A CONGREGATION of Quakers said they feel ‘imprisoned’ after drunken parties forced them to fence off the grounds of their meeting house.

The Blackburn Quaker Meeting House is said to have endured months of rowdy behaviour on the burial ground surrounding their base.

Members have found condoms, needles and excrement in the grounds of their King Street base.

Drunks had harrassed a number of groups who rent the town centre facility so much they had to find an alternative meeting place.

Now the Quakers have erected railings to keep people out of the secluded grassy area between King Street and Feilden Street where there are over 60 graves.

Church member Chris Tonge said it was the first time Quakers had been ‘behind bars’ since Quakers in the mid-seventeenth century refused to give up their religion.

He said: “Thankfully Protestants these days are not usually imprisoned. So, why are Quakers behind bars again?

“Our meeting house is on a pleasant secluded grassy area and crowds of young people decided that it was a good place to party during last summer. Initially we tried to engage with the youngsters to explain about the meeting house and tell them something about Quakers.

“Unfortunately the partying got out of hand and in addition to masses of litter we began to have deal with syringes and needles, used condoms and human excrement. Despite help from the police the trouble continued well into autumn and became too much.

“On top of this some of the other groups who rent the meeting house in the evenings were harassed so much by the crowds gathered in the grounds that they were forced find alternative accommodation for their meetings.

“This situation couldn’t go on so we decided that our only option was to erect railings to keep people off the burial ground. This is just opposite of what we really want to do.”

Mr Tonge said he wanted the meeting house to remain welcoming in spite of the need for the railings.

He said: “We would very much like to attract people to our meeting so that they can find out about our unique way of worship.

“Unlike most churches you won’t hear hymns, prayers or a sermon. We simply provide a welcoming and safe place.

“We sincerely hope that people won’t be put off by the railings. We are a friendly group who can offer a warm welcome to anyone who would like to come and meet us.”