Legacy of Quaker persecution highlighted by exhibition

Quaker houses at Bainbridge. Photo: Pip Pointon.

The local legacy of the persecution of Quakers in the late 17th century will be the subject of a heritage exhibition at Bainbridge Meeting House from September 17 to 19.

The sufferings Quakers endured – including being imprisoned for not paying church tithes – led to the wealthier members of the Religious Society of Friends such as Francis Smithson of Richmond remembering the poor and homeless in their wills.

Smithson and his nephew, lead mining agent Philip Swale, left land (Smithson’s at Carperby) which provided the funding for Trusts in their names.

By the late 18th century there were five Trusts as others left land and property in their wills.

These five trusts have now been incorporated into the Wensleydale and Swaledale Quaker Trust. This has inherited eleven houses for rent in Wensleydale, some dating back to the 17th century.

Quakers in the 17th century had a significant impact upon local architecture one of the best examples being Countersett Hall where the founder of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), George Fox, stayed.

Countersett Meeting House dates back to 1710 at a time when that hamlet was mainly inhabited by Quakers who helped to finance the construction of the ‘Quaker Bridge’ at Semerwater.

Hugh Dower will be at that Meeting House from 2pm to 3pm each day September 17 to 19 to talk about the Quakers at Countersett.

The Quakers also encouraged education for all including girls. It was a Quaker who founded Reeth Primary School and there are still Quakers on the Board of Trustees.

The exhibition – The Quaker Legacy in Wensleydale and Swaledale –  at the Bainbridge Meeting House,  will be open from 10am to 4pm, September 17th to 19th.

Admission is free. There will be Covid precautions if necessary. Do inform the stewards if you need to be especially careful.