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The first Quaker Meeting House to be built on the current site at Mount Street was built in 1795. By 1828 the Meeting House had become too small for the rapidly growing congregation and the present Meeting House was built on the same site. The Meeting House was designed by Richard Lane, a Quaker Architect, whose pupil was Alfred Waterhouse (himself a Manchester Friend) who went on to build such famous buildings as the Manchester Town Hall, Manchester University and the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. The cost of the building, £7,600, was raised by subscription from local Quakers, one of whom was John Dalton, the famous chemist and discoverer of atomic theory who worshipped here for many years.
The new Meeting House was built with a stone façade in the neo-classical style. The design for the frontage is, perhaps surprisingly for a Quaker Meeting House, based on the front of the Temple of Ilissus. The interior originally comprised of two large meeting halls with galleries that could be joined by raising and lowering a partition (evidence of which can still be found in the roof).
In 1923 the interior of the Meeting House was altered so that the Meeting House, the Friends’ Institute and the Byrom Street Adult School could be accommodated under one roof. The large meeting room remained unchanged but the smaller Meeting House and the lobbies were removed to provide a first floor with a library, restaurant, smoking room, a small committee room and caretakers flat. The ground floor contained an adult school room, a lecture hall, cloakroom facilities and a Secretary’s office.
The fabric of the building remained large unchanged until 1962 when extensive works were again undertaken to convert the interior of the building into a more useful format. The first floor of the building was converted into self-contained office accommodation designed to provide an income to offset the running costs of the building. The ground floor was extensively altered; the galleries in the large Meeting House were removed and the whole area was refitted to provide a modern auditorium on two levels. The basement area was remodelled and refurbished to create offices and committee rooms. The frontage of the building was also altered to make it more attractive. The cost of this work was £52,000.
In 1999, the ground floor, with exception of the Large Meeting Hall, was remodelled to accommodate increasing use by external organisations for meetings and training courses.
Finally, in 2012, work began on an extensive project to transform the Meeting House into the building that you see today. This project was significant both in terms of scale and cost and was driven by three main factors:
- Better use of the space and to realise more of the buildings potential.
- Sustainability, a key driver. It is something that many Quakers in Manchester have been passionate about for some time and in 2011 Quakers nationally made a commitment to becoming a low carbon community.