More properly known as 'The Society of Friends', this Nonconformist sect was founded by George Fox (1624-1691) who began preaching in 1647. For an overview see David Hey "The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History". The Quakers quickly established a following in the north of England but quickly spread to the south of England and to Scotland and Ireland.

Family connections are the Friends meeting house at Limestone Brae in West Allen in Northumberland, possible connections with the Greggs of Brigham in Cumberland, a stronghold of the Quakers, and Mary Maunder, wife of Harold Swindale.

Quaker marriages, together with Jewish marriages, were the only marriages not required to be performed in churches or chapels of the Church of England under Lord Hardwicke's marriage act which came into force on 1st January 1754.

'Records of births, marriages, and burials were normally kept by the monthly meetings, which may have been held many miles from the local meeting­house.'

For an account of Quaker life in the mid-18th century see  "The Diary of Isaac Fletcher of Underwood, Cumberland 1756-1781", edited by Angus J.L. Winchester, published by The Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 1994 ISBN 1873124201 - Highly recommended.

Writing of the Quakers of Pardsey (Pardshaw?) -

"Quakers. They dwell far distant from any church, and having high-crags or clinty rocks above the town, they have their great Quaking meetings there, from whence they do readily espye any who come to disturb their conventicles; and so they were wont to disperse before they were caught, to prevent their convictions; their ignorance & sloathe having easily suffered them to be seduced & yeildto the delutions of their crafty speakers."

"Mosser. ...they are almost all Quakers, being too near neighbours to Pardsey-Crag, and too far distant from any church."

"Great Broughton ....The inhabitants here dwell so remote from any parish church that most of them, in the late troubles, turn'd Quakers."

Thomas Denton, 'A Perambulation of Cumberland 1687-88


Quaker Meeting Houses in the Lake Counties: David M. Butler .

Friends Historical Society 1978 ISBN 085245127X

"From the year 1689 dissenters were permitted greater freedom of worship and were allowed to possess meeting places."

Carlisle Monthly Meeting

Holm Monthly Meeting

Meeting Grid Reference Alternatively Built or acquired Meeting Closed
Wigton NY254484 West Street, formerly King Street 1653. 1707, 1830 -
Beckfoot NY093496 Beckfoot in Abbeyholme, The Holme c.1689, 1745 1940
Kirkbride NY233567 - 1698 1854
Bolton Low Houses NY238442 - 1702 1866
Allonby NY082435 - 1703, 1732 -
Maryport NY035369 King Street 1772, 1810 1912


Pardshaw Monthly Meeting:-

Meeting Grid Reference Alternatively Built or acquired Meeting Closed
Pardshaw NY102253
Dean, Pardshaw Crag
Pardshaw Hall
1672, 1729 1923
Crossfield NY013149 Moor Row, Westside, Cleator Moor 1677 c. 1745
Cockermouth NY125305 Kirkgate 1688, 1782, 1884 -
Keswick NY262239 Portinscale, High Hill, Crosthwaite, Millbeck 1685, 1715 c. 1775
Broughton NY079317 Little Broughton 1687, 1742 -
Isel NY213353 Bewaldeth 1687 1790
Setmurthy NY196319 Ruddings 1687 1790
Eaglesfield NY093280 - 1711 -
Greysouthen NY073317 - 1742 1871
Whitehaven NX973182 Sandhills Lane 1725 1928
Birker - - None  


Caldbeck Monthly Meeting

Strickland Monthly Meeting

Kendal Monthly Meeting

Swarthmore Monthly Meeting

Sedbergh Monthly Meeting









Quakers. The popular name for members of a Nonconformist sect. George Fox (1624-91), the son of a Leicestershire weaver and founder of the religious Society of Friends, began preaching in 1647. His followers, many of whom were young and radical in their conduct and beliefs, were known contemptuously as Quakers from the trembling and shaking that characterized their behaviour at early meetings. Quakers rejected formal church services and the sacraments (including baptism), paid ministers, and the authority of the scriptures, and emphasized instead the `inner voice of God speaking to the soul'. They faced great hostility and much prosecution in ecclesiastical courts (for interrupting church services and insulting clergymen and magistrates, for forming illegal conventicles, and for non-payment of tithes) and at quarter sessions (for refusing oaths, military service, etc.) until the Toleration Act of 1689 allowed Nonconformists to worship in public.

Membership in England may have reached 35,000 to 40,000 by 1660. Early Quakers were often poor but, as the movement started to become more sober and respectable after the Restoration, recruitment spread to the minor gentry and yeomen, to husbandmen and craftsmen, and to manufacturers and urban shopkeepers. The early Quaker strongholds were in rural Westmorland, Lancashire, and Yorkshire, but the movement soon spread to London, Norwich, Bristol, and other parts of south-west England, and then to Scotland and Ireland. In the late 17th century the Society 0f Friends was the largest Nonconformist sect in the country, despite the emigration of hundreds of members to America, where they settled at first in New Jersey and then further west, when in 1681 the Quaker William Penn founded the colony of Pennsylvania.

Quaker meeting-houses are built in a simple, vernacular style. Many examples date from the late 17th and early 18th centuries when the movement was at its height. At its peak in the second decade of the 18th century the member­ship in England and Wales stood at about 50,000. It then declined steadily and many gentry families returned to the Church of England. However, certain families, notably the chocolate manufacturers and social reformers Fry, Cadbury, and Rowntree, stayed within the fold. The typical Quaker had become a quiet, respectable pillar of the community, very differ­ent from the young radicals of the 1650s.

The first yearly meeting was held in 1668, but a structure of monthly and quarterly meetings had been established by 1654. Records of births, marriages, and burials were normally kept by the monthly meetings, which may have been held many miles from the local meeting­house. For example, the early Sheffield Quakers attended monthly meetings at the small settlement of Balby, over 20 miles to the east. By 1670 most monthly meetings, and a few particular ones, were keeping registers. How­ever, some Quakers were prepared to use the Church of England for some of their vital events, especially burials. The early Quaker meeting-houses had burial grounds, but the Society forbade the erection of gravestones until the yearly meeting decided in 1850 that stones of a uniform size and design should be allowed.

The registers of births, marriages, and burials were not kept according to a standardized form until 1776. Another reform that was made at the same time ordered duplicate entries to be sent to the quarterly meetings. Searchers of these records need to be aware that the Society of Friends rejected the names 0f the days and months because these were derived from hea­then gods; Sunday was therefore recorded as the First Day, January as the First Month, etc. Before the change to the Gregorian calendar in 1752 the First Month was March. The Friends' Library, which was established in Lon­don in 1673, preserves many early records, but others have been deposited in local record offices. It is rare to find a list of members before the late 18th century; many meetings did not make such lists until 1836. In the following year the registers of surviving Quaker meetings were copied for the Registrar-General. They are now kept with other Nonconformist registers at the Public Record Office.


David Hey  Local and Family History published by Oxford University Oress 1996