A little history of Quakers in Brighton
Quakers (or Friends of the Truth as they originally called themselves) started meeting together in the mid 17th century in the chaotic aftermath of the English Civil War. There is evidence of Quakers in Brighton being persecuted by the established church as early as 1658. As a result of this persecution Quakers met at West Blatchington and Rottingdean until 1700. In that year worship began in a converted malt house on what is now New Road. We moved to the present site in 1805 when the Price Regent wanted to extend his Pavilion gardens across the old Quaker Meeting House and burial ground. Brighton Meeting grew with the town in the 19th century and in 1851 the census of attendance reveals a membership very similar in size to the present one.
In 1875 an adult school was added to the north of the building and the current entrance constructed. The adult school was the forerunner of the Friends Centre and adult education classes have been held continuously in this building since 1876. The adult school taught writing – most could read – bible studies, temperance, literature and socialism. The classes for 1892 include Class Extinction, Christian socialism and Christian secularism. A ‘sick and coal club’, savings bank, book club, library, mothers meeting and free breakfasts were all provided. The participants organised themselves and founded groups such as ‘The Federation of Working Men’.
Pacifism is a central practise of Quakers. In our own meeting the current Peace and Social Witness group was begun in 1934 as the Peace Committee.
The meeting house has become known as a quiet place in the heart of Brighton. The meeting house is not only used by the Quakers but is a venue for many marginal, alternative and non-violent social and radical groups and causes; a ‘den of nonconformity’ at the heart of Brighton.
A small booklet about the history of Brighton Friends' Meeting House is available to buy from the office when the Meeting House is open.