Purley Quaker Meeting House
7a Downs Court Road, Purley, Surrey, England, CR8 1BE
For some pretty specious reasons Purley Friends have abandoned this wonderful building and are meeting elsewhere. The closure of the meeting house meant that regular hirers such as S.I.N.G acapella choir and Joyful Body Birth were forced to seek other venues.
History of the Quaker Meeting House at Purley
Above is the oldest photograph yet seen: a postcard dated 1921. The Meeting House is the rightmost building.
Special thanks to Ken Harman of Sanderstead for supplying the 1921 picture.
It was built in 1909 at a cost of £1600. The initial contract was advertised in The Friend magazine as up for estimate from ‘any friend able’. The appointed architects were the famous team of Pepler and Allen. George Pepler of that team was born on 1882 Feb 24 in Croydon and was educated at Bootham (a Quaker school in York) and The Leys School, Cambridge. The builders were called Marsh.
The wobbly roof in the postcard is, we think, due to the plate being moved in the camera during exposure, and is no reflection of the building's roof state at that time, which would indeed have been prematurely decrepit since the building was only 12 years old!
You can see clearly the flint walls which are a feature of this area. In recent years a lorry brought down some our frontal flint walls, which were mended as well as we could manage.
There is a figure standing on the path to the Meeting House who appears to have the distinguishing Quaker beard of the period, which would have been worn without moustache. He is likely to be an Elder of the Meeting or a Clerk.
It is believed that the Meeting House was originally to be situated in the town centre, but that it was difficult to obtain permission from the Ecumenical Commission who may have felt Friends were not in line with the established churches.
The plot of land in Downscourt Road where the Meeting Houses stands, was originally purchased for £400.
One anomaly is that the rear access road is called Friends Road, but the houses that are built along their were mainly built in 1908 which is a year earlier than the Friends' Meeting House.
Meeting House Style
The Meeting House is a brilliant example of an Arts and Crafts period building with its sweeping high mansard roof and high windows which internally light the timbered construction of the main hall which is based upon an English Guild Hall, a curious conceit, considering such a place is of the commercial secular world, whereas the hall was built for Meeting for Worship and its attendant activities. The fact that the architect, George Pepler was educated at Bootham may have some bearing on the design as he would have seen and admired the Guildhall at York.
One of the unique features of the Purley Meeting House is that it had commemorative boards in the porch for Friends who have lived and died as members of the Meeting. These boards have been moved to the Adult School Hall in Croydon.
If you have any more information about the Meeting House please contact us