This record is held by Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies

Details of NQ
Reference: NQ



Quarterly Meeting Classification Scheme


Bedfordshire Quarterly Meeting NQ1


Monthly Meeting Classification Scheme


Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting NQ2


Ampthill Monthly Meeting NQ3


Preparative Meeting Classification Scheme


Hitchin Preparative Meeting NQ2A


Baldock Preparative Meeting NQ2B


Hertford Preparative Meeting NQ2C


Hoddesdon Preparative Meeting NQ2D


Ware Preparative Meeting NQ2E


Datchworth Preparative Meeting NQ2F


Welwyn Garden City Preparative Meeting NQ2G


Hunsdon Preparative Meeting NQ2H


Ashwell Preparative Meeting NQ2I


Buntingford Preparative Meeting NQ2J


Royston Preparative Meeting NQ2K


Stotfold Preparative Meeting NQ3A


Concordance - list of old and new references


Appendix A - Other Quaker material held at Hertfordshire Record Office


There were seven main areas for which the Monthly Meeting was responsible and from which most of the records survive.


1. Removals and Settlements


Although it had been customary, from the 1670s, for Friends who moved around the country to take a certificate from their Monthly Meeting to the Monthly Meeting in the area they had moved to assuring the latter of their good-standing in the Society, it was not until the mid-18th century that it became general to record out-going certificates, and in many cases certificates were kept on file but not minuted. The Monthly Meeting was able to recommend the individual without him applying directly for the certificate. The certificates were usually sent from one clerk to another, on application.


The Monthly Meeting investigated the conduct of the Friend who was removing. If he was a minister or an elder that was to be noted (see ministry). A man's wife and his children under 16 were also to be noted on the certificate. Three Friends besides the clerk were to sign the certificate. On receipt of the certificate an acknowledgement was to be sent to the Monthly Meeting which had sent the certificate and the other Monthly Meeting was to visit them. Insolvents were not to be granted a certificate nor was anyone who had been in receipt of poor relief within the last three months nor anyone who had been disowned.


It is important to note that the certificate might not be sent for many months if there were complications. It is also important that the two places mentioned are the two monthly meetings not the places of residence.


2. Disownment and Reinstatement


Among disownable offences were:- habitually absenting oneself from meetings for worship; drinking to excess; commercial dishonesty including most cases of bankruptcy; having an illegitimate child or a child conceived out of wedlock; paying tithes; being concerned in war (ie having armed vessels, joining the army or hiring a substitute for the militia); marriage before a priest, or being present at such a marriage.


The matter was normally reported to the Monthly Meeting by the Preparative Meeting. Their procedure, which was often protracted, was to interview the offenders, seek repentance and if this was not forthcoming, disown the individual usually with a formula about readmission in case of amendment. The full details, usually following this pattern, were inserted in the minute book or in a special book:


a) Identification of the individual being disciplined and his/her Quaker credentials;


b) The offence and its antecedents;


c) Narrative of the attempts made to reclaim the offender;


d) Repudiation of the impenitent;


e) The possibility of repentance.


It is important to note that disownment did not involve expulsion from meetings for worship, and those who continued to attend were usually reinstated after a decent period.


Discipline provided that reinstatement should be done by the disowning Monthly Meeting. Sometimes, therefore, the disowning Monthly Meeting would make enquiries of the Monthly Meeting in which the person who had been disowned was then resident before proceeding to reinstatement. After reinstatement the Monthly Meeting might well have issued a certificate of removal whose date would bear no resemblance to the actual date of removal.


3. Sufferings and Tithes


The Quakers were anxious to record the hardships and persecutions they underwent, which generally took the form of fines, distraints and imprisonment, both before and after 1689, largely due to the fact that they refused to pay tithes. Hardships arising from the Friends' refusal to swear oaths were administered separately.


Friends also recorded detailed questions and answers containing legal advice on the avoidance of persecution where they could do so with a good conscience.


To help Friends in local meetings copies of "model" testimonies were sent down to them and hence some of the testimonies which have been recorded follow very similar patterns. Eventually the testimonies were read out in the Quarterly Meeting having been "perfected" or "digested" at the Monthly Meeting.


There are usually minute books containing details of sufferings and account books listing distraints and amounts taken or paid.


