Society of Friends; 1654-; Norfolk

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Society of Friends; 1654-; Norfolk

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Dates of existence



During the latter half of the 17th century the Society of Friends was a rapidly growing body. Thomas Symonds in 1654 was the first Norwich man to be convinced (that is, converted to being a Quaker). In the same year the first Meeting was established and for the next 25 years regular meetings for worship were held in private homes, the open air and (in times of persecution) in prison.
By 1676 Friends were sufficiently numerous in the city to consider buying a plot of land in Upper Goat Lane for the erection of a Meeting House. The purchase price was £88 and if this seems rather a modest sum for a quarter of an acre in the centre of what was then England's second city, one should remember that this represented four years' wages for a farm labourer.
The first Meeting House was opened in 1679 and by 1700 there were about five hundred Quakers in Norwich. Indeed it had become necessary to build a second meeting house next to the Gildencroft burial ground in 1699, due north of Goat Lane across the River Wensum. Early Norwich Friends were often artisans and small tradesmen; they were persecuted by the authorities and endured ridicule and violence from their neighbours. In 1684 because of the numbers in prison the Monthly (business) Meeting was held in Norwich Gaol. These hardships drew the Quakers into a closely-knit community who accepted responsibility for each other in times of distress and suffering. George Fox, the founder, was not only a religious leader of exceptional spiritual power but also a practical organiser of great ability and foresight and the form of organisation he helped to develop has remained the basis to this day. The carefully kept records provide vivid details of the corporate and personal history of early Friends.
After the ferment of the 17th century the period from 1700 to 1825 was one of comparative quiet for Friends, who were by now regarded as being 'respectable'. Their absolute standards of probity and fairness in business brought many of them wealth and influence and their identity with scientific and medical outreach was matched by their concern for social reform and education. Elizabeth Fry is probably the best-known Quaker of this period; she was one of the eleven children of John Gurney, the Norwich banker, and worshipped in the original Goat Lane Meeting House ('Goats') as well as in the present one, completed in 1826. Elizabeth's brother Joseph John Gurney was a powerful advocate of the plan to replace the Goat Lane buildings; he was much influenced by the evangelical movement of the time and as well as being one of the founders of the British and Foreign Bible Society, travelled widely in America on behalf of the Society of Friends.
Unfortunately, the new buildings were expensive to construct and maintain, and the local Quaker community found them a troublesome burden for many years. Membership meanwhile had declined and by 1850 it was seriously proposed to sell the property to the Wesleyans.
Fresh life and vigour was injected into local Quakerism shortly after this low season, when Alexander Eddington came to the city as a partner in a family grocery business on Gentleman's Walk. He and his wife involved local Friends in the growing Adult School movement and within a few years both the Goat Lane and Gildencroft Meeting Houses were the scene of intense educational activity. Adjacent buildings in Pottergate were acquired for the work in the 1870s and many people came into membership of the Society as a result of this close association.
During the 2nd World War the Goat Lane buildings escaped direct bombing although much of the surrounding property was devastated. Friends reappraised the use of buildings after the war and decided the Pottergate premises could be let to Norwich's first old people's club and to two firms as offices. The Gildencroft buildings were destroyed in an raid in 1942; they were rebuilt in a more modest form in 1958 and since 1975 have been let to the Norfolk County Council as a day centre for psycho-geriatric patients, Friends retaining the right to use the premises when interments are made in the adjoining burial ground.
Extensive and costly modernisation of parts of the Goat Lane premises was undertaken between 1973 and 1975, including the provision of well-appointed living accommodation for Wardens, who are charged with the oversight of the complex and the encouragement of its greatest possible use by Friends and other acceptable bodies and groups.
Organisation of the Society and the nature of documents created by the Society of Friends:
The Yearly Meeting:
In 1672, the annual meeting was established and was to be held in London: 'For better managing, ordering and regulating the public affairs of friends, relating to the truth, and the service thereof...' (fn 2). The Meeting was composed of representatives from every Quarterly Meeting in Great Britain and from the national meeting in Ireland: there were four representatives from each meeting, except Yorkshire, which sent eight, and London, which sent twelve. A clerk to the meeting was chosen by representatives of one of the five districts in rotation: these were, in 1672, North (Cheshire and Staffordshire, Cumberland and Northumberland, Lancashire, Durham, Westmoreland, Yorkshire, and Scotland); South (Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Kent, London and Middlesex, Surrey, and Sussex); East (Cambridge and Huntingdon, Essex, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Norwich, and Suffolk); West (Bristol and Somerset, Cornwall, Devonshire, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, Wales); Midland (Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Rutland). The activities of the representatives appear to have been supervised and a resolution of 1709 stated: 'Advised, that no representatives withdraw, or go out of Town, before the Meeting end, without leave first requested and granted; that the service of the meeting may not be neglected.' (fn 3)
The Yearly Meeting supervised all aspects of the Society's activities and laid down regulations and gave advice for the ordering of meetings, the governance of conduct and the clarifying of doctrine. The Epistles from the Yearly Meeting offer guidance in a wide range of issues, such as tithes, the swearing of oaths, marriage, the education of the young, trade, war, sufferings, the keeping of records and holding of meetings together with general exhortations to be strong in the faith. The meeting also acted as a 'court' of appeal for other meetings against the actions and judgements of the quarterly meeting. (fn 4)
Friends in Norfolk and Norwich held their own yearly meetings at Norwich, and at these it was decided when and where the next yearly meeting, the Quarterly Meetings and the Meetings for Worship were to be held.
The Quarterly Meeting:
This Meeting had direct powers of supervision over the monthly meetings and the extent of its authority was defined by the Yearly Meeting in London in 1743: 'When a quarterly meeting hath come to a judgement respecting any difference relative to any monthly meeting belonging to it, and notified the same in writing to such monthly meeting, the said monthly meeting ought to submit to the judgement of the quarterly meeting; but if such monthly meeting shall not be satisfied therewith, then the monthly meeting may appeal to the Yearly Meeting against the judgement and determination of the quarterly meeting' (fn 5). The quarterly meeting decided what particular meetings should be held and when any monthly meetings should be amalgamated; a minute of the Quarterly Meeting of Norfolk and Norwich, 30 September 1719 stated: 'This meeting considering the State of Yarmouth Meeting, and finding that it is joyned with no Monthly Meeting in this County, neither are the friends of that Place sufficient for to be a Monthly Meeting of themselves: John Manning, Gregory Springall, and John Gurney Junr. are therefore desired to consider ... what Monthly Meeting is most pro per for them to be a branch of...' (fn 6) and in December of that year the Friends of Yarmouth Meeting informed the Quarterly Meeting 'That they are desirous to be joyned with Norwich Monthly Meeting...' (fn 7). Furthermore, no monthly meeting could be divided without the consent of the Quarterly Meeting. (fn 8)
Many charities and estates were administered by the quarterly meeting: the Norfolk and Norwich Quarterly Meeting administered, amongst others, the Buckingham Trust, which was composed of considerable estates around King's Lynn and was intended for the benefit of the poor. Until 1850 the Quarterly Meeting supervised the Monthly and particular meeting in Norfolk in the care of their poor and similar supervisory powers were held by other Quarterly Meetings. (fn 9)
The quarterly meeting was composed of representative from each monthly meeting. The monthly meetings sent in reports concerning attendance at the regular holding of meetings, financial matters, the building or closing of meeting houses as well as more particular reports concerning individual members or individual problems. Attempts were made by the quarterly meeting to insure that a high standard was maintained in all aspects of the organisation of its constituent meetings.
Until 1850, there was a Quarterly Meeting of Norfolk and Norwich but from 1851 this was amalgamated with the Quarterly Meeting of Cambridge and Huntingdon. This uniting of the two meetings gave rise to certain problems, particularly in the administration of charities, and it appears that bequests and gifts administered by the Quarterly Meeting before 1850 for charitable purposes, continued to be confined to persons and places within the compass of the original Quarterly Meeting, i.e. either Norfolk and Norwich or Cambridge and Huntingdon.
The Monthly Meeting:
The daily affairs of the Society and the regulation of the conduct of individuals were supervised by the Monthly Meeting, the minute-books of which are of considerable interest. Marriage, births and deaths were the concern of this meeting, together with matters of discipline and the sufferings of individual members. The meetings were originally responsible for the management of their own financial affairs but from the 18th century the Norfolk meetings began to turn increasingly to the Quarterly Meeting for assistance: Lynn received help from 1735-1765; Wymondham 1745-1772; Tivetshall from 1765; Lammas and Holt from 1779; Yarmouth from 1801. Norwich Monthly Meeting received assistance in the early years of the 18th century, but then remained independent until 1818. Most meetings were assisted by a number of legacies and gifts which contributed towards the maintenance and repair of meeting houses and other property and towards the aid for the poor and young friends.
