The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is a radical, contemporary and free-thinking faith organisation whose roots are in Christianity.
Nowadays we are very diverse. Although most modern day Quakers see Jesus as a great spiritual teacher and his words as a guide to action there are many different views amongst us. However whether we are a ‘theist’ or ‘non-theist’ Quaker we all place special value on actively living the four Quaker testimonies of equality, simplicity, truth and peace.
The first mention of Quakers in Ipswich is in the journal of George Fox, a founding member of Quakers (also known as “Friends”), when he visited the town in 1699; We had a little Meeting…………. and the Lords power came over them. After the Meeting I said, If any had the desire to hear further they might come to the Inn and there came a company of rude butchers that had abused Friends; but the Lords power so chained them that they could do no mischief’.
The first official Quaker Meeting House was built in College Street in 1700 by Joseph Clarke at a cost of £200.00. In fact Joseph also built the Unitarian Meeting House in Friars Street. In 1797 a piece of ground next to the Meeting House was purchased and a larger building was erected. Then 60 years later in 1858 Henry Alexander – one of the Quaker partners in Alexanders Bank – gave a piece of land to the Meeting for a library. These buildings were all in use until 1924.
In those days the Meeting House was filled with people for Meeting for Worship. There were many old Quaker Families who attended regularly – Ransomes, Alexanders, Corders, Frys, Bishops and Collinsons. These Friends were prominent in the civic life of the town and their names are still well known. At various times in this period many Quakers adopted ‘Plain Dress’ – grey dresses and bonnets for the women and plain collarless coats and hats for the men. Hats were kept on in Meetings as the belief was that no one place was more ‘holy’ than another. On the same basis Quakers refused to take oaths, believing that a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ was sufficient, and they built up a reputation in business for honesty and integrity.
But as time went by the area around the Meeting House became less residential and more commercial, and it was felt that it was no longer a suitable place for the Quaker Meeting House. So in 1924 it was finally sold, although the Burial Ground was walled off and retained by Friends.
Meetings were then held in hired premises. Friends felt that they had no home and numbers dwindled. This continued for twelve years until a committee was formed to look for new premises.
The current building, in use as a private house, was purchased for use by Friends in 1935. After alterations and additions it was formally opened in 1936.
Today the Meeting House continues to provide a welcome to all who use the building both as a place of worship and peace, and as a place for various groups to meet in a central location, and as a place for the service of the community.
QUAKERS SAY ‘THERE IS SOMETHING SACRED IN ALL PEOPLE.’