Bath Quakers is a thriving Quaker meeting in the sacred and healing district of the World Heritage City of Bath. It’s close to the Roman hot baths and the Anglican abbey.
The Friends Meeting House in York Street has been Bath Quakers’ spiritual home for 150 years, and it’s where we continue to hold our Meetings for Worship today.
We are fortunate to have a building in the heart of a busy city , well-served by public transport, and perfectly placed for Bath Quakers to play a full and active part in the community. The Meeting House itself is grade II listed, an architectural gem . It represents our presence in the City and is central to our witness .
Why does Bath need a strong Quaker presence?
In turbulent times such as these, there is an overwhelming need to provide welcome, comfort and moral direction. Quakers in Britain have a distinct witness and voice, based on the commitment to our core testimonies of equality and justice, peace, truth and integrity, simplicity and sustainability.
Those values and that voice are needed now. A confident, vibrant Quaker Meeting in Bath can speak out. We can play a full part in support of our community.
What is the purpose of the appeal?
Bath Quakers are appealing for funds so that the Friends Meeting House can stay on track to develop a sustainable, more confident and ambitious presence at the heart of Bath. This appeal reflects our values:
We care about climate change and not being wasteful of energy: our building will use less energy once windows are well insulated
We are welcoming and friendly people: our building will look welcoming and friendly too, encouraging people to come inside
We are inclusive and open to all: the lighting system in our meeting room will be comfortable, excluding none from participating in events
We are part of our community: our building will play a fuller part once this work is finished.
How much are you aiming to raise and why ?
Bath Quakers are working to raise £80,000 by the end of 2018 . This will allow us to complete the refurbishment of our unique building , looking to the future while respecting the past.
Over the last five years, we have raised and spent £110,000. The upper floor is now fully accessible, with a lift and accessible toilet. We have created a kitchen and re – sited our library, installed a PA system, renewed the acoustic panelling, provided better seating, and renovated the stone staircase and wooden flooring. This work cost £95,000.
The two remaining jobs , for which we have spent £15,000 on sound professional advice leading to the granting of planning permission, are:
- Looking to the Future through making significant improvements to the environmental performance of the Meeting House through insulation, draught – proofing, and secondary glazing , and upgrading the lighting, taking us as far as we can at present towards having a sustainable building
- Respecting the Past through renovating the stonework and lettering on the two hundred year – old façade so that our Meeting House looks welcoming and well – cared for, fulfilling our responsibi lity for good stewardship
What happens next ?
Bath Quakers’ first priority is to complete a long – term vision with business plan for financial sustainability in keeping with our Quaker witness. We have many years’ experience of running our unique building so are fully aware of the costs involved and the need to be practical as well as visionary.
But change is coming. In 2019, we will have new opportunities for developing a range of activities in the Meeting House when a significant and long – standing hirer moves on . We are now evaluating a range of purposes consistent with Friends’ principles and beliefs, whilst continuing to host local Quaker meetings as the bedrock.
We recognise that this Quaker asset at the heart of our community is well – placed to support for example:
- a blend of charitable work for vulnerable groups such as the Genesis Lifeline project currently based with us
- cultural activity such as Bath’s rich variety of art , music , and literature festivals
- social enterprise needs
- interfaith , peacebuilding and reconciliation work.
Our vision for the future and our care for the Meeting House go hand in hand. These will come together in two years’ time as this stage of renovation draws to a close and our longer-term vision becomes reality.
Quaker Meetings can be held anywhere. They do not depend on there being a building of a particular shape, size or type.
A short history of the Bath Quaker Meeting House – drawn from The Quaker Meeting Houses of Britain by David M. Butler published in two volumes by Friends Historical Society in 1999 – is available in the Bath Quaker Meeting House library.
Although we do not know exactly when Quaker meetings in Bath started, there was certainly one by 1673, for which premises were later built and rented in 1697.
The present meeting house was bought in 1866 for £775. It was built as a Masonic Hall by the eminent architect William Wilkins (who also created the National Gallery and Kings’ Parade in Cambridge). For the Freemasons, the light coming in from the two handsome lanterns in the roof was sufficient; there were no real windows in the front facade; just “blind” (stone-filled) recesses where the windows would have been. There was also a large and imposing blind doorway with a masonic number over it (since removed and replaced with a plain stone).