4. Births and Burials


See section 5 for marriages see also DSA 3/5 transcript's burials


The Quaker documentation concerning births (the Friends did not recognise the outward sacrament of baptism) and burials was not as detailed as that concerning marriages. Register books were kept from the late 1650s. The registers record births, marriages and burials (which usually but not always record the date of the death). In some of the birth registers adult members of the Meeting recorded their own dates of birth, so that some of the registers have retrospective entries as early as 1578. In general, responsibility for compiling the registers rested with the Monthly Meeting although for ease of reference many of the Preparative Meetings maintained their own separate registers. From 1776, Yearly Meeting formulated a more systematic method of registration, printed books being provided for the Quarterly and Monthly Meetings (see also Note 1 Register Digests).


In every Monthly Meeting and Preparative Meeting two people were appointed to give out birth notes (the official notification of the birth) and to keep a note of to whom they were given and then report this at the next Monthly meeting. Two copies of the notes were filled in (see figure 3) and signed for each birth and then sent to the Monthly Meeting. After they had been duly noted one was to be given to the parents and the other recorded in the register book. The note was then sent to the Quarterly Meeting within one year and it was registered and filed there as well.


From the very beginning the Quakers had burial grounds, usually pieces of land which had been purchased or donated. In many cases they preceded the building of the Meeting House as vicars refused to bury Quakers in their graveyards and the Quakers, in any case, did not believe in the necessity of burial in consecrated ground. The maintenance of the burial ground was the responsibility of the Preparative Meeting. As with births, two people were appointed in each Preparative and Monthly Meeting to give out the burial notes, to keep a note of to whom they had been delivered and to report this at the next Monthly Meeting. They were to be completed with the following information:


a) Condition of the deceased (ie his occupation or his usual addition);


b) Whether the deceased was a wife, widow, son or daughter etc. (see figure 4)


The notes were to be registered in the Monthly Meeting in the compass of which the burial ground was situated, and sent to the Monthly Meeting in which the deceased person had been resident, if the two were different. An order was then sent to the gravedigger. All burial notes were to be sent to the Quarterly Meeting within a year to be registered there. (see also Note 1 Register Digests)


5. Marriages


For births and burials see section 4


Until 1837 there were only three places in which a couple could legally marry: the Anglican church, the Jewish Synagogue (for a marriage between two Jews) and the Friends Meeting House (for a marriage between two Friends). Thus Quaker marriages were documented in great detail.


During the Commonwealth Friends adopted declarations before witnesses in a way similar to that laid down for the civil marriage ceremony in the Directory of Publique Worship (1644) but denied the need for a priest or minister believing that a marriage was a contract made before God between the two parties and that there was no need for any intermediary. The continuation of this practice after the Restoration in 1660 meant that in the eyes of the established church there was no marriage and any children were illegitimate. However, civil law given in judgements from 1661 decreed otherwise and held that marriages between two Friends according to this practice were legal.


The Society, therefore, developed a complex system of preparations to replace the calling of banns. In 1753 the Yearly Meeting standardised the procedure (although the minute detail might vary from Meeting to Meeting).


Each party had to declare his or her intention to marry at their respective local meetings, parental consent to the marriage would then be checked, the rights of any children by any previous marriage protected, and any prior engagement and financial circumstances examined. All the necessary documents would be presented at the next Monthly Meeting, and if approved, a date was set when the parties could take one another before witnesses (usually at the mid-week meeting for worship). The form of their declaration was laid down and all the witnesses (of which there had to be at least twelve) signed the certificate.


Quaker marriage certificates, of whatever period, handwritten or printed, should contain all the following information:


a) The full identification of the contracting parties, usually with their residence;


b) Information that notice of the marriage had been given to the meeting concerned;


c) Freedom of the contracting parties from any other marriages or engagements;


d) Permission granted by the Meeting to proceed in the matter;


e) The wording of the vows, mutually exchanged, promising life-long love and fidelity;


f) The signatures of at least twelve witnesses to the marriage (although it was normal practice for everyone present to sign the certificate)


The Monthly Meeting recorder would then make a full copy of this certificate, usually by hand, to be kept in the Meeting records. Before 1753 the form of vows often varied, but was agreed beforehand so that it could be entered on the marriage certificate.


Two people were appointed in each Monthly Meeting to register marriages. The certificate was to be recorded in a book (although the Monthly Meeting copies were sometimes kept loose) and witnessed as a true copy. An index to the book was usually compiled for easy reference.


An abstract of this record was to sent to the woman's Quarterly Meeting within one year (see figure 5) and also to the man's Quarterly Meeting if the two were different.


Until 1859 this form of marriage was considered to be legal only between two Friends. In 1859 the law was extended to allow a marriage in a Meeting House to take place between a Friend and a non-Friend, and in 1872 between anyone approved by the Society.


