The history of the Quakers in Ravenstonedale is hard to find and seems to have been “lost”, but is coming back to light because of diligent family researchers such as Sue mastel and the comprehensive and useful Adamthwaite web site (http://www.adamthwaitearchive.org.uk).
When you find a Quaker graveyard, it is usually quiet, peaceful, empty; perhaps a walled space on a fellside with seemingly nothing there. And that is how the history of Quakers in this area seems – an empty walled space. And yet when you dig you may find the links from Firbank Fell – Fox’s Pulpit are half a days walk from Ravenstonedale – where did it go?
The Ruined Quaker Meeting House of Fell End, Ravenstonedale, Kirkby Stephen. Aug 1924 Photo by Molly
Extracts below from -
Researching Yorkshire Quaker history. A guide to sources
Compiled by Helen E Roberts for the Yorkshire Quaker Heritage Project
Published by The University of Hull Brynmor Jones Library 2003 (updated 2007)
The area around Sedbergh, Kendal and Preston Patrick is known as ‘the 1652 country’, where Quakerism was born as an organised movement. George Fox, on reaching Sedbergh in summer 1652, found an existing community of Seekers led by dissenting preachers, who were particularly receptive to his message. The Westmorland Seekers formed the nucleus of the Valiant Sixty, the band of preachers who carried the Quaker message beyond the north of England in the mid 1650s. They were also crucial in developing the structure of the Society of Friends. Sedbergh Monthly Meeting dates from 1668 and has always been part of Westmorland Quarterly Meeting, although it covers part of the historic West Riding. An unsuccessful attempt to persuade Westmorland to transfer the Monthly Meeting to Yorkshire Quarterly Meeting was made in 1693. Its original constituent Preparative Meetings were Brigflatts, Dent (later Lea Yeat), Garsdale and Ravenstonedale (later Narthwaite).
G Benson, The cry of the oppressed from undertheir oppressions (Giles Calvert, 1656)
EE Taylor, The valiant sixty (Bannisdale, 1947)
Repository: Cumbria Record Office, Kendal (GB 0024)
Reference codes: WDFC/F1/138, 203-222, 225-236
Dates of creation: 1655-1919
Ravenstonedale, as this Meeting was originally known, has always been part of Westmorland. It is included here due to its historic membership of Sedbergh, later Kendal and Sedbergh, Monthly Meeting.
George Fox, accompanied by Francis Howgill, John Blaykling and Thomas Robertson, visited Ravenstonedale in summer 1652, during a tour of Westmorland and north Lancashire. Amongst the first to be convinced were James Clarkson and John Pinder, and a Meeting was settled around this time. James Nayler followed shortly afterwards, and held a large meeting at Pinder's house. It was not until 1704 that land for a Meeting House was purchased from Anthony Robinson of Dovengill. The building opened the following year and was in use until 1793, when the Meeting moved to a converted barn at Narthwaite. The Meeting changed its name to reflect the move. A burial ground adjoining the Meeting House in Ravenstonedale was used from c.1709 to 1838. There were also burial grounds at two other early centres of Quakerism in the district, Dovengill (from c.1659) and Wath (from 1661). Narthwaite Meeting became part of Kendal and Sedbergh Monthly Meeting in 1903 and closed in 1907.
J Breay, The Quaker registers of Ravenstonedale, Grisedale and Garsdale (RFG Hollett, 1994)
Repository: Cumbria Record Office, Kendal (GB 0024)
Reference codes: WDFC/F1/202
Dates of creation: 1709-1903
Extent: 2 items
Finding aids: printed catalogue
NRA code: none
Content and scope:
Minutes of PM, 1709 - 1903, and of Women's PM, 1716-1859. Ralph Anderson’s notebook, 1732/3
From entries in Parish Records, Wills, and also from mentions in Rev. W. Nicholls' History and Traditions of Ravenstonedale, vol II, where we are told that "there was a small colony of Quakers at Adamthwaite .." we know that quite a few of the early Adamthwaites were dissenters and Quakers (and quite possibly some belonged to more obscure religious groups). Here is an explanation of the situation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries from the Victorian Web, written by David Cody, Associate Professor of English, Hartwick College:
"The term Dissenter refers to a number of Protestant denominations -- Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, Congregationalists, and others -- which, because they refused to take the Anglican communion or to conform to the tenets of the restored Church of England in 1662, were subjected to persecution under various acts passed by the Cavalier Parliament between 1661 and 1665. Examples of the attempts which were made to discourage them were the Act of Uniformity, which required all churches in England to use the Book of Common Prayer, and punished those who would not comply, and the Five Mile Act, which prohibited ministers who were ejected because of the Act of Uniformity from coming within five miles of their former parishes or of any town or city.
