Local Quaker History
“York has a longstanding Quaker tradition that starts with George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, who was thrown out of York Minster in 1651 for preaching against the established church. The Quakers shunned outward forms of ritual, sacrament, oath-taking, and formulaic prayer; their faith saw the voice of God as operating within a person. They saw no need for paid ministers, and they meet in silence, broken only when a member feels moved to speak or offer a prayer. This worship is known as ‘spoken ministry’ …”
[From “Quakerism (The Society of Friends) in York”, The Rowntree Society].
Early Quakers experienced much persecution for their beliefs but survived to become a distinct community of worship and witness in British religious life.
Notable in York were the Rowntree and Tuke families. At the turn of the nineteenth century, William Tuke pioneered humane care for people with mental illness at The Retreat. From the early nineteenth century, the economic and social impact of the Rowntree family began to be felt. Their chocolate business provided fair employment for many. They worked to reduce poverty and improve education, working conditions and housing. Joseph Rowntree established the model village of New Earswick in 1902, providing good homes and community facilities for families. He also set up three Trusts whose work in social policy, housing, conflict, justice, and democratic and political reform, continues.
The first meeting house in York was opened at Friargate in 1674 and is still a place of worship and hub for York Quakers. In New Earswick, from 1917, Quakers rented a room in the Folk Hall for worship. In 1988 a purpose-built meeting house was opened to the west of the Folk Hall and it was extended in 2002 to provide a larger meeting room. This is where New Earswick Quakers meet today.