Quaker Meeting Places in Lurgan

Vol. 2 No. 1 - 1971

Quaker Meeting Places in the Lurgan Area in the 17th Century

by George R Chapman

It is rather remarkable that the small town of Lurgan was to be the cradle for nuturing a spiritual movement which arose in England in the mid-seventeenth century and despite persecution continued to make remarkable progress among all classes rapidly spreading to other parts of Ireland.

The individual concerned in initiating the movement over here was William Edmondson, an ex-service man, who had been engaged on the Cromwellian side in the great civil war in England. He left the army and came over to Ireland with the intention of opening a shop. His brother John was serving in the army and was stationed at Antrim and so as to be near him. William opened a shop in Antrim. It was during a return visit to England to purchase more stock for his shop, that he was attracted by the powerful preaching of James Nayler, a Quaker, and was so impressed that he was immediately "convinced", to use the Quaker phrase, and declared himself to be a follower of these despised people.

After returning home, he moved to Lurgan and opened his shop, at the same time he commenced a Quaker Meeting for worship in his own house; this was in 1654.

Recent research in connection [with] the Brownlow leases has established the fact that William Edmondson's house was located in Church Place, Lurgan (approximately where the premises of T. G. Menary & Co., solicitors are at present.)

The Rebellion of 1641

According to some estimates, Lurgan at this time consisted of under fifty houses. The country was slowly recovering after the rebellion of 1641 which had continued intermittently for at least eight years and the Province was unsettled and impoverished. The landlord Sir William Brownlow (died 1660) was anxious to encourage settlers to take up houses and land on his estate. Rents were cheap and no objection was made to give leases on account of the fact that some belonged to the strange new sect called Quakers.

The meeting which was held in William Edmondson's house soon grew in numbers and the names of those first worshippers have come down to us and are as follows. William Soulden and his wife, John Hendryn, William Lynas, Mark Wright and Mark Sawyer, also two young brothers Richard and Anthony Jackson. William Edmondson's brother John also came to live in Lurgan and joined the group.

The only other place of worship in Lurgan at this time appears to have been the old Parish church of Shankill and there is one reference to William Edmondson going to the church here and speaking during or after the service for which he was beaten by Colonel Stewart.

William Edmondson was the natural leader of the local group and in addition he made extended visits to other parts of Ulster to expound his faith. On occasions he was joined by visiting Friends from England in this service, and several meetings were commenced in other parts of the province as a result. In 1656 William Edmondson felt he should give up shop keeping and take up farming in Co. Cavan. One reason he gives for such a move being that he would then be In a position to bear his testimony against payment of tithes, against which Quakers were bitterly opposed. Some other members of the meeting joined him in this venture including the two brothers Richard and Anthony Jackson. Several Meetings were commenced by them in Co. Cavan, one of which continued until recent times.

One would have thought that the removal of such a leader from Lurgan would have virtually brought an end to the meeting. This was not the case however, owing to the vitality of the new movement which continued to attract others to the meeting.

At this particular time there was a steady influx of settlers from the North of England into the Lurgan district. Some of these new settlers may have been Quakers before they came; others may have been influenced after they arrived here.

A number were linen weavers or were in some way connected to the linen industry which was rapidly gaining ground in this area.

Persecution was not so severe as in parts of England, but we have the following reference "1661 William Boston, Simon Harrison and Rodger Webb (with some other Friends) being met together at Rodger Webb's house to wait upon God in his holy fear and worship in a peaceable way, as their manner is, were for the same taken out, and by the Lord Conway, Bishop Taylor, and Arthur Hill committed to Armagh Goal, and there kept close prisoners five weeks; and then the said William Boston died in prison, (whose death must be given account for by those that caused it) and the other two Friends were kept there six weeks longer.

"After William Edmondson left Lurgan, the meetings were held in the homes of the undernoted Friends (perhaps in some form of rotation). At Rodger and Anne Webb's, Aghacommon, Parish of Seagoe. He is described as a wheelwright, or turner, and he seems to have been a man of some importance as he owned the townland of Aghacommon together with other property. He is the only person listed in this townland In the Hearth Money rolls of 1664. He died in 1684 and copy of his will is in Public Record Office Belfast. Many Quaker weddings took place in his house.

