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THE KELSO QUAKER MEETING HOUSE,

ABBEY ROW, KELSO

Project manager: James Woolgrove


Kelso is a market town in the Scottish Borders.  A group of Quakers had been meeting there for many years for Sunday worship using a variety of locations (starting with members’ homes), but took the decision at the end of the 1990s to acquire their own premises to raise their local profile and to provide a more permanent home for their group.  They wanted a building suitable for their own worship and community building, but one that could be used as much as possible for other local activities.  It was important that it should be centrally located but that the building should impart an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity.

A local hotel closed and the owner decided to sell off one wing containing its restaurant and four bedrooms as a separate entity.  The building was of historic interest (a Listed Building), located in a side road very close to the town’s market square.  Quakers in Southeast Scotland acquired the building and James Woolgrove, a member of the Quaker meeting in Kelso, took on the job of managing the building’s conversion.  This proved to be a considerable task of restoration as well as of functional conversion, in due course providing an airy meeting room that preserved the historic features of the building, together with a kitchen, a children’s activity room, a library and two small rooms that have since been used regularly for counselling sessions by therapists based in the Borders.

James managed the project from start to finish, overseeing everything from the stonework repairs to the rewiring and the acquisition of electrical and equipment and furniture.  He left the meeting with a fine building well-suited for purpose that pays an ever-increasing role in the life of the town.  He also left the local meeting with a full set of safety and instruction manuals, and with the building in a state that could be used immediately by a group of Quakers that found that it needed to have no worries about whether they were conforming with all legal and other requirements.

The main room is used for small concerts, society meetings and for group activities such as yoga and tai’ chi; local authority groups have used the whole building for staff training sessions, and the small rooms are used on most days for individual counselling and therapy sessions.  All users comment on the building’s restful ambience and the gentle way that the restored building supports the work that they are doing.

John Phillips, Treasurer for South East Scotland Quakers during the works.

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