Winchmore Hill Quaker Meeting House


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
59 Church Hill, Winchmore Hill, London, N21 1LE


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Statutory Address:
59 Church Hill, Winchmore Hill, London, N21 1LE

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

Greater London Authority
Enfield (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Quaker Meeting House. Built between 1790 and 1791 probably to designs by John Bevans of London. Further extensions of 1796 and 1809, with later alterations principally of 1987 to designs by John Marsh, architect.

Reasons for Designation

Winchmore Hill Quaker Meeting House, situated on Church Hill, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* the understated Georgian design reflects the Quaker ethos of restrained architecture; * by Quaker architect John Bevans, the earliest known architect to have worked extensively for Quaker clients, whose other listed buildings include Guildford meeting house (Grade II) and The Retreat, York (Grade II*); * fittings including the dado and fixed wall benches preserved in the interior provide evidence for the internal arrangements typical for earlier Quaker meeting houses.

Historic interest:

* a purpose-built late-C18 Quaker meeting house on a pre-Act of Toleration site associated with George Fox, standing in its attached burial ground that includes the graves of notable Quakers.

Group value:

* with the adjacent Walls Around the Graveyard of Friends’ Meeting House (Grade II-listed).


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. Ancillary buildings erected in addition to a meeting house could include stabling and covered spaces such as a gig house; caretaker’s accommodation; or a school room or adult school.

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.

Friends had been meeting in Winchmore Hill since at least 1662 and George Fox is reported to have been a frequent preacher. Their first known meeting place was a barn rented at a cost of £2 per year. In 1682 Friend John Oakley provided an acre of ground for use as a burial ground. That plot included his house and barn, and the barn was occasionally used for meetings. Following the deaths of Oakley and his wife Elizabeth, the whole property passed to the Quakers. In 1688 the barn was converted into a meeting room with an integral dwelling and the neighbouring house was let. By 1787, however, the meeting house and burial ground wall were described as ruinous.

The new meeting house was built on the site of the old between 1790 and 1791, to a design by John Bevan (in all likelihood John Bevans of Plaistow). With an attached caretaker’s dwelling to the rear, it cost £710 to build. A lobby and schoolroom were added in a side wing in 1796, and a washroom was added in 1809.

In 1911 a new cottage next to the meeting house was provided for the caretaker. The former caretaker’s dwelling attached to the rear of the meeting house was enlarged and converted into cloakrooms. New facilities, linked to the cloakrooms by a conservatory, were built in 1987 as part of a major restoration to designs by John Marsh, architect.

The burial ground includes headstones for members of the Hoare and Barclay families, noted Quaker bankers, including Samuel Hoare (1751-1825), a leading abolitionist. Other headstones include those for Luke Howard (1772-1860), a pioneering meteorologist, and Alice Hum, educationalist.

John Bevans (active from 1789 to 1808) was a builder and surveyor and Friend. He is the earliest known architect to have worked extensively for Quaker clients. His other meeting houses include Devonshire House, London (1789, demolished), Westminster (1799, demolished), Guildford (1804-1806, Grade II-listed), and Derby (1808, Grade II-listed). He was also responsible for the Friends School, Islington (1780s, demolished) and The Retreat, York (1793-1797, Grade II*-listed).


Quaker Meeting House. Built between 1790 and 1791 probably to designs by John Bevans of London. Further extensions of 1796 and 1809, with later alterations principally of 1987 to designs by John Marsh, architect.

MATERIALS: yellow bricks laid to Flemish bond, stucco dressings, Welsh slate roof coverings.

PLAN: the C18 meeting house is rectangular on plan, oriented north-south with a gabled roof. The later extensions form a lower range to the rear, oriented east-west, with a combination of pitched, lean-to and flat roofs.

EXTERIOR: the meeting house stands in the south-east corner of the Quaker burial ground on Church Hill. The burial ground is enclosed by walls listed at Grade II. The main (south) elevation forms a pedimented façade comprising three bays with a central entrance flanked by a six-over-six sash window to each side. The entrance has a stone hood on stone brackets above the flat arched door opening. The two plain window openings also have flat arches, with external shutters. The pediment above has a simple moulded cornice and a blind oculus carrying a painted inscription reading FRIENDS/ MEETING/ HOUSE. The gabled roof has Welsh slate coverings with gable copings.

To the east and set back from the meeting house front, the front elevation of the former school room is of three bays, comprising from left to right two six-over-six sash windows in plain window openings with flat arches, then the entrance door in a plain door surround with a two-light fanlight under a flat arch. A dormer lighting the former school room attic from the south has a new (2016) six-pane window.

The meeting house side elevations to east and west each have one six-over-six sash window in plain window openings under flat arches. The north elevation is largely obscured by the rear range, but the gable end includes a blind oculus and chimney stack. The rear range comprises, from right to left, a single-storey annexe under a lean-to roof fronted by a flat-roofed lavatory block lit by three small windows, then the former school room with a gabled roof partially fronted by a small lean-to conservatory.

INTERIOR: the panelled double-leaf meeting house doors lead from the main entrance into the full height meeting room. The room has a boarded floor and plainly panelled dado rising to the window cills. The east, west and south walls have fixed benches. There may have been an Elders’ stand to the north wall, and the room may have had a gallery. The original flat plaster ceiling is thought to survive, obscured by a ceiling of acoustic tiles. A door in the north-east corner of the meeting room provides internal access to the rear range. The rear range includes a small meeting room in the former school house, a kitchen, and cloakrooms (not inspected).


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

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Books and journals
Butler, D M (Author), The Quaker Meeting Houses of Britain, Volume 1, (1999), pp433-4
Friends Meeting House, Winchmore Hill: historic building record. Architectural History Practice, 2015,
Great London Historic Environment Record Full Report for Wincmore Hill Friends Meeting House Burial Ground, HER number MLO107800.


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: 13 Sep 1999
Reference: IOE01/02036/14
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Stuart Calder. Source Historic England Archive
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