Coming Home

Chippenham Quakers Come Home After 190 Years

It 's just amazing that the original venue of Chippenham Quakers was restored to use during 2002, the 350th year since the Religious Society of Friends was initiated by George Fox.

In the early 1980's a Quaker Meeting was re-formed in Chippenham, the original members coming from Bradford on Avon Meeting.
The Meeting, though still not large, has great vitality and is thriving, despite the fact that until 2002 the Meeting for Worship wes held in a number of different (and often fairly unsuitable) venues.

A member of Chippenham Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) who is a member of the Civic Society read with interest in the Winter 2001 issue of The Buttercross that Fred Guscott's vision to turn the former Causeway Methodist Church into a Music Centre had begun to materialise.

In 2002, through the activities of Fred and Norma Guscott and the local Civic Society.
an exciting discovery was made about the existence of an old Chippenham Meeting House.
The interest turned to excitement. At the back of the building were a series of Quaker Meeting Rooms.

Fred and Norma Guscott were contacted and early in 2002 a group of Quakers went to see the building. Work was very much 'in progress', but despite all the dust which was obviously part of the scenario, they found not only rooms but the old Quaker Meeting House which has been joined by a passage to the Methodist Church, and used as their school.

The visit started a search to discover more about the history of the Meeting House.
Following on from this discovery, its history was researched. Fred and Norma have in their posession the deeds relating to the 18th Century building with the signatures of the appointed Trustees, which include many well known Quaker names, including Fry.
There is probably more to discover. 

The History of the Old Meeting House

Much of the information has come through the late Harold Fassnidge, a local Historian who was a member of the Bradford on Avon Meeting from 1769 to 1812

Premises for a Meeting House were acquired in 1669 on High Street, perhaps associated with an earlier burial ground, and registered in 1690.

It stood well back from the road and was reached by an alleyway beneath a cottage, and occupied the whole of the rear part of the site.

This building was rebuilt in 1737, and registered in 1742.
There is a report that John Church, a Friend, from Philadelphia, attended for worship in 1751.

Quaker Meeting was discontinued in 1812 and the building was let "as a schoolroom for the education of female adults of any religious persuasion residing in Chippenham or its vicinity."

In 1834 the building was sold to the Primitive Methdist Church who used it much as it stood until in 1896 they built their own chapel on the adjoining site, when they built an upper floor on to the old Meeting House and it was used as school rooms. The side walls were built with new window openings.

The building still stands in this form showing on the north corner of the front wall a part of the original 1737 ashlar of that elevation, with windows to ground floor and loft.

Fred and Norma's renovation is so sensitively carried out that the whole complex says WELCOME.
They have retained the original wooden floorboards in the Meeting Room, now sanded, polished and protected. 
Now this great opportunity has come to Chippenham Meeting.
It held its Meeting for Worship for the first time on 11 August 2002 in the old Meeting Room.