Friends’ Meeting House, Friargate, York
The Friends Meeting House in Friargate was first built in 1674 and has undergone several redevelopments since it was first built. At its height it had a gallery and could accommodate up to 1200 people, a sign of the importance of Quakerism in York at the time. Joseph Rowntree is known to have attended meetings for worship at Friargate, but only known to have spoken, or ‘ministered’ once. Of the other meeting houses in the outskirts of York those at New Earswick and Acomb are still in use.
The York Quakers (led by successive generations of Rowntrees – Joseph Rowntree (Senior), his son John Stephenson and Wilhelm Rowntree) – contributed to the shape of Quakerism nationally, being sensitively progressive and taking a stand against more conservative Quakers of the time, and contributing to a more open approach towards the outside world.
The fact that there were several institutions in York that were Quaker-led (The Retreat, Bootham School, The Mount School) as well as companies such as Tukes and Rowntrees, led to a continuity that underpinned and strengthened the growth of Quakerism in York. The 1885 façade of the Friargate Meeting House, with entrance in Clifford Street, was designed by W H Thorp but is no longer part of the meeting house. The present building (1981), with entrance in Friargate, is by the Leeds architect Denis Mason Jones.