THE STORY OF SALISBURY QUAKERS
Quakers have been connected with Salisbury since the mid seventeenth century. The earliest known recorded date is 1657, when Francis Taylor interrupted a sermon in the Cathedral. He was dragged away, ‘kickt, thrown down, and trode upon’, and committed to prison, ‘where he lay several Weeks, sorely bruised and very sick’.
Also in 1657 Katharine Evans was arrested for preaching the Quaker message. For exhorting the people to repentance she was ‘stripped and tied to a whipping-post in the market and there whipped’. Katherine was afterwards imprisoned in the bridewell (prison) on the bridge in Fisherton Street. Other early persecutions included imprisonment, fines and distraint of goods, imposed when it was against the law to attend Quaker meetings.
Quakers are mentioned in Salisbury throughout the remaining seventeenth and in the eighteenth century, when the houses of Robert Shergold, John Moore and others were used for meetings. In 1827 it was recorded that Salisbury Meeting was discontinued.
A century later, in the early 1920s, Meetings for Worship once again took place in Salisbury, in the home of Charles Dingle, a master at Bishop Wordsworth’s School, and his wife Florence. As membership grew, the Meeting transferred to the Rechabite Hall in Crane Street, until a semi-detached house was purchased in Harcourt Terrace in 1962. The ground floor became the Friends Meeting House, with the flat above let to tenants. Rooms at the Meeting House were widely used by other local community groups.
In the late 1990s unrest within Salisbury Meeting began to surface. Like many Meetings before us, questions were raised about the future development of the Meeting and its relationship with the wider community in the city. After a long period of reflection and ‘threshing’, a feeling emerged from within the Meeting that our premises were cramping our growth, both spiritual and social. Many in the Meeting wished to develop a more outward-looking Quaker presence in the city.
After a long period of searching we bought Kennet Lodge on Wilton Road in 2003. The Grade II listed building was derelict, but a potentially beautiful home in an excellent location for us. Through fundraising events, grants, loans and donations we raised over £500,000 for its conversion. The builders, Spetisbury Construction Ltd., began work in October 2009 to the architectural plans of Philip Proctor Associates. On the 15th April 2010 the keys were handed over and the first Meeting for Worship was held on Sunday, 2nd May 2010. The design for the new Meeting House now provides a welcoming spiritual home for Salisbury Friends and also a valuable community resource for local groups.
We currently have about 40 Friends who regularly come to Meeting for Worship. On any one Sunday we are usually between 15 and 20. As well as our twice a week Meeting for Worship we run a monthly book group, a monthly breakfast discussion group and hold a Shared Meal once a month. Everyone in our Quaker community belongs to one of our pastoral care groups that meets regularly for spiritual friendship, discussion and/or conversation.