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Ringwood Meeting House was built in 1727 by a group of Presbyterians. They were known as non-conformists or dissenters because they did not conform to the Church of England's Articles of Religion as laid down in the Book of Common Prayer. They wished to worship God in their own way, without the dogma of bishops, creeds etc. Their tastes were what we could term 'puritan' - plain and unadorned.

The Meeting House in Ringwood is the only dissenting Meeting House in the county of Hampshire to survive from the period before 1800 in a virtually unaltered state. Its interior is one of the best surviving examples of a small Meeting House in the country with galleries on three sides. The architectural style of the Meeting House reflects early Georgian taste in general; the building is symmetrical, with plain walls and windows. Its boxed family pews, which we now find so unusual, were very common in England during the 18th century but were removed from most churches during Victorian times.

The building was known as the Upper or Great Meeting House during the 18th century to distinguish it from the Independents who broke away to build their own chapel known as the Lower Meeting House (now Trinity United Reformed Church). The old registers of the Upper Meeting House show baptisms from 1748 and burials from 1815.

During the 19th century the congregation of Ringwood Meeting House becoming Unitarian. The building was then known as St Thomas's Chapel, until it reverted to its original name in about the 1930's. In 1976 the Unitarians found they were unable to maintain the building and combined with a congregation in Bournemouth.

The Meeting House is now run by the Ringwood Meeting House Association, a registered charity which funds the day-today running of the centre. Volunteers are often able to help with enquiries about local or family history. In the upper galleries of the building is a collection of old photographs of Ringwood and other memorabilia. Downstairs there is an area for temporary exhibitions (see below for details).

MONDAY TO SATURDAY - 10am. - 12noon, entrance 50p, includes coffee or tea., Wednesdays only 10am - 2.30pm.

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