The Friends’ Meeting House was formerly an Austin Friary; a cell of the Austin Friary at Little Yarmouth, now part of Gorleston. The Quakers acquired the building in 1694, and although it has been altered, it still retains many original features, including a cellar (which may have been at street level originally), 17th century panelling, and part of a medieval doorway, which can be seen from the outside on the south wall. At the rear is a small garden, which was the Quaker burial ground.
Quakers were present in Yarmouth prior to their acquisition of the Meeting House. They distributed pamphlets in 1661 and from February 1671 a monthly meeting was held.
In 1674, the Yarmouth Quakers were urged to obtain “an hired house for meeting … in a more convenient place than it has formally been”. On 23rd October 1691 Richard Robins, a Quaker grocer, purchased property on Middlegate (now Howard Street) for £12.10s. On December 3rd 1694 part of this was sold to Friends for £70. During 1728 a school was kept in the Meeting House, but little else is known of the premises: in 1754 it was the home of at least one person, “the room which John Woodrow now occupy”. The first recorded Quaker marriage at Great Yarmouth was in 1763.
In the early days the Meeting House floor was 3ft below ground-level and accessed by means of a stepladder In 1807 a suspended floor was built 5 feet above the old floor and the Meeting House was reconstructed much as now. Adult School was established in Yarmouth in 1813 in the Meeting House on Sunday evenings. By 1820 the Meeting numbered 62 and the Day School had risen to 80 scholars – this latter necessitating the acquisition of new premises, with desks, for three nights each week.