At Francis and Isabel Robson's, Tamnaficarbet, Parish of Seagoe. Francis was born in Yorkshire and came to Ireland when young. He is listed in this townland in the Hearth Money Rolls of 1664 and in a deed of Conveyance dated 1697 he is described as a weaver. Many weddings also took place here. At Mark Wright's of Lygatory, Parish of Shankill. He was born in Yorkshire and came to Lurgan in 1654 and joined Friends soon afterwards. He is described as a weaver in above Deed.

At Robert and Ellenor Hoop's of Lurgan. He was born in Yorkshire and came to Lurgan in 1660 at the age of 21. He joined Friends in Lurgan and became the wealthiest and most influential member. In 1696 he is described as a linen draper. As will be seen, he was the prime mover in having a new meeting house built in 1696 and his contribution to the building was nearly five times as large as any other member.

More settled conditions throughout the country after the termination of the Williamite wars and an increase of the linen industry led to greater attendances at the meetings. It became evident that a building was required which would be more commodious than meeting in Friends' homes.

A small Meeting House evidently existed in the town prior to 1691, when the minutes refer to the purchase of timber to enlarge the Meeting House. In 1696 when a new Meeting House was completed a reference is made to the former building as "too little and going to decay."

A copy of the minute from Lurgan Men's Meeting follows together with a list of those who contributed to the building fund.

From 130 names of individuals who contributed, it is evident that there was a growing interest and concern to provide a meeting place which would prove adequate for years ahead.

Building of Lurgan Meeting House 1696.

"In the year 1695 it pleased God to open ye hearts of ye Friends of this meeting to build a meeting house fit for a Province meeting or other large meeting - Ye ... one formerly ... use of being too little and going to decay so Friends upon several conferring on affairs so as the said house was built upon a tenemont called Maddens tenamont on ye south end of town of Lurgan upon a copy hold lease from Esq. Brownlowe in the name of Robert Hoope being for this meetings use and likewise two small dwelling houses in ye front of ye said tenamont. The cost of which with ye meeting house by subscription as hereafter mentioned, but what wanted to complete ye said work was paid out of ye collection stock, which was but little."

