Airton Quaker Meeting House, attached archway and stone bench


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Airton, North Yorkshire


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Statutory Address:
Airton, North Yorkshire

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Craven (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:


Quaker meeting house, late C17/early C18 meeting house funded by William and Alice Ellis, with possible origins as an earlier cruck barn, altered in the C17. Attached stone archway and stone bench.

Reasons for Designation

Airton Quaker Meeting House, late C17/early C18 funded by William and Alice Ellis, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a well-preserved late C17/early C18 meeting house reflecting local vernacular building traditions, which illustrates the resources and confidence of the Friends shortly following the Act of Toleration in 1689;

* the interior retains its simple form with the layout of a lofty main meeting room, separate room for women’s meetings and a gallery clearly reflecting the congregation’s historic mode of worship and illustrating the important independent role of women in Quaker communities;

* there is a good survival of historic fixtures and fittings, including an oak panelled elders’ bench, an oak panelled partition with hinged shutters secured by iron hooks when raised, and chamfered and stopped beams supporting the gallery, which date from its fitting out in the late C17 or early C18, with early-C18 fireplaces to the women’s room and gallery, and additional timberwork from the C19.

Historic interest:

* as a relatively early example of a Quaker meeting house, which has been in continuing use for worship since at least the 1690s.

Group value:

* the meeting house, archway and long stone bench have an historic, spatial and functional group value with the adjoining cottage, former stable and hayloft and burial ground walls.


Airton Quaker Meeting House is located in Malhamdale at the east end of the triangular village green and stands on land originally owned by Major General John Lambert (1619-1684) whose family home was at nearby Calton. Lambert was a historically important commander who led the New Model Army in Scotland; the Lamberts were sympathetic to local Quakers and provided protection from persecution.

The village of Airton is situated in an area associated early on with the Religious Society of Friends, who formed in the mid-C17. Their founder, George Fox, began preaching publicly, often in the open air, in 1647. He travelled north in 1652, visiting Bradford (West Yorkshire) and then Pendle Hill, Sedburgh (Cumbria), at the time of the hiring fair, and ending at Swarthmoor Hall near Ulverston (also Cumbria). The route he took is not recorded, but it is possible that he passed through nearby Skipton (North Yorkshire) and maybe even Airton, though this is a supposition based on circumstantial evidence as little of this early history of the Friends is documented.

In the early 1650s a Meeting was settled at Scale House near Skipton, being recorded as a constituent of Skipton Monthly Meeting in 1665, and in 1669 becoming part of Settle Monthly Meeting. It drew on a community of Friends from nearby Airton, Cracoe, Eshton, Flasby, Hetton and Rylestone. An important early Quaker leader, Gervase Benson, preached at Airton in 1657 and/or 1658. Benson’s journal mentions that he preached in a barn-like building in Airton. The first known Quaker burial at Airton was in 1663, with a number of further burials taking place during the second half of the C17, although until 1850 burial plots were unmarked. There was a regular Friends’ meeting in Airton by the late 1660s.

There is no known documentary evidence to definitively date the construction of the meeting house, which is built in the local traditional vernacular style. The building stands on a plinth of field-clearance boulders with evidence of phased raising of walls and a roof structure of heavily scantled timbers incorporating re-used timbers from cruck blades. It has been suggested that this indicates that the meeting house took the place of an earlier cruck barn, cruck construction being predominantly used for early barns in this region. Although Benson’s description is tantalising, it cannot be verified that this was the building in question. Considerable work is known to have taken place on the building in the 1690s and the overall character of the building is now consistent with this date. The work was funded by William Ellis, a Quaker linen weaver, and his wife, Alice, who built their home and weaving workshops on the opposite side of the road to the meeting house. Ellis had moved to Airton in around 1679 and founded his own linen hand-loom weaving business. He later commenced a second career as a travelling preacher, visiting east Yorkshire in 1686, the south of England around 1690, Ireland in 1694 and visited Friends in North America in 1697, returning home in 1699. He and Alice bought the building for £31 in 1700 from Lambert’s son, also called John; the door lintel inscription W E A 1700 probably records the purchase. A long stone bench which faces the south elevation of the meeting house and returns to abut a stone archway against the north-east gable wall, may date to the late-C17 or early-C18 work undertaken to the meeting house.

It is thought that in the early C18 the recently widowed Alice enlarged the windows in the south-east wall of the meeting house, added a canopy over the door and built a chimney stack to the north-east gable wall with two fireplaces, one on the ground floor and one to the gallery; that on the ground floor had a new tiled grate inserted between 1911 and 1933, and the gallery fireplace was blocked at an unknown date. The interior space of the meeting house has a raised elders’ bench with oak panelling to the rear dado, probably of a late-C17 or early-C18 date, though the front panel is a later replacement most probably of mid- or later-C19 date. The side walls have early-C19 pine dados. The north-east end of the meeting house is sub-dived by a timber partition with hinged shutters to form a smaller women’s room with a gallery over. The two chamfered floor beams of the gallery have late-C17 lamb’s-tongue stops, and the oak screen appears to be of a late-C17 or early-C18 date, though it may contain timber of different ages, with ironwork of that date. The timber gallery steps and enclosing timber partition are of a later, though unknown date. At that time the gallery front panels may have been repositioned and a top rail added; the panels are reused, retaining remnants of butterfly hinges.

