Cumbria Archives - Society of Friends (Quakers) records

George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends, began to preach about 1647, and met with great response to his ideas in the North-West of England and particularly in Westmorland and North Lancashire. The name Quaker was given to the Friends because of the spiritual 'trembling' experienced by certain members during meetings. In spite of a more tolerant religious climate during the Commonwealth period, the Quakers were persecuted and this persecution continued apace after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. The Toleration Act of 1689 relieved Quakers of the worst of the penalties they had previously faced and saw a spate of meeting house building. However, Friends continued to be prosecuted for non-payment of tithes and burial dues and for refusing to serve or hire a substitute in the militia. Their number declined dramatically in the 18th century, although in Cumbria they remained a prominent section of the community, being associated with all aspects of local trade, commerce and industry and involving themselves in numerous humanitarian projects.

The organisation of the Society of Friends is substantially that laid down by Fox himself. In simple terms, there is a pyramid structure in which, at the lowest level, each congregation is known as a particular or preparative meeting. For all such matters as church government or membership a geographical group of particular meetings forms a monthly meeting. These in turn combine to form meetings which, until 1966, were known as quarterly meetings but which, losing their administrative functions and concentrating more on the spiritual life of the Society, are now known as general meetings. At the apex of the pyramid the yearly meeting is equivalent to the annual assemblies of the other nonconformist churches, and considers all aspects of Quaker work. The central executive committee is known as the 'Meeting for Sufferings'.

The keeping of records by Quakers was, and is, usually exemplary. The majority of Quaker registers begin before 1669, although their style and content vary considerably until 1776, when birth and burial notes were introduced requiring specific information to be recorded. Quarterly meetings kept duplicate registers of details supplied by particular and monthly meetings, many of whom made their own copies of earlier registers.

Almost all meetings surrendered their early registers to the Registrar-General in the 19th century, but not before 'digests' of each were prepared in duplicate, one copy remaining with the Society in London, the other being sent to the local quarterly meeting. Many digests have since been deposited in local record offices. After 1837, birth and burial registers ceased to be used, but the practice of compiling birth and burial notes continued. From 1860 central registers of all Quaker births, marriages and deaths were maintained by the Society in London but the keeping of these central registers of births and deaths has ceased within the last 35 years.

Microform copies of many registers are available and, for conservation reasons, must be consulted in place of the originals.

Click on a link to browse the catalogue for records for a particular place of worship.  You will also be able to see at which Archive Centre the original records are preserved. Please note these links do NOT provide images of original records and registers.

Cumberland Area Meeting

Cumberland Quarterly Meeting

Westmorland Quarterly Meeting

Allendale Monthly Meeting (including Alston and Coanwood Preparative Meetings)

Caldbeck Monthly Meeting (held within Carlisle Monthly Meeting records)

Carlisle Monthly Meeting  (including Carlisle, Kirklinton, Moorhouse, Scotby and Solport Preparative Meetings)

Holm Monthly Meeting  (including Allonby, Beckfoot, Bolton, Maryport and Wigton Preparative Meetings)

Kendal Monthly Meeting (including Crook, Grayrigg, Kendal, Mislet, and Preston Patrick Preparative Meetings)

Lattendales Guest House (Friends Fellowship of Healing)

North Cumbria Area Meeting

Pardshaw Monthly Meeting (including Broughton, Cockermouth, Isel, Pardshaw, and Whitehaven Preparative Meetings)

Sedbergh Monthly Meeting (including Brigflatts, Dent/Leyeat, Garsdale, Ravenstonedale Preparative Meetings)

Strickland Monthly Meeting (including Kirkby Stephen, Morland, Penrith, and Tirril Preparative Meetings)

Swarthmore Monthly Meeting  (including Colthouse (Hawkshead), Height (Cartmel), Langdale, and Swarthmore Preparative Meetings)

Wigton Friends' School