Meeting House

and the

Guest House


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The oldest parts of the building are thought to date back to at least 1580.  Looking at the front elevation, these parts are from the right hand end, (i.e., the Meeting House end  -  1), to the library nook in the sitting room of the adjoining house, which was the kitchen of the original Tudor farmhouse.  


The first record of the 'old house' at Shipley is in 1682, when it is recorded:
" . . . the house of John Shawes in Shipley where was held a Monthly Men's Meeting of the Friends, where were present William Penn, Tho. Killington, Edw. Booker, Rich. Shawe, Jo. Shawe, John Snasholds and others . . . "


It would appear from the known records that in 1691, following the Toleration Act of 1688, many Friends in the Horsham district decided to band together and to settle on a suitable place for worship for the holding of a Meeting.  They chose John Shawe's house, where they had been worshipping previously, and accepted his offer to create a Meeting House within the farmhouse wherein he lived.


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The timbers of the first floor were removed from the two large store-rooms at the south end of the farmhouse in order to make room for a suitable height  for the Meeting House (3), and at the same time leaving a gallery which was reached by the small and narrow flight of stairs which then continued to second floor level.  The cost of this was 53.


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Friends were numerous in this district in the late 17th Century, and William Penn lived for fifteen years at Warminghurst, only four miles distant, and was a regular worshipper in this Meeting House, together with his wife Gulielma.  He used to ride over with his wife and children in a coach drawn by a team of oxen.  He often used to preach from the small Minister's gallery (not shown).

The Meeting survived only for the period between 1691 and 1793 when it was closed.  the reason for this was that the number of Quakers in the area was seriously depleted when some 60 families emigrated from this part of Sussex with William Penn in 1682, and by 1786 membership of the Meeting had dropped to 10.

The Meeting was closed during the period from 1793 to 1869, when the meeting House was reopened.  Since that time there has been no break in the weekly holding of a Meeting for Worship.


The name 'Blue Idol' remains a mystery, but possibly refers to the time when the house was indeed colour-washed blue, and was an 'idle Meeting House', in the sense that it was unoccupied or silent, a term often used for a factory or building which was unoccupied.




Map reference


Photographs: © Edwin Macadam




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