A clerk was appointed by the meeting to keep the Minute Books and other records, including the issuing and recording of removal certificates, marriage documents and certificates for sufferings. The earliest appointment of a clerk in Norfolk appears to have been in September 1677, when, in a minute of Norwich Monthly Meeting, it was agreed 'that Edward Monk shall have 5/- ye quarter for writing for Friends'. (fn 10)
At one time, Norwich Monthly Meeting held direct communication with the Yearly Meeting in London - a privilege accorded also to Bristol, London and Colchester. These privileges were relinquished in 1794.
The size and number of Monthly Meetings held in a region were an indication of the strength of the Society. It was considered that small monthly meetings were unsatisfactory and in 1752 the Yearly Meeting recommended that 'wheresoever it appears that any monthly meeting, through the smalness of the number of friends attending them, are not sufficiently qualified for carrying on the discipline of the church, we wish that such small meetings might join with some other neighbouring monthly meeting' (fn 11). Further information concerning the strength of any meeting can be obtained from the minute books which include details of attendances, applications for membership, removals and the enlargement or building of meeting houses.
Each monthly meeting was composed of a number of constituent meetings, too small in themselves to form a monthly meeting: In 1950 Norwich Monthly Meeting consisted of a large preparative meeting at Norwich and four small meetings at Beccles, Pakefield, Sheringham and Yarmouth.
The Preparative Meeting:
These were closely allied to Particular Meetings and Allowed Meetings: all three were held by the constituent meetings of the Monthly Meeting, but whereas the particular and allowed meetings were the equivalent of Meetings for Worship, the Preparative Meeting undertook responsibility for business and organisation and alone appointed representatives to the Monthly Meeting. The responsibilities of the Preparative Meeting were defined by the Yearly Meeting in 1799: 'To inquire after births, burials and removals in order to carry accounts thereof to the Monthly Meeting. To read and consider the queries, as settled by the Yearly Meeting, and conclude on answers to them ... in writing if convenient. To appoint representatives to the Monthly Meeting. If overseas or other concerned friends incline to consult the Preparative Meeting, before they report cases of delinquency to the Monthly Meeting, they may do so; but the Preparative Meeting should not make a record thereof'. (fn 12)
The Meeting was divided into a meeting for men and a meeting for women, as was usual for other meetings. The Yearly Meeting of 1799 drew attention to this division: 'This meeting is of the judgement that men and women should not be at liberty to sit together, in transacting the business of Preparative Meetings'.(fn 13).
Meetings of Women Friends:
George Fox in a letter dated 23 June 1671 recommended the setting up of Women's Meetings: '... that the Wimen may come into the prattice of the Pure Religion, which is to vissitt the Widdows and the fatherless, and to see that all bee kept from the spots of the World .... yow are helpes Meete to the men in Righteousness and true holyness Justice and the wasdome of God: and who may assist and informe the men of nessesityes which yow cannot doe yourselves ... And so it woulde doe well the Wimen to have a distinct Meting by themselves ... that yow all may bee perfect and Compleate in Christ Jesus ...' (fn 14).
There was a monthly meeting of Women Friends held at Norwich as early as May 1672, when it was ordered that the Men's Meeting and the Women's Meeting should take place at the same time. A proposal for a Women's Quarterly Meeting in Norfolk first appears in a minute of July 1754, by which seven Friends were appointed 'to consider of the most pro per method for establishing a Quarterly Meeting of Women Friends in this County' (fn 14a); in September 1754, a minute recommended the Formation of a Women's Quarterly Meeting and this was fully established in September 1756.
The Women's Meeting had certain special duties, laid down in Yearly Epistles and Minutes 1792-1801; Women Friends were to 'inspect and relieve the wants of the poor of their own sex; and to apply to the Men's Meeting for the means and for their concurrence'; to 'take recognizance of proposals for marriage...'; to join in removal certificates for Women Friends; on receiving certificates for Women friends from the Men's Meeting, to arrange to meet the persons concerned; to join with the men in visiting a woman applying for membership or reinstatement; to inform the Men's Meeting if they found it necessary to 'record any of its members as delinquents' (fn 15).
Meetings of Ministry and Oversight (or Ministry and Elders):
'It is agreed that ... there be held in each monthly meeting, a meeting of ministers and elders once in three months, some time previous to those monthly meetings which immediately precede the quarterly meeting; in which meetings of ministers and elders, after some time spent in solid retirement, the queries are to be read and considered; and answered in writing .... Opportunity also may be given for tender advice and assistance ..... At the quarterly meeting of ministers and elders next preceding the Yearly Meeting, a general answer is to be drawn up to the queries, to be sent by representatives to the Yearly Meeting of ministers and elders ....' (fn 16). These queries were concerned with the regular holding of meetings (particularly of meetings for worship), attendances and general discipline.
The belief was held that any man, woman or child might be 'divinely commissioned to prophesy' (fn 17) that is, to preach, and that certain individuals were given special gifts of prophesy, which were to be cherished and encouraged. The knowledge of such divinely inspired prophesy was to be spread abroad and the preachers or ministers were to travel spreading the word; consequently there emerged an itinerant ministry, and the meetings were under an obligation to assist their ministers in every way, including providing towards their expenses and if necessary, towards the maintenance of their families. Ministers travelled extensively both in Britain and overseas and there were many visits to Britain by friends from America and from the Continent. A minister was considered to be a hel per and guide in religious and spiritual matters and, together with the elders, was responsible for seeing that meetings for worship were held 'to the edification and to the honour of God'. (fn 18)
The elders or overseers were chosen by other Friends: the Yearly Meeting minute of 1784 states 'It is agreed, in order to prevent an impro per choice of elders, that monthly meetings, when a nomination becomes necessary, should refer the matter to the solid consideration of a committee of judicious friends....' (fn 19). It was continually emphasized by the Yearly Meeting that it was necessary for the conduct of elders and overseers to be above reproach: '... the necessity of their being ensamples to the flock appears exceedingly great: particularly in a diligent attendance of all our meetings for solemn worship and the discipline of the Church; and being therein very deep and weighty in spirit, labouring with an ardour of soul suited to the occasion, for the arising of the ancient spring of life' (fn 20). Arrangements were made for correction should an elder fall short of the ideal and 'give cause of uneasiness or dissatisfaction to friends, in doctrine, behaviour or conversation, the person so offending is to be dealt with privately in a gospel spirit and manner. If this shall not take effect, then let complaint be made of such person to the monthly meeting which he or she may belong to: that proceeding thereon be had accordingly and the affair be settled with all possible expedition.' (fn 21).
Meetings for Worship:
These meetings were usually held on a Sunday and often during the week as well: special meetings were sometimes called when a marriage was to be held. In 1741, Norwich Monthly Meeting ordered 'that our Meetings for Worship both on ye first days and week days for the future and in such places where there is only One Meeting in ye day do begin at ye Eleventh hour In ye forenoon' (fn 22). Regular attendance at these meetings was considered a basic duty of a professing member: 'Persons professing with us, who absent themselves from our religious meetings, and disregard the repeated advice and endeavours of friends to stir them up to this necessary duty, are to be dealt with by the monthly meeting to which they belong, even to disowning, if the case require it' (fn 23). An important element in Quaker Worship was 'watchfulness'; one meditated and prayed in silence, awaiting the call of God to rouse one to utterance: this silent worship provoked the following advice from the Yearly Meeting in 1724: 'Advised, that friends, though meetings are sometimes held in silence, would not neglect their attendance' (fn 24). Friends were also responsible for the attendance of their children and servants and in 1723 were advised to 'keep their children to an orderlye frequenting, as well of weekday, as of First-day meetings....' (fn 25).
Meetings for Discipline:
The purpose of such meetings was to watch over members, to report on the short-comings of individuals and to attempt to bring members to a realization of their faults and to repentance. Should cause for complaint or dissatisfaction be found, the duty of the meeting was to warn those concerned and to try to persuade them to return to the truth, rather than to censure them. The aims of the meeting were summarised by the Yearly Meeting in 1722: 'Advised to a cementing in a very close and brotherly fellowship one with another in the divine Spirit; and therein to watch against all occasion of discord, or breach of unity, in any quarterly meeting or particular meeting...' (fn 26).
