Local Quaker History

A Brief History of Quakers in Warwick


In 1655 it is recorded that George Fox and several other “Friends” held a meeting in a widow’s house in Warwick. They were apparently not well received then, but by 1656 meetings with George Fox present were held in Warwick and a group of “Friends” had been established.

In 1671 some freehold land was purchased
“in trust, for the use of the people of God, gathered in the light and spirit of truth out of the world to worship God in spirit and truth, who walk in fear of God, and are commonly called Quakers”*

The first recorded minute of a monthly meeting held in Warwick was on the 6th day of the 11th month, 1686.

The Great Fire of Warwick, in 1694, resulted in much distress to Friends and there are records of relief monies paid out. The original Meeting House was probably destroyed as the rumoured source of the fire was in the general locality of the Quaker land. The current Meeting House was built in 1695, the year afterwards.

There was a Burial Ground within the landholding which is marked on the map shown (circa 1885 which clearly shows a wall along the west side of the burial ground). It is recorded that many Warwick “worthies” were buried here, one of these being a well respected Quaker, William Dewsbury.

The images  below show the map of the burial ground in the late 19th century together with a photo of one corner of it in about 1895 and today. Note the wall which fell down about 1900, the gate and the extension to the Meeting House. There had been some headstones leaning against the wall. These were said to have been for the Quakers who had died in the dungeon in Northgate Street. When the wall collapsed they were used to pave the greenhouse of no. 41. This might be the greenhouse in the photograph.

(The first two images are reproduced from "Our Warwickshire" website)

Early records show that many Warwick Quakers suffered as a result of their faith, being often imprisoned in the County Gaol which can still be seen through a grille in the courtyard beside the Old County Court. One of the early records tells of a couple who were brought before the Meeting to be admonished for “their disorderly doings in giving way both of them to joyn themselves in marriage with person yt are not friends”* The records show that a number of friends were disowned for marrying out and for “gross breaches of the moral law”*.

By the middle of the eighteenth century the number of Friends was falling away with quite a number emigrating to Pennsylvania.

The Meeting House was given up in 1909 but repurchased in 1949.

*  taken from “Friends in Warwickshire (17th & 18th C)_William White_3rd Ed”

For further information about the Quakers in Warwick, click here

 

 

The Dungeon in the courtyard at the back of Shire Hall, Warwick. This drawing represents the crowded manner in which the prisoners had to lie, sideways with their feet attached to the chain, which was carried up the steps, through the door and padlocked. 1890s IMAGE LOCATION: (Warwickshire County Record Office) Reference: PH, 196/p35, img: 8408

For a collection of printed historic documents click here

For a collection of transcribed historic documents, this is the link

A list of burials with annotations is available.

"List of burials in Friends' Graveyard, Warwick 1660 to 1879"  Link

Grid map of burial ground with some names: original copy Link

Grid map of the burial ground with some names transcribed Link

For a view of the plan of the Meeting House as it was in November 2021 click here