After the Toleration Act was passed in 1689, Dissenters were permitted to hold services in licensed meeting houses and to maintain their own preachers (if they would subscribe to certain oaths) in England and Wales. But until 1828 such preachers remained subject to the Test Act, which required all civil and military officers to be communicants of the Church of England, and to take oaths of supremacy and allegiance. Though this act was aimed primarily at Roman Catholics, it nevertheless excluded Dissenters as well."
Firbank Knott near Sedbergh is considered to be the birthplace of Quakerism as it was here, in 1652, that George Fox gave his great sermon to inspire over a thousand 'seekers' from the whole of the north of England. The Quaker Meeting House at nearby Brigflatts is the oldest in the north of England (see photo left).
After some years of meeting at Street Farm, the Quaker Meeting House in Fell End, Ravenstonedale was built in 1705 and later a burial ground was added which was in use between 1739 and about 1838. Previously meetings had been held in Friend's houses, although there was an earlier Meeting near Dovengill with an adjoining burial ground first used in 1659.
For some unknown reason, in about 1793 the Meeting moved to a smaller meeting house at Narthwaite, though the Fell End Meeting House remained standing until 1899, when it was demolished. It was described as "a place of pleasing and simple appearance externally, with fine woodwork inside, and turned oak balusters to the loft" (The Friend 1893, 249).
Before the Toleration Act was passed, many Quakers suffered for their beliefs: In 1664, on 26th April, a Margaret Adamthwait spinster of Rosendale (Ravenstonedale) Westmorland was the only woman in a group of 13 individuals taken at a meeting in Norton in the County of Durham and imprisoned for refusing to take the Oaths. In Ravenstonedale theParish Register records that "on 10 Nov 1675 Richard Adamthwaite was presented to Quarter Sessions for not burying his father William according to the rites of the Church".
A fascinating collection of old Quaker Wills was published in 1929 in the Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society (volume XXIX, pp 1-38). The wills date from the period 1697 - 1777 and all were written by members of the Society of Friends who lived in the area of Westmorland/Yorkshire covered by the Ravenstonedale, Garsdale and Grisdale meetings. Individuals with the following surnames are mentioned in the 68 Wills:
ACKREG, ADAMTHWAIT(E), ADDISON, AIREY, AKRIDGE, AKRIGG, ALDERSON, ALLEXANDER, ARCHER, ARMISTEAD, ASHBURNER, ATKINSON, AYREY
BACKHOUSE, BAINES, BANES, BANKS, BANNISTER, BARROW, BATEMAN, BAXTER, BAYLEY, BAYLIFF, BAYNES, BECKET, BELCH, BELL, BENT, BIRBECK, BIRKBECK, BLAMER, BLAMERD, BLAMIRE, BLAMOR, BLAND, BLATHORN, BLAKLING, BLAYMIRE, BLAYTHORN, BLEAMIRE, BLEATHORN, BORRED, BORRET, BOUSFIELD, BRACKAN, BRADFORD, BRADLEY, BRANTHWAITE, BREAKS, BREWER, BURTON, BUCK, BURTON
CAPSTICK, CARLILE, CAWTHORN, CHESTER, CLOSE, COLLINSON, CORNEY, COTTON, CRAGG, CREWDSON, CROFT, CROWTHER, CROXON
DAVIES, DAVIS, DAWSON, DENISON, DENNISON, DENNY, DENT, DICKINSON, DIXON, DOBSON, DOCKERY, DODGSON, DODSON
EDEN, EGLIN, EUBANK
FACET, FARRER, FAWCETT, FELL, FISHER, FLEMING, FOTHERGILL
GARRER, GAWTHROP, GIBSON, GOSLING, GREENBANK, GREENWOOD, GUY
HADWEN, HANDLEY, HARDCASTLE, HARKER, HARPER, HARRISON, HASTWELL, HAYGARTH, HEBBLETHWAITE, HINDE, HODGSON, HOLM, HOLME, HOLMES, HOWGILL, HUDSON, HUERTSON, HUNTER, HUTCHINSON
KENDALL, KIRKBRIDE, KNEWSTUBB, KNOWLES, KNOWLS
LAMB, LAMBERT, LANCASTER, LAW, LEECE, LEIGHTON, LICKBURROW, LINDLEY, LINSAY, LONGHORN, LUND, LUPTON
MACKRETH, MASON, MASSON, MEDCALFE, METCALFE, MILNER, MOOR, MOORE, MORELAND, MORGAN, MORLAND
NELSON, NEWTON, NICHOLSON
PARRATT, PARRETS, PARROTT, PEARS, PEARSON, PERKIN, PIPER, PIXLEY, POTTER, PRATT, PRESTON
RATCLIFE, RAW, RAWLINSON, RICHARDSON, RIDDING, ROBINSON, RODGERSON, ROUTH, ROWLANDSON, RUMNEY
SANDS, SANDWICK, SAYER, SEDGWICK, SHARP, SHAW, SHEARMAN, SHEPHERD, SHIPPERD, SIDDAL, SIDGWICK, SIDSWICK, SILL, SIMM, SINGLETON, SKYRIN, SLACK, SLATER, SMITH, SPEDY, SPEIGHT, SPICER, STANSFIELD, STOCKDALE, STRATFORD, SWINBANK
TAYLOR, TEBAY, THERNBECK, THIRNBECK, THISTLETHWAIT(E), THOMPSON, THORNBERRY, THORNBOROUGH, THORNBORROW, TOMLINSON, TOWNSON, TROTTER, TYSON