Meetings for Sufferings:
In 1673 the Yearly Meeting recommended that Meetings for sufferings be held four times a year: between 1794 and 1798 it was decreed that meetings be held on the first 'sixth-day' (Saturday) in each month. The Yearly Meeting of Sufferings was composed of 'correspondents appointed by the several Quarterly Meetings and by foreign parts corresponding with this Meeting (the Yearly Meeting in London), also approved men ministers' (fn 27). Details of the Sufferings of Friends throughout the country and abroad were sent to the meeting. Similar meetings were held by the Monthly and Quarterly Meetings, and their records consist for the most part of registers of sufferings, copies of which were sent to the Yearly Meeting in London: these were very brief accounts of the distraints upon Friends, chiefly for non-payment of tithes.
The registers were compiled from certificates of sufferings from individual members sent to the Meeting. These certificates gave the name of the Friend concerned, the nature of the goods taken and their value, the reason why the goods were taken and, in most cases, the name of the officials involved. The most common reason for seizures was non-payment of tithes. The Friends refused to pay tithes believing that the practice 'originally sprang from that anti-christian root, popish usurpation in church and state..' (fn 27a). The full doctrinal position with regard to tithes is set out by the Yearly Meeting in 1758: '... all acceptable worship is performed and all true gospel ministry supplied ... that as the gift is divine, the service is freely and faithfully to be discharged, without any view to reward from man; and therefore, should we voluntarily, either by open or collusive means, contribute to the maintenance of such as preach for hire, we should be guilty of inconsistency in practice, by supporting, as ministers of Christ, those whom we do not believe to be sent by him, and upholding them in a conduct contrary to his command, which is 'Freely ye have received, freely give'.' (fn 28). Friends were frequently moved to complain of the hardships caused by loss of their possessions: a letter from Samuel Duncon, in prison at Norwich, written about 1670, gave the following account of the sufferings of Friends: 'Loss of goodes (whereby we have been forct to lodge in straw) loss of libertyes, Spoyle of trades, Spoyle of Creditts, and the dettrem(ent) that (you know) Accrue to younge tradesmen thereby; soe that we are incapeable to Mainetaine our Aged Parents, and Relations, and others, As we did help to doe when we Injoy'd ym.' (fn 29)
Another important aspect of Quaker doctrine was pacifism-non-pacifist views and actions could result in disownment. Consequently, the Friends refused to contribute towards the armed forces and certificates often record distraints for non-payment of the dues to secure a militia substitute. In 1760 the Yearly Meeting warned: '... Let therefore the care of Friends, in their several Monthly Meetings, be exerted to prevent any contributions for hiring substitutes, or other methods of exempting themselves from the militia inconsistent with our well-known testimony'. (fn 30) Again, in 1762, the Yearly Meeting declared '... we cannot, consistently with our well-known principles, actively pay the rate or assessment, which by virtue of any militia act, may be imposed in lieu of personal service; or any rates or assessments made for advancing the hire or enlisting-money of volunteers' (fn 31).
The imprisonment of Quakers was not uncommon in the first century of the Society's activity but details of these cases seem to be recorded in the minute-books of the Monthly Meeting to which the Friend belonged, and, consequently these minute-books give an illuminating picture of the early days of the Society. The most frequent cause of imprisonment was the refusal of the Friends to swear the oath of allegiance, believing that the swearing of oaths was contrary to the Word of God. This situation was, however, remedied by an Act of 22 George II, cap. 46, by which the affirmation-'I, A.B., do solemnly, sincerely, and truly, declare and affirm...'-was to operate in all cases when an oath was required by Act of Parliament 'except in criminal cases, to serve on juries, or to bear any office or place of profit in the government...' (fn 32).
Until about 1700, there were no definite requirements for membership of the Society of Friends and it appears that many attended meetings who did not consider themselves as members. Eventually, the system was evolved whereby an adult applied to the monthly meeting nearest his or her place of residence and which he or she had attended for full membership: representatives were appointed by that monthly meeting to visit the applicant and to examine him or her on points of doctrine and discipline. These representatives then reported to their meeting and either recommended acceptance of the application or that the position be reviewed at a later date. Children were a special case and in 1820 the Yearly Meeting declared that the right of membership should automatically extend 'to any child born of parents in membership, such parents having been married in a manner agreeable to ... the rules of the Society; also to any child, either the father or mother of whom is at the time of its birth a member, provided such father and mother were married in a manner agreeable to the said rules' (fn 33). If the parents had married in a way contrary to the rules of the Society, the children of that marriage could not be recognised as members unless the parents had been acknowledged or reinstated as 'members in unity'. Cases of doubtful membership were settled by the meetings concerned, according to their own ideas, until about 1710, after which the rules laid down by the Yearly Meeting were closely relied upon. There appear to have been only a few such disputes for between 1709 and 1849 Norfolk and Norwich Quarterly Meeting decided only eleven doubtful cases (fn 34).
Removal Certificates:
These were required for all members moving either within Britain or abroad from 1694, but previously the Certificates had only been necessary for Friends travelling overseas. The certificate was sent from the Meeting of which the Friend concerned was a member to the meeting, within whose compass the Friend had moved. The new Meeting sent an acknowledgement for the Certificate to the original meeting and eventually, after investigation of the 'truth' of the certificate, sent an acceptance for it. The certificate was intended to show if the member was free from any marriage obligations or debts and had shown himself or herself to be of good character and conduct and worthy to remain a member. If a Friend moved with other members of the family, who were not members of the Society, the names of all concerned were entered on the Certificate with the note that they were not in membership. In 1691 Norfolk and Norwich Quarterly Meeting decided that Friends who intended to move should inform their Monthly Meeting and the meeting to which they remove 'to have the concurrence of the said meeting before they go' (fn 35) and in 1693 it was stated: 'No certificates to be given unto any under a Month's Notice, and the same to have a Testimony concerning the Unity of the party's conversation' (fn 36) that is, the unity of the member with the beliefs of the Society.
Meetings undertook considerable responsibility for the care of their poor members and the removal certificates came to serve a similar purpose to settlement certificates. Between 1737 and 1801 the yearly meeting introduced certain regulations to clarify the responsibility of the Meetings to those poor members who had recently moved: 'Such as shall have been relieved by, or on behalf of, a Monthly Meeting, within three years preceding the delivery of certificates ... from them to another monthly meeting, shall become members of the latter in all respects except as to maintenance' (fn 37). Similarly, a Friend who was insolvent at the time of the delivery of the removal certificate or within three years after delivery was not the responsibility of the new meeting but of the meeting which recommended him. An apprentice, however, gained full settlement at the Meeting to which his master belonged forty days after the delivery of the apprentice's certificate.
The migration of members to and from different parts of the country helps to account for the collapse and growth of meetings. In 1763 the Norfolk and Norwich Quarterly Meeting reported to the Yearly Meeting: 'The state of things in this county is low and by the removal of divers members, meetings in some places are reduced to a very small number' (fn 38). It has been estimated that, from 1700 to 1850, 653 persons migrated from Norfolk compared with 558 moving to the county (fn 39); from 1700 to 1785 a larger number moved to Norfolk than moved away and from 1786 to 1815 the opposite was true. The largest discrepancy occurred between 1786 and 1795 when 106 moved away from Norfolk and only 54 persons migrated to the county (fn 40). Most of the migrants from Norfolk went to London, and fifteen went to America between 1700 and 1850. It appears that certain families moved most frequently as only some 300 surnames appear in 1,715 certificates (fn 41).
