We were recently called to investigate the old Spiritualist Church in Melksham which had closed. The building was originally a Quaker Meeting House until that closed in 1959 and it was sold to the Spiritualists. Investigating the twists and turns of its history was part of our remit, and we were grateful to Harold Fassnidge who had trod this path before us.
Born of the Puritanism of the English Civil War, Quakerism was a reaction against what was perceived as a decline in the religious and moral standards of the clergy of the established church. The term ‘Quaker’ originated as a slightly mocking reference to a rebuke made by their leader, George Fox, to Gervaise Bennet, J.P. that he ought to ‘tremble at the name of the Lord’.
The Melksham branch of the ‘Society of Friends’ began to meet originally at Shaw Hill, in the home of Robert and Hester Marshman at some time before 1669, in which year eighty members were recorded as having met there. At two miles from Melksham, their house was evidently considered to be sufficiently safe from any authorities who might disapprove of, and choose to interfere with, their activities.