Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Colin's Little Known Facts: Quakers Founder Came From Leicestersh

It is certainly a little known fact that the Society of Friends, the gentle Christian denomination better known as the Quakers, were founded by a man from Leicestershire named George Fox.

George Fox was born at Fenny Drayton, near Hinckley, in 1624. At the time the village was known as Drayton-in-the-Clay.

He was apprenticed to a Nottingham shoemaker, but at the age of 19 he rebelled against the established church, believing that its formalism was getting in the way of true communion with God.

He was inspired, on Pendle Hill in Lancashire, to form the “Friends of Truth”. The term “Quaker”, at first used against him and his followers as an insult, later became the recognised name for his movement. It came about when George told a judge to “quake at the word of the Lord”.

George was always in trouble – he was stoned, imprisoned and spent much time in the stocks or pillory.

He stood for simplicity of worship, tolerance, justice and peace. The Quakers were later prominent in the abolition of slavery, as well as prison reform.

At Leicester Cathedral (then simply St. Martin’s Church) he spoke out, after the official preacher had gone home for his dinner, against the inequality that women had to endure.

Today, most men would agree that there is still some inequality and that there shouldn’t be. However, in George’s time, three and a half centuries ago, you would be hard put to find any men who acknowledged such a thing – most would take the view that it didn’t really matter anyway, as they were only women.

George not only acknowledged the situation – he publicly attacked it. He deserves to be a hero to a lot of people.

In later life, he travelled to Barbados, Jamaica, America, Holland and Germany. On some of these travels he was accompanied by William Penn, who went on to found Pennsylvania.

George was noted for his simple clothes. The late Sidney Carter, himself a Quaker, wrote a song about him, including the memorable lines “with your old leather breeches and your shaggy, shaggy locks, you are pulling down the pillars of the world, George Fox”.