The procedure for marriage was highly complex. Firstly, it was necessary for the parties to declare their intention of marriage to the monthly meeting: from 1672 both the men's meeting and the women's meeting had to be informed. If the parents or guardians were present, they had to declare their consent to the marriage: if they were absent their written consent was to be given. The first instance of the parents' consent being recorded in Norwich was on 9 October 1672 for the marriage of Henry Canawell of St Gregory's parish, Norwich, and Ann Harries of the parish of St George Colegate, Norwich, when the parties were ordered 'to bring Certificates from their parents against the next monthly meeting of their consents' (fn 42). Two men and two women Friends were then appointed to inquire into the freedom of the parties from other marital obligations; the first example of this at Norwich was in October 1675 and from 1695 it was the regular practice. If the parties were from different Monthly Meetings, the man had to declare his intention of marriage to his men's meeting and produce certificates of his parents' consent and of the woman's consent: if no objection was made, he was recommended to the Woman's Meeting and the standard procedure followed. A public announcement of the Notice of Intent was given by the Monthly Meeting. A Superintendent Registrar's Certificate for Marriage without licence was required before the marriage could be solemnised: if the parties lived within different administrative areas, two certificates were necessary. Finally a Notice of Liberation for marriage was issued by the clerk and overseer of the meeting for the Registering Officer and then the marriage could take place. Marriages could be solemnised at any meeting house 'where meetings for Worship are regularly held', (fn 43) and were performed at week-day meetings. The parties made a declaration, the certificate was read by some third person and was signed by the parties, relations and the clerk of the meeting. Registers of marriages were kept; these gave the names of the parties and their places of residence, the occupation of the man, the names of the man's parents and the date and place of the marriage. At one time there was a doubt as to the validity of Quaker marriages: in 1653 it was established that only marriages solemnised before Justices of the Peace could be recognised by the state. However the validity of Quaker marriages was generally considered to have been established by a 'nisi prius' case at Nottingham in 1661 (fn 44). The absolute necessity for a celebration in church was established only by the decision of the House of Lords in the case of Regina vs Millis, 1844, but an Act 10 and 11 Victoria, cap.58, validated all other marriages 'ex post facto' (fn 45).
It was considered of very great importance that Friends should marry according to the rules of the Society and the Yearly Meeting frequently expressed concern about adherence to these regulations. To marry in a manner contrary to the rules of the Society could constitute grounds for disownment by the Society: in 1768 the Yearly Meeting declared '... where any marry by the priest, or in any other manner contrary to the established rules of the Society, they shall be dealt with in the Spirit of Christian love and tenderness ... and that after the commission of such offence, their collection shall not be received, nor shall they be relieved in the manner of poor friends, nor be admitted to sit in meetings for discipline, until they be restored into unity with the monthly meeting to which they belong ...' (fn 46). Cases of disownment are recorded as early as 1701 when Norwich Monthly Meeting disowned Peter Huit until he should acknowledge his offences 'and that particularly of taking a wife or wives by the Priest and listing for a Trooper'. (fn 47). It was also considered a fault to marry a non-member and parents were given considerable responsibility in seeing that their children made an acceptable marriage. In 1752, the Yearly Meeting declared: 'This Meeting being sorrowfully affected under the consideration of divers in our Society entering into marriage with such as are not of the same faith; or being married in a manner contrary to our established rules, with such as are in profession with us: to prevent which, many minutes ... have from time to time been made; but the said minutes not appearing to extend to parents and guardians, that may be consenting to or encouraging such marriages; it is therefore the direction of this meeting, when that appears to be the case, that such parents or guardians, so offending, be dealt with in a spirit of Christian love and meekness; and unless satisfaction be given to the monthly meeting ... that a testimony go forth for the clearing of truth against such offenders'. (fn 48). It was also forbidden to remarry within twelve months of the death of one's partner (fn 49).
Birth Certificates and Registers:
There was no ceremony of baptism performed by the Society of Friends, for baptism was considered to be simply an external appendage of true religion: consequently there are no registers of baptisms but instead the Friends kept registers of births for the children of members, giving the name of the child, the names of the parents and the date and place of birth and in some cases the occupation of the father. In 1676 it was ordered 'that no births of children be recorded without the consent of the Monthly Meeting' (fn 50). The first entry concerning the recording of births to be found amongst the records of Friends in Norfolk occurs in a minute of the Norwich meeting, 14 November 1681: 'Ordered that Tho. Buddery, Jn. Defraunce and Simon Gogny speak to Sam. Defraunce why he requires his child to be recorded among Friends' (fn 51). Certificates for birth were issued from 1673 and were in essence a notification of the birth of a child to a member of the Society.
Burial Records:
Registers of burials were maintained by the Meetings and recorded the name of the person, the date of death and the date and place of burial and occasionally the occupation or some other descriptive note. Certificates of burial were issued, setting out the name of the person, date of death and date and place of burial; also orders for burial were issued, requiring that a grave be ready on a certain day. There were also certificates of registry of death, simply a notification of the death of a person, issued by the Registrar.
At one time grave-stones were erected but in 1717 the Yearly Meeting issued the following statement: 'This Meeting being informed, that friends in some places have gone to the vain custom of erecting monuments over the dead bodies of friends, by stones, inscriptions etc. it is therefore the advice of this Meeting, that all such monuments should be removed, as much as may be with discretion and conveniency: and that none be anywhere made or set up, near, or over, the dead bodies of friends or others, in friends' burying-places for time to come'. Norwich Meeting had decided that gravestones should not be erected in 1692 but Blomefield, writing circa 1730, described a number of grave-stones at Gildencroft Burial Ground, Norwich, including one altar-tomb, marking the grave of James Dyer, died 2 September 1716, aged 79, and Dinah his wife, died 28 April 1723, aged 80. This tomb bore the following inscription:
'All you that do this place pass by
Remember Death, for you must Die,
As you are now, o'en so was I,
And as I am, so shall you be' (fn 52)
Charities and other Trusts:
It was considered a duty to care for those who were beset by misfortune: the poor were treated with sympathy, provided that they had tried in every way possible to improve their position and had not become poor through rash and foolish conduct. Friends were exhorted to be ... 'very careful to avoid all pursuit after things of this world, by such ways and means as depend too much on hazardous enterprises..' (fn 53). Those who failed to pay their 'just debts' could be disowned and the Yearly Meeting declared ... 'monthly or other meetings ought not to receive collections or bequests for the use of the poor, or other services of the society, or persons who have fallen short in the payment of their just debts ...' (fn 54).
Friends were advised to help the deserving poor 'that the tokens of your charity may be good precedents to generations to come' (fn 55). Regular collections were made for the use of the poor and from about 1683 the care of the poor was considered the primary concern of the business meeting. Aid was given in cash and in kind: extracts from the Poor Books give an indication of the variety of aid given e.g. 1719/20 William Claydon was given £5 4s. and an additional £3 5s. 2d. 'for his rent and coals'; 1760/61 Hannah Thompson was given an allowance of 4s. 6d. a week, 1s. 2d. for 'mending Shoes and Shifts' and 2s. 8d. 'New Shoes 1 pair'; 1797/8 Elizabeth Elbeck was given a weekly allowance of 5s. for 21 weeks and her nurse given '7 wks. board and wages'; the expenses incurred upon the death of Elizabeth Elbeck were also paid by the Meeting-'watchers 21 nights at 1/-', coffin £1 1s., shroud 9s. 11d. and the grave 3s. (fn 56). Houses were built for the poor and Norwich Monthly Meeting reported in 1703 'Isaac Sewell did then bring in an account of £29 16s. 6d. collected towards defraying the charge of the building of the poor houses and yet wants £5 11s. 9d. more to make up the deficiency' (fn 57).
Poor children were frequently apprenticed and if the Monthly Meeting was unable to meet the costs, the Quarterly Meeting would often undertake part payment. Originally a fee of £6 and 40s. for clothing was paid but in 1777 the Norfolk and Norwich Quarterly Meeting increased this: 'It appearing that the present Apprentice Fee allowed by this meeting is too small, it is therefore now Agreed that in future the same be augmented to Eight Pounds premium and Forty shillings for clothing' (fn 58). Orphans were cared for by the Friends, for example, in May 1688 the Norwich Monthly Meeting ordered 'that John (the son of John Woods and Barbary his wife, both deceased) being put to Nurse to Susanna the wife of John Weeds, it is agreed by this Meeting that she have 2s. 6d. per week for the Nursing of It' (fn 59).
The Meetings therefore had considerable responsibility towards the poor and the funds for this purpose were considerably augmented by bequests and gifts, whereby money was invested or lands leased and held in trust for the poor of certain Monthly Meetings and of the Quarterly Meeting.
The Buckingham Trust:
This was the largest Charitable trust administered by the Quakers in Norfolk: the estate was managed by the Trustees and the accounts audited by a Committee appointed by the Quarterly Meeting. The estate was bequeathed by Thomas Buckingham in his will dated 17 October 1702, to John Hubbard and others for the benefit of Friends belonging to the Meetings of Kings Lynn, Stoke, Upwell, Downham, Hillgay and Wells. The revenue was intended for the poor of those meetings and any surplus was to be used by the Quarterly Meeting for their poor 'Provided ... that the same be never sold neither any part nor parts thereof but continually to be kept and the Revenues thereof for the use of the Poor Quakers for ever' (fn 60). In 1851 Norfolk and Norwich Quarterly Meeting was united with that of Cambridge and Huntingdon but the income from the charity was restricted to objects within the limits of the original Norfolk and Norwich Quarterly Meeting.
