Quakers and their Meeting Houses is a highly illustrated and fascinating account of the architecture and historical development of the Quaker meeting house, from the foundation of the movement to the twenty-first century, drawing largely on examples from the UK. Author Chris Skidmore discusses an example of a Quaker Meeting House in Lincoln and the history of the building.
This piece was originally posted on Chris Skidmore’s Quaker Meeting Houses blog.
Quakers met in Lincoln from as early as 1654 with members meeting in each other’s houses. One of the earliest converts was Robert Craven, sheriff of Lincoln in that year, who travelled with George Fox. Another was Abraham Morrice, a silk mercer and freeman of the city who, in 1689, married Isabel Yeamans, one of George Fox’s step-daughters. It was this Abraham Morrice who in 1667 gave land in Beaumont Fee in the city as a burial ground and who, following the Act of Toleration, had a meeting house built at his own expense on the same plot which opened in 1690. It was registered in 1706.
The basic structure remained the same for over 150 years, as shown in the sketch of 1855, a typically domestic looking building with two storeys on one side of the central doorway and only windows to the ground floor on the other. Indeed a modern picture is not much different, although an doorway was added in 1855 and the central door opening removed. This doorway was redesigned in 1910 as shown in the photograph.
Internally the main room contained a ministers’ stand with lower elders’ bench with benches facing this and at the rear the women’s meeting room was upstairs with shutters giving onto the main meeting house. This ‘garret’ was added in 1716 and can be seen clearly in the drawing of the interior as it was in the nineteenth century. A notable addition from the original, which had a fireplace at the rear of the meeting room, was the stove seen at the right, which was a very frequent presence in meeting houses and other chapels of the period.
There was always a small cottage for a caretaker attached to the meeting house to the rear but in 1717 the meeting room was also enlarged towards the rear by a lean-to structure, for the convenience of the monthly business meetings. In place of the rear wall was placed the elegant colonnade which you can see in the modern photograph, which, curiously, gives off the minister’s stand – this is to my knowledge unique in Quaker buildings.
From 1775 and through most of the nineteenth century there were no Quakers living in Lincoln and the building did not house a regular meeting for worship but was used only for Quaker business meetings. When Friends returned they found the meeting house not to their taste and resolved to build a new one at the rear. Meanwhile mission meetings had been started, as in other parts of the country and the new meeting house, as built in 1910, was designed along those lines with a high roof, open to the rafters, plentiful windows and only a small dais at one end: the architect was Frederick W Lockwood, a Quaker with his practice in Belfast, who had already built the meeting house in Lurgan, Co Armagh in 1889.
Friends returned to the old meeting house in the 1960s and the 1910 meeting house was let for some time. However it was reroofed in 1987, the link to the old building refurbished and is now used for letting and for social occasions.
Find out more about Quakers and their Meeting Houses on the LUP website.