Meeting our neighbours – Barbara Richardson-Todd


Barbara Richardson-Todd was born in Cavendish in the west of the county and has lived in and around Ipswich since the age of 9. She began her working life as a teacher in Ipswich schools and then in her early thirties retrained as a general nurse working in schools, ending up as a nurse teacher!  Barbara married a Suffolk man, has six children and is now the proud granny of ten.

” I was born and raised a Catholic but in my late teens I began a long journey of
discovering and exploring other faiths, spiritualities and philosophies.

About twelve years ago I discovered the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) which is a radical, contemporary and free-thinking faith organisation whose roots are in Christianity. It was recommended to me by a friend and as soon as I walked in, I felt that this was my spiritual home. Home is where you feel welcomed and accepted unconditionally and that is how I felt; I didn’t have to explain myself. Everyone was friendly and chatty, which was strange as Quaker worship is for the most part silent except when someone “ministers” which is a sharing of what has come into their minds/hearts at that time. There was no pressure to believe in anything supernatural but there was plenty of discussion both before and after Meeting about how to live a more productive and compassionate life in this world. We all seemed to share the same values: that there is something Godly or good in each person.

Although most modern day Quakers see Jesus as a great spiritual teacher and hisvwords as a guide to action there are many different views amongst us. Nowadays, Quakers are very diverse and liberal. However whether we are a ‘theist’ or ‘non-theist’ Quaker we all place special value on actively living the four Quaker testimonies of equality, simplicity, truth and peace. ”

Retirement didn’t come easily to Barbara so she has kept working – as a volunteer chaplain at Suffolk College and the University of Suffolk and taking on various Quaker roles too.

Barbara recalls one particular occasion when she was standing in for the lead chaplain who was on three weeks leave. She says she was really just minding the office when she heard the  terrible news of a tragic incident where one much-loved member of staff had killed
himself. Understandably, the staff were in bits and Barbara did not really know how best to help. “There were about 30 staff members. I didn’t know what to do, so with my Quaker hat  on, I invited them to sit in silence to ponder on their lost colleague and then if anyone wanted to say a few words of how they were feeling and what they might want to say about their lost colleague. They started coming over to chaplaincy about 1.30 and at 5pm we were still going strong. I hope it helped them. That was a very difficult summer for them, and in fact for several months afterwards the staff were still traumatised.”

” Mainly, though, students or staff just come to talk things through or just need somewhere to escape to where there are no intrusions, no judgements and it is a safe space.”

“Quakerism doesn’t offer neat creeds or doctrine. Instead, we try to help each other work out how we should live. All people are welcome and accepted at a Quaker meeting.
Quakers don’t use traditional religious structures, have no rituals or paid ministers.
We share responsibility for what we do because everyone has a valuable contribution to make. We believe that everyone has the spark of God in them, and we aspire to let our lives speak.”

The Meeting House has now reopened after being closed for Covid-19.

There is a Sunday Meeting from 10.30 to 11.30 and a half hour Meeting on Wednesday lunchtimes from 1pm. These also take place via Zoom.

For more details you can contact Barbara on
The resident warden is Mike who can be contacted on 01473 257649
The Meeting House address is 39 Fonnereau Rd, Ipswich IP1 3JH
Facebook page Ipswich Quaker Meeting House