Name Contribution
Robert Hoope being chief promoter, overseer and contributor £40. 0s. 0d.
John Hoope (his son) £11. 15s. 0d.
Thomas Wainwright £11. 10s. 0d.
Thomas Walker £8. 10s. 0d.
John Walker £4. 0s. 0d.
George Fox and Rob. Hodgson £9. 0s. 0d.
John Turnor and Brother Thomas £7. 10s. 0d.
Jacob Turnor £8. 10s. 0d.
John Webb £5. 5s. 0d.
Junior Webb £3. 0s. 2d.
Junior Webb £3. 0s. 2d.
John Robson £3. 5s. 0d.
Jacob Robson £5. 16s. 0d.
Timothy Kirk £2. 1s. 0d.
William Crook £4. 10s. 0d.
Robert Robinson £2. 15s. 0d.
Alex Matthews £5. 0s. 0d.
Ezokiall Bullock £1. 8s. 0d.
Christopher Hillary £2. 0s. 8d.
Junior Greer £3. 15s. 0d.
Richard Mason £3. 5s. 0d.
Mark Wright £3. 15s. 0d.
William Porter - 10s. 6d.
Aboll Porter £1. 11s. 0d.
Patrick Logan £1. 0s. 0d.
John Neile £1. 8s. 0d.
John Hendron - 18s. 0d.
Ann Hodgson £1. 10s. 0d.
William Lynas £1. 18s. 0d.
William Williams £2. 2s. 0d.
Roger Kirk - 8s. 0d.
Francis Hilary - 12s. 0d.
Benj Shephon - 3s. 0d.
Robt. Kirk - 13s. 0d.
Marmaduke Hilary £1. 7s. 0d.
Thomas Bradshaw - 18s. 0d.
Ann Bradshaw (widow) £2. 0s. 0d.
William Bell - 10s. 0d.
John Hoope Sen. £2. 10s. 0d.
John Morton - 16s. 0d.
Daniell Bullogh - 11s. 0d.
Richard Hartley - 17s. 0d.
Roger Webb £1. 12s. 0d.
John Bullow £1. 2s. 0d.
Robt. Chambers - 15s. 0d.
William Souldon £1. 2s. 0d.
Laurence Allison - 18s. 0d.
William Wothorolt £1. 8s. 8d.
William Andrew £1. 1s. 0d.
John Cain £1. 12s. 0d.
William Gibson - 11s. 0d.
Robt. Sander - 10s. 6d.
Charles Roberts £1. 10s. 0d.
Laurence Hobs - 12s. 0d.
Thomas Turner Sen. - 18s. 0d.
Robert Hoope Junior - 15s. 0d.
Thomas Chapman - 3s. 0d.
Thomas Williams - 8s. 0d.
Thomas Bullow - 8s. 0d.
John Halliday Sen. - 4s. 0d.
John Halliday Jun. - 2s. 0d.
Thomas Harlow - 9s. 0d.
Richard Andrew - 5s. 0d.
Michael - 3s. 0d.
Jonathan Gilbert - 6s. 8d.
Mary Halliday - 1s. 0d.
Wil. Mason - 5s. 0d.
Richard Mason Jun. - 5s. 0d.
James Chambers - 5s. 0d.
John Williams - 10s. 0d.
Jony Bullow and her daughter Kath - 5s. 0d.
Mary Roa - 3s. 0d.
Mary Harlin - 1s. 6d.
Jane Rely £1. 0s. 0d.
Mary Robinson Jun. - 5s. 0d.
Katherine McGee - 2s. 6d.
Sarah Pierson - 2s. 6d.
Elizabeth Robinson £1. 0s. 0d.
Junior Halliday - 10s. 0d.
Geo. Timmony - 17s. 0d.
Joseph Robinson £1. 0s. 0d.
Simon Bell - 13s. 0d.
Stephen Thomson - 6s. 0d.
Junior Hobs - 12s. 0d.
Ezekiel Dougall - 10s. 0d.
Roger Crugiton - 5s. 0d.
Joell Carr - 6s. 0d.
Richard Lynas - 13s. 0d.
Bridget Walker £1. 0s. 0d.
George Hodgson - 10s. 0d.
John Softlaw - 3s. 0d.
George Thomson - 3s. 0d.
Henry Greer - 7s. 0d.
Alex Crigley - 10s. 0d.
John Crigley - 11s. 0d.
Samuel Kirk - 4s. 0d.
Jacob Kirk - 4s. 0d.
John Kirk - 1s. 0d.
Roger Kirk Jun. - 1s. 0d.
Joseph Robson £1. 15s. 0d.
Joshua Hoope - 10s. 0d.
James Thomson - 9s. 0d.
William Dixson - 4s. 0d.
Junior Will and Jo Moreton (son of John Moreton) - 3s. 0d.
James Armstrong - 10s. 0d.
Hannah Bradshaw - 5s. 0d.
Sarah Bradshaw - 5s. 0d.
James Bradshaw - 9s. 0d.
James Milikin - 12s. 0d.
John Beck £2. 2s. 0d.
Mary Porter - 2s. 6d.
Sarah Porter - 2s. 6d.
Margaret Brown - 1s. 0d.
Sarah Apleton - 1s. 6d.
Abigail, Abraham and Hannah Hoope of John Hoope Jun. - 15s. 0d.
Daniel Walker - 5s. 0d.
Thomas Walker Jun. - 2s. 6d.
Jonathan Walker - 2s. 6d.
John Silcock - 4s. 0d.
Robt.Doany - 2s. 6d.
Ailic Hartley - 1s. 0d.
Abel Weir - 6s. 0d.
Elizabeth Softlaw - 1s. 6d.
Ann Mason Jun. - 5s. 0d.
Edward Thornbrough - 3s. 0d.

Reference Notes:

  1. William Edmondson's Journal, 3rd Edition 1920.2.
  2. History of the rise and progress of the people called Quakers in Ireland from 1653 -1700. Wight & Rutty.
  3. Minute Book Lurgan Men's Meeting 1675 -1710.
  4. Record Book No. I Lurgan Meeting 1674- Mid 18th century.
  5. A Compendious View of Sufferings of Quakers in Ireland. Fuller &Holms.
  6. The Immigration of Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania 1682 17SO 41
  7. Guide to Irish Quakers Records 1654-1860. Olive C. Goodbody
  8. Quakers in Ireland 1654-1900
  9. Public Records Office, Belfast
  10. Hearth Money Rolls 1664, Parish of Seagoe
  11. Deed of Conveyance dated 1679 between Francis Robson and others and Thomas Lynas