COUNTY YARNS - Quakers ‘riotously violent’ in protests

William Penn
William Penn

Quakers weren’t always the peace-loving, friendly folk they are today.

George Fox founded the Quakers in 1655 and in Lewes the sect was first based at the house of one John Russell in Southover.

In her 1994 book on Lewes, local historian Barbara Fleming wrote: “At first the Quakers were riotously violent in their outbursts of protest in public places and at church services.

They incurred much early enmity in Lewes and often found themselves clapped in Horsham Gaol. On one occasion, when they were holding a meeting on what is now the Castle bowling green, they were set upon by the local Independents (another sect) who were armed with swords, guns and pikes.

This hot-headed side of the Quakers quickly cooled and they took on the determinedly peaceful and mild-mannered peoples that we know today.”

The most famous Quaker was William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania; his first wife was Gulielma Maria Springett, a member of the Springett family of Broyle Place, Ringmer. They married in 1672.