In 1652, George Fox, a wandering preacher from Fenny Drayton in Leicestershire, went to the top of Pendle Hill in Lancashire and began to preach of his belief that everyone could have a direct relationship with God and did not need the intervention of hierarchies, priests or buildings to facilitate it. Many people, especially in the north and west of England agreed with him grew into the Religious Society of Friends (known as Quakers because they were said to tremble at the word of God).
Until 1688 many were punished and imprisoned as was the fate (and often still is) of people who dissent. As a result many of them fled across the Atlantic in search of religious freedom.
Quakerism has spread from there to many parts of Africa and Latin America. There were schisms, political changes and the development of personal beliefs so the movement grew to what it is now. Famous Quakers include George Fox, Margaret Fell, William Penn and John Woolman but also Richard Nixon.
400 years of history cannot be summed up in so few words and we urge you to explore more using the links and documents available.
In the 1650s, Quakers were the first Dissenters to be established in Keighley.
Associates of George Fox, William Dewsbury and Thomas Stubbs preached at Stanbury, Oakworth Hall, and at Exley Head, where many were ‘convinced’, including the Brigg, Taylor, and Clayton families. These people were punished severely for attending Quaker Meetings and following Quaker ways.
After Quaker worship became legal, a Meeting House was acquired on Upper Green some time between 1690 and 1709. The Quaker Meeting gradually declined, closing in 1855. The Meeting House was then used as a school.
However, in 1872, Keighley Quakers were re-established, returning to the Meeting House in 1877. There has been a Quaker Meeting in Keighley ever since.
The old Meeting House was demolished in 1936, as part of town ‘improvements’, and Friends then moved to the now familiar Strawberry Street Meeting House.