The Spirituality of George Fox, Quaker

By Ralph Holt

The Spirituality of George Fox, Quaker

Long before the birth of George, even before his parents were born, ideas were changing, that would affect George throughout his lifetime, and subsequently be adopted by people around the world.                                                                   

His father, a respected weaver, was nicknamed” righteous”, having known strong religious views, by the people of Fenny Drayton, their local village.  His mother equally respected, and identified as “Of the stock of Martyrs”. It is likely that she echoed the views of Lollards, a widespread doctrine of dissention very strong in Leicestershire. In the past, they had changed the bible into English, to make it more available to read by more ordinary people, regarding women as suitable to become priests, highlighting the equality of women. Lollards were burnt at the stake in Leicestershire, close by Fenny Drayton, was Georges mother a descendant of  her family, who were perhaps Lollards ?(.Of The Stock Of Martyrs.)

In this environment young George grew up, and from an early age reflected his strong religious beliefs. He started to challenge what he saw as waywardness, drunkenness and other failings in all walks of life.

At about 19 years of age, he left home, and travelled the country, to see if he could find any answers to his doubts, and ideas that he could build into his own life.

It seems that he acquired few answers, and at this time, we don’t exactly know why, set up as a a Boot and Shoe maker following the trade he started in Fenny Drayton. He occupied a small cottage to set up business, on Chesterfield Road, Mansfield, A plaque on the cottage wall, marked, in later years, his occupancy on this space

His religious beliefs were very strong, he became well known and respected, as an example, he appeared at a Hiring Fair and exhorted the hirers to treat their workers fairly, in money and respect, and also to the workers to work well in their labours.

George was received well in what he said, and became known and respected.

At this stage, there was no following, but another shoemaker in the town, Timothy Garland became known, as well as Elizabeth Hooton, from Skegby and Robert Bingham, from nearby Woodhouse, and various other people around the town, who began to follow , and adopt Georges views and teaching. They began to have   meetings at Timothy’s house, believed to be the eventual Meeting house as more people became interested in what was being said, in the message, that he was giving, that the path to god was directly possible, without the intervention of priests. A saying by George “there is that of God in Everyman,” became one of the keys to his faith. What had started as a personal quest, developed into a full scale alternative, for people, seeking a different way, including pacifism, but refusing to pay Tithes.

Meetings became regular at Timothy’s house, and on several occasions ware heavily fined for it. At this time Elizabeth started meetings at her house at Skegby, she was the first female, to follow George in his teaching, and the rest of her life devoted to speak out against injustice, and was imprisoned many times, leading the way for a later Quaker Elizabeth Fry to push forward prison reform. Other meetings started to flourish at various villages around north Nottinghamshire, namely Huthwaite, and Farnsfield. Within a very short time there were simply no boundaries to the spread of what these earliest Quakers, named” Children of the Light, by George Fox and by 1652 George, had a tremendous open air gathering at Pendle Hill. There were about five thousand people at this site emphasising the rapid spread of the Quakers, firstly through the Midlands and North and spreading over later years throughout the world.

George Fox, spent most of his life travelling to Europe and America, delivering a message of peace and goodwill, emphasising all humans being equal irrespective of rank or status.

The first hospital for treating psychiatric illnesses was established at The Retreat in York, early in the 1700s, by the Quakers, continuing to this day.

Ralph Holt

This page was added on 20/11/2012.

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