Window shutters or not – what is the Quaker way?

Local people and walkers on the Dales Way may have noticed that Farfield Quaker Meeting House – that sits adjacent to the long distance path between Addingham and Bolton Abbey – no longer has dilapidated timber shutters hanging at the windows. Farfield Meeting House was the first property acquired by Historic Chapels Trust and dates from 1689. The single-storey stone building is typical of Dales architecture, with an appearance similar to that of farmhouses of the period. Its plainness is its key feature and expresses the religious view of its Quaker builders, who felt no need for symbols and ornamentation.

 It is a building of special importance not only architecturally, being typically ‘Quakerly’ in its simplicity, but also historically, because of its date of construction. Under the 1689 Act of Toleration Quaker and other non-Anglican worship was first – and to a limited extent – decriminalised. So this modest building stands as a landmark on the road to freedom of worship we today take for granted. Due to its survival in close to its original form, complete with interior fittings, stand and settles it is now a rarity.

Farfield Meeting House with the modern shutters still in place, 2015

The Meeting House was listed Grade II* as long ago as 1954. The list description describes it as ‘domestic looking’ and specific mention is made of the doorway, with its stone lintel inscribed with the building date, and of the stone mullion windows (no mention of shutters). Two of the five Myers family tombs which stand within the burial ground are older than the Meeting House itself and the walls, gateway and all five tombs were listed in their own right in 1985, Grade II.

At the Annual Visit in November 2014 the local Friends Committee met HCT Director Roland Jeffery and Trustee Clyde Binfield and proposed that HCT remove the sagging and by then rotting shutters. After discussion this was agreed and as one of HCT’s office volunteers and a retired Planner, I was asked to co-ordinate an application for Listed Building Consent, which I researched using information and historic photos collected over the years.

Farfield Friends Committee member Keith Appleyard supplied further photos and information to support the application to Bradford Council. The trust finally obtained listed building consent to remove the shutters in August 2015.

Farfield after the removal of the shutters in 2015 (Photo by Keith Appleyard)

Farfield Meeting House had undergone a limited amount of ‘modernisation’ in the 20th century prior to HCT’s ownership, when it was in agricultural use and it later served as an artist’s studio; the original leaded light windows had been replaced with timber framed glazing. It is possible that this is when the louvre design shutters were introduced.  Although it has proved impossible to ascertain whether this building was provided with shutters from the outset, or acquired them whilst it was still in use for worship or later, the louvre shutters present were of relatively recent date and clearly not of a design which would have been used in the 17th century. Bradford, as Local Planning Authority, Addingham Parish Council and Historic England all consequently accepted that removal of the shutters would not detract from the special architectural and historic interest of the building and that consent should be granted.

There is a condition to the consent that we keep the ‘pintle’ hinges which appear older than the louvre shutters. Whether these were for an earlier form of shutter or for casement stays is not known, but we have carefully preserved the evidence. The shutters were taken down in November last year and we hope you will agree that the result is a success, restoring the simple Quaker appeal of the Meeting House.

 ~  Kathryn Phillipson

Kathryn Phillipson is a chartered planner and volunteers in the HCT office in London.