Local Quaker History
The early days
The Quaker movement began in the mid-1650s. Groups of people who found no help from the formal worship of churches at that time, met and waited in silence for the prompting of the Spirit of God.
They studied and valued the Bible but relied on an immediate assurance of the presence of God within them, rather than the authority of any book, even of the Bible.
At first, from 1655 onwards, in the Guildford area (most notably Worplesdon), Friends met in one another’s homes. There was a burial ground at Merrist Wood Farm – this was sold in 1852. Both George Fox and William Penn were visitors to Guildford during this early period.
Quakers become established in Guildford
In 1672 they brought land in Guildford for a burying ground, and with it, a tenement (Gatehouse) for conversion into a Meeting House, on what is now call Quaker’s Acre, in North Street, next to the library.
This Meeting House fell into decay and the present Meeting House was built in 1805/6, the porch, back room and kitchen being added at a later period. The first meeting for worship in the new building was on 6th February 1806.
The Foundation bricks at the main entrance bear the initials of friends who raised money and supervise the building.
Herbert Rowntree Book
A fuller history about the Meeting House and Quakerism in Guildford can be found in a 54 page book written by Herbert Rowntree in 1952. It makes fascinating reading! See link below……
In 1673 Guildford Friends bought “Quakers’ Acre”. This had a Gate House which was converted into a Meeting House. The remaining land was used as a burial ground. A right-of-way through the Crown Inn (now the NatWest bank) to the High Street was also acquired.
By 1803 the Gate House had fallen into decay so was demolishing and the whole plot became a Burial Ground.
In 1927 the Burying Ground was given to Guildford Corporation which undertook to preserve it as an open space for the public.