The Meeting House

From Front Garden

The Meeting House, formerly St Lawrence's Rectory, was bought in 1973 with the intention not only of providing a Quaker meeting place, but also of offering service to the local community.

For some twenty years the house provided short-term emergency accommodation for people in need, referred by such bodies as Social Services, and Police and Probation authorities. Rooms on the first floor were occupied by these temporary residents, the rooms on the top floor being let as bed-sitting rooms at a commercial rent. This pattern of provision depended on the particular skills and dedication of a succession of Resident Friends and on appropriate back up from members of the Meeting and others.

By the early 1990s it was clear that changes needed to be made. The Warden now has a flat on the top floor and six single rooms are let to residents, mainly for terms of up to one year, with the aims of providing for a variety of needs and fostering a sense of community within the house. The rents paid by the tenants contribute substantially towards the costs of running the house.

On the ground floor are the Large Meeting Room, the Library, the Dining Room and the Small Meeting Room, all of which are available for letting. There is a Kitchen, used extensively by tenants and for lunches after Meeting for Worship on Wednesdays.On the first floor there is the Counselling Room. In the garden the Children's Room, with doors opening out onto the lawn, is also available for letting. Sometimes the peace of the garden is enjoyed as a quiet resting place by local residents and a retreat from the workplace by those employed in the City.

The house is used regularly by a number of organisations, including Friends of the Family (which meets twice a week and has its own office in the garden), AA, AlAnon, Gamblers Anonymous, Narcotics Anon, The Thekchen Buddhist Centre, Cabrini (formerly the Catholic Adoption Society), The Society of Homeopaths, The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, Winchester Probation Services, The Jewish Reformed Community and many other therapeutic and community based organisations. The Winchester Rent Deposit Scheme uses the small meeting room every Wednesday morning.

Though the house is used extensively already, there is scope for further use in response to Friends'; concerns. The aim is to make the downstairs rooms and the garden peaceful places for people to meet, and for the house to be a focus for community-based activities which have a positive effect on people's lives.

The house is run by members of the Meeting, who are responsible for its fabric and use and for the well-being of the residents.

Meeting House back

The rear of the House

Garden corner

A corner of the garden

History of the Meeting House

In August 1772 the first edition of the Hampshire Chronicle was published, as the earliest newspaper to be printed in Hampshire. It is fair to assume that about the same time the building we know as the Friends Meeting House, Winchester, was being built. The earliest documentary evidence found dates from 1768 when a John Dyke of Broughton sold to John Dison and his wife "dwelling gardens and stable". In 1773, a property described as a newly erected dwelling and grounds, was sold to Sarah Huntingford, who, in 1774, bought an additional "slip of land" from John Bereton. It seems probably that the "nearly erected" dwelling was our present Meeting House, then an unnumbered building in Lower Colebrook Street. After that the property passed through the ownership of various people, being leased, and then sold in 1822, by the Mayor and bailiffs of Winchester to Richard Hopkins for £27.l0s.

The property was passed on between members of the Hopkins family, but it appears from the 1851 Census that it was, at that time, leased to Edward May, a surgeon no longer in practice. The address was then given as 43 Lower Colebrook Street. Edward May and his wife, Sophia, had twin daughters Amelia and Mary and a third daughter Henrietta. He died in 1869 and four years later the owner, by that time, Captain Charles Isdell, who had married into the Hopkins family, sold the property consisting of dwelling, stable, orchard and garden, to Miss Mary May for £900. It was bounded on the north by Colebrook Street, on the south by the wall of Wolvesey Palace, to the east by Colebrook Place, and to the west by tenements.

At that time, Colebrook Street was densely populated with many small houses occupied by workers in various trades: butchers, bakers, dressmakers, labourers, white-smiths etc. The few larger houses on the south side of the street were No. 26 Preston House, Nos 27 and 28 Colebrook House, No. 34 and No. 16. Miss May died in 1910 leaving the house to her sister, Henrietta, who lived till 1915 and died intestate. There were proceedings in Chancery to establish her next of kin and the case was decided in favour of Richard May, living in Queensland, Australia. He sold the property, which became the rectory of the parish of Saint Lawrence and Saint Maurice, for £l000. To that sum was added £815 for essential repairs and £35 for work on ceilings, making a total of £1850. This cost was covered by the sale of the former rectory at 25 St. Thomas St. for £1200, the sale of some India stock for £420 and help from Queen Anne's Bounty. The conveyance was dated 7th October 1916. In April of that year an architect, William A. Hughes, surveyed the house with an eye to repairs and alterations, as little or no maintenance had been done for some years. In spite of the expense it was considered suitable as a rectory, as it stood within the Parish where few large houses were available, offered enough accommodation, and had a large garden.

The major repairs proposed were to roof gutters, down pipes, drains (to be renewed), wiring for electricity and redecoration both inside and out. It was also suggested that on the second floor, the ceilings could be raised by 1 foot 6 inches with no interference to the roof timbers, and the windows facing east heightened by one foot. The exposed timber is visible on the second floor landing where the window is of the original size. Mains electricity was installed by the firm of Dicks, and brought from the Abbey Mill at considerable cost, as the owners of houses along the street did not take the opportunity to be connected to the mains. It was also advised that all bedrooms on the first floor should be treated with sulphur candles after the stripping of old wallpaper and before new papers were hung! The use of the rooms on the ground floor was changed and the layout around the kitchen altered. Outside, the greenhouse on the east facing was removed, the glass being kept for repairs! The garden was already laid out with paths, trees, flower beds and, at one time, a fountain as shown on Roger Brown's model of Winchester in 1870.

1870 garden layout

The house remained a rectory till 1973. The last rector was Canon Peter Moody. He and his wife, Mary, moved in while central heating was being installed. Mrs Mary Moody had a story of a ghost haunting a bedroom. However, as the sighting had been by one person only, it was playfully suggested that the 'woman in white', supposed to enter and leave by the window, was one of the Miss Mays. They were staunch teetotallers, so may have put in an appearance as a sign of disapproval of the occasional sherry party given by the rector's wife!

It is not known when the wall between the hallway and the drawing room was removed or when the top floor flat was made. The front entrance lobby and positioning of the study door meant that visitors for the rector could be admitted with no inconvenience to the rest of the house. One night the stream was blocked by a dustbin lid and the resulting flood reached the front door step by morning - an awkward matter as important diocesan visitors were expected that day!

A new rectory, first occupied in 1973, was built on the eastern part of the garden before the old house was sold by auction. M Jenkins from Surrey bought the house and greatly diminished garden. He resold almost immediately and from then on the house has been known as Friends Meeting House. Since becoming owners, Friends have made alterations to suit their use of the building.

The first Childrens' Room was made from pantry, larder cupboard and passage in 1977 and is now the small meeting room. Another room for the children (designed by Keith Walker, architect) was built on to the side of the tool shed in the garden in 1986.

Major refurbishment took place in 2013, including provision of a new doorway link between the kitchen at the back of the house and the small meeting room to the north.

The Garden Room

The Children's Room in the garden