Friends could not accept the marriage of a Friend before a priest. This was equally true whether the marriage was to another Friend or to a non-Friend. Two Friends not infrequently chose to marry before the priest either because of an insuperable difficulty in Quaker discipline (ie lack of parental consent or a marriage between first cousins), or because the protracted nature of the Quaker preliminaries was irksome (and if a child had been conceived out of wedlock disownment might take place anyway). After 1860 those married before a priest were still liable to disownment, however, different Monthly Meetings ceased to disown at different dates towards the end of the nineteenth century. It should be noted that "marrying out" was not in itself a disownable offence but as legally marriage outside the Meeting House involved marrying before a priest it became a disownable offence on that score.


6. Ministry


The Society of Friends has never supported a paid ministry which has enabled it to form many small, local congregations rather than having to have a congregation large enough to support a minister.


The Quaker meeting for worship contains large periods of silent waiting upon the Lord. Out of this silence vocal ministry might be given by anyone of the worshippers under the leading of the Holy Spirit. It was recognised from the beginning that the gift of vocal ministry had been given to some people and not to others. These men and women came to be known as "publick" Friends. In the early eighteenth century a more systematic recognition of these people by the Monthly Meetings was seen to be needed and the Friends considered to be ministers were known as "acknowledged" or "recorded" ministers. The practice of recording ministers was abolished by the Yearly Meeting in 1924.


To guard against Friends travelling up and down the country to minister unnecessarily, the practice grew whereby it was expected that a Friend travelling "in the ministry" either in this country, or abroad, should seek the agreement of his own Monthly Meeting who would then draw up a certificate of liberation for a Friend to carry as evidence of his credentials.


The title Elder appeared in Quaker documents from the 1650s onwards and this term meant "seasoned Friend". The specific appointment by the Monthly Meetings of these "seasoned Friends" or elders to advise the ministry began in the early eighteenth century.


From the late eighteenth century overseers had been appointed to have a care for friends who were in need and to watch over those who were not behaving in an acceptable manner. There was some confusion over the distinction between overseers and elders until as late as 1789 when the Yearly Meeting made a firm ruling.


From the 1750s onwards separate Monthly and Quarterly Meetings of ministers and elders were held. Later these separate meetings were also held by the larger Preparative Meetings. They were referred to as the Select Meeting. In 1876 the overseers and other Friends appointed by the Monthly Meeting were admitted to these meetings and they became known as Meetings of Ministry and Oversight.


The recorded ministers and the appointed elders and overseers attended these meetings and any other suitable Friends were also invited to attend. Each Monthly Meeting of Ministry and Oversight reported to the main Monthly Meeting in the Spring.


The Meeting of Ministry and Oversight had five main duties:


a) To oversee the religious condition of the particular congregations within their compass and to check whether the meetings for worship were held to the edification and honour of God;


b) To counsel, encourage and help those engaged in the work of the ministry, especially of the younger and more inexperienced;


c) To make arrangements to attend, occasionally, the Preparative Meetings within the compass of the Monthly Meeting, especially those in which little or no ministry was exercised;


d) To visit the infirm, the sick and the afflicted;


e) To care spiritually for the children and young people who attended the meetings, and the promotion of their religious and scriptural instruction and to propagate the Gospel in the area.


The Meeting for Ministry and Oversight was also responsible for considering various doctrinal Queries.


The Monthly Meeting was at the mid-point of the chain of Quaker financial and property management. Each Meeting, at every level, had a float of money which was known as its stock. This was raised largely by collections and legacies and was used for expenditure on the upkeep of premises, charity and relief payments, outgoings on apprenticeship and schools and legal payments. Preparative Meetings were the ultimate source for a flow of contributions which filtered upwards via the Monthly and Quarterly Meetings to the Yearly Meeting.


Monthly Meetings had also collected resources of their own in the form of bequests of land and investment funds, but very often in order to avoid having a deficit in their own running costs they had to appeal to the Preparative Meetings. Sometimes the Women's Meeting would make a grant to the Men's Meeting or in desperate cases appeal could be made to the Quarterly Meeting.


The Meeting Houses and burial grounds were usually the responsibility of the Preparative Meetings but the Monthly Meeting usually oversaw this responsibility. Very often the Monthly Meeting acted as one of the trustees of the Meeting House and burial ground and if a meeting for worship closed then the Monthly Meeting would be responsible for the disposal of the land and buildings.


