Local Quaker History

Pre Meeting House

(Prior to 1826)

There is evidence that there were Quakers living in and around Blackburn as early as 1655, when a Thomas Taylor wrote: “At Blackburn there was one John Culby a Friend and John Edge a well wisher. At Haslingden John Robinson, a shopkeeper a ‘pretty’ Friend. The Friends there and at Rossendale Head meet together”.

For Friends living Around Blackburn during the late 1600’s and early 1700’s, the nearest Meeting Houses were at Chipping and Newton. Usually they would meet in each others houses.

It was not until 1793 that there is a first mention, in any records, of a meeting in Blackburn. A request by a John Danson Junior, who lived in Blackburn expressed “a desire to have a Meeting settled in that town”. In the minutes of Marsden Monthly Meeting, dated June 1793, an entry can be found stating that “Report is made that a few Friends of Blackburn have obtained liberty from the Quarterly Meeting to hold Meetings for Worship on first days and some other suitable day of the week, the Quarterly Meeting, and the Monthly Meetings of Preston and Marsden unite in appointing visitors”.

The first Meeting for Worship, for Blackburn Friends, took place in premises, at the corner of Barley Street.

In 1809 a house was obtain on the south side of Clayton St. and was duly registered as “a place of Religious Worship for Protestant Dissenters commonly called Quakers”. Meetings continued in this building until 1823, when it was decided that it had become unsuitable for meetings and in a state of disrepair. It was in December of that year that there is an entry in the Lancashire Quarterly Meeting records : “Friends at Preston Monthly Meeting have informed us that the building now used as a Meeting House by friends of Blackburn is much out of repair, and an eligible piece of ground for building the new Meeting House had been found”. A committee was duly appointed to inspect the site.

In March 1824, the committee confirmed that the old building was unsuitable, an extract from the records states that “3 of our members have examined the present Meeting House there, which they report to be a damp uncomfortable building in a dilapidated state. They have also viewed the plot of land mentioned at the last Quarterly Meeting, as having been offered to Friends, which was then deemed an eligible situation, but which does not seem to be well adapted to the wants of Friends. They, therefore, made further enquiry and have succeeded in meeting with a plot of land, in a good situation and of a convenient size; that is, containing about 1,000 sq, yards, fenced round with a good brick wall, and which may be had………………………….On considering which, and finding on enquiry, that a suitable building for a Meeting House cannot be met with there on rent, we are of the judgement that it is desirable that a Burial Ground should be purchased, and a Meeting House erected.

The committee reported that the total expense for the new Meeting House was £906,5s,7d. The land the Meeting House was built on, had belonged to Alice Sudall and was called the ‘Cherry Gardens’. Since she lived on King St. it may well have adjoined her house.

And so the present Meeting House was built.

In 1824, from the Minute Books and the very brief minutes they contain, we can see that there were 26 members and about 20 attenders, but as to who was first no-one can say.

It was in March 1826 that Quarterly Meeting established ‘Blackburn Preparative Meeting’.

1827 to 1926

The following is a list of some of the more ‘interesting’ events to have happened to the Meeting House and users during this period.

Feb 1830            Efforts to improve the heating of the Meeting House.

1835            Painting and colouring of the Meeting House.

1842            Outside painted and pointed for £13 18s 4d.

Nov 1843            New stove recommended.

Jan 1845            Cost of new stove, painting and general repairs £48.

Mar 1859            Consideration given to placing gates at the entrance to the graveyard and renewing paths with gravel. A map to be made with the position of each grave.

Apr 1859            A letter from Richard Radcliffe ‘Will your Society do me the favour to accept the few trees and shrubs, I have taken the liberty to plant in your Meeting House yard. I occasionally walk in the yard when open and they will be slight acknowledgement for that liberty”.

Feb 1863            Alterations carried out for warming the women’s end of the Meeting House.

Apr 1864            White-washing and repairs to the Meeting House.

Nov 1865           Gas introduced to the Meeting House at a cost of:  £15 10s 0d.

Mar 1866            A committee appointed to: “consider the best mode of obviating the inconvenience arising from the present state of the seats and woodwork”. In April it was decided to get the backs of the forms covered.

Jun 1866             Necessity for stripping and recovering the Meeting House. This work, with repairs to the roof completed July 1867.

Mar 1868            Richard Webster and Charles Bennington asked to examine the state of the wall dividing the burial ground from Paradise St. and also into the terms of the agreement made with the corporation for placing a lamp thereon.

Feb 1869           State of the Meeting House walls examined.

Dec 1869           The stove found not to heat the Meeting House sufficiently. A new one installed for £7.

Aug 1877            Tender for painting outside woodwork of the Meeting House £316s 0d.

