Quaker Meeting House Gardens
The Quaker movement emerged in the second half of the 17th century. George Fox, generally regarded as the Society’s founder preached his first sermon on the top of Pendle Hill, Lancashire in 1652. His followers saw no need for church buildings and didn’t believe in the necessity of consecrated ground for burial. So they had to find alternative places to rest their dead. Small pieces of land were purchased or donated and generally were enclosed by a wall, hedge or railing. Meetings which took place in private houses were moved to newly built meeting houses by or in the burial ground plots, around the mid-1600s.
In Oxfordshire there are eleven attended Quaker Meeting Houses. One has meetings in a shared religious space, another in a school, a third in a conference centre and the remaining eight are unique. Seven of the eleven have original buildings dating back to the 1660s and six of those are listed.
The grounds have been transformed to gardens over the years and mostly there is little trace of the burials. Quakers regarded tombstones as a “vain custom” in 1717, but by 1850 they thought a plain stone with name, age and date of decease was appropriate. Occasionally some meeting houses do allow interment of ashes.
The purpose of the Quaker Meeting House Gardens Project is to record the garden within the context of a religious place and its historical setting. Attention to planting and present use, within the modern world, is also considered.