Whitehaven & Egremont Quakers History

Whitehaven developed into a coal port early in the eighteenth century. Its three churches and two nonconformist chapels were built between 1687 and 1777. Thomas Story encouraged Friends to build a meeting house and a plot of ground was purchased for 5 shillings. Friends subscribed towards the cost of a meeting house and early in 1724 the Friends of Pardshaw monthly meeting reported that a contract had been drawn up for the building work.


When John Fothergill visited the town in July 1724 to take ship for Ireland he attended a meeting held inside the partially built walls. He returned nearly a year later at Easter and attended a large meeting, the first to be held in the meeting house.

The regular and simple elevations of the building concealed a complex interior; great stone pillars supported the central valley of the double roof, whereas in most meeting houses of this type this support was provided by the screen. At Whitehaven the roof ran across the screen and must have been a serious obstacle to a view of ministering friends.


Whitehaven was frequently visited by Circulating Yearly Meeting for the Northern Counties. The meeting house was too small to accommodate its sessions, and a temporary 'shade' was erected at each of its sessions. In the later years the work and cost of the shade had become burdensome and in 1784 it was proposed that a temporary gallery be put up inside the front of the meeting house but a permanent loft was erected later that year around three sides of the building, supported on iron columns and approached by outside stone steps and an indoor staircase rising from the women's room.


At the same time modifications were made to the screen to improve the view.

In 1829 an adjoining house was purchased to enlarge the burial ground and provide extra space and light to the building. The meeting closed in 1926 and in 1931 the meeting house was sold to the Brethren. It still stands although much changed internally by the removal of the stone pillars and by the clearance of buildings around it.

New premises were acquired for Friends in 1982 by purchase of the former Sunday school room in Scotch Street, built around 1870, of the Lowther Street Methodist church. Alterations were carried out and it was opened in 1984.


However the condition of this building has seriously detriorated, so the decision was made in 2012 to find accomodation, and hence the decision to maove to Egremont.