One of the ‘lanterns’ or cupolas in the roof.
The Masons left in 1841. The building was then used by others, including a Baptist congregation as a Bethesda Chapel, for whom windows were inserted in the back wall. The formerly blind windows on York Street were opened up.
There is a platform lift at the east entrance to the upper floor and a fully accessible toilet next to the meeting room.
The meeting room has a hearing loop.
Quaker Burial Ground, Widcombe
The old Quaker burial ground burial ground is next to Bewdley House in Clarendon Road, off Widcombe Hill, Bath BA2 4NJ. You can find a map here.
To access the Quaker Burial Ground
To gain entry, there is a digital lock on the door. Contact us for the code.
To use the lock, first press C then enter the code and turn the knob a quarter turn anti-clockwise. At the same time, pull the door forward and it will open. Access is through a double door. Opening the door with the digital lock gives relatively narrow access, so it may be helpful to have both doors open in order to widen the entrance. For wheelchair users, assistance would be needed to unbolt the second door. There is level access from the pavement and, inside the burial ground, there is a smooth, gently sloping, paved path. There are no toilet facilities. Occasional Open Days are held at the Burial Ground. Please contact us for details. There is restricted parking in Clarendon Road for residents only. However, if you have a Blue Badge for disabled parking, you may use this if you park within a parking bay. There is free parking on Widcombe Hill between The Tyning and Tyning End which is about 5-7 minutes walk away.
History See History of Quakers in Bath.
The Widcombe Burial Ground is a beautiful, tranquil garden. Burials no longer take place but it is used for the scattering of ashes and for occasional gatherings and meetings.
As Friends pass on, their names are added to the Memorial Stone. There are more images of the garden here.
The ground was overgrown until the mid 1970s, when it was cleared and replanted. Joan Berry, a horticulturist, who was a member of the Meeting, did some of the interesting planting. Neighbours in Chapel Cottage have lovingly tended the garden for many years. They particularly encouraged flowering trees, and we are rewarded by profuse flowering when there has been a long, hot summer the previous year.
By the gate, as you enter, is a Staphylea, the bladdernut tree. Unfortunately, this is infected with honey fungus and is struggling to survive. Along the lower wall are Portuguese laurels and a Photinia, lime-resistant, with red leaves in spring. An unusual evergreen Eupatorium ligustrinum, the Incense Bush, is a fragrant shrub which is now flourishing here. It flowers around September, in company with the cyclamen.
In the middle of the garden are a flowering cherry and a magnolia (perhaps M. stellata or maybe M. x Loebneri Leonard Messel. A Judas Tree (Cercis Siliquastrum) succumbed to honey fungus and was removed. This opened up the area around the memorial tablets, behind which is an Amelanchier. This is a delightful shrub; showy both in spring with white flowers and in autumn with its coloured leaves.
In the far right corner are an evergreen holm oak (Quercus), a Philadelphus and some Solomon’s seal. In the far left corner is a very rare Paulownia (the Empress Tree from Turkey). Though long established it was only in 1996 that it flowered. In the raised bed along the upper wall, working back from the far left corner, are many plantings, including an edible fig, a golden yellow tree peony, a eucalyptus of Australian proportions, a hydrangea veluta and a holly.
With bequests, numerous roses have been planted over the years. They include Canary Bird, Fruhlingsgold, Blanc Double de Coubert, Pauls Scarlet, Quaker Star, Peace and Alec’s Red. One Friend is remembered by the scattering of forget-me-nots and another by a fragrant Philadelphus.
The garden was home to a venerable tortoise called Jacob, who died in 2012.
In 2006, the high stone wall was repaired and, in 2007, the area inside the gate to the left was landscaped and paved. Planting has started with lavenders and roses and further planting of fragrant flowers is planned. Rose Rogers has greatly helped the Meeting in the work of developing the Burial Ground.
The Quaker burial ground is registered as a Quiet Garden. To find out more about the Quiet Garden Movement, visit their website.