Plymouth Meetinghouse 

Plymouth Meeting House

The area that is now Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania was originally settled by members of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, who built the Plymouth Friends Meetinghouse in 1708. They had sailed from Devonshire, England, on the ship Desire, arriving in Philadelphia on June 23, 1686. The settlement takes its name from the founders' hometown of Plymouth in Devonshire.

The Welsh settlers of Plymouth were members of Radnor, Marion and Haverford Meetings before they built a meetinghouse of their own. When their new Plymouth Meetinghouse was ready, Radnor Friends wrote a letter asking members of Plymouth "please do not forget us."

A Timeline of Plymouth Meetinghouse

 
1662 to 1664 Penn visits his colony and establishes the City of Philadelphia.
 1665 Francis Rawie and. James Fox and the Plymouth, England Friends purchased over 5000 acres from William Penn.
 1686  Francis Rawie and. James Fox, their families and other Friends came from Plymouth, Devonshire, England. The township was originally settled by members of the "Society of Friends", or Quakers. They sailed from Devonshire,
England on the ship "Desire", arriving in Philadelphia on June 23, 1686. They also owned city lots in Philadelphia.
1687  Cart road opened, Germantown Pike, by James Fox.
1688 
James Fox found limestone in Plymouth Township.
1699  Fox died and their land was sold over time. Welsh Quakers had settled across the river in Radnor - Haverford. Some of them found land here attractive and moved to Plymouth.

Hugh Jones purchased the James Fox House where meetings had been held. Each week, they had to cross the river at Matson Ford to go to meeting at Radnor or Haverford.
1702 
On September 12, Radnor and Haverford records show this minute:
 'Friends about plimouth on the other side of the skoolkill propose to have a meeting first day at Hugh Jones for six months and to have a weekly meeting to be kept by course at Davd.Wms, at Hugh Jones, at Lewis Thomas, which this meeting consents to if the Quarterly Meeting approves thereof, and to be transmitted to them for their approbation.'
1704  October 6, is the date of the first deed for this property.  The meetinghouse was built by the members with materials from their fields and woods and is thought to have been completed by 1708.
1708  This is the date on the National Register Germantown Avenue gate. The original building was one room.
1714  Plymouth and Gwynedd Meetings became Gwynedd Monthly Meeting.
1776    Eight members of Plymouth were visited by Elders because of their having not freed the Africans that they held as slaves. Six members responded positively. Two were reported to state a future date or sum of money to be earned before release.
1777  During the Revolution, part of Lafayette’s army camped in Plymouth Meeting on the way to Valley Forge. The British Army paused at the cross roads of Germantown Pike and Butler Pike, unsure of how to purse Lafayette’s troops that were retreating from Barren Hill to Valley Forge by way of Mattson’s Ford in Conshohocken. 

The meetinghouse was used as a hospital after the Battle of Germantown.
1780  A school was established with a committee appointed by the meeting. A member of the Williams family left 100 pounds which was used to build the addition to the northeast side of the meetinghouse. It was a separate building with no door between the two buildings. The room was partitioned, half for a schoolroom and the other half for Women's Business Meetings. 
1793  Sandy Hill School in Whitpan was built and functioned under the care of Plymouth Monthly Meeting.
1807 
04/24 
The School Committee viewed the ground that was proposed as a suitable place on the North Corner of the Meeting house lot, back of the stables near to George Pierces lot. A house 30 X 23 feet, one story high, with a cellar under one half was completed, the expense to be 500 Dollars, to be used as a school.
1809  Report referring to 9th Month, 1806: "The Committee appointed to repair the Meeting house are continued."  The major alterations to the meetinghouse seem to have occurred (or were at least discussed) in 1809, when the meetinghouse was altered to accommodate sessions of the Monthly Meeting.