The estate consisted of 9 acres of land at Runcton and South Lynn, near Lynn South Gates, valued at £10 per annum; 18 acres in South Lynn at £13 6s. per annum: 14 acres in St Mary's in Marshland at £11 per annum: houses in South Lynn with a garden and orchard adjoining to serve as a burial ground and for Friends' horses, and these were valued at £7 per annum; two plots at Downham of 2 acres and 3 acres respectively, valued at £1 an acre; 50 acres with houses and barns at Islington in Marshland, valued at £29 per annum; and houses, tenements, malthouses and yards in South Lynn at £18 5s. per annum (fn 61).
In 1754, Lynn Monthly Meeting reported that the trust was in debt and in 1764 an inquiry was ordered: John Gurney, Richard Ransome and Simon Bale were appointed to inquire into deficiencies and these Friends issued their report in 1766 (fn 62). Many grounds for complaint were discovered: the lands at Downham once rented at £5 were only yielding £4 per annum and it was suggested that this rent could be improved, particularly in view of the good timber on the land; the farm at Islington was badly managed and was let to an old man for £29 per annum and the suggestion was made that, after the tenant's death, the farm should be let for £35; the 14 acres of land at St Mary's fetched only £12 per annum, but it warranted a price of at least £1 an acre; the 9 acres at Lynn Southgates were well used and were leased at 30s. an acre 'but a considerable sum have been disbursed to put them in the order they now are' (fn 63); 12 acres in South Lynn fetched £9 12s. per annum and deserved a price of £1 an acre, but the lease had another seven years to run: a further 6 acres in Lynn were not leased but if this was done the land could fetch £1 or 25s. an acre; the houses in South Lynn were all tenanted and in good repair but it was thought that the house and malthouse could fetch more than £18 per annum and that the three small tenements, let for £4 per annum, could be greatly improved if £30 or £40 was spent on them. The income from the estate was gradually increased and by 1839 the Quarterly Meeting was able to report that the rents had risen from the original £93 11s. per annum to £233 6s. 6d. per annum (fn 64).
Despite the clause in Thomas Buckingham's will forbidding the sale of the estate, the composition of the estate changed considerably. In 1798 the Eau Brink Commissioners by Act of Parliament took 5 acres 19 perches of land in St Mary's and the purchase-money was invested in £365 17s. 2d. 3 per cent consols. In 1845, 2 acres and 23 perches of the land at Lynn Southgates were bought by Lynn and Ely Railway Company for £600: it was discovered that in fact 2 acres 1 rood 11 perches had been taken and an additional £49 was paid (fn 65). The £600 was invested in 3 per cent consols and the £49 in 3.25 per cent consols. Certain lands at Islington were exchanged during the 19th century to obtain a plot of 21 acres 2 roods 27 perches intersecting the farm at Islington and this transaction increased the income by £12 19s. per annum. The houses in South Lynn were demolished in the 1820s and the site and adjoining land were let on a 99 year building lease at an annual rent of £45, later increased to £50.
Daniel Boulter's Legacy:
This was a bequest of £150, invested in 4 per cent consols, yielding an annual income of £4 17s. 6d. Originally the bequest was intended for the use of the poor Friends of Yarmouth Meeting but for some time before 1854 the income had been used to aid poor persons who were not members of the Society. Management of the trust was vested in Norwich Monthly Meeting of which Yarmouth formed a part.
Empson's Gift:
A plot of copyhold land in North Walsham in the occupation of Francis Allen was bequeathed to the Society by James Empson in 1702. The land was enfranchised on 8 April 1869. In 1870 part of the land, 24 square yards, was purchased by the Primitive Methodists for a chapel and the purchase money of £50 was invested in 3 per cent consols. In 1929 all the freehold property known as Empson's House was sold for £900 and some freehold land for £25: the money was invested in 4 per cent consols.
Henrietta Gurney's Legacy:
The sum of £100 was bequeathed to the Society of Friends in Henrietta Gurney's will, dated 21 February 1825 'for the benefit of poor members' (fn 66). The sum was invested in 4 per cent stock and yielded an annual income of £3 3s. 4d. Ultimately the trust was amalgamated with the United Charities.
Hudson Gurney's Gift:
In 1851, £1,000 was given to the Society of Friends 'for the Norwich Monthly Meeting, for the expenses of the Goat Lane, or, if not wanted, then for any purposes they may judge expedient' (fn 67). The money was invested in 3.25 per cent stock in 1853. This was redeemed in 1856 and used for the purpose of premises in Pitt Street, adjoining Gildencroft Burial Ground to provide another entrance should the Friends lose the carriage-way to the burial ground. In 1857 the property was leased to James Boardman for £40 per annum and in 1895 to Dr Everett. The estate was sold in 1906 for £600 and £560 of this was loaned to Lynn Preparative Meeting. In 1909 the charity was united under the Yearly Charge and Property Account.
John Jackson's Gift in lieu of his bond:
By an assignment of 27 November 1822 money was given to Trustees: £200 was to be used for the upkeep of Wymondham Meeting House and £200 for the repair of Thetford, Hingham and Mattishall Meeting Houses; £200 was given to the Norfolk and Norwich Quarterly Meeting to be used for poor members of Wymondham meeting or, should that meeting be dissolved, as the Quarterly Meeting directed. The sum was invested in 8½ per cent annuities.
John Jackson's Reversionary Gift:
An indenture dated 27 November 1822 declared that £500 was payable on the death of Mary Kett of Bungay to be used by the Quarterly Meeting for any purposes it desired. In 1837 Mary Kett died and in 1839 the Quarterly Meeting directed that the £500 should form a permanent fund 'to be applied in, for and towards the repairing, rebuilding or building of Meeting Houses and their appurtenances within the limits of the said Quarterly Meeting' (fn 68). If the money was not required for such purposes it could be applied as the Quarterly Meeting wished. The gift was invested in 4 per cent stock, giving an income of £20 per annum.
John Jackson's Apprentice Fund:
John Jackson, in an indenture dated 27 November 1822, assigned certain securities to the Society to be paid immediately after his death and £300 to be paid immediately to the Quarterly Meeting for investment in public funds. This money was to be used for binding out apprentices and was invested in 1827 in 3½ per cent reduced annuities. In 1851 the Quarterly Meeting of Norfolk and Norwich was united with that of Cambridge and Huntingdon and it was decided that the fund should be applied 'in conformity with the conditions of the several trusts and of former minutes of the Quarterly Meeting of Norfolk and Norwich' (fn 69).
Rosamund Lane's Legacy:
The sum of £100 was bequeathed to the Society of Friends in Rosamund Lane's will dated 20 November 1843 and the money was invested in 3 per cent consols. The legacy was intended for the poor of Wymondham Meeting 'without regarding whether such persons be or not members of the said Society of Friends' (fn 70). The income arising from the bequest was £3 per annum and in December 1845 the Quarterly Meeting declared that the money should be distributed annually under the control of Norwich Monthly Meeting. Ultimately the bequest was amalgamated with the United Charities.
Elizabeth Langwade's Gift:
This gift consisted of £516 7s. 11d. bequeathed to the Society by Elizabeth Langwade in April 1748. In 1767 a portion of the money was used to buy the Hop Ground, in the parish of St Clement's, from Richard Dauber: this estate was leased for 50 years to Robert Sewell in 1772. The remaining money was used to purchase £200 of 3 per cent consols in 1782 but some of the stock was redeemed in 1828 for £170 and used towards the liquidation of the debt incurred in building Goat Lane Meeting House. Another portion of the stock was sold to meet the expense of repairs to the roof of Yarmouth Meeting House in 1886 and the remaining funds were carried to the credit of the Yearly Charge Fund.
The Roydon Estate:
This estate, consisting of a farm with farmhouse, outhouses and barn, was a legacy from Richard Wainforth, who died in 1720. The proceeds from the estate were intended for charitable purposes and were to be distributed 'amongst such honest industrious Poor People called Quakers inhabiting within the said County of Norfolk ...' (fn 71). The estate was let to Charles Muskett for £44 per annum, this rent being subject to the deduction of the cost of repairs, land tax, rent charge in lieu of tithes and the rent of a cottage used by Poor Friends.
