The second half of the seventeenth century saw Quaker ideas spread across the land by travelling preachers. One such, James Naylor, wrote to George Fox in 1654 “At Kingston...are constant meetings set up...”
Fox, regarded by many as the founder of the Quaker movement, wrote in his Journal in 1656 “From Reading we passed to Kingston-upon-Thames and a few came to us which were turned to the Lord Jesus Christ, but it has since become a great meeting”.
Quakers in Kingston initially met in the house of John Fielder at 33 High Street
or in the open air. In 1663 land on London Road was acquired for burials and 360 Friends had been interred there by 1804.
In his later years Fox often visited Kingston, staying at the house of John and Margaret Rous, his step daughter.
In 1673-4 the first purpose-built Meeting House was constructed at the corner of Heathen Street and Back Lane (now Eden Street and Union Street).
When the lease expired on their first building Quakers needed alternative premises. Between 1768 and 1773 a new Meeting House was erected in Heathen Street (now Eden Street) and in 1806 additional land was acquired for a graveyard at the rear, enabling burials at London Road to be discontinued.
The building remained largely unchanged for a century, after which modifications, though substantial, were primarily internal.
The close of the nineteenth century saw the front of the site being developed with a new Adult School Hall completed in 1901, and the twentieth century the addition of a warden's cottage at the front and a children's room to the rear.
By the millennium much of the construction had reached the end of its economic life and Quakers were again exploring alternatives.
KINGSTON QUAKER CENTRE opened in 2014 following 15 years of planning. It seeks to embody Quaker principles of simplicity and sustainability whilst offering more flexible facilities to the wider community.
In 2015 Kingston Quaker Centre was awarded the ACE-RIBA prize for the best new religious building in the UK
Updated 5 August 2021
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