The Pales Quaker Meeting House
The Pales Story
George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, visited Radnorshire three times, initially in 1657, and encouraged local Quakers in their struggles. Quakerism took a strong hold in Radnorshire from very early times despite the incredible sufferings caused by persecution. Meetings were held in those days in farmhouses but before long the need for a burial ground became imperative. A quarter of an acre of ground in the hills above Llandegley, was donated in 1673, for this purpose. There has been speculation over the name ‘Pales’. The first deed assigns it two ‘names’: ‘a burial ground called Roundabout’, and ‘Y Ty ar dir yn y Swydd’ (`the house on the land at the Swydd’). In 1694, a second deed refers to it as ‘one parcell of land or fenced in round about’. This establishes the meaning of Pales as an enclosure. The current building is thought to have been built in or around 1717.
Persecution in the 17th Century caused Quakers to emigrate to America. With much reduced numbers, Quakerism in Wales became rather inward-looking, until the impetus of Victorian evangelism, which gave it a new and unfamiliar flavour. In 1867 a school was established which ran successfully until the advent of state education. One teacher at the Pales was the American Yardley Warner, a prominent campaigner for the rights of slaves, and the Wardens Cottage was built for him and his wife Anne. There followed a zealous evangelical period, coinciding with the Welsh Revival in the early 20th century. But in time numbers dwindled again, and the cottage ceased to be occupied by Friends, although Meetings for Worship continued throughout.
In the late 1970s, however, Quaker wardens were re-established and the graveyard was restored, the cottage renovated and the Meeting House itself re-thatched. Restoration work has continued, and in the 90s a new water supply has meant that the Pales is again a perfect venue for workshops, retreats etc. where the natural beauty of the surroundings, and an abiding spiritual atmosphere are valued contributions. Its primary function continues to be, as always, a place of worship at which everyone is welcome.