Quakers, image 1
Frontispiece of A Collection of the Sufferings of People Called Quakers.

Quakers, image 2
Coanwood Meeting House built in 1760, now under the protection of the Historic Chapels Trust.

Quakers, image 3
Plans for a school built by the London Lead Company in Teesdale in 1861, now used as the Kingsway Centre for field studies and outdoor learning.

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: London
Current Location: Available from California digital library
Theme: Religion
Period: Post Medieval
Date: c.1753 AD

What is it?
A book printed in London in 1753 describing, by county, the persecution of Quakers between 1650 and the Act of Toleration in 1689.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
The book lists the names of twenty four Quakers from Allendale who, in 1660, were ‘carried to Hexome and kept several Days, some several Weeks, in a nasty stinking Dungeon’.   It goes on to describe later persecution of Quakers in Durham and Northumberland as well as in Cumberland.  Persecution, often as a result of the refusal to pay tithes, swear oaths or take up arms, reflected the view of Quakers as political radicals and began during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, continuing after the Restoration of King Charles II.

George Fox is regarded as the driving force behind the creation of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in the late 1640s. He travelled widely, preaching and meeting Friends; his journals of 1653 show that he visited both Northumberland and Durham but it is unclear whether or not this included the North Pennines.  However his journal for 1663 describes staying at Sinderhope at the house of one of those incarcerated in 1660, Hugh Hutchinson - ‘a friend in the ministry, where we visited Friends thereabouts, and went to Derwentside where we had a glorious meeting’. Meetings were held outdoors or in people’s houses. The earliest Friends Meeting Houses in the area include Allendale (1688), Nenthead (1724, now demolished), Alston (1732), Coanwood (1760, now under the protection of the Historic Chapels Trust) and Cotherstone (1796), replacing an earlier meetinghouse at nearby Lartington (1701).

Why is it important?
The events of the 1660s demonstrate that Quakers were active in the North Pennines from a far earlier date than the building of Friends Meeting Houses alone might suggest.

The Society of Friends has had a lasting impact on the area through the London Lead Company, many of whose members were Quakers, which built the Nenthead Meeting House.  It started operations in Teesdale in 1753 and, from 1824, provided new housing for its workers in the New Town at Middleton-in-Teesdale with gardens for growing vegetables and keeping chickens or a pig. It also built a school and the Royal Commission report on The State of Popular Education in England of 1861 identified Middleton as having the best educational conditions of those inspected in the north-eastern region.

Further Information

    Text References:
  • George Fox’s Journals;‘The World Turned Upside Down’ by Christopher Hill 1972
  • The Quaker Meeting Houses of Britain’ by David M Butler 1999
  • The Lead Miners of the North Pennines’ by Christopher John Hunt, 1970

  • External Links:
  • www.quaker.org.uk
  • www. htc.org.uk
  • www.durhamintime.org.ukArrival of the London Lead Company in Teesdale’ by Anne E Metcalfe.
  • www.archive.org - California Digital Library

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