1892            Re-pointing of the slates and a new stove at a cost of: £14 5s 6d. (£10 taken from Richard Shackletons legacy of £100).

1893            The Meeting House decorated for £30. (a further £10 taken from Shackleton legacy).

Jan  1900           Quarterly Meeting gives £16 towards cost of repairs.

Apr  1908           Concern expressed at total inadequacy of the Meeting House for the active work now being carried out there. An appeal made to Quarterly Meeting stating: “the heating appliances are very unsatisfactory and out of date. The sanitary arrangements are the same as in 1824, and abutting as they do, on private dwelling houses are liable at any time to be condemned by the local authorities. The only cloakroom for women and men Friends is, at present, the open passage between the large and small meeting rooms. The main building requires a considerable amount of both internal and external renovation. The estimated cost of these repairs is £350”. Quarterly Meeting gave the go ahead to proceed with the installation of heating apparatus and to take into consideration the necessity which will in consequence arise for the provision of arrangements for the heating of water for cooking and cleaning purposes.

1909            Frederick Stansfield reported: “As usual the original estimates have been greatly exceeded, mostly from unexpected causes. The whole of the drains on the premises have had to be taken up and re-laid. To make more room in the large Meeting House we had to take down the minister’s gallery putting in a new floor at that end of the room, and a considerable amount of repairs has been found necessary both to the building and to the boundary walls. Unfortunately there are further repairs which are urgently necessary and nothing has been done in the way of decoration”. In the end it cost £586 15s 8d of which £123 9s 8d was given by Quarterly Meeting, £100 by Hardshaw Estates £109 4s 0d by Preston Monthly Meeting, £118 14s 6d by Meetings outside the Quarterly Meeting. Estimates, contracts and detailed accounts of all the work done are available. The hourly rate for plasterers and joiners was 9d, for plumbers 11d and for labourers 7d.

Oct 1921            Decision to install electric light done in Jan 1922.

Jan 1922            Painting and repairs needed: to be kept within £ 80.

Sep 1922           The premises committee wanted to close the burial ground, but Richard Whittaker adamant that he wanted to be buried there. Frederick Stansfield resigned from the committee. These 2 worthies were fighting over the last burial plot. Richard Whittaker got his wish in the end.

Feb 1923            Premises Committee authorise William, Grimshaw to paint the walls of the Meeting House in a shade of primrose and to clean and varnish the woodwork of the wainscot, ceilings and window frames. Radiators to be capped by wood and a suitable beading so that the paintwork could be thereby protected. Installation of a Carless firegrate in B room before painting done.

Jan 1924            Jackson Boiler installed in kitchen.

Jul 1925              Provision of linoleum for Room B which will deaden the sound of moving chairs etc. in the primary department during the hours of morning meeting, Low chairs provided for this room.

Sep 1925            Premises committee report: “The fact that the founding of our primary department following on the separate gathering of children during morning meeting period has resulted in an acute need for additional classroom accommodation to facilitate the careful grading so essential to successful primary work. At the present time 3 separate classes are meeting in our only small room. Also the premises are being used by 3 Adult Schools, men, women and young people, a class of the last named vigorous and promising group having had to meet In the kitchen without seating accommodation and Committees having had to meet in the women’s cloakroom. The Premises Committee consider an extension quite feasible at the N. E. end of the building where there is a space already enclosed by 3 walls and provision for a fireplace with good chimney flue”. Charles Haigh an architect of Preston was consulted and proposals laid before Quarterly Meeting.

Jun 1926            The necessity for 2 stories, as originally proposed, for the, extension has been strongly urged in this Meeting and It Is desired that every effort should be made to secure such.

Nov 1926            Quarterly Meeting sets aside £300, of which £16 deducted as architects fee, Architect is Lawrence Wilson of Manchester with Corder Catchpool in charge locally.

1927 to 2015

The following is a list of some of the more ‘interesting’ events to have happened to the Meeting House and users during this period.

Jul 1928              Base cupboard for library books put in the large meeting room. Seats recovered.

Apr 1929            8 new hassocks bought, cost £1 18s 0d.

Aug 1929           The boundary wall in Paradise Lane needed repairing and rebuilding at a cost of £ 5 10s 0d.

Aug 1931           James Wood with members of the Men’s Adult School decorate the classrooms, cloakrooms, kitchen and passages, and painted outside at a cost of £10.

Nov 1933            The 2 schoolrooms decorated by Wesley Mather and George Bull. The walls are painted sunshine yellow.

Sep 1935            Members of the men’s unemployed group decorate the walls of the large and small meeting rooms, passage and all outside wood. A second hand gas boiler bought.

Jun 1936             Purchase of 2 cherry trees in memory of Frederick Stansfield and Richard Whittaker, cost 14/-.

