The Quaker movement began in 1652 with the visionary leadership of George Fox, Francis Howgill and Margaret Fell.

It was during the reign of Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth period - censorship had relaxed and the streets were flooded with pamphlets and broadsheets.

People were able to put out their own ideas of religion, and groups flourished - the Ranters, Seekers, Muggletonians - along with the group that came to be known as Quakers.

The Calvinist religion believed that salvation is in the hands of God alone (no amount of good deeds will alter your fate) and only the "elect" will be saved.

Many of these new movements however, sought the Holy Spirit within, and were based on spiritual equality, transformation & salvation in this life, as well as intimate encounters with God.

Quakers particularly stressed their individual experience of God.

George Fox realised from his own spiritual experiences that he had been looking in the wrong place : searching texts, discussing his ideas with priests and examining church practice. His own radical ideas were:

1. Spiritual experience is the primary authority

2. True religion is inward - what Quakers call The Light of Christ

3. Everyone has the seed within (partly reached by worship in stillness and silence)

George Fox claimed his transforming experience is open to everyone - man, woman and child - all are equal, there is no hierarchy. He never set himself up as having unique spiritual authority.

Barbara Mansell

Society of Friends

Swartmoor Hall