Updated on 8 February 2021
Resting in one of its historic rooms, The Cradle at Swarthmoor Hall symbolizes the birth of Quakerism.
Swarthmoor Hall is a mansion in Swarthmoor, Cumbria, north-west England. It was built around 1568 and by the mid 17th century it was owned by the judge Thomas Fell and his wife Margeret.
The Cradle of Quakerism
Founding Friend George Fox visited the hall in 1652. Thomas Fell was travelling as a judge, but Fox had an audience with Margaret Fell, who became interested in his teachings. She arranged for him to preach in St Mary’s Church in nearby Ulverston and at the hall. During his time there, many people were convinced by Quakerism.
When Thomas Fell returned home, he was persuaded by his wife and some others to listen to Fox, who successfully appealed to his pro-Parliamentary sentiments. Fell was never totally convinced by Fox’s religious teachings, but he did allow his home to be used as a Meeting House for the early Friends.
It was from Swarthmoor Hall that the Valiant Sixty (the name given to a travelling group of Quaker preachers) were coordinated spreading Quakerism across England and Wales. Therefore, Swarthmoor Hall became known as the cradle of Quakerism. The hall continued to be used for meetings until 1691, when a Meeting House was built nearby.
Thomas Fell died in 1658 and eleven years later Fox married the widowed Margaret. Fox died in London in 1691 and Fell died at the hall in 1702.
The cradle was built in 1690. It has posts on the two ends for making a net with string to prevent cats from crawling in with baby (this is the origin of the string game called Cat’s Cradle).
The Hall Today
The London Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends purchased Swarthmoor Hall in 1951 for £9,000 and it still belongs to the society today – who regularly use it for courses and retreats.
There are also daily tours of the hall and its gardens. Inside the hall there are six historic rooms to view in which you will find a fine selection of 17th century furniture as well as items associated with early Quaker history.
Swarthmoor Hall is currently managed by Friends House (London) Hospitality Ltd, a not-for-profit, ethical and sustainable trading company owned by the Quakers in Britain.
The annual Swarthmore Lectureis one of a series of lectures, started in 1908, addressed to the Britain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. The Quaker founded Swarthmoor College in Pennsylvania is named after Swarthmoor Hall.
Images from judylumb.wordpress.com/ and www.tripadvisor.co.uk/