibition there now. I think those mannequins are dressed as Quakers.

People now care more about preserving such structures than we did in 1912.

What would we use it for? Our meeting houses are big enough for the Friends who meet there. Mostly, we rent them out making an income. Possibly we could rent this out as offices. If we started worshipping there again, I am the nearest and could go there to keep the meeting: a Friend did that at Kettering for years, and now Kettering can have 18 on a Sunday morning. I don’t feel I particularly want to, though.

A Friend said we could have children here from local schools for an experience of the silence. We could offer it for artists, she suggested.

We could buy it. The asking price is £50,000, money the AM has. We held area meeting there this month, and I sat there hearing this, unconvinced. We are not a historical society for the preservation of old buildings, that’s the Church of England’s job. I don’t know what we could use it for. I feel an emotional pull from a meeting house built in 1690, and suddenly started taking hurried photographs, so I could ask you what you think.

4 thoughts on “Finedon meeting house

  1. These are such complicated questions and need holding in the Light. I worshipped for many years at a meeting that had a real love/hate relationship with their meeting house (‘Beacon or Burden’ was the way some of our threshing sessions addressed the issue) and with the responsibility of employing a warden or supporting a resident Friend to help manage the meeting house and bookings. It was not an easy ride and difficult to maintain integrity in the relationships between people with differing opinions. I then moved to a suburb and started attending a different meeting there – we simply rent a room locally and own no building at all. In some ways it is very liberating and allows a simple focus on worship, but we also do not have a resource that can be a gift to support the local community and projects that uphold similar values to Quakers. The meeting did look into buying a building at one stage but it fell through and although we have grown as a meeting recently there does not seem to be any heart for seeking building ownership again and many people value the simplicity of the arrangement we have. I have worshipped regularly in historic meeting houses and there can be a special feeling about the building, but the quality of worship and gatherness is not related to the building at all. I often wonder what George Fox would have made of all this ‘ownership’ of tangible resources like buildings. So hard to know the right way…

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    • Welcome, Anne. Thank you for commenting.

      It is not even that: we have two local meetings, medium sized, in larger towns not far from Finedon, which is quite small. So we would be buying the building with no particular appetite for making it a meeting. Yet, we could look at what is done with it now, and build on that. It currently has an exhibition of copies of photos of the town over the last hundred years, and a time line. The historical society run it on £35 a week. It has some use.

      I feel money is for charitable purposes. We should calculate our reserves, and consider passing money to BYM rather than buy this building. My inner romantic and inner rationalist are at loggerheads, I am afraid, but I tend towards the rationalist.

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  2. I am inclined to think that the purchase of Finedon Meeting House would not be the best use of funds. The building does not determine the nature of worship within and I am delighted to see that Kettering sometimes has eighteen Friends present now. There can be room for more! Our existing buildings should be made as attractive as possible in order to invite new people in and to add joy to our surroundings but it is the Spirit that sustains us. A hilltop was good enough for George Fox.

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    • Welcome, Friend. Thank you for commenting.

      I tend to feel it is a sentimental attachment which makes us consider buying it (at least, makes me). Perhaps some sadness that the meeting was laid down, though that was in 1912. The question is, what of our work could it do.

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