AIRTON Quakers are appealing for funds to renovate their historic 300-year-old meeting house.

The building, where 30 Quakers worship every other weekend, has remained practically unchanged since it was built in the 17th century.

The much-needed repairs are expected to cost more than £330,000.

Laurel Phillipson, convenor of the Airton Property Management Committee and a worshipping Quaker, said: "It has been in use as a Quaker meeting house since 1697, although building work was finally completed in 1700. For about the last 50 years the upkeep has been very minimal."

A leaking roof has caused the meeting house to become damp.

Mrs Phillipson added: "The stone is porous and when it gets wet it takes a decade to dry out. It's in the process of doing that now. At one time we were all sitting here with our feet in puddles of water."

The building has no heating and over the back of every seat there is a woollen blanket to help worshippers keep warm during the winter months.

Restoration work on the grade two listed building will include restoring the pine floors, uncovering an original fireplace and removing grey paint from the pews. The building will also be rewired and heating will be installed.

Mrs Phillipson said: "We want them to put it back to the way it was. The metal work on the windows is original, but is rusting because it has not been looked after. When it is done we will see a lovely building restored."

The adjacent bunk barn will also be brought up to modern standards.

Mrs Phillipson said the cheapest option for the Quakers would be to demolish the building and sell the land for housing.

She added: "We could go and buy something smaller and more modern elsewhere with low upkeep, but we feel that this is the responsible thing to do.

"Quakers do not hold with sacred places, but the building is very important to the community.

"It is an important piece of archaeological history. We feel that we are the trustees of it and we are putting enormous effort in to preserving it."

While the Airton meeting house has remained untouched, similar ones at Settle and Skipton have been gradually modernised over the years.

Mrs Phillipson said: "Because it is such a remote meeting house it has never been gradually improved like others.

She added: "The buildings are a unique and precious example of vernacular architecture and of Quaker heritage."

The Airton site is located on the Pennine Way and is much visited.

Renovation work will begin on the meeting house as soon as enough money is raised and work on the grounds and bunk barn will then follow.

Mrs Phillipson said they would be approaching various charities and organisation for grants and donations as well as appealing to Quaker groups across the UK for assistance. She said donations from individuals would also be gratefully received.

She added: "If the fundraising goes well we may be able to start work on the meeting house as early as this winter."

The meeting house is in use every other Sunday for Quaker meetings and at all other times it is available for use by other groups.

Donations should be made payable to Airton Appeal and sent to Kevin Berry, Airton Appeal Treasurer, Scosthrop House, Airton, Skipton, BD23 4BA.