Samuel Robin's Gift:
A messuage in the Market Place at Norwich was bequeathed to the Society of Friends in the will of Samuel Robins, dated 23 June 1711: the estate was left to Samuel Robin's wife for her lifetime and came to the Society in 1725. In 1837 the house was partly rebuilt at the cost of £546 11s. 6d., the sum of £500 being borrowed from the funds of John Jackson's Reversionary Gift. A new lease was drawn up in 1837 and the premises were rented at £80 per annum, the tenants having to pay rates and taxes, keep the property in repair and insure the premises for £750. In 1899 compensation of £250 was received from Lacon and Co. who built the Royal Arcade behind the shop so as to infringe ancient lights. The income from the estate was originally used for apprentices but in 1908 its uses were extended to promote the welfare of all young persons attending the Meeting House at Norwich.
The Subscription Fund:
This fund was started in 1751 and the interest was intended for the binding out of apprentices. In 1752 the fund amounted to £212 19s.: £12 19s. was used towards the Thursford estate and the remaining £200 was invested in 4 per cent stock. The purpose of the Fund was enlarged in 1757 when the income was used to pay school bills as well as to bind apprentices. However, by 1807, the income of the fund was found to be inadequate to meet demands and a subscription was raised, which amounted to £26 0s. 9d. In the same year £40 was given to the fund by Thomas Wagstaffe. Another subscription was raised in 1814 and this amounted to £63 14s. In 1824 the interest on the stock was reduced from 4 per cent to 3½ per cent and again in 1845 to 2.75 per cent. In 1825, a legacy of £20 from Ephraim Heywood was added to the estate.
The Thursford Estate:
In January 1720 an estate of 8 acres 3 roods was purchased, in part with a bequest of £40 from George Watson of Upwell. The original estate consisted of three pieces of land but this was exchanged for another piece of land in the same parish. The Quarterly Meeting administered the property. In 1731, the estate was let to Henry Winn of Kettleston on a 99 year lease. The proceeds from the estate were intended for 'the clothing and putting out of poor children whose Parents are, or were, of the People call'd Quakers...' (fn 72). In 1830 the estate was let to Sir Charles Chad, Bart., for £10 per annum, and in 1879 was sold to Joseph Scott Chad for £550. The purchase money was invested in stock which was held in trust for Watson's Charity.
John Verdon's Gift:
A gift of £20 from John Verdon in June 1696 was used to purchase an estate in Wymondham from Edward Smith of Lynn and any profits were to be used for the poor. By the inclosure award of 1810, 2 acres of land were exchanged for the cottage and 1 rood 32 perches of land, purchased with Verdon's Gift. The said 2 acres were let to John Mitchell in 1845 for £3 5s. per annum. In 1847, 2 roods and 29 perches were purchased by the Norwich and Brandon Railway Co. and the purchase money invested in 3 per cent consols. The remaining land was let to John Mitchell for £2 3s. per annum. In 1921 the Charity was amalgamated with the United Charities and in 1922 the land was sold to E. Routh Clarke for £65, this being invested in £127 5s. 7d. consols.
John Wagstaffe's Legacy:
This was a bequest in April 1807 of £200 in 5 per cent navy stock, the dividend 'to be paid to any poor maidens or widows who shall marry according to the forms or established rules of the Society called Quakers....' (fn 73) and a further £50 in 3 per cent stock the income to be distributed to the poor in Norwich. In 1900 the stock was registered in the books of the Bank of England as £260 £2 5s. stock and the charity was amalgamated with the United Charities.
The Yearly Charge Fund:
In 1847, Joseph John Gurney gave a legacy of £100 for the fund: this was invested in 3 per cent consols and the dividends were applied to the Yearly Charge Account. A further bequest of £100 was made by Henry Birkbeck in 1848 and a bequest of £45 by Barbara Gooch in 1849: these bequests were also invested in 3 per cent consols. In 1899 the stocks were sold and applied as a loan for the purchase of the property called Goat Lane South, adjoining the Meeting House.
The United Charities:
These were properties vested in the 'Official Trustees of Charity Lands' and stocks vested in the 'Official trustees of Charitable Funds'. There were four Trustees appointed by the Charity Commission and those usually held their position for life. The first four appointed were Alexander Eddington, Charles Row, George Castleton and Jonathan Papps.
This collection which spans some three centuries gives a full picture of the development and growth of the Society of Friends in Norfolk. It is particularly fortunate that so much material apart from minute-books and registers have survived to give details of financial problems, trusts and estates as well as the work and problems of individuals such as Henry Brown, Henry Birkbeck, W.A.Loveless, Charles Muskett and Mathilda Leemann.

  1. Yearly Meeting Minutes, 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1751, SF 222.
  2. Yearly Meeting Minutes, 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1672.
  3. Yearly Meeting Minutes, 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1709.
  4. Yearly Meeting Minutes, 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1743.
  5. Yearly Meeting in Norwich. Minute Book 1694-1794, SF 219.
  6. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1743, SF 222.
  7. Norfolk and Norwich Quarterly Meeting. Minute Book 1708/9-1726/7, SF 1.
  8. Yearly Meeting Minutes, 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1715, SF 222.
  9. 'The Society of Friends and the treatment of its poor'. M.F.Lloyd Pritchard. Friends' Historical Journal 1947 and 1948.
  10. Norwich Monthly Meeting. Minute Book 1671-1690, SF 53.
  11. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1752, SF 222.
  12. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1799.
  13. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1799.
  14. Letter from George Fox 1671, SF 374/13.
    14a. Norfolk and Norwich Quarterly Meeting. Minute Book 1747-1762, SF 4.
  15. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minutes 1792-1801, SF 222.
  16. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minutes of 1753-1754, 1757-1758, 1780, 1784, 1786, 1790, 1797, 1801.
  17. Frederick B. Tolles, 'Quakers and the Atlantic Culture'.
  18. Frederick B. Tolles, 'Quakers and the Atlantic Culture'.
  19. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1784, SF 222.
  20. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1770.
  21. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1723.
  22. Norwich Monthly Meeting. Minute Book 1690-1745/6, SF 54.
  23. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Epistle 1770, SF 222.
  24. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1724.
  25. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1723.
  26. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1722.
  27. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Epistle of 1690.
    27a. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1702.
  28. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1758.
  29. Letter (copy) from Samuel Duncon 1670, quoted in SF 95.
  30. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1760, SF 222.
  31. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1762.
  32. Act of Parliament, 22 George II, cap. 46. Quoted in Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802, SF 222.
  33. Yearly Meeting Minutes. Minute of 1820.
  34. 'The Society of Friends and its treatment of its poor', M.F. Lloyd Pritchard. Friends' Historical Journal 1947 and 1948.
  35. Norwich Monthly Meeting. Minute Book. 1690-1745/6, SF 54.
  36. Norwich Monthly Meeting. Minute Book. 1690-1745/6, SF 54.
  37. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minutes of 1737, 1761, 1769, 1782, 1786, 1789, 1801, SF 222.
  38. Norwich Monthly Meeting. Minute Book 1671-1690, SF 53.
  39. 'The Society of Friends and its treatment of its Poor', M.F. Lloyd Pritchard. Friends' Historical Journal 1947 and 1948.
  40. 'The Society of Friends and its treatment of its Poor', M.F. Lloyd Pritchard. Friends' Historical Journal 1947 and 1948.
  41. 'The Society of Friends and its treatment of its Poor', M.F. Lloyd Pritchard. Friends' Historical Journal 1947 and 1948.
  42. Norwich Monthly Meeting. Minute Book 1671-1690, SF 53.
  43. Braithwaite, 'The Beginnings of Quakerism'.
  44. Fox's 'Journal', 8th edition, 1891, p. 520.
  45. Clarke and Finnelly, p.534. Quoted Braithwaite 'The Beginnings of Quakerism'.
  46. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1768, SF 222.
  47. Norwich Monthly Meeting. Minute Book 1690-1745/6, SF 54.
  48. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1602. Minute of 1752, SF 222.
  49. Norwich Monthly Meeting. Minute Book 1671-1690, SF 53.
  50. Yearly Meeting Minutes 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1676, SF 222.
  51. Norwich Monthly Meeting. Minute Book 1671-1690, SF 53.
  52. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1717, SF 222.
    52a. Blomefield, Vol. IV. p. 479. 1806 edition.
  53. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minutes 1724-1891, SF 222.
  54. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1782.