In the early to mid-C19 a large window was inserted in the meeting house’s north-west wall overlooking the road.

During the Second World War two evacuee families from Liverpool were accommodated in the meeting house for a period, sleeping in the meeting room and using the ground floor of the adjacent barn as a kitchen and sitting room (the first floor being unsafe by this time). About this time new glazing was inserted in some of the meeting house windows and shortly after the end of the war the meeting house woodwork was painted, this was removed in 2005.

In 2004 a local Quaker Meeting was reinstated at Airton. In 2005 the meeting house’s stone roof was reset and in 2008 the meeting house and the garden walls were restored.


Quaker meeting house, a late C17/early C18 meeting house funded by William and Alice Ellis, with possible origins as an earlier cruck barn, altered in the C17. Attached stone archway and stone bench.

MATERIALS: the meeting house is built of limestone and sandstone rubble with stone dressings and stone slate roofs. The rainwater goods are cast-iron.

PLAN: the rectangular meeting house is aligned north-east to south-west with the entrance doorway in the south-east elevation facing into the burial ground and the north-west elevation facing the road. The interior is divided into a larger main meeting room and a smaller meeting room separated by a timber screen with shutters, with a gallery over.

EXTERIOR: the meeting house is mainly built of limestone rubble with some sandstone rubble with slobbered pointing, set on a plinth of boulders with limestone quoins to the outer corners and a stone slate roof with stone ridges.

The south-east, front elevation has been heightened with a rough line in the stonework at first-floor window sill level, and there is a ragged joint in the stonework at the left-hand end, where the cottage abuts and the wall appears to have been partly rebuilt. The doorway is set right of centre. It has chamfered jambs and a basket-arched lintel with a relief-carved panel reading W E A 1700. Above the doorway is a flat stone canopy on shaped stone brackets, with a small wall niche to the left. To the left of the doorway are two windows and to the right is one window, with one first-floor window above lighting the gallery. The windows are of two lights with recessed, straight-chamfered mullions and those on the ground floor have been enlarged by lowering the sills.

The north-east gable wall is blind with an ashlar chimney stack at the apex with water tabling and an ogee moulded cornice.

The north-west elevation has a ragged joint separating the meeting house from the cottage to the right. The meeting house appears to have several phases of wall heightening. There is a large C19 window with an ashlar surround and a nine-pane window with a top hopper lighting the main meeting room. To the right is a small chamfered window lighting the elders’ stand.

INTERIOR: the entrance door has L-hinges. It opens into main meeting room which is a high-ceilinged, single storey. The elders’ stand is against the south-west gable wall, with oak panelling to the rear dado, end steps, a fixed pine bench to the front and pine tongue and grooved dado to the side walls, ramped to the stand. The smaller meeting room to the north-east end is separated by a horizontally boarded oak screen with top-hung hinged shutters with butterfly hinges and iron hooks fixed to the ceiling beams to hold them open. The screen has a four-panelled door opening into the room and a six-panelled door at the left-hand end opening onto the gallery stairs. The gallery has a floor supported on a pair of chamfered posts and two chamfered and stopped beams with exposed joists. The gallery front has plain panelling with a square timber rail above. The smaller meeting room and the gallery have matching stone fireplaces with narrow jambs, chamfered arrises and deep lintels with chamfered cornices. The ground-floor fireplace has an early-C20 fire grate inserted and the gallery fireplace is now blocked. The roof structure in the loft space has three oak roof trusses. The tie-beam trusses have raking struts. One has curved principals, re-using timber from cruck blades, with raking and curved struts; it has been repaired with bolted metal plates.

SUBSIDIARY ITEMS Abutting the north-east gable wall of the meeting house is a high rubblestone archway incorporating a square-headed doorway with chamfered jambs and lintel (with a modern timber gate). A long stone bench faces the front elevation of the meeting house. It has an ashlar stone seat set on a rubblestone plinth with a high ashlar stone back with a chamfered top. At the north-east end is an opening into the burial ground flanked by stone gate piers with chamfered tops. Left of the left gate pier the bench continues a short distance to abut the inner side of the stone archway. The stone back is similarly formed, though the bench seat is less well made, with flat stones making the seat.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Phillipson, Laurel , Armstrong, Alison, Hidden in Plain Sight, History & Architecture of the Airton Meeting House, (2017)
Friends Meeting House, Airton, Architectural History Practice, 2016, accessed 11 November 2019 from


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 26 Mar 2003
Reference: IOE01/10314/11
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Nigel Wood. Source Historic England Archive
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