Oakham Quaker History

The Origins of Oakham Meeting

The Religious Society of Friends is considered to have been founded in 1652 by George Fox and his followers. By 1676 there were written records of Quakerism in Rutland, indicating that Friends met in one another's homes. This was a time of great persecution and Meetings for Worship often had to be held in secret. There is evidence that there were Quakers meeting in Somerby, Barrow, Langham, Barleythorpe, Oakham, Braunston, Withcote, Manton, Ridlington, East Norton and Keythorpe. 

In 1680, a Friend called William Thompson died and left all his property in Somerby to the Society. His house was to be used as a Meeting House and land beside it was set aside as a burial ground because the Church would not allow Quakers to be buried in churchyards. This estate brought in some profit to Friends, who used it for charitable purposes, including helping with relief of the sufferings of Irish Friends. 

Building Oakham Meeting House

In 1718, Monthly Meeting (consisting of Oakham, Ridlington Park, Keythorpe and Somerby) decided to build Oakham Meeting House, using funds from the Somerby estate. The building, which is still in use today, was built from coursed ironstone with a Collyweston slate roof. The gable end in Gaol Street has a small date stone inscribed 'R.H.1719'. 

From 1875, the Meeting House was used by Baptists, prior to building their own chapel. It was then rented by Primitive Methodists, before being used by All Saints Church as a Sunday School in 1920. In 1932, Oakham Women's Institute applied for a lease of the premises and used the Meeting House for over 50 years. 

Oakham Meeting House Today

Meeting for Worship resumed monthly in Oakham in 1969, with weekly Meetings commencing in 1978. However, the old building was large and cold, and in need of renovation. Funds from a legacy to Area Meeting in 1992 financed a new entrance porch, children's room and toilet.

In 2015-2016 extensive renovations works were undertaken on the original building, including replacement of the slate roof, the original reed ceiling and windows with additional support bars inserted to stabilise the building. The works were supported by very generous grants and support from Quakers nationally.

Today the Meeting House remains a respectfully restored testament to the original Friends who strove to make it possible. Local Friends and Attenders meet weekly, continuing to find peace and resilience within its historic embrace.

The Buttercross, Oakham Market Place

Oakham Meeting House

Oakham Castle