  55. Yearly Meeting Minutes. 2nd edition 1802. Minute of 1696.
  56. Account Book for the Poor. 1701-1799, SF 228.
  57. Norwich Monthly Meeting. Minute Book 1690-1745/6, SF 54. Quoted M.F. Lloyd Pritchard 'The Society of Friends and its treatment of its poor'. Friends' Historical Journal 1947 and 1948.
  58. Norfolk and Norwich Quarterly Meeting. Minute Book 1763-1781, SF 5.
  59. Norwich Monthly Meeting. Minute Book 1671-1690. Minute March 1688, SF 54.
  60. Descriptions of Trust Property as sent to the Commissioners on Charitable Trusts, 1854, SF 257.
  61. Descriptions of Trust Property as sent to the Commissioners on Charitable Trusts, 1854, SF 257.
  62. Norfolk and Norwich Quarterly Meeting. Minute Book 1763-1781, SF 5.
  63. Norfolk and Norwich Quarterly Meeting. Minute Book 1763-1781, SF 5.
  64. 'The Society of Friends and its treatment of its poor', M.F. Lloyd Pritchard. Friends' Historical Journal 1947 and 1948.
  65. Descriptions of Trust Property as sent to the Commissioners on Charitable Trusts 1854, SF 257.
  66. Descriptions of Trust Property as sent to the Commissioners on Charitable Trusts 1854, SF 257.
  67. 'A Record of the people called Quakers in the County of Norfolk...' SF 259
  68. Descriptions of Trust Property as sent to the Commissioners on Charitable Trusts 1854, SF 257.
  69. Descriptions of Trust Property as sent to the Commissioners on Charitable Trusts 1854, SF 257.
  70. Descriptions of Trust Property as sent to the Commissioners on Charitable Trusts 1854, SF 257.
  71. 'A Record of the people called Quakers in the County of Norfolk...' SF 259
  72. Descriptions of Trust Property as sent to the Commissioners on Charitable Trusts, 1854, SF 257.
  73. Descriptions of Trust Property as sent to the Commissioners on Charitable Trusts, 1854, SF 257.



Legal status

Functions, occupations and activities

Mandates/sources of authority

Internal structures/genealogy

General context

Meeting Houses and Burial Grounds
The Meeting House and burial ground were sold by Philip Sewell in 1753 and released to trustees in December 1791. During the 19th century, the Meeting House was let as a school and in 1854 was fetching a rent of £4 per annum. This income was used towards the upkeep of the estate and any surplus for the expenses of Pakefield Meeting House.
The old Meeting House and burial ground were purchased from Samuel Philips in 1698: the burial ground consisted of about a quarter of an acre of land at Walcot Green. A bequest by Samuel Philips of a messuage and 1.5a. of land at Walcot Green was intended to be used to provide funds for keeping the Meeting House in good repair. Land for a new Meeting House and burial ground was purchased from Charles Simpson on 28 September, 1774; a further three roods of land and a stable were bequeathed by the will of Thomas Hart for the providing Grass or Hay, Corn, etc. for the Horses of Publick Friends that visit Diss Meeting ... (fn 1)-this bequest was confirmed by Thomas Hart's widow in 1750. The Meeting House was maintained largely by the income from Thomas Hart's gift of some copyhold land: in 1854, this land was let to Richard Nunn at a rent of £4 10s. per annum: any residue after payment of repairs to the Meeting House was to be used to meet the expenses of visiting Ministers. After 1774 the old Meeting House at Walcot Green fell into disuse and any income from the estate at Walcot Green was used towards the upkeep of the new Meeting House. The Diss property was under the care of the Wymondham and Tivetshall Monthly Meeting until 1827, after which it was administered by Tivetshall Monthly Meeting.
This estate consisted of 1a. of land with Meeting House, cottage and burial ground in Bridge Street, Downham, and was obtained for the Society at the end of the 17th century. The estate was part copyhold and part freehold but the copyhold land was enfranchised by an indenture dated 14 June 1898. The income from the estate was applied to the upkeep of the premises and the estate was administered by Lynn Monthly Meeting.
The Meeting House was originally a barn, given to the Society by Joseph Peckover, and was converted in 1689. The burial ground was given by William Hempsterly in about 1667 but was not used until 1689, when both Meeting House and burial ground were conveyed to trustees. In 1811 the Meeting House was sold for £135 and this was invested in 1819 in 3 per cent Consols: the income from this amounted to £25 per annum and was to form a permanent fund under the control of the Quarterly Meeting. It was intended that when the fund reached £800 the money should be used to build a new Meeting House, any surplus being used towards the upkeep of the burial ground or for any charity which the Quarterly Meeting should recommend. However, in 1872, when the stock stood at £691 14s. 11d., the fund was used towards the building of Hunstanton Meeting House.
An estate consisting of a messuage and 26 perches of copyhold land was purchased from John Everett, senior, for £250 and was enfranchised in October 1837. A Meeting House was erected on the site at a total cost-including the purchase and enfranchisement-of £521 11s. 2½d. The cottage belonging to the estate was let for £2 12s. per annum and the income was used towards repairs. The administration of the estate lay with Tivetshall Monthly Meeting and in 1937 was transferred to the control of Friends' Trusts Ltd.
In June 1708 the Meeting House and burial ground were purchased from Paul Broughton. From 1837 the estate was administered by Norwich Monthly Meeting and at this time was let to Joseph Carter for £10 per annum, the income being used for repairs and any residue towards the maintenance of Wymondham Meeting house and for other charitable uses. In 1927 the Meeting House was sold to a Mr Leverett for £222 and £400 2½ per cent consolidated stock and the income was added to the United Charities.
The deeds for the Meeting House and burial ground were drawn up in December 1713. The estate consisted of a Meeting House, burial ground and cottage and in 1854 the cottage was let, to Tuck and Balding for £5 per annum. The income was used for general repairs and any surplus for the poor of Lynn Monthly Meeting, which administered the estate. The Meeting House was unused for several years prior to 1854. In May 1923 the property was sold for £250 and the purchase money was applied towards discharging loans borrowed by Lynn Preparative Meeting for extensions to Meeting Houses and school-rooms at Lynn, Gaywood and Wells.
In 1868 land was purchased from Elizabeth Doyle of Crimplesham Hall, near Downham Market, for £60. A Meeting House was erected on the site in 1872 at a cost of £160. The estate was extended in 1873 with the purchase of a cottage (Tom Thumb's House) and a piece of land adjoining the Meeting House from Charles Walls for £120.
The burial ground was given to the Society of Friends by John Allen and consisted of a close called Appletons. In 1801 Lammas and North Walsham Monthly Meetings were united with Norwich Monthly Meeting and consequently the estate came under the control of the Norwich Meeting. In 1838 the old burial ground was sold to John Wright, Junior for £10, and this sum was used towards the repairs on North Walsham Meeting House. In June 1862 the Meeting House at Lammas was let for the use of the congregation of Wesleyan Methodists at an annual rent of £2 12s.
The old Meeting House and burial ground were conveyed to Richard Stringer, the original trustee, and others, on 9 February 1714. By indentures of lease and release, 27 September 1774, an estate in New Conduit Street, Lynn, was purchased for £440 from Richard Raven: the estate consisted of a tenement with yard, garden and outhouses. A Declaration of Trust, 1775, stated that the Trustees were to transfer the tenement to the Society for use as a Meeting House: If a Meeting House were not required, the property could be sold and the money used either to purchase land and build a new Meeting House in the neighbourhood of Lynn or to benefit the Poor Friends of Lynn. In April 1775, part of the outhouses and the garden were sold to Samuel Thwaites.
In 1687, a Meeting House and land were purchased, in part with the gift of Edward Miles of Thuxton. An additional piece of land, 1a. 1r. 25p., was obtained by the inclosure award of 1803 and the estate was let to John Waugh at an annual rent of £9 10s. The estate was administered by Wymondham Monthly Meeting until this Meeting was united with Norwich Monthly Meeting.