There have been several Monthly Meetings in Hertfordshire since the seventeenth century. The Monthly Meeting which now covers Hertfordshire is the Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting which has had a long and varied history


The Baldock Monthly Meeting was established in 1668 when George Fox visited Hertfordshire for the second time. In 1688 it split into two Monthly Meetings, Baldock Monthly Meeting and Hitchin Monthly Meeting. In 1671 the two combined once more and in 1798 the Meeting became known as the Hitchin Monthly Meeting (see below). The Meeting was known variously as the Baldock and Royston Monthly Meeting, the Baldock, Royston, Ashwell and Hitchin Monthly Meeting and the Baldock, Ampthill and Hitchin Monthly Meeting.


The Cottered Monthly Meeting was established in 1695 to serve the Buntingford, Sandon and Rushden area. It amalgamated with the Hertford Monthly Meeting in 1761.


The Hertford Monthly Meeting was established in 1668 to serve the area around Hertford, Ware and Cheshunt. In 1748 the Bishops Stortford Monthly Meeting became a part of the Hertford Monthly Meeting although in 1794 it moved out once more this time to become part of the Thaxted Monthly Meeting (Essex). In 1761 the Cottered Monthly Meeting joined with the Hertford Monthly Meeting. In 1865 the Hertford Monthly Meeting and the Hitchin Monthly Meeting (see below) combined to become the Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting


The Hitchin Monthly Meeting was established in 1688 when it split off from the Baldock Monthly Meeting. (see under Baldock Monthly Meeting) In 1865 the Hitchin Monthly Meeting joined with that of Hertford to become the Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting.


The Ampthill Monthly Meeting [Beds] began life as a Preparative Meeting in the Pulloxhill Monthly Meeting [Beds] (1727-1785). In 1786 it was accorded Monthly Meeting status. In 1798 it became a Preparative Meeting once more, this time as part of the Hitchin Monthly Meeting. In 1865 it became a part of the Luton and Leighton Monthly Meeting.


The Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting was created in 1865 when the Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meetings were amalgamated.


There was another Monthly Meeting in Hertfordshire called the Albans Monthly Meeting. Its early history is somewhat vague. However, it remained quite a strong meeting into the nineteenth century as Friends living in London often used to retire to St Albans and thus would take an active part in the Society there.


The area covered now by the Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting was all that could easily be dealt with at first using Hertford as the centre. St Albans and its district came under the care of the Bedfordshire Quarterly Meeting whilst West Hertfordshire was looked after by Buckinghamshire Quarterly Meeting.


When Friends settled in St Albans in the seventeenth century they were not pleased that the Monthly Meeting was held in Kensworth and it moved to Markyate. In 1703 the Albans Monthly Meeting became part of the Hertfordshire Quarterly Meeting. The Albans Monthly Meeting merged with that of Luton. The Preparative Meeting in St Albans closed in 1830.


Each Monthly Meeting was responsible for several Particular or Preparative Meetings. The Meeting met, usually once a month, as an administrative body, to prepare for the Monthly Meeting, to which each Preparative Meeting appointed representatives.


The Preparative Meeting records usually start later than those of the Monthly Meetings and Quarterly Meetings, sometimes not until the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century.


Naturally the amount of recorded business which came before the Preparative Meeting was considerably less that that which came before the Monthly Meetings and the Quarterly Meetings. Often the first item on the agenda was to appoint representatives to the Monthly Meeting.


The Preparative Meeting exercised responsibility in five main areas:


1. Discipline


The Preparative Meeting was a court of first instance for the disciplinary cases listed under disownment above. If necessary a disciplinary case could be taken by the representatives of the Preparative Meeting to the next Monthly Meeting. If the case resulted in disownment then the certificate would be sent to the Preparative Meeting.


2. Property and Finance


The most important part of a Meeting's property was its meeting house, usually with land adjoining and a burial ground. The Society anticipated the 1689 Toleration Act by building meeting houses in the 1670s (in the case of Hertford and some others it was as early at the late 1660s). The penal laws probably encouraged this practice for heavy fines were imposed on the owners of private houses where conventicles were held under the Second Conventicle Act 1670.


Meeting houses were the most plain and functional of places of worship. They were mostly characteristic of the local area in style and material. Apart from running repairs and alterations the meeting houses were not very costly to maintain and usually the burial ground cost less. The Society was at an advantage too for it did not have to find the money to maintain a manse as there was no paid pastorate.


Like the Monthly Meeting, the Preparative Meetings acquired a steady stream of bequests from deceased Friends sometimes with a specific purpose such as the provision of a school. Collections were often made for charitable and other purposes, for Monthly Meeting expenses and