Jordans:17th–21st & its village community, houses designed by Fred Rowntree


Jordans village is a peaceful spot in Chalfont St Giles parish on the edge of the Chilterns. William Penn and George Fox occasionally worshipped in Old Jordans, a farmhouse which was a secret Quaker meeting place.

jordans quaker house

In the 17th century the village became a centre for Quakerism. Jordans Friends Meeting House – one of the oldest Friends meeting houses in the country – was built in 1688 after the Declaration of Indulgence, allowing persons to worship in their homes or chapels as they saw fit. William Penn, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, was buried there, making it a popular tourist attraction with Americans. The gravestones of William Penn, his wife Hannah and his family can be seen above.

The modern extension to the Meeting House was almost destroyed by fire on 10th March 2005; the roof of the original 17th century meeting room was severely damaged but the interior of the original meeting room suffered only water and smoke damage. The meeting room still retains most of its original brick, including the bare brick floor, glass, panelling and benches.

jordans mayflower barn

In the grounds of Old Jordans farmhouse is the Mayflower Barn. Part of the present house was there when Thomas Russell bought it in 1618. In 1624 he built a new main barn with timbers from a ship. Antiquarian J. Rendel Harris concluded, in the 1920s, that the barn had been built with timbers from a ship called the Mayflower, bought from a shipbreaker’s yard in Rotherhithe and that this was the ship which carried the Pilgrim Fathers from Plymouth to New England. However, as the farm’s name is older than the ship, the timbers’ origin has not been verified.

In 1915-1916 when land became available Friends had the idea of creating a village community to preserve the surroundings of Jordans Meeting House. They raised capital to set up a limited company under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act. The village was intended to be a community where artisans could ply their trades and skills in conditions that would provide a fuller opportunity for the development of character and self-expression than existed at the time elsewhere. It was not necessary to be a Quaker to come to the village.

Set around a large village green were red brick houses designed by architect Fred Rowntree. Though each one is different they have the same basic style giving the village a harmonious appearance.

jordans a row of rowntree cottages

Each house is built of dark red and orange bricks, with steeply sloping terracotta-tiled roofs. Most have leaded windows painted white and there is a hedge in front of each property.

jordans houses

The management committee, mostly residents, controlled planning and development, administering and maintaining the village hall, the village green, Crutches Wood, roads and sewerage. It also determined and collected the rents of rented properties, roads and other charges.

In April 1981, Chiltern District Council designated part of Jordans as a Conservation Area. Part of this area is around the village green and the rest around the Meeting House and Old Jordans, now a Grade II listed building, which has been used as a hostel, then a hotel and conference centre run by the Old Jordans Trust, a registered charity set up by the members.

However, the Mayflower Barn, which has attracted visitors from all over the world and particularly from America, is now privately owned and no longer open to the public. The building, with a more modern refectory, gardener’s and housekeeper’s cottage in grounds of five acres was controversially sold to Rivercrest Investments for development in March 2006. The Parish council had several objections to the plans, one being that Mayflower Barn has been open to the public for over 50 years, is of historic interest, is part of the American Heritage Trail and generates income for the parish. To read more about this click on:$Delegated%20List%20of%20Applications%20-%20Week%20Ending%202007.03.02.htm

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