Outpost of Quakerism in the Cumbrian hills

Date: Saturday 24th August 2002

THE creation of a Cumbrian outpost of Quakerism, almost 350 years ago, is the theme of The Quakers of Mosedale, which has just been re-published in updated form.

A preface to the book states that 2002 is the 300th anniversary of the Mosedale Meeting House, although the story goes back to 1653 when George Fox visited the hamlet of Mosedale and held a meeting in the home of John Slee, in Mungrisdale.

Quakerism was born in the area, the pioneers originally meeting for worship in one another’s houses and enduring persecution for their beliefs.

The book relates: “The rector of Caldbeck between the years 1664 and 1700 was Arthur Savage and he was assiduous in his persecution of the Quakers, who refused to pay tithes and church rents for what they described as a ‘hireling ministry’.”

FAMILY NAMES

Sowerby, Todhunter, Slee, Priestman, Wilson, Mark, Peacock, Greenhow and Atkinson were among the names of the families associated with the building of the meeting house, back in 1702.

There is a suggestion that the building was originally a dwelling, as in July, 1702, it was ordered “that the house of George Peacock in Mosedale be recorded for the publick worship of the people called Quakers”.

Meetings in the 18th Century were very long, sometimes lasting three to four hours, and the book observes that the uninviting oak benches, which were also backless, must have been “a sad trial” to younger members.

Authentic records of the use of the meeting house began in 1714 with the burial of Bridgett Bristo, followed a year later by the marriage of Joseph Bristo, of Swinside, to Mary Peet.

COFFEE SHOP, TOO

In much more recent times, the building became a coffee shop during summer, manned by a succession of volunteers who lived in a nearby caravan. Thousands of people have enjoyed home-made bread, scones and cakes.

Another chapter was the re-roofing of the meeting house in 1987 a task shared by 48 volunteers.

The book concludes: “The atmosphere we have inherited is of some 300 years of quiet worship of God in this unique setting. Nobody who visits the meeting house can fail to be moved by the experience, or to respond to its air of simple tranquility. They go on their way refreshed by its age-old enduring serenity.”

The Quakers of Mosedale, by Mollie Grubb and members of the Mosedale Meeting, is published by the Mosedale Preparative Meeting at £6.50.