The first meetings at Norwich were held in the house of Thomas Symonds and the first Meeting room was in the parish of St Laurence. In about 1673 the possibility of building a Meeting House was considered and land was bought from Onias Phillipo in 1676. A subscription was raised for the Meeting House and this amounted to £200. In January 1678 the plans for the Meeting House in Goat Lane, in the parish of St Gregory, were presented to the Meeting: it shall be 40 foot long and 30 foot wide, from out to out, the foundation to be 3 bricks length thick, and a yard above ground, 2 bricks and a halfe, thence upward 2 bricks length, the heighth of ye wall to be 16 foot above ground with 2 fire hearths at each gable end, onely planching the lower floore, and sieling the Tyles, and a partition made to run with wheeles, to enlarge or lessen the roome as occasion requires, and 4 lucomes with 4 windowes under them on the front, and 3 windows backward (fn 2). By 1678, the work had progressed sufficiently to consider the appointment of caretakers and a letter was sent by the Meeting to John and Mary Defraunce, 11 November 1678:
We are willing to let you ye house and Courtyard at 6 pounds per Annum and for your trouble in cleaning ye roomes etc. and paying ye Chimney tax and ye Monthly tax ... we are willing to allow you 6 pounds per annum and a Chalder of Coales for this yeare to aire ye roomes, and halfe a Chalder of Coales every yeare for ye future, to accomodate friends with a fire after meetings ... (fn 3). This Meeting House proved insufficient to meet the Friends' requirements and the building of a second Meeting House at Gildencroft in the parish of St Augustine was considered from 1694 and the Meeting House was ready for use in 1699. A plot of freehold land in St Augustine's Parish was purchased from John Lawrence and others for £72, by a deed dated 8 March 1671: this land was intended for use as a burial ground and expenses were met from the general income of Norwich Monthly Meeting. The Meeting House at Goat Lane was rebuilt in 1828 and stock purchased with Elizabeth Langwade's Gift (fn 4) was used to liquidate the debt incurred. In 1873 two houses adjoining the Goat Lane Meeting House were purchased: the up per storey of the houses was removed and communication made between the houses and the passage on the North side of the Meeting House. Other adjoining houses were between 1883 and 1898 and in 1928 part of the property, known as 28, Pottergate Street, was pulled down and a new Hall (Friends' Hall, Pottergate) erected at a cost of £2,200.
In her will, 13 March 1826, Mary Scales of Kirtley declared: it is my express Will and Desire that during so long time as the Society of Friends called Quakers shall occupy the Tenement or Meeting House situated in Kirtley ... they shall have the liberty so to do on paying my Trustees one shiling a year for the use and occupation thereof ... (fn 5). In 1831 land was purchased from Abraham Scales for a Meeting House and burial ground. A piece of land adjoining the burial ground, together with a passage at the side of the Meeting House was granted to the Society by Abraham Scales in 1853 for the purpose of enlarging both the Meeting House and the burial ground. In 1869, Abraham Scales bequeathed £100 to be used towards the upkeep of the estate. In 1895 some land in St George's Road, Kirtley, was purchased for £51 to provide a site for a school-room and in 1902 the Mission Room, Salisbury Road, Kirtley, was bought for £250. The expenses of the estate were met from the general income of the Monthly Meeting; after 1801 Pakefield was administered by Yarmouth Monthly Meeting.
Stoke and Cockley Cley
These two burial grounds were obtained by deeds dated November 1741: Stoke burial ground consisted of a plot measuring 50 ft. by 17 ft. and Cockley Cley of a plot, 22 yds. by 14 yds. The Trust Book of 1854 stated that the burial grounds had been unused for long periods: in both cases the land was surrounded by land belonging to a person who would not acknowledge the rights of the Friends, although it was said that in Cockley Cley, the owner of the surrounding land acknowledges that it is the property of Friends and that he will on their behalf pay pro per attention to it (fn 6).
A messuage and lands were purchased in November 1707 by Robert Jarmyn for use as a Meeting House and burial ground. It was declared by Tivetshall Monthly Meeting in the same year ... that the said meeting which for some time past have kept at Hempnall and formerly was kept as Tasborough shall be removed and settled at Tasborough aforesaid In the messuage and premises aforesaid ... (fn 7). The part of the estate not required for Meeting House or burial ground was let. A bequest of £20 to be used for repairs at Tasburgh Meeting House was given by Sarah Bleckly in her will, 5 October 1830. The estate was later transferred to the Friends' Trusts Ltd and in 1936 was administered by five persons appointed by Tivetshall Monthly Meeting.
By a deed, dated 1 March 1697, a messuage called Chandlers, and lands were purchased from William Clarke for a Meeting House and burial ground. In 1854, the estate was in the tenure of David Gunstone at an annual rent of £4. The estate was administered by Tivetshall Monthly Meeting and in June 1920 the Meeting was given leave by the Quarterly Meeting to sell the property: the purchase price was £150 and this was invested in 3½ per cent Government Conversion loan, the interest to be used for repairs at Tivetshall.
The Meeting House and land were given to the Society of Friends on a 900 year lease by Thomas Money in 1674. An additional rood of land was purchased from John Lawrence in 1680. The estate consisted of a Meeting House, burial ground and outhouses and expenses were met partly through subscriptions and partly from a legacy of £100 from Elizabeth Shipley Dix. The property was administered by Tivetshall Monthly Meeting.
By a deed, dated 25 November 1697, Edmund Cany and Matthew Harrison on behalf of the Society of Friends purchased a messuage and 1a. of land from William Farthing for £87 10s. In March 1671, a plot, 36 yards by 20 yards, was purchased by Robert Berrier for use as a burial ground. The estate remained intact until 1837 when the Meeting House and burial ground were sold, the purchase money being used towards erecting a new Meeting House at Harling. The other old burial ground was sold for £15 to William Lee in 1839.
North Walsham
The burial ground at North Walsham was obtained by the surrender of Edward Fenn, 19 October 1762. There was no income from this estate and the expenses were met from the general income of the Monthly Meeting.
In 1697, the Meeting House, burial ground and a stable were purchased by the Friends from Clement Ives. An additional plot of land, measuring 72 ft. by 17 ft. 6 inches, adjoining the Meeting House was given to the Friends in 1859 by Joshua Gales. The estate was further enlarged by the purchase, 11 January 1906, of cottages and land adjoining the Meeting House from Joseph Butlers of Wells for £325. Expenses of the Meeting House and burial ground were met from the general income of the Meeting and the estate was administered by Lynn Monthly Meeting.
The Society of Friends possessed a burial ground at Worlingham until 1796. By an indenture, 7 June 1796, the land was leased to Robert Sparrow for twenty-one years under certain conditions, including the proviso that the tenant should not break up the ground. Eventually, with the permission of the Quarterly Meeting, the property was sold.
The burial ground consisted of 1 rood 14 perches of copyhold land in the Manor of Colney Easthall. The land was in the Society's possession by the beginning of the 18th century and was surrendered by Thomas White to new trustees in 1738. In 1854, the land was occupied by John Culyer, who paid an annual rent of 5s. In about 1865 the estate was sold to William Cann of Wymondham, subject to certain conditions. The income from the estate was used towards the maintenance of Wymondham Monthly Meeting.
A burial ground was owned by the Friends in Wymondham before 1687, when a messuage and 3 roods of land adjoining the burial ground was purchased from James Seaburn. The estate was transferred to trustees in the same year and was maintained from the general funds of the Meeting.
Plans for a Meeting House in Yarmouth were being considered as early as 1674, when a minute of Norwich Monthly Meeting stated:
It was concluded ... that friends at Yarmouth get an hired house for meeting and the service of truth in a more convenient place then formerly it hath been ... (fn 8). In December 1694, a messuage and land were purchased from Richard Robins for £70. A legacy of £100, bequeathed by Daniel Boulter in his will, 24 July 1800, was to be used for enlarging the burial ground and a granary adjoining the burial ground was purchased for this purpose in 1807 for £160. The excess amount over the £100 bequest was met from another £100, bequeathed by Daniel Boulter for the use of the poor, and the remaining £40 was invested for the benefit of the poor.

  1. Quoted in A Record for the People called Quakers in the County of Norfolk of all Burying-grounds, Meeting houses and Yearly Profits of Charitable gifts and Bequests to their poor, SF 259.
  2. Norwich Monthly Meeting. Minute Book 1671-1690, SF 53.
  3. Norwich Monthly Meeting. Minute Book 1671-1690, SF 53.
  4. See also Elizabeth Langwade's Gift.
  5. Descriptions of Trust property as sent to the Commissioners on Charitable trusts 1854, SF 257.
  6. A Record of the People called Quakers in the County of Norfolk ..., SF 259.
  7. Tivetshall Monthly Meeting. Minutes 1690-1710, SF 116.
  8. Norwich Monthly Meeting. Minute Book 1671-1690, SF 53.

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Created on: 07/02/2018 by Drobf




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