Quaker meeting house, Llandrindod Wells
The brick building with tall windows here was built in 1897-98 as a meeting house for the Quakers, or Society of Friends, and is unusually large by Quaker standards. In 1985 it was sold to Elim Pentecostal Church, and later converted into residential flats. Quakers continue to meet in a smaller building behind.
Quakers began to meet in Llandrindod Wells in 1893. The Society of Friends already had a long history in Radnorshire. George Fox, who founded the movement, visited the county several times in the 17th century and the Pales meeting house at Llandegley, founded in 1673, is Wales’ oldest building which has been in continuous Quaker use. Early Quakers were persecuted because they believed worship should not be led by priests and took inspiration instead from their “inner light” or “the Christ within”.
Many visiting lecturers spoke at the Llandrindod Wells meeting house. In 1905 Miss MC Albright, from a prominent and wealthy Quaker family in Birmingham, commented that there was much truth in the Buddhist and Muslim religions. Immediately after her lecture a visitor, who was thought to be a House of Commons officer, stood up before the audience to denounce her as a “child of the devil”!
In 1915 a memorial service was held here for Private Harold Page, who had attended the Friends’ Sunday School. He was killed, aged 20, in the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign in Turkey. A year later, local Quakers mourned the death of Private Gilbert Oliver, 24, who had worshipped here before working in Shrewsbury bank. He was killed in the Battle of Thiepval, Somme, in September 1916.
The meeting house has a Memorial Bible in which are inscribed the names of 11 members of the congregation of Sunday school who died in the First World War: Lewis Botwood, Harry Birch, Fred Burton, Jack Davies, Llewelyn Elsmere, Ernest Evans, Gilbert J Oliver, William Oliver, David Owen, Harold Page and Walter Walls. Most are commemorated on the town’s war memorial. The Memorial Bible also lists a further 46 who served and survived.
Some Quakers were conscientious objectors when conscription (compulsory military service) was introduced in the First World War. In March 1916 Bernard Bentley, of the Llandrindod Wells Society of Friends, told a military tribunal that his religious beliefs prevented him from joining the armed forces. He refused to join the Royal Army Medical Corps because that would entail taking the military oath.
This was the first such case to arise in Radnorshire. Mr Bentley was temporarily exempted from the Military Service Act on condition that he joined the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, which had been formed to allow conscientious objectors to provide medical aid on the battlefield as non-combatants and without pay.
Local Quaker Douglas H Binyon served with the FAU in France, but another, Walter Shervill, was sent to what’s now Dartmoor Prison for refusing to serve.
With thanks to Martin Williams, author of “Quakers in Radnorshire 1860-2000”, published by Raven Books
Postcode: LD1 5HF View Location Map
|To continue the Llandrindod Wells in WW1 tour, walk south up the main road to the traffic lights. The next QR codes are on the side door of the old town hall, the last building on the left before the war memorial|