Godalming Quaker Meeting House


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
The Mint, Mill Lane, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 1HB


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Statutory Address:
The Mint, Mill Lane, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 1HB

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

Waverley (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Quaker Meeting House built in about 1711 with a later wing added on the west side of about 1772 and 1808.

Reasons for Designation

Godalming Quaker Meeting House built in about 1711 with a later wing added on the west side of about 1772 and 1808, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a purpose-built early-C18 Quaker meeting house typifying the modest nature of these buildings for worship;

* the meeting room's interior retains its simple C18 character with dado panelling, fixed benches and elders’ stand.

Historic interest:

* because of close and evidenced associations with some of the earliest members of the Quaker movement including Mary Waring, an Elder of the meeting, who kept a diary of her religious experiences;

Group value:

* for its association with the adjacent and contemporary burial ground with its Grade-II listed walls and Heather Cottage and Rose Cottage (all Grade II).


The Quaker movement emerged out of a period of religious and political turmoil in the mid-C17. Its main protagonist, George Fox, openly rejected traditional religious doctrine, instead promoting the theory that all people could have a direct relationship with God, without dependence on sermonising ministers, nor the necessity of consecrated places of worship. Fox, originally from Leicestershire, claimed the Holy Spirit was within each person, and from 1647 travelled the country as an itinerant preacher. 1652 was pivotal in his campaign; after a vision on Pendle Hill, Lancashire, Fox was moved to visit Firbank Fell, Cumbria, where he delivered a rousing, three-hour speech to an assembly of 1000 people, and recruited numerous converts. The Quakers, formally named the Religious Society of Friends, was thus established.

Fox asserted that no one place was holier than another, and in their early days, the new congregations often met for silent worship at outdoor locations; the use of members’ houses, barns, and other secular premises followed. Persecution of Nonconformists proliferated in the period, with Quakers suffering disproportionately. The Quaker Act of 1662, and the Conventicle Act of 1664, forbade their meetings, though they continued in defiance, and a number of meeting houses date from this early period. Broad Campden, Gloucestershire, came into Quaker use in 1663 and is the earliest meeting house in Britain, although it was out of use from 1871 to 1961. The meeting house at Hertford, 1670, is the oldest to be purpose built. The Act of Toleration, passed in 1689, was one of several steps towards freedom of worship outside the established church, and thereafter meeting houses began to make their mark on the landscape.

Quaker meeting houses are generally characterised by simplicity of design, both externally and internally, reflecting the form of worship they were designed to accommodate. The earliest purpose-built meeting houses were built by local craftsmen following regional traditions and were on a domestic scale, frequently resembling vernacular houses; at the same time, a number of older buildings were converted to Quaker use. From the first, most meeting houses shared certain characteristics, containing a well-lit meeting hall with a simple arrangement of seating. In time a raised stand became common behind the bench for the Elders, so that travelling ministers could be better heard. Where possible, a meeting house would provide separate accommodation for the women’s business meetings, and early meeting houses may retain a timber screen, allowing the separation (and combination) of spaces for business and worship. In general, the meeting house will have little or no decoration or enrichment, with joinery frequently left unpainted.

Throughout the C18 and early C19 many new meeting houses were built, or earlier buildings remodelled, with ‘polite’, Classically-informed designs appearing, reflecting architectural trends more widely. However, the buildings were generally of modest size and with minimal ornament, although examples in urban settings tended to be more architecturally ambitious. After 1800, it became more common for meeting houses to be designed by an architect or surveyor. The Victorian and Edwardian periods saw greater stylistic eclecticism, though the Gothic Revival associated with the Established Church was not embraced; on the other hand, Arts and Crafts principles had much in common with those of the Quakers, and a number of meeting houses show the influence of that movement.

The C20 saw changes in the way meeting houses were used which influenced their design and layout. In 1896 it was decided to unite men’s and women’s business, so separate rooms were no longer needed, whilst from the mid-1920s ministers were not recorded, and consequently stands were rarely provided in new buildings. Seating was therefore rearranged without reference to the stand, with moveable chairs set in concentric circles becoming the norm in smaller meeting houses. By the interwar years, there was a shift towards more flexible internal planning, together with the provision of additional rooms for purposes other than worship, reflecting the meeting house’s community role – the need for greater contact with other Christians and a more active contribution within the wider world had been an increasing concern since the 1890s. Traditional styles continued to be favoured, from grander Classical buildings in urban centres to local examples in domestic neo-Georgian. The work of the prolific Hubert Lidbetter, longtime Surveyor to the Six Weeks Meeting, demonstrates a range from the solid Classicism of Friends House, London (1924-27) to the more contemporary style of the Sheffield meeting house of 1964 (now in alternative use). In the post-war period, a small number of Quaker buildings in more emphatically modern styles were built; examples include the meeting house at Heswall, Merseyside, 1963 by Beech and Thomas, and buildings by Trevor Dannatt, of which the Blackheath Quaker Meeting House is one.

There were Quakers in Godalming by 1655 and a meeting was settled in about 1687. In 1698 the Quaker and maltster Caleb Woods bought Mill House and donations were collected for a meeting house in Godalming. This relates possibly to his purchase in 1702 of the property known as ‘Goreways’ which was adjacent to the Mill House comprising a ‘tenement with the curtilage, barn, gate room, garden and orchard’. By 1709 part of the property was in Quaker use as the first recorded burial on the site took place that year. Caleb Woods’s will of 1711 refers to the ‘new repaired’ and ‘new built other part’ of the property, the latter of which probably relates to the meeting house. He bequeathed all his property to his youngest son, also called Caleb. In 1715, Caleb junior and his brother John sold ‘all that messuage tenement and building now used for a meeting house of the people commonly called Quakers for their religious worship’ to five Quaker trustees, together with the attached garden and burial ground, all for a term of 5,000 years at a peppercorn rent.

