Local Quaker History

Quaker Beginnings in Blackburn

There is evidence that there were Quakers living in and around Blackburn as early as 1655, when a Thomas Tayor wrote "At Blackburn there was one John Colby, a Friend and John Edge a well-wisher. At Haslingden John Robinson, a shopkeeper, a 'pretty' Friend. The Friends there and at Rossendale Head meet together." For these Friends the nearest Meeting Houses were at Chipping and Newton. Usually they met in each others houses.

It was not until 1793 that there was a first mention, in any records, of a meeting in Blackburn. In the minutes of Marsden Monthly Meeting, dated 1793 an entry can be found- "Report is made that a few Friends of Blackburn have obtained liberty from the Quarterly Meeting to hold Meetings for Worship on first days and some other suitable day of the week, the Quarterly Meeting, and the Monthly Meetings of Preston and Marsden unite in appointing visitors".

The first Meeting for Worship, for Blackburn Friends, took place in premises, at the corner of Barley Street. In 1809 a house was obtained on the south side of Clayton Street, meetings continuing in this building until 1823, when it became unsuitable for use due to disrepair. A committee was appointed and having "succeeded in meeting with a plot of land, in a good situation and of convenient size; that is containing about about 1,000 square yards, fenced around with a good brick wall", it was decided to purchase a Burial Ground and build a Meeting House.

The total cost for the new Meeting House was £906, 5s,7d.and so the present meeting house was built. In 1824, from the Minute Books we can see there were about 26 members and about 20 attenders. It was in 1826 that Quarterly Meeting established 'Blackburn Preparative Meeting'.

1827--Onward.

The records of maintenance for the Meeting House for the 19th C highlight the difficulties of heating  the premises --

  •  November 1843 a new stove was recommended and  installed in January 1845
  • February 1863 Alterations carried out for warming of the women's end of the Meeting House..
  • November 1865 Gas introduced to the Meeting House at a cost of £15 10s 0d.
  • December 1869 The stove not found to heat the Meeting House sufficiently. A new one installed for £7.
  • April 1908.  By the turn of the century concern was expressed about the total inadequacy of the Meeting House for the active work now being carried out there. An appeal was made for funds for internal and external renovation of the building.

The Twentieth Century

As Blackburn Meeting grew, the building was adapted to accommodate Friends, children's classes and Adult Schools.

  • September 1925  'At the present time three separate classes are meeting in our only small room. Also the premises are being used by three Adult Schools, men, women and young people, a class of the last named vigorous and promising group having to meet in the kitchen without seating accommodation and Committees having had to meet in the women's cloakroom. The premises Committee considers an extension quite feasible at the N E. end of the building where there is a space already enclosed by 3 walls...'
  • June 1926 'The necessity for two stories, as originally proposed, for the extension has been strongly urged '
  • November 1926 Quarterly Meeting set aside £300 for the alterations.             

Over the following decades Blackburn Meeting continued to deal with the many issues of maintaining a building  --decorating, repairing, dry rot problems. Then a change in the social circumstances of the area initiated a re-evaluation.

  • 1991 Over the years the area deteriorated. The terraced housing was demolished. The approach to the Meeting House became squalid and unwelcoming and the accompanying social problems and vandalism proved particularly challenging. In September 1991 vandals took up residence for a few days with disastrous results. This made the members take stock. Over the next few years we raised the money to have the old Adult Schools removed with the rest being renovated. A new roof, new kitchen and toilets were a first propriety. Later a garden was built, largely by our own members.

The New Century

  • 2004 It was recorded that 'We now have, on average, 17 at Sunday meeting. The premises are also being used by other groups such as Amnesty International, a 'Spiritual Healing Group', the Corinthian Church and Blackburn Hindu Society.
  • November 2013 It was decided that, due to the problems being encountered by unwanted trespass and annoyance, a fence should be erected along the the side of the road.
  • 2015 After much discussion it was decided that a 4Kw solar panel system should be installed together with the provision of a high efficiency boiler, as part of our statement to the adoption of a greener way of living and the use of re-usable energy.