WADESON, WADSON, WAKEFIELD, WALKER, WALTON, WARD, WARDELL, WATSON, WEAVER, WHITEHEAD, WIDDER, WILKINSON, WILLAN, WILLIAMSON, WILLSON, WILSON, WINN, WINSTER
Full index to the 68 Quaker Wills - detailing names, occupations, place of abode and relationship to testator - this is a pdf file of an Excel spreadsheet and is 25 pages long. If you can provide any further details of any of the individuals named, please email me!
These details were extracted by Sue Mastel from an article in the 1929 edition of the Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society originally submitted by W.G. Collingwood. Their permission to reproduce these details is gratefully acknowledged. The Index must NOT be reproduced under any circumstances.
High Chapel used to be also referred to as “High Meeting”; were the origins of the Chapel based in Qakersim, or the allied religious groupings? Before it was built – Quakers, “Independents” or Presbyterians amongst others seemed to be trying to find a purer truth. Could it be that the first congregation were (obviously non conformists) a mixture of the early versions of faith such as Quakers?
There is one other feature of transition to which I must refer before I conclude this lecture, and that is the change in the inhabitants. As we have already seen, there were in the year 1734 one hundred and eighty landholders, and these nearly
all lived on their own estates. They were called estatesmen,
and the people of that day said of such an one, with a
touch of respect in their tone, " He is a 'statesman." They
saved money and spent much, for those days, in bringing
up their families in their native dale. They furnished their RAVENSTONEDALE. [page77] houses well, as may be seen by the handsome oak chests, and presses, and wardrobes bearing the date 1580, 1700, and thereabouts, and which still remain bearing their initials.
They were well educated in the solid elements of education.
They were well-read men ; they were thoughtful, and possessed
a great deal of information on various subjects.
Men of integrity were they; their word was their bond.
They were proud of Ravenstonedale, and felt they were not
an insignificant unit of England. They made no pretension
to being gentlemen, but they were what was better, MEN.
Men of force of character. And we ask, where are their
descendants ? The children of many of them are here tonight,
but the Pindars, the Cautleys, the Coulstons, the Eubanks, the Dents, the Giles, the Ellyotsons, and the Chamberlains in name are gone. Peace to their ashes.
They served their generation well and then fell asleep.
Revd W Nicholls
I should mention that Mr. Ralph Milner, of Ash Fell, in the year 1731, built the gallery, which used to have a brass plate upon it, stating the fact. Nine years ago the chapel was re-pewed, and floored with boards, and the windows altered, and this largely through the interest and energy of my predecessor, the Rev. R. Pool.
The community at the " High Meeting," as it has been called of late, has passed through various vicissitudes, but it has ever been faithful to the principles of evangelical religion. And you will forgive me if I say of a community so near my heart, in the language of Holy Writ, " Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sakes I will now say, Peace be [Page 85] within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good."
The Friends possess an ancient meeting-house in this parish. There is no date upon it, but Mr. Thomas Handley, of Narthwaite, informed me that it was probably erected in the year 1670, as there is a similar meeting-house at Sedbergh which bears that date. If so, it was built eight years after the Presbyterian meetinghouse, and as early as twenty years after the rise of the Friends' Society. It is now, as you are aware, closed ; neither has it been used regularly as a place of worship within the memory of the oldest inhabitants. The permanent meeting is held in a barn on the estate of Mr. Handley.
Formerly the attendance on the Sunday was from fourteen to
twenty ; now it is from six to twelve. There are occasional
burials in the old chapel-yard, and the simple memorials of
the ashes of the stern Nonconformists of the Quaker type give an air of solemnity to the simple building and its surroundings to this day.
Rev W Nicholls