Quaker Grave Yard

This was the graveyard of the former Meeting House of the Society of Friends (the formal name of the Quakers faith group). It remained open until 1963 and is now a private garden. Some of the original gravestones are visible against the back wall. Please do not enter without permission.

There are references to a Quaker meeting having been held on this site as early as 1654, only a few years after the establishment of the group by George Fox in 1647 (see below).

In 1700, the first purpose-built place of worship in Shotley Bridge was constructed here, then substantially rebuilt in 1798. It was replaced in 1843 by a new building at Snow’s Green. In 1924 it was finally sold and converted into two small cottages.

The new building at Snow’s Green was used by the Quakers until it was leased to the United Methodist Free Church Mission in 1898. It was sold in 1924, demolished in 1926 and a bungalow was later built on the site.

Shotley Bridge’s most distinguished Quaker was Jonathan Richardson who promoted the Shotley Spa mineral waters and pleasure ground as well as the Derwent Ironworks, which later developed into the Consett Steel Company. He lived at Shotley Park.

The nearest Quaker Meeting Houses are now in Durham and Stocksfield.

The Quakers

In 1647, following a personal religious crisis, George Fox came to the conclusion that all people could have a direct and personal experience of God without the intermediaries of churches and priests. He travelled all over the country preaching his ideas and gathering followers who he called “Friends of the Light” from which the group became known as “The Society of Friends”.

Following the restoration of the Monarchy under Charles II in 1660 Quakers were oppressed and persecuted, their meetings broken up and their leaders frequently imprisoned. Nonetheless they maintained their belief in and commitment to peace and non-violent resolution of disputes which remains one of their core beliefs to this day. Quakers express their pacifism through conscientious objection to military service (which, in certain countries may result in their imprisonment) as well as peace education and disarmament protests.

In 1758 the Quakers’ governing body expressed their repugnance for the slave trade and in 1761 forbade any Quaker from participating in or benefiting from the trade in any way. They set up a campaign for the abolition of slavery and vigorously petitioned Parliament where they were supported by William Wilberforce (who was not, himself a Quaker). In 1807 the slave trade was prohibited throughout the British Empire, however it was not until 1833 that the Abolition of Slavery Act brought an end to slavery in British colonies.

Quakers such as Elizabeth Fry were instrumental in prison reform and in introducing humane treatment for the mentally ill and, again they continue that work to this day.

There are several stories relating to the origin of their informal name. Some say it is because there were thought to “tremble in the way of the Lord”, or to shake uncontrollably during worship. Another story holds that, at one of his trials, George Fox told the magistrate to “tremble before the name of the Lord”. Whatever may be the origin, the Friends themselves adopted the title which has no derogatory overtones.

For further information see http://www.quaker.org.