Horsham Quaker Meeting House


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Worthing Road, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 1SL


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Statutory Address:
Worthing Road, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 1SL

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

West Sussex
Horsham (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Quaker Meeting House and attached cottage built in 1786, with a small rear extension built in 1939.

Reasons for Designation

Horsham Quaker Meeting House of 1786 with a later extension, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a purpose-built C18 Quaker meeting house with quality detailing such as a gabled porch, tall arched windows and original furnishings.

Historic interest:

* the building retains its C18 character with the original form and use of the meeting house remaining legible;

* it has strong associations with prominent local Quakers including palaeontologist George Bax Holmes who is buried in the attached burial ground.

Group value:

* with Grade-II listed buildings along Worthing Road including the Horsham Free Christian (Unitarian) Church.


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 traveling 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.

There were Quakers in Horsham by 1671 but no meeting house existed until after the Toleration Act of 1689. In 1693, land was acquired (with a 2000-year lease) in the Worthing Road for use as a burial ground and meeting house. There appears to have been a C16 cottage towards the road frontage and a meeting house was probably built behind it, at the rear of the site. The first recorded use of the burial ground took place in 1697. By 1785, the meeting house was in poor condition and the following year, a new one with an attached cottage was built, while the old building was demolished. This opened in 1786. In 1939, it was extended to the rear with a classroom and kitchens designed by the architect Hubert Lidbetter. In 1961, the meeting house was re-roofed and repaired, also by Lidbetter. The most prolific architect of meeting houses was Hubert Lidbetter, whose career spanned the 1920s to the 1960s. He designed four large urban meeting houses, the inter-war examples are in a classical tradition: Friends House, London (1924-27) and Bull Street, Birmingham (1931-33); Liverpool (1941, demolished) and Sheffield (1964, sold and adapted for alternative use) were in a simple mid-century style influenced by modernism. But more typical were his numerous smaller meeting houses of a domestic neo-Georgian character, such as Brentwood, Essex.

The meeting house at Horsham is set back from the road, behind brick boundary walls. The attached burial ground to the front of the meeting house has long been disused and is now landscaped as a garden. All headstones have been removed, apart from two which have been laid flat as paving slabs. These are the headstones for Charles Saunders (died 1881), his wife Rachel (died 1880) and his son Charles (died 1866); and the fossil collector and palaeontologist George Bax Holmes (1803-87) and his wife Mary (died 1876). Bax Holmes is famous for his discovery of the Great Horsham Iguanodon in 1840 whose bones were the model for some of the dinosaurs of 1852-4 (Grade I) in Crystal Palace Park.


Quaker Meeting House and attached cottage built in 1786, with a small rear extension built in 1939.

MATERIALS: red brick laid in Flemish bond. The base of all external walls as well as the rear and side elevations have burnt headers and bricks laid in English bond. The hipped roof with a central flat roof has handmade tiles. The rear extension has a similar hipped roof with handmade tiles.

PLAN: oblong meeting house and north-western extension with the attached cottage to the north-east being narrower and shorter.

EXTERIOR: the meeting house and north-western extension are one-storey and the main elevation faces south-east with a porch on its south-east elevation. Below the eaves is a cornice of three courses of moulded brick. The main entrance is in a gabled porch with a rubbed and gauged brick arch with two-leaf six-panelled entrance doors leading straight into the meeting room. On either side are tall arched windows with metal glazing bars under similar brick arches. The south-west elevation has a single sash window (eight-over-eight panes) under a fanlight of similar glazing bar patterns. Just beside it is an external square brick stack. Above the roof of the north-west rear extension are two blocked windows under segmental brick arches. The extension has a door and a window at each end, with a rear elevation of a four-light small-paned central window flanked by two small windows.

The attached cottage is two storeys and it has a separate hipped and tiled roof. There is one chimneystack near the east corner. Its front elevation has two eight-over-eight sashes and a four-panelled front door under a later canopy. Its rear elevation appears to have been altered. Two windows and a door on the ground floor have concrete lintels, while the two metal windows on the upper floor have brick lintels of soldier courses.

INTERIOR: the meeting room is square with a suspended timber floor and a suspended ceiling (with new acoustic panels). The walls have dado panelling which curves up behind the former elders’ and ministers’ stand on the wall opposite of the entrance. There is a dais around three sides of the room with fixed benches. In the corners are four Tobin’s Tubes, short metal ventilation flues which draw in fresh air via grilles in the external walls (and the former external walls now inside the extension). The meeting room is lit by three windows and new pendant lights. The extension contains a kitchen, a small meeting room and toilets.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Butler, D M, The Quaker Meeting Houses of Britain, (1999), 605-6
Architectural History Practice, 2016, Friends Meeting House: Horsham, accessed 15 December 2019 from http://heritage.quaker.org.uk/files/Horsham%20LM.pdf
Quaker Meeting Houses in Great Britain , accessed 3 Dec 2019 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: 30 Jun 2001
Reference: IOE01/05796/17
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Tim Nichols. Source Historic England Archive
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