Old graves which used to lie before the meeting house

History

In 1684 Ettington (or Eatington) was a small village five miles from Stratford-upon-Avon on what is now the A422 Banbury Road. The tiny Meeting House, (Listed Grade II*), built from blue lias stone, lies hidden away in its peaceful garden and burial ground in Halford Road. It is the smallest Meeting House in the country and the one in longest continuous use since it was completed.

In the 17th Century, the 'Friends of Truth' were established by George Fox and the Valiant Sixty (itinerant preachers). Throughout the country, they were persecuted mainly because they refused to acknowledge the authority of the established church, believing that everyone could have a direct relationship with God without the intervention of a priest. As a result, they were fined, their goods were seized and they were often beaten and imprisoned for long periods of time, many dying in jail, with no allowances being made for age or infirmity. These offences included non-payment of tithes to the church, attendances at meetings of the Friends, refusal to attend church services at a 'steeple house' (church) or take an oath of allegiance and refusal to 'doff their hats' to those in authority.

Amongst those persecuted and one of the worst cases recorded was that of a local ninety year old Robert Field who, although unable to walk, was dragged off to Warwick jail in a dung cart for non-payment of tithes in 1662. Five years later, when he was unable to leave the house at all, he was fined for not attending the service at the 'steeple house' a mile from his home.

Equally disturbing is that of Dorothy Lucas who, although over sixty years of age, was imprisoned in Warwick jail for fifteen weeks in 1661, also for not paying tithes, later being transferred to the Fleet Prison in London. Goods were seized which amounted to five times the value of the tithes that she owed.

Grave mounds were clearly visible in the old graveyardSince 1660, the Quakers had held their Meetings for Worship in the home of Samuel Lucas, who, in his will, left 'a little close' for the building of a Meeting House and burial ground. The beautiful Meeting House, which still remains much as it was (except for an extension for utilities, constructed in 1984), was built between the years 1681 and 1684 and the Meeting was registered in 1689.

The historic burial ground now forms the garden which is used by Friends, visitors and the villagers of Ettington as a small haven of peace in which one can reflect and escape for a while from the 'busyness' of life in today's world.

Today's little band of friends meet every Sunday in what must be one of the loveliest and most unspoilt houses that has been in constant used for silent worship and almost unchanged for 380 years.

You are welcome to join us at Meeting for Worship which is held every Sunday at 11 am.