Quakers in Wolverhampton

This note (by Frank Sharman) is based entirely on information taken from: Wolverhampton Quakers 1704 - 1988 by Clement Jones, Hilary Clark and Eric Turner and published by Clark and Howard Books in 1989. In the history of Wolverhampton, as it has been written, there is a good deal about the Church of England, the various nonconformists and the Roman Catholics. These days we also need to take an interest in Hinduism and Islam. Smaller groups also need a note. The Society of Friends has never been a numerically large group in Wolverhampton but they have left their mark.

In 1704 Robert and Joan Hill gave two houses, on the corner of what is now Broad Street and Fryer Street, for use as a meeting house and burial ground. The property appears on Isaac Taylor's map of 1750. Membership of the Society seems to have declined towards the end of the 18th century and the whole site was sold for £400, which sum was distributed to the Leek, Uttoxeter and Stafford Meetings.

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The view from an old magic lantern slide of  the Quaker meeting house off what is now Broad Street.
There then seems to be a hiatus in Quaker affairs in Wolverhampton but there clearly were Quakers here and their numbers were growing. By 1900 they were holding regular meetings in the YMCA, then on the corner of Darlington Street and Worcester Street.

In 1903 a new meeting house was built, with the aid of other local Meetings, on a site provided by Thomas Parker in Horsman Street. (A local newspaper commented: "There was no music, no singing, no collection and the seats were free". One feels a hint of strong approval in this).

During the 20th century the Friends thrived and were active in peace movements, the allotments movement, race relations and other worthy causes. One of their activities was running hostels for elderly people who had been bombed out of their homes during the 1939-45 War, for which purpose they used, from 1941 onwards, the Woodlands in Penn Road. In 1945 it became their home for the elderly in which use, with many extensions and improvements, it continues. (The Woodlands is a listed building).

The Horsman Street premises became inadequate and the final push to move came from the building of the Ring Road which would have made access difficult and "threatened to isolate the Meeting from the community". In 1965, despite some hesitation over dealings with a brewery, the Meeting accepted a proposal from Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries to exchange the Horsman Street site for a site in Summerfield Road. The new premises were officially opened on 17th May 1969. The Friends continue to meet there and the premises are also used for meetings and other activities by a wide range of local groups and societies.

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