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.