Quaker History

Let your life speak

Quaker History

The Lancashire Central and North Area Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends

George Fox by Robert Spence
With thanks to The Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain

Mary Dyer being led to her execution in Boston, Massachusetts in 1660 for repeatedly preaching against the law banning Quakers in the colony. Artist unknown.
With thanks to Wikipedia

Am I not a man and a brother?
See the on–line exhibition about the Abolition of Slavery on the Quakers in Britain web–site.

Frank J Stevens, an FAU ambulance driver, with his vehicle in Wolfsburg, Germany, believed to be in 1945. In both world wars many Friends served in the Merchant Navy or the Fire Service, or drove ambulances, rather than join the armed forces.
With thanks to Wikimedia Commons

The Religious Society of Friends has its roots in the religious and political turmoil of seventeenth century England, when small groups of 'Seekers' in towns and villages around the country coalesced around the informal leadership of George Fox. It was not long before these Seekers, or 'Friends', became popularly known as 'Quakers'. Early Quakers were Christians who rejected the structures and offices of the established church. Believing in the idea of the 'priesthood of all believers', they rejected professional priests, and held all life and all places to be equally sacred. They turned their backs on ritual sacraments and on the churches in which they were carried out. Instead they met in each other's homes, and later in purpose-built 'meeting houses' where they waited, as they believed that the first Christians had done, for the Holy Spirit to guide them.
Quakers in Conflict
Not surprisingly, Quakers were not popular with the established authorities. Many were imprisoned and some died from their mistreatment. In the North American colonies a few were martyred for their outspoken beliefs. However, there has never been an occasion when Quakers have killed others for holding opposing religious views.
Spreading the Word
Quakerism was spread to many other parts of the world, most especially North America and Africa. Over the years very diverse forms of worship have evolved in different regions. Here, in Britain we usually hold 'silent meetings', during which one or more worshippers may feel led to speak, or 'minister'. From the very beginnings of Quakerism in the seventeenth century, ministry has been welcomed from both men and women, and also from children.
A Way of Life and Service
Our faith has often led us into different ways of looking at life, work and the world. Though Quaker bankers were prominent at one time in financing the slave trade, Friends were among the first and foremost in campaigning for its abolition. Over the years we have been active in promoting responsible business, better educational opportunities for children and adults, improved housing conditions, prison reform and, most famously, peace.
Find Out More . . .

The Society publishes a guide The 1652 Country, Planning You Pilgrimage. This has a wealth of information about places in this area that are associated with George Fox and the early Friends, and also has suggestions for further reading.

Wikipedia has some quite detailed articles on George Fox and the History of the Society of Friends. They are probably best read in that order.

Most Quaker meeting houses have a small library of books on loan, including some relating to local and national Quaker history. Contact the individual meetings for details (See links at top of page).

Once the home of Margaret Fell, who was possibly George Fox's greatest helper, Swarthmore Hall has been described as the powerhouse of early Quakerism.

George Fox, Margaret Fell and other early Friends were imprisoned at Lancaster Castle, amongst other places. Tours are available.