Sibford Quaker Meeting House


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Temple Mill Road, Sibford Gower, Banbury, OX15 5RX


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Statutory Address:
Temple Mill Road, Sibford Gower, Banbury, OX15 5RX

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

Cherwell (District Authority)
Sibford Gower
National Grid Reference:


Quaker meeting house. Built in 1864 by Thomas Manning, replacing an earlier C17 building. Minor external additions and interior alterations in 1891. Modernisation of the kitchen and WCs by Paul Richardson in 2008.

Reasons for Designation

Sibford Quaker Meeting House, Temple Mill Road, Sibford Gower, Oxfordshire, dating from 1864, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a well-preserved and largely unaltered example of a late-C19 Quaker meeting house, illustrating the characteristic architectural simplicity associated with the Quaker movement and use of local vernacular traditions and materials;

* for its interior which retains the original elders’ stand and bench seating and dado panelling.

Historic interest:

* as a replacement building on the site of the C17 meeting house and representative of the village's association with George Fox in the C17; * for the social historical interest of its connection to the Quaker school in Sibford Ferris.

Group value:

* with the associated burial ground.


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 in member’s houses, barns, and other secular premises followed. Persecution of non-Conformists 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, and that 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 room with a simple arrangement of seating facing a raised stand for the ministers and elders. 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.

Quaker meetings in the area around Sibford are reported from 1668. In 1670, George Fox travelled to Sibford and in 1678 he returned to preach to hundreds of people in a local barn. It is thought that a meeting house (with burial ground) was built near the site of the present building in 1678 – 81 on land given by Mary Little. The interior of the meeting house is described as having a loft inserted in 1736 with shutters to enable men and women to have their separate business meetings.

In 1842, a Friends School was established at Sibford Ferris to provide education for children of Quakers who had been disowned for marrying outside the circle; later the school taught all Quaker children. By 1864, the meeting house was unable to accommodate the needs of the Friends and the attendance of the school children, and as a result the present larger meeting house was built. It was built by Thomas Manning at a cost of £435, partially on the footprint of the former meeting house, on land given to the Friends by John Soden.

Internally, the main meeting room was subdivided into two spaces: the main meeting room and the women’s meeting room. The rooms were separated by a wooden partition, with a shutter mechanism. In 1891 heating was installed and at the same time the partitions were removed and the doorway to the west of the meeting room was infilled. The partitions were recycled and used in the mission room. Probably at this date, the ranges to the west and east were extended with lean-to extensions built to the rear. In 1879, Friends purchased three cottages to the east of the meeting house; one cottage was converted to accommodate a caretaker and the other two altered to provide a mission room. Following the alterations to the meeting house in 1891, women held their meetings in the mission room and it was also used for gospel meetings, attended by people from the village.

During the Second World War the meeting house became a venue for the village school and two evacuee families were housed in the mission room.

In 2008, the architect Paul Richardson RIBA modernised the kitchen and toilet facilities. The work also involved improving disabled access and a new driveway. The same architect was appointed in 2012 to reinstate the doorway which had been infilled in 1891 to provide a fire exit and level access into the building.

To the south and west of the meeting house is a large, L-shaped, burial ground, bounded by low dry-stone walling. It has around 200 small, round-headed, stone grave markers arranged in rows.


Quaker meeting house. Built in 1864 by Thomas Manning, replacing an earlier C17 building. Minor external additions and interior alterations in 1891. Modernisation of the kitchen and WCs by Paul Richardson in 2008.

MATERIALS: rough-cast Horton limestone walling with ashlar stone dressings of a darker colour and Welsh slate roofs.

PLAN: single-storey T-plan with a broadly north-south block containing the meeting room and lobby with lower east-west ranges containing a children’s room to the west and kitchen to the east, each with outshuts to the rear.

EXTERIOR: built within a vernacular Georgian tradition, the symmetrical front (south) elevation has a central slightly projecting gabled entrance with a date stone above the doorway, flanked by two 12-pane timber sash windows. The lower ranges either side of the central gable each have a doorway. The ashlar dressings to all openings include quoins and dropped keystones to the lintels. The west and east elevations to the meeting room each have three 16-pane timber sash windows with a doorway to the west. The rear outshuts each have a sixteen-pane timber sash window and a cat slide roof. There is a memorial plaque to commemorate those whose ashes are in the burial ground under the west window of the west wing. The northern gabled wall to the meeting room has a 16-pane timber sash window with stone head with keystone and stone sill (no quoins as with the rest of the fenestration).

INTERIOR: an entrance lobby at the south of the building gives access to the meeting room, children’s room and kitchen. The full-height lobby has plain plastered walls and is lit by the two sash windows to the south, set in deep chamfered openings. There are two internal six-pane timber sash windows, set high on the north wall either side of the entrance to the meeting room. The lobby has original four-panel doors, architraves and skirting. The floor is laid with red and black quarry tiles and there are original coat hooks on the east wall.

The meeting room is a large rectangular space which has been little altered since the late-C19. The plain plastered walls have pine dado panelling with a raised elders' stand and seating at the north end with an additional row of fixed panelled seating in front. Windows are in deeply recessed chamfered openings. The flooring is of exposed timber boards aligned north to south. To the south end of the room are fitted wall benches which presumably formed part of the women’s meeting room before the space was opened up.

The school room has the same deep chamfered window and door openings as the meeting room and leads into a WC in the rear outshut which has modern fittings and tiling. The kitchen has an internal four-pane window, looking through to the rear outshut, and retains its original door architraves.


Books and journals
Butler, D, The Quaker Meeting Houses of Britain, Volume 2, (1999), 504-5
Wood, Jack, Some Rural Quakers, (1991)
'Cake and Cockhorse' in Banbury Historical Society, , Vol. 7, (1979), 8
Cherwell District Council, Sibford Ferris, Sibford Gower and Burdrop Conservation Area Appraisal (2012)
Frank Cookson, Local Meeting Survey (September 2015)


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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