Updated on 25 February 2021
Friends House, in London, is an alcohol-free building. So, why is there a bottle of port in its library?
The answer is, the bottle of port was given to four Friends who were imprisoned in Fleet Prison during 1797 for the non payment of tithes (a tax to the Church of England). It was donated to the Library of the Society of Friends in 1898 on one condition, it is not to be opened until the Church of England is disestablished!
Quakers And Alcohol
When Quakerism began in the mid 17th century, drinking water was often contaminated with disease and it was much safer to drink beer. At this time several Friends owned or worked in breweries. However, by the beginning of the 19th century, gin had become the drink that saw alcoholism plague British society. Quakers decided that either manufacturing or selling alcohol was no longer an Innocent Trade and Friends subsequently became involved in the Temperance Movement.
Today, Quakers are not forbidden from taken alcohol (or tobacco) – but most Quakers avoid them, or consume them moderately.
From Quaker Faith & Practice:
In view of the harm done by the use of alcohol, tobacco and other habit-forming drugs, consider whether you should limit your use of them or refrain from using them altogether. Remember that any use of alcohol or drugs may impair judgment and put both the user and others in danger.
Advice & Query 40
Library Of The Society of Friends
The library began in 1673 and acquired two copies of everything it could get written by Quakers and one copy of everything written in opposition of Quakers. The publications that are opposed to Quakers are known as the Adverse Collection.
In 1926, the library moved to the newly opened Friends House, London, where it has stayed ever since. Today, the library has an estimated 2.8 km of shelving. On these shelves are over 80,000 titles. From this, 4,000 titles were published before the year 1700 and of that 1,200 were published before 1652.
The library also has a number of manuscripts, diaries, magazines, pamphlets, and letters. There also over 40,000 photographs. Also, there are over 200 Quaker-based websites – archived and updated several times a year.
The library also has a collection of Quaker artifacts, including the bottle of port, and often holds exhibitions.
Receiving no public funding, the library is usually open 10am – 5pm, Tuesday to Friday but is currently closed due to Covid-19.