Early development of Tottenham Meeting

Meetings for Worship

From the beginning of Quakerism, Friends viewed the appointment of one man as minister, to the exclusion of others, as a limitation of the Holy Spirit. The way of worship adopted by Friends was one without a pre-defined programme. Friends alike would gather in silence. As individuals felt spiritually moved to speak, so they would stand and offer ministry. This ministry was accepted equally from men and women, from farmers, shopkeepers, scholars and professionals. This form of worship is still practised by British Quakers today.

Tottenham Friends Meeting House

Meetings for worship were originally held in people’s homes. In 1698 the home of a Friend, Francis Clare, was used. Later a house was hired at Tottenham High Cross. At this time Meetings for Worship were held alternately with Stoke Newington.

Through the 1700s many Quakers moved into the area.

Friends decided to build a Meeting House. In 1714 a piece of freehold land was purchased for £25

“in size 50 ft. in breadth north to south and in depth 140 ft east to west, abutting west on Tottenham street.”.

A meeting house has been on the site ever since.

The first Friends Meeting House was built at a cost of £200. The specifications of the building demanded that it should be 40ft by 25 ft,

“its foundation and structure to be substantial. The front to be with grey and stock bricks, the scantlings to be large, the windows sashed and portals to the doors, the wainscoting to be like other Meeting houses.”

Meeting Houses

Meetings were built to be functional, with little evidence of design. From the late 18th century they tended to become large and commodious.

The interiors were simple, with no embellishments and were constructed in a manner which prevented members from observing the outside world. Buildings were set well back from a main street, windows were placed high with the sills not less than four feet or four feet six inches from the ground. The lower part of the walls were panelled from the window sill down to a fixed seat, the upper section of the walls being plastered.

Tottenham 1789

Bruce Grove #1-16 were built. These were mostly occupied by Quaker families. These were the first of the smaller terraced houses to be built in Tottenham.

Expansion: changing membership

By 1786 attendance for worship at Enfield was low and the Enfield Meeting House was sold in 1803. South Mimms Meeting closed in 1788 and the Meeting House and burial ground were sold in 1820. It was a similar story at Waltham Abbey. Epping and Walthamstow Meetings survived.

In contrast, Tottenham Meeting’s membership expanded as increasing numbers of Friends settled in Tottenham. By 1772 Friends were considering enlarging the Meeting House. Friends involved in the negotiations for enlargement included William Forster, Edward and Thomas Phillips and Daniel Bell. Life at Meeting was getting so busy that by early 1778 it was decided to hold an additional Meeting for Worship in the afternoon.

Eventually, in 1803, land belonging to Thomas Shillitoe was transferred to Tottenham Meeting for use as a burial ground.