A door was put through to join the original Meeting House with the School room/ Woman's Business Meeting room. The panels were added later.
1812  Woman appointed to attend to the teaching of the girls attending the school.
1813  There was enough traffic on the road so that it was very noisy in the Meetinghouse. The Butler Pike road was where the driveway is now. A group of neighboring farmers supplied the land to move the road out away from the meetinghouse.
1813  90 perches deeded to the trustees for education. Eight square building was erected as the school behind the meetinghouse and used for about 60 years.
1818  First female teacher in the school.
1827  Friends separated into two groups over Theology and Authority of the Yearly Meeting vs the Monthly Meeting. Hicksite Friends remained in the original Meeting House and Orthodox Friends converted a private house that had been recently built in to their meetinghouse. This is the building now known as Journey's End and is used by the School for a classroom.
1830  Before the Civil War, the Abolitionists were prominent in this area and in this Meeting. George Corson was the most well known. He built Abolition Hall to accommodate abolitionist meetings. Many of the famous Abolitionists attended these meetings and Meeting for Worship here in the Meeting House. Walt Whitman, Mrs. Stephen Foster, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lucretia Mott, William Lloyd Garrison.
1840  Abolitionist meeting in school building.
1856  Joseph Williams and Knowles Lancaster deed to meeting 90 perches to erect a school house.
1860  The original part of the present school building was opened.
1867  The Meeting House was gutted by a fire. Rebuilt by October 1867 for a cost of $5,870
1877-1879, 1880  School closed.
1881  School reopens.
1891  Third teacher hired and school enlarged. Yearly Meeting Committee on Education visit with the advice of making a graded school.
1892  Mary H. White principal and Anna S. Thompson assistant. Course of study modeled after Friends Central.
1895  Benjamin Smith hired as Principal.
1898  Second story added.
1906  Record school attendance of 84 students.
1907  A gymnasium was built along Germantown Pike. (unclear where this building was).
1912  Two hundredth anniversary celebration. The school curriculum revised.
1913  First records of a parent- teacher conference. Vocal instruction and funds for piano raised.
1914  Attendance dropped to 30 students and Yearly Meeting Educational Committee stepped in to help.
1933  The William Jeanes Library was started and flourished under the care of the Meeting. In 1971, it moved to a handsome new, building in Whitemarsh Township.
1937  Plymouth Preparative Meeting became Plymouth Monthly Meeting.
1945  The Annie H. Wilson wing was added. This is used for social purposes and by the community. Central heating was added at time.
1945  Stoves heated these rooms.
1953  Mary Knowles employed as librarian. Later in the year she was accused of being a communist.
1954  Plymouth Township begins withholding contributions to the Library because the Monthly Meeting’s refusal to fire Mary from her post as librarian.
1955  Hicksite - Orthodox separation ended with the two groups reuniting. At Plymouth the Orthodox Meeting had closed on December 25th 1900.
1955  Plymouth Monthly Meeting receives a $5000 award from the Fund for the Republic for their refusal to dismiss Mary Knowles as Librarian. Monthly Meeting is unable to unite on what to do with the award. It is placed is escrow and the decision is held over.
1955  Carriage shed converted to classrooms.
1957  Monthly Meeting decides to accept the Award from Fund for the Republic and donates $1,000 to the Library.
1977  275th anniversary is celebrated. School begins its extended daycare program.
1985  Journey's End property donated by the Corson Family to Meeting for educational needs. The house on the property was the Orthodox Meeting house.
2002  Steinbright and Art buildings opened.
2004  Plymouth Monthly Meeting participates in the building of a school in Afghanistan for children and women. Quarterly Meeting minute: It was decided that this leading is a wise use of our limited resources. $50,000 can provide a 10 room school building in Afghanistan for children in need and jobs for adults.
2008  300th anniversary, recognizing those who have worshiped within these walls across these generations.

 
MeetinghousewithWomenandMenExi

Women exiting from the right side, men from the left, according to the locations of their separate rooms for Meeting for Business.

Plymouth Friends Meeting House

 Historic Quaker Meeting Houses

Given that meeting houses were not an original feature of the Friends, there was no standard form for the building except simplicity.  Differing from many religions, the Friends have no central hierarchy, Quaker Meetings govern from the small to the large.  In other words, a Monthly Meeting has more influence over its Meeting than the Quarterly and the Quarterly more than the Yearly. 

Therefore, traditionally individual Monthly Meetings chose the form of building.  This created a great deal of variation.  In England, this has remained the case.  Although, American Quaker’s experimented with different forms for the “Meeting House", by the middle 18th century a preferred form had developed. 

Initially, the Meeting Houses tended to be one room to hold both Meeting for Worship and Meeting for Business.  Since the men’s and women’s Meeting for Business oversaw different subjects for the Meeting, having only one room was difficult two separate Meeting for Business.  Eventually many meeting houses constructed an addition of a separate room for the Women’s Meeting for Business.  However, this was felt to be unequal; after Meeting for Worship the women had to leave the room to go to their space. 

Equality between the Meeting for Business began to be reflected in the Meeting House form and was truly achieved in 1768 with the design of the Buckingham Meeting House. Although the size of Meeting Houses would vary depending on the population of the Meeting, this Buckingham form was repeated almost exclusively through 1830 and remained the prominent form through the late nineteenth century.

This form, referred to as the Double Meeting House or the Buckingham Model, created two chambers identical on both the interior and the exterior.  Although the Meeting House was divided, the division wasn’t intended as an element of exclusion but two separate but equal chambers. 

The room was united during Meeting for Worship. But, by closing a wooden screen in the center of the room, the Men’s Meeting for Business and Women’s Meeting for Business could be held separately and simultaneously. The Double Meeting House is quintessentially American and is a representation of the Americanism of the Quaker religion in which women are complete equals to men.

The Plymouth Monthly Meeting house was known in the Delaware valley as a two-stone Meeting. The right side was lower than the left. After the fire in 1867, the ridge line of the roof was evened up and both sides were reconstructed in the Buckingham double-Meeting style to be mirror images of each other.

The original building became the left side of the Meeting house, built from limestone in about 1708. The right side, built in 1780, was built out of ironstone and other rubble and became the women’s side for Meeting for Business as well as the school. There was no door between these two sides.

Minor changes to the Women’s side (loss of window and the door on the back) were made in 1945 to make way for the bathroom and kitchen.