Friends Meeting House, Howard Street, Gt. Yarmouth NR30 1LN
Meeting for worship held on Sunday 10.30 am
OS map ref: TG 52321 07558 click to see map
|Children:||No dedicated Childrens’ Meeting but children are welcome.|
|Disabled access:||No – too many steps both inside and outside the Meeting House.|
|Parking:||There is a pay and display public car park adjacent to the Meeting House although this is usually full on week days. However, there is always plenty of space on a Sunday.|
|Rooms for hire:||There are two rooms in the Meeting House available for hire. The main room will accommodate up to 60 people. There is a kitchen with a sink, cooker and microwave. The basic charge is £5.50 per hour.|
History of The Meeting House
The history of the site extends to the beginning of the 14th century. It was the site for a cell of the Augustinian Priory of Gorleston until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Quakers were in Yarmouth prior to their acquisition of the Meeting House. They distributed pamphlets in 1661 and from February 1671 a Monthly Meeting was held.
In 1674 Yarmouth Quakers were urged to obtain “an hired house for meeting … in a more convenient place than it has formally been”. On 23rd October 1691 Richard Robins, a Quaker grocer, purchased property on Middlegate (now Howard Street) for £12.10s. On December 3rd 1694 part of this was sold to Friends for £70. During 1728 a school was kept in the Meeting House but little else is known of the premises: in 1754 it was the home of at least one person, “the room which John Woodrow now occupy”. The first recorded Quaker marriage at Great Yarmouth was in 1763.
In the early days the Meeting House floor was 3ft below ground-level and accessed by means of a stepladder In 1807 a suspended floor was built 5 feet above the old floor and the Meeting House was reconstructed much as now. Adult School was established in Yarmouth in 1813 in the Meeting House on Sunday evenings. By 1820 the Meeting numbered 62 and the Day School had risen to 80 scholars – this latter necessitating the acquisition of new premises, with desks, for three nights each week.
The Anna Sewell connection should be mentioned: her father, Isaac Sewell, was of an established Yarmouth Quaker family. His future wife, Mary Wright and her parents moved to Yarmouth from the Norwich area about 1810: so Isaac and Mary must have first met in Yarmouth Meeting; they married in 1819 and Anna was born on March 30th 1820. Soon after Anna’s birth her parents moved from Yarmouth to London.
The Meeting had 115 members at the beginning of the 20th century, during the Second World War the Meeting House was shared with the Unitarian and Elim Churches. During 1981 the space below the floor was developed to form the Undercroft. Between 1982 and 1985, pupils from Great Yarmouth High School mounted a Loft Renovation Scheme for which they received an award from the National Westminster Schools Project: the loft being the former gallery. Unfortunately this space is now out of use due to fire regulations.
Various extensions were made to the burial ground (now the garden); in 1772 the granary (once part of the estate of Richard Robins and at that time owned by Joseph Ransome) was sold to the Quakers for 10 shillings. Although earlier burials had taken place, the earliest in our register relates to John Sedgfield, mariner of Scarborough, who died on 7th August 1793. During the 1990s the garden was laid out in its present form. Friends are always heartened by comments of visitors who invariably refer to it as an oasis.