Apr 1937             Purchase of 50 chairs.

Jan 1938             Premises Committee asked to enquire into the suitability of a vacant house in Paradise Street as a residence for the caretaker.

Mar 1939            Need for work on the exterior walls of the Meeting House, painting of woodwork Interior redecorating. A new heating boiler installed for £50. Quarterly Meeting asked to support an appeal for £100.

Jun 1945             Repairs to the heating system £14 6s 2d.

Aug 1945            Gas boiler installed for £30 (previous one was coke burning) Young Friends paint the outside of the Meeting House for £3 7s 0d.

Sep 1951           A working party clean and decorate the rooms.

Jan 1955            6 new lights installed in the large meeting room.

Sep 1957           Estimated £110 needed for repairs to the lantern light, roof, brickwork, rendering of large schoolroom.

May 1959           Burial Ground wall unsafe. Repairs cost: £67 10s 0d.

May 1961           Lancashire & Cheshire Young Friends decorate the schoolrooms and Blackburn Friends decorate the large meeting room at a cost of £33.

Aug 1962           Horace Bamford reports dry rot in the large schoolroom. Estimated cost of repair £260.

May 1963           Grant from quarterly meeting of £75, and Blackpool Preparative Meeting of £50. Cement rendering to schoolroom wall carried out also.

Nov 1963            Main repairs carried out at a cost of £116. Painting outside wood and pipes, resetting ridge tiles, new downspouts, removing rotten timbers.

Oct 1965             Passages and toilets painted.

Oct 1966             Further rampant dry rot discovered in large meeting room. Pulling down the schoolrooms considered.

Jan 1967            Estimated cost of repairs over £1,000. Over the next year, patching up done.

Feb 1968           Appeal to Preston Monthly Meeting for help towards decorating the Meeting House. Financial assistance received from Quarterly Meeting.

Mar 1970            Minute to Preston Monthly Meeting: “A concern of Blackburn Preparative Meeting relating to the Meeting House, the maintenance and upkeep of the building is proving a disproportionate burden to us, and we feel that, since it is the property of General Meeting, this should be considered at a high level”.

Jun 1970             Decoration of B room by Blackburn Friends £16.

Apr 1971             5 infrared light bulbs installed in the meeting room.

Jun 1971             A professional survey of the building carried out with the following recommendations: lowering of the ceilings in the large meeting room and the children’s rooms, together with extra fibreglass insulation. Floor coverings for the whole building. Renewal of the outside gates, paving of the paths and lowering of the wall on Paradise St. Installation of a pump to boost the central heating and of new gas fires in the children’s rooms and B room. Estimated cost £1500. An appeal to be made through Preston Monthly Meeting to General Meeting.

Sep 1971           Received a grant of £1000 from the Meeting Houses Fund and a loan of £400 through General Meeting.

Dec 1971            Negotiations with the Local Authority to take over maintenance of the Meeting House grounds in return for making it open to the public. A scheme costing £1000 was outlined, the Meetings contribution to be £250.

Dec 1972           Work carried out as proposed by the surveyor, except that the ceiling of the large meeting room was not lowered. The garden wall removed and a new paved path provided for Paradise Street.

Nov 1972           The interior of the building redecorated.

Feb 1973           ‘Buy a tile’ fund to provide money for floor covering in large meeting room. In the end £260 raised.

1974           Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the building of the Meeting House.

1991           Over the years the area deteriorated. The terraced housing was demolished. The approach to the Meeting House became squalid and unwelcoming and the accompanying social problems and vandalism proved particularly challenging. In September 1991 vandals took up residence for a few days with disastrous consequences. This made the members take stock. Over the next few years we raised the money to have the old Adult School rooms removed with the rest being renovated. A new roof, new kitchen and toilets being our first priority. Later a garden was built, largely by our own members.

2004            We now have, on average, 17 at Sunday meeting. We also provide a home for a ‘Spiritual Healing’ group, Amnesty International, Blackburn Ramblers, the Corinthian Church and Blackburn Hindu Society.

Feb 2014         It was agreed that the curtains at the side of the small meeting room should be removed and replaced by a proper partition wall. This work was undertaken by Members of the Meeting, Chris Tonge and John Cookson.

Jun 2014         The new railings are now in place, at a cost of £4650. An external mail box accessible though the railings has also been constructed.

Aug 2014        The grills have been removed from the windows of the main rooms and external painting undertaken.

Apr 2015         After much discussion it was decided that a 4Kw solar panel system should be installed together with the provision of a high efficiency gas boiler, as part of our statement to the adoption of a greener way of living and the use of re-usable energy. The solar panel system was commissioned in April, shortly after the new boiler.