Cambridgeshire - Society of Friends (Quakers)

Overview

A Christian sect founded (c. 1650) in England by George Fox. They hold that understanding and guidance come directly from 'inward light' of Holy Spirit and that sacrament, and formal worship are unnecessary for Christian life.

The Society of Friends was organised in a hierarchy of meetings named from the frequency with which they were convened. At the top was the London Yearly Meeting; below that was the Quarterly Meeting, and below that again the Monthly Meeting . Below this again were the preparative meetings, sometimes called particular meetings or allowed meetings.

Registers were generally kept by monthly or quarterly meetings, though a number of the preparative meetings also kept registers. The quarterly meetings were originally akin to counties in their areas, there being separate meetings for Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely. The general tendency has been for Monthly Meeting s to amalgamate with one another, so that, with a similar tendency in Quarterly Meetings, the Monthly Meeting covered an area beyond that of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely.

The registers are held at the County Record Office, Cambridge.

Quarterly Meetings

Cambridgeshire Quarterly Meeting

Founded 1667, including Huntingdonshire until 1673. Merged with Huntingdonshire Quarterly Meeting to form new Quarterly Meeting in 1756.

Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire Quarterly Meeting

This Quarterly Meeting was formed in 1756 and merged with the Norfolk Quarterly Meeting to form a new Quarterly Meeting in 1850. This meeting, up to the time of merger held records of births 1776-1837, marriages 1776-1836 and burials 1776-1837.

There is a composite digest of births 1631-1837, marriages 1658-1836, and burials 1657-1837, including nearly all entries in the pre-1837 registers for the Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire Quarterly Meetings, for Sutton Preparative Meeting, for Wisbech and Sutton (later Chatteris) Monthly Meeting , and the preparative meetings within it.

Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire Quarterly Meeting

This Quarterly Meeting was formed in 1850.

Monthly Meetings

Cambridge Monthly Meeting

This Monthly Meeting was founded 1667 and later became the Sutton Monthly Meeting. It was merged with Isle Monthly Meeting in 1756. In 1758 it was renamed the Sutton Monthly Meeting, when the Wisbech Monthly Meeting was separated from it. The Wisbech Monthly Meeting subsequently re-merged with it to form a new Monthly Meeting in 1785. The records cover births 1648-1775, marriages 1657-1756, burials 1666-1772 and also, for Swavesey, marriages 1756-74.

Isle Monthly Meeting

This Monthly Meeting was founded 1667 and was subsequently merged with Cambridge Monthly Meeting in 1756. The records covered are:

Haddenham - births 1661-1763, 1779, marriages 1672-1771, and burials 1668-1790.

Littleport - births 1655-1725, 1743-54, marriages 1659-91 and burials 1655-1795.

Sutton - births 1679-1778 and burials 1662-90, 1758-75.

Wisbech Monthly Meeting

This Monthly Meeting was formed from Cambridge (later to become the Sutton) Monthly Meeting in 1758, consisting of the Chatteris and Wisbech constituent meetings only. This was then merged with the Sutton Monthly Meeting in 1785 to form a new Monthly Meeting. The records cover births, 1664-1841, marriages 1670-1775 and burials 1665-1776.

Wisbech and Sutton (later Chatteris) Monthly Meeting

This Monthly Meeting was formed in 1785 from the Wisbech and Sutton Monthly Meetings and renamed the Chatteris Monthly Meeting in 1789. Subsequently it was merged with the Huntingdon Monthly Meeting to form a new Monthly Meeting in 1850. The records cover births, 1777-1837, marriages 1713, 1789-1836, and burials 1777-1808, 1823-40. In addition records are held for burials for Chatteris 1841-61, Sutton, 1840-50 and Wisbech, 1828-93.

Cambridge and Huntingdon Monthly Meeting

This Monthly Meeting was formed in 1850 from the Chatteris and Huntingdon Monthly Meetings merged with Lynn Monthly Meeting to form a new Monthly Meeting in 1880. The records cover births, 1839-61, 1875-80, marriages 1838-42, and burials 1838-40, 1850-80.

Cambridge, Huntingdon and Lynn Monthly Meeting

This Monthly Meeting was formed in 1880 by the merger of the Lynn Monthly Meeting and the Cambridge and Huntingdon Monthly Meeting to form a new Monthly Meeting in 1880. The records cover births 1880-1908, 1924-43, and burials 1880-1909, 1925-46.

Cambridge Quakers

Rough treatment of the Quakers had begun under the Comrnonwealth, in the mayoralty of Pickering (1653-4) and in 1660 there were as many as 67 Quakers in the Carnbridge gaols. In 1654 George Whitehead was welcomed there by Alderman Blackley, later to he ejected from the Corporation as an adherent of the friends.By 1659 there was a flourishing meeting 'in our own house over against Sidney College', where in August Whitehead and Fox publicly disputed with Smith, the University librarian. In April and May 1660 a serIes of attacks, which Allierman Blackley tried in vain to restrain, were made upon the house by 'unruly scollers, soldiers and others'. In February 1661 some 7a friends, mostly women, were committed to the Tolbooth, some for refusing to take the oath of obedience, others for attending a conventicle at the Quaker House near Sidney Sussex College. In 1667 ten Quakers were taken in the house of the shoemaker, William Brazier. In 1670-1 there are further records of commitments for refusal to bear arms, and for the holding of meetings in the house of William Brazier and Nicholas Frost. The records of the Quarterlv Meeting of 1670-1 note, 'Cambridge - Most Friends in prison'. Under the general pardon of May 1672 ten of the Cambridge Quakers were released, but in 1674 and 1684 William Brazier was again penalized for holding meetings in his house. After the Toleration Act Ann Docra devised (1700) the estate in Meeting- House Yard in Jesus Lane, with certain lands in Fulbourn, for the benefit of Friends. Subscriptions from Friends eIsewhere made possible the building of a new meeting-house in 1777, 'on the bank of the King's Ditch' extending over the old graveyard. The meeting was closed in 1795. From 1827 to 1832 the buildings were used for the Jesus Lane Sunday School for Barnwell children conducted by undergraduate members of Simeon's congregation, and from 1855 to 1862 for the Cambridge Public Librarv. The meeting was reopened in 1884. New buildings were erected in 1894 on the site of the oId cottage at the entrance, believed to be Brazier's house, which had been condemned, and in 1926 thoroughgoing alterations gave the interior an entirelv new form. For all its vicissitudes, however, there seem good grounds for believing that the present site at the junction of Park Street and Jesus Lane facing the wall of Sidney gardens is the one used continuously since 1659.

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Last Updated on: 28 January 2000
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