THE debates between the various sections of the church were not always edifying. Change and growth were too often accompanied by injustice, and hunger for power, rather than spiritual progress. The situation crystalised in 1662 under Charles II, when the Church of England was defined, and 3000 clergy either resigned or lost their jobs for 'failure to conform'.
In Ryedale some of the first nonconformists were followers of George Fox. Fox travelled throughout the area in 1651, preaching both in churches and in the open, in Malton, Pickering and elsewhere. He taught that there is something of God lighting us all, and that there is no need for ritual or priests as intermediaries. The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers as his movement came to be called, grew strongly in Ryedale, but it was severely persecuted, especially after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, with the penal laws against Catholics and Quakers. Quakers met for worship in farms and orchards in Rosedale, Farndale, Ryedale and the Vale of Pickering, suffering heavy fines and imprisonment, some dying in the castles at Pickering and York. As Quakers were excluded from church burials, new burial places had to be found. The burial ground at Lowna, near Gillamoor, dates from 1675 and is a peaceful place to visit. Other burial grounds were in Rosedale and in Shallowdale, to the west of Ampleforth. Meeting-houses were built a little later, when they became legal after the 1689 Toleration Act. The Meeting-house at Kirkbymoorside, now behind 79 West End, dates from 1690. Others were at Hutton-le-Hole, Pickering, Malton, Ampleforth and later at Helmsley and Laskill in Bilsdale.
One notable Quaker, John Richardson, lived at Hutton-le-Hole in the first half of the eighteenth century. He
travelled widely, preaching and visiting Quaker Meetings throughout Britain and the American colonies. He was a friend
of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and he went with Penn to visit the native American peoples.
There are still three active Quaker meetings in the Ryedale area, and one of the old Meeting Houses has become the theatre and arts centre in Helmsley.
Kirkbymoorside Meeting House
Page prepared by Ryedale Christian Council Autumn 2000. Updated December 2016
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