Opinions are divided about when the present building was erected: 1748 is the date cut into several bricks on the south elevation but based on stylistic analysis a late C17 or early C18 date seems more likely. The meeting room is certainly purpose built and probably is identical with the structure described as ‘new built’ in 1711.

In 1728, a fence to the garden was replaced with a new stone wall which was built by John Meals. From 1752, the rear burial ground was in use. In about 1772 a narrow detached block (now known as the Long Room) was added – possibly initially for use as stables – which was extended in 1808 as the women’s business meeting room. On 12 June 1794, the front windows were broken by a local mob as the Quakers refused to celebrate victory in the Fourth Battle of Ushant (‘the Glorious First of June’) by placing candles in the windows. In 1868, the meeting was discontinued and in around 1900 the building was let to the Brethren. In 1923, it was sold to Francis Ashby, a member of Guildford meeting, but it was bought back after his death soon after. The meeting house re-opened in 1926 and was repaired in 1938. The small meeting room was used as a classroom with a kitchen extension with a partition between the two rooms removed in the 1970s. In 1988-91, a number of repairs were made which included the reroofing of the Long Room, the renewal of door and window lintels in the meeting room, the repair of a chimney and the replacement of the panelling behind the elders’ and ministers’ stand. In 1994, the meeting room was reroofed. A detached toilet block stands in the north-east corner.

There are burial plots to the front and rear of the building. The front burial ground has no surviving headstones; it was first used in 1709. The rear burial ground was first used in 1752; the last burial took place in 1885. It is still used for the scattering of ashes. The boundary walls are of rubble stone (one or all built in 1728), with an area of brick near the south-east corner and are listed at Grade II. Notable people buried here include Mary Waring (1760-1805), an elder of the meeting, who kept a diary of her religious experiences which was published in 1809.

A detached burial ground in Binscombe some 2km to the north, was in use from 1666 to 1790 with 188 recorded burials. An adjacent barn known as ‘Fox’s Barn’, where George Fox preached in 1655, has been converted to a house. The barn and the walls of the burial ground are both listed Grade II.


Quaker Meeting House built in about 1711 with a later wing added on the west side of about 1772 and 1808.

MATERIALS: the materials are red brick laid in Flemish bond. The base of the wall at the rear has two areas of Bargate stone with galleting. The brick of the wing is of poorer quality, with some vitrified bricks. Both parts have handmade clay tile roofs. The roof of the meeting room is hipped with a central valley gutter, that of the wing gabled.

PLAN: L-shaped plan. The meeting house comprises a one-storey square meeting room of about 1711 with the main elevation facing north-east, and a long wing (known as the Long Room) of about 1772 and 1808 along the west boundary wall which houses a lobby, kitchen and smaller meeting room.

EXTERIOR: the three-bay front elevation of the square meeting room has a central doorway with a double door of eight raised and fielded panels under a bracketed hood. On either side are large wooden cross-windows with leaded lights and one casement each, under rubbed and gauged flat brick arches. The rear elevation is similar but with stepped brick eaves. Here, the six panelled door has only a small hood, the base of the wall has two areas of Bargate stone with galleting, and the lintels of the door and windows are of brick in rowlock courses. On either side of the central rear door are bricks with initials and various dates including 1748 and 1890. At the west corner is a small lean-to shed beside a door to a triangular space with a ladder into the roof void.

The Long Room wing is attached to the north-west corner of the meeting room and continues part-way along its north-west side elevation. The entrance is near the corner with the meeting room, via a six-panel door in a narrow bay. To the north is a long gabled range whose south gable is tile-hung. The north gable has a six-panel door and a two-light leaded window. The wing’s east elevation has two three-light leaded windows of which the southern one dates from the C20.The west elevation has no windows and abuts the west boundary yard wall of galleted rubble stone with oversailing domed coping. There is a brick chimneystack about halfway along.

INTERIOR: the meeting room has a panelled dado which sweeps up to three taller panels behind the elders’ stand at the east. There are fixed benches on the other three walls. The T-shaped ceiling beams with RSJs date from 2001 when a central post was removed (which was found to have no structural function but related to the former stove). The four-panelled door into the wing has a wooden bar latch. The meeting room floor is of timber.

Within the Long Room wing, the southern part of the lobby is lit by a skylight and has few historic features. Its northern half has a fixed bench against the west wall which continues in the adjoining small meeting room. The latter also has a fixed bench against the east wall and a panelled dado. The former fireplace to the west is boarded up. The partition to the south is of timber while that to the north is a part-glazed partition which was moved (or replaced) further south in the 1970s. There is a kitchen at the northern end of the wing.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Butler, D, The Quaker Meeting Houses of Britain, Volume 2, (1999), 589-590
Architectural History Practice, 2016, Friends Meeting House, Godalming, accessed 3 March 2020 from http://heritage.quaker.org.uk/files/Godalming%20LM.pdf
Quaker Meeting Houses in Great Britain 2017, accessed 3 March 2020 from http://heritage.quaker.org.uk/quaker-gb-meeting-houses-national-overview-report-2017-03.pdf


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 Aug 1999
Reference: IOE01/01175/21
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr F Jack Jackson. Source Historic England Archive
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