Unitarian Meeting House, Friars Street IP1 1TD
The Unitarian Meeting House is Grade I listed and regarded by many sources as the finest timber framed meeting house of its kind in Britain, typical of those built by Protestant Dissenters. It was first opened in 1700 and had, until the 2020 pandemic, been in continual use for worship since its opening.
The architectural importance lies partly in the fact that it remains almost exactly as when it was built, with four wooden pillars supporting the double hipped roof. The pulpit is in the style of Grinling Gibbons and possibly was carved by one of his pupils. The congregation sit in the original old box pews and there are special historic features such as wig pegs, the organ, a Dutch brass chandelier and a spy hole used by the congregation to check for approaching mobs during a time of religious upheaval and violence against dissenters.
Having recently undergone a restoration which has involved the extensive use of traditional craft skills, we are pleased to announce the building has now been removed from the Heritage ‘At Risk’ Register. We hope it will now be safe for the next 300 years. We are grateful to all the grant funders and fundraisers who have made this possible.
Unitarianism encompasses a wide variety of beliefs and there is no creed or doctrine that Unitarians must follow or believe. Rather we think that respect for integrity is preferable to the pressure to conform and that the final authority for one’s faith lies within each person’s conscience.
We are pleased to open our Meeting House to share the history of the building and of our congregation. We are accessible to everyone so please come and see our wonderful Meeting House. We will be happy to discuss the history and to answer questions.
[Source: Tessa Forsdike, Secretary, Unitarian Meeting House]
The Unitarian Meeting House is featured in the Ipswich Tourist Guides virtual guided tour video of the town.