History of a Conference Centre

A Brief History of Quakers and their Premises in Central Birmingham

George Fox who is remembered as the founding father of the Quakers was born at Fenny Drayton in Leicestershire in 1624. As a young man he was dismayed by what he saw as the failings of the established church.

Fox travelled first to London and then returned to journey throughout Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire meeting and talking with other religious seekers of truth. These seekers after truth, usually referred to each other as “friends”. They have since become known to the rest of the world as Quakers.

The first recorded visit by George Fox to Birmingham was in 1655. This coincides with records of meetings for worship being held here in private houses and regularly being broken up. In 1661 Quakers bought a house and land where the Great Western Arcade stands today.

In 1702 Quakers built on the present site. Radical re-structuring followed in 1793 and rebuilding in 1855. The first Priory Rooms were built in 1861 with the Adult Schools in mind but also for letting.

The Meeting House was demolished and replaced by the present building in 1933. In the 1960s Dr Johnson House was built to include rooms of various sizes for short and long lets. It served the Society well for over thirty years but by the beginning of the 1990s it was becoming clear that major refurbishment would be required to adapt it to modern standards and requirements.

Costs of essential maintenance were rising dramatically and the demand for short and long term lettings increased. Dr Johnson House was demolished in 2001 and that part of the Quaker site was let for the building of One Colmore Square. The courtyard was excavated to contain the new Priory Rooms, a modern conference centre with refreshment area adjacent to the Meeting House. The purpose of this redevelopment was to provide accommodation for a wide range of Quaker and other groups while offering high standard conference facilities to the professional and business communities of the city.

The Priory Rooms together with the Meeting House continue to serve as a base for Quaker witness in Birmingham. The profits from The Priory Rooms are donated to Central England Quakers and help to support their community projects which include West Midlands Quaker Peace Education Project, Northfield Ecocentre and Hope Project Uganda. So you can use The Priory Rooms Meeting and Conference Centre for your meetings and at the same time make a valuable contribution to the local community. A great way to enhance the Corporate Social Responsibility of any organisation.

If you would like any further information on Quakers please call 0121 236 2644 or email ceq@phonecoop.coop


Everything ran really smoothly and your help and support in the lead-up to the conference and on the day was superb. The staff really care about your event which makes the day stress-free and enjoyable.

Sarah Richards, The British Association of Social Workers