Malvern Quaker Meeting House


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
1 Orchard Road, Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 3DA


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Statutory Address:
1 Orchard Road, Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 3DA

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

Malvern Hills (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


A Quaker meeting house of 1938 designed by J R Armstrong, architect to Bournville Village Trust.

Reasons for Designation

Malvern Quaker Meeting House of 1938 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as an accomplished work by a regional architect of note strongly associated with the Quaker Movement, J R Armstrong, architect to the Bournville Village Trust; * for its well-articulated Arts and Crafts design reflecting the tastes of the period and constructed using high quality materials; * the meeting house expresses simplicity, appropriate for a Quaker building, in combination with restrained external and internal detailing; * the interior largely retains its original simple plan-form and a suite of original fixtures and fittings, reflecting its intended community use and the movement’s adherence to the principles of plain but well-built craftsmanship.

Historic interest:

* the meeting house one of only a small number to be purpose-built in this era and remains an excellent example of the tradition as it was to be found in the interwar period; * for its associations with prominent Quakers, the Cadbury family, who attended while on holiday in Malvern and whose Bournville Village Trust architect designed the building.


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. 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. However, while many were built in the C18 and C19 nationally, few meeting houses were constructed during the interwar years.

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, while 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.

Quakers meetings are not recorded in Malvern until 1856 when a large room over a stable on Portland Road was being rented for the purpose. In 1937, Friends purchased a plot of land on Orchard Road and appealed to the public for funds to construct a new meeting house, and were encouraged by the Cadbury family. The family attended meetings when on holiday in the area and their Bournville Village Trust architect, John Ramsay Armstrong, designed the building. The oak furniture in the building was designed and built by Brynmawr Furniture Makers Ltd, which had been formed by Quakers in Wales during the Depression in an attempt to relieve the mass unemployment and economic hardship of the time. The meeting house was formally opened on 2 July 1938 by Charles Cadbury.

In 1952, the north-west corner of the building was extended to provide a children’s room, and in 1992 a further addition to the north was made for a small meeting room and library. Other alterations to the ancillary areas were also made at this time and later, including the creation of a kitchen area to the east side and the updating of bathroom facilities.


A Quaker meeting house of 1938 built to the designs of J R Armstrong by W James of Malvern, with extensions and alterations of 1952 and 1992.

MATERIALS: of cavity wall construction with buff bricks laid in stretcher bond. There are ashlar dressings to the main entrance and tile crease detailing to the gable kneelers and ventilation openings. The roofs are covered in Roman clay tiles and the rainwater goods are mainly cast iron. The 1930s and 1950s casements are of tropical hardwood (iroko) and there are pine and oak fittings to the main hall.

PLAN: L-plan as built and on a north-south orientation (extended to an irregular T-plan with the later north and west additions) the building is of single-storey and its entrance faces east. The four-bay main hall is to the south with ancillary rooms to the north.

EXTERIOR: built in a sparing vernacular style with deep roofs, wide gables and modest detailing. To the front elevation is a porch with hipped roof, deep eaves and double-panelled doors with bronze handle in a moulded stone architrave. There is FRIENDS HOUSE in bronze lettering to the lintel. There are five concrete steps to the door with brick planters to each side, and tile crease detailing to the corners. To the left of the porch the main hall has two tripartite timber casements with timber cills. To the right of the porch is the 1992 extension built in buff brick and with brick cills to the openings. There is an arched window flanked by smaller casements to the south gable. The rear of the main hall has three tripartite casements and part-glazed doors to the north end. Extending to the west is the addition of 1952 with hardwood doors and casements.

INTERIOR: an entrance lobby at the east of the building has modern internal partition doors. The lobby gives access to the meeting room and the ancillary rooms via a corridor. Some rooms to the original part of the building have part-glazed doors with bronze furniture. The timber double-leaf doors to the main hall have pairs of bronze handles. The meeting room is a large rectangular space which has been little altered since 1938, although the roof space has been ceiled over above purlin level. There are three substantial king-post pine trusses supported on stone corbels, and with straps and bolts. The plain plastered walls have timber wainscoting and there is a pine stage at the south end. The floor is laid with pine boards. The casements have bronze fitments.


Books and journals
Butler, D , The Quaker meeting houses of Britain, (1999), 698
Quaker Meeting Houses in Britain. Barter, Marion, Greenhow, Ingrid and Monckton, Linda, 2016 , accessed 25.02.2019 from
‘Quaker Meeting Houses in Great Britain: National Overview Report’, Architectural History Practice, for the Religious Society of Friends and Historic England, March 2017 , accessed 28.11.2018 from
Friends Meeting House, Malvern, Architectural History Practice, 2016, accessed 28.11.2018 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

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