Quaker Meeting House: spring 2015’s Main Theatre, by Rebecca Parkinson
Posted on Saturday 18 April
The Friends Meeting House has been part of Jabberwocky Market since the first season in October 2013. This spring, the imposing, historic building was the festival’s main performance venue.
Based on Skinnergate, it was bought in 1678 for £35 and this March it housed several headline shows including Gloriator, Lorraine and Alan and The Frights.
Over the years various changes have been made to the building including the addition of classrooms, a library and committee rooms, which all now serve as the library and rooms which local groups can use. From 1839 – 1840, the building was demolished and re built to its current design by Quaker architect Joshua Sparks.
As the popularity of Sunday School increased, a school block was built to support the growth in numbers. However, due to it being unsafe, the building was demolished in 1966.
The building is still used to hold Quaker Meetings for both adults and children, as well as currently for meetings of groups like creative writing lessons with local writers, belly dancing classes and Polish lessons.
Robyn Drummond has been the Facilities Manager since November last year and helps develop the usage of the building for the community.
“One of the ways that the Meeting House remains viable is by being a venue for community groups. I make sure that those groups enjoy and engage with the building, as well as check it is useful to the community. We still have room for more community groups to join if they wish to.”
” The groups also have a great opportunity to learn about Quaker faith whilst they are here. This building is a brilliant resource for the community as Quakers can reach out to the community and remain part of the fabric of Darlington“
I also met one member of the Quakers, Marion Law, who has been attending Meetings for 15 years.
“Quakers believe that everyone has something of God inside them, and so we need no clergy. We aim to live peaceably with others and to be at peace within ourselves. Although we believe that we are all of equal value this does not mean that we are all the same, but we aim to treat all people with equal respect. We strive to live simply and to be true to ourselves and speak truthfully.
Our meetings for Worship are a main part of Quaker practice. They aresilent but anyone present may speak if they feel led to do so.”
Quakers played a large role throughout the years in making Darlington as we know it today. Edward Pease is often referred to as ‘The Father of the Railways’, he was an active Quaker and helped promote Stockton and Darlington Railway. Along with his son Joseph, who became the first Quaker MP, they were key in shaping Darlington and are buried in the Friends Burial Ground behind the Friends Meeting House.