Exterior shot of Pardshaw meeting house with white walls and green window frames in a burial ground.

Pardshaw Quaker Meeting House and school room, Pardshaw near Dean, Cumbria. Upgraded to Grade II* © Historic England Archive DP066385
Pardshaw Quaker Meeting House and school room, Pardshaw near Dean, Cumbria. Upgraded to Grade II* © Historic England Archive DP066385

Quiet Simplicity of Quaker Meeting Houses Celebrated

There are thousands of practising Quakers in Britain, with around 500 meetings around the country. Today 17 Quaker meeting houses across England have been celebrated through listing.

The oldest Quaker meeting house in the world still in continuous use is now Grade I listed in recognition of its exceptional historic significance, while 11 Quaker meeting houses have been granted listed status and five have been upgraded to Grade II*.

Hertford Meeting House Upgraded

Hertford is home to the earliest surviving purpose-built Quaker meeting house in the world, still in Quaker use. It was built in 1670 and has had its listed status upgraded to Grade I in recognition of its exceptional significance.

George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, visited at least three times.

There have been some alterations over the last 350 years but overall it retains much of its original character.

Read the Hertford list entry

Interior of Hertford Quaker Meeting House showing wooden benches, floor and central single oak column.
Hertford Quaker Meeting House, Railway Street, Hertford, Hertfordshire. The earliest surviving purpose-built Quaker meeting house in the world, still in Quaker use. Upgraded to Grade I © Historic England Archive DP160137

New Listings

New listings at Grade II include the meeting house in Cartmel designed by architect of the Natural History Museum, Alfred Waterhouse, the 17th-century Aylesbury Meeting House – a hidden gem tucked away behind buildings in the historic core of the town – and the 1970s concrete meeting house in London’s Blackheath. Browse the map to find out more.

These buildings have all been listed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England and can be found on the National Heritage List for England.

Interior view of Aylesbury Quaker meeting house with wooden beams, wooden benches and white walls.
Aylesbury Quaker Meeting House, Rickford's Hill, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Grade II listed © Historic England Archive DP221995

Quakers and their buildings

The Quaker movement was established in the 1600s and largely led by George Fox who turned his back on the established Christian church.

He believed that everyone can have a direct relationship with God, meaning there was no need for priests or churches. So early on, Friends – as Quakers are known – met together for silent worship in all kinds of places, from hilltops and barns to within each other’s houses.

As the movement grew, meeting houses were built.

These important buildings express the changing practices of Quakers through history and their reception by and presence in the local community.

Quaker worship was forbidden by law until the 1689 Act of Toleration, yet some meeting houses pre-date this, indicating that there were Friends determined to openly demonstrate their faith even in the face of persecution.

The Nailsworth Meeting House is one of an early group of meeting houses, dating from when Quaker worship was forbidden by law. Graffiti from 1683 and 1684 on the window sills indicates clearly that the meeting house was in use before the Act of Toleration was passed in 1689. Nailsworth Quaker Meeting House as seen in 1943. Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. Upgraded to Grade II* listed. Source: Historic England Archive

Quaker architecture?

Quaker meeting houses tend to be unassuming buildings – a reflection of the Quakers’ simple values.

Meeting houses embody function over ornament, and as they do not need either a symbolic focal point such as an altar or a prominent pulpit for preaching, they are plainly decorated and furnished.

Meeting houses have no specific architectural style, so they range in appearance and often reflect local building traditions, as they were usually built by local craftsmen.

Many meeting houses with early origins have bench seating facing a raised platform or stand for Elders, while current practice is for all Friends to meet together and sit in a circular arrangement.

Some retain wooden partitions used to create a distinct space for women to conduct business meetings, illustrative of the important independent role of women in Quaker communities.

Frandley Quaker Meeting House, Sandiway Lane, Northwich, Cheshire. Interior. Grade II listed © Historic England Archive DP233796

National Survey of Quaker Meeting Houses

These listings are part of Historic England's work to improve understanding, recording and protection of places of worship.

In partnership with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers in Britain), Historic England commissioned a national survey of meeting houses still in use or in Quaker ownership to build up a detailed picture of these buildings across the country – their origins, architectural features and place in the community.

While many older Quaker meeting houses are already listed, the survey findings have been used to update and enhance these entries on the National Heritage List for England as well as identify important meeting houses previously overlooked.

In England, over 250 meeting houses are protected as listed buildings, although not all of these are still in use by Quakers.

Blackheath Quaker Meeting House, Lawn Terrace, Blackheath, London. Grade II listed © Historic England Archive DP180137
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