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Saturday, 25 November 2017

Farfield Friends' Meeting House

Addingham walk
Once out of Lob Wood, my walking route joined The Dalesway long-distance path, following the River Wharfe as it meanders into Addingham.

Beside the road at Farfield, I came across this lovely little Quaker Meeting House and burial ground. It was built in 1689, the year that the Act of Toleration first allowed freedom of worship to nonconformists in England. (Prior to that, dissenters had to meet in secret and were persecuted.) The land was given to the Quakers (Society of Friends) by the Myers family of Farfield Hall, yeoman farmers, who were members of the Society. It is relatively unchanged and, although not considered to be a sacred place (Quakers consider everywhere to be sacred), it has a simplicity and charm that give it an undoubtedly peaceful atmosphere. It was a delight to spend a few minutes in silence here, enjoying the peace and sunshine.

Inside, there are simple wooden benches, where Friends gathered every week for their meetings, seeking together to come close to the spirit of God. They have neither clergy, liturgy or music and simply wait in expectant silence until anyone present might feel moved to offer witness or prayer.

The burial ground is unusual as it has a few engraved stones and some elaborate box tombs (see top photo), the graves of the Myers family, who gave the land and may have helped with the actual building of the meeting house. Originally Friends were discouraged from having gravestones, though now plain stones of uniform size and simple wording are accepted. There are a few of those too, Victorian and marked with the surname Lister. (Maybe they are connected to the Samuel Cunliffe Lister who owned mills in Addingham? See last Sunday's post.)  

I was unable to decipher the swirly writing on the stone shown below... Here lies (?) interred the body of..? wife of .?

The Meeting House is no longer used, though Quakers still meet in nearby Ilkley and Skipton. The building and burial ground are now in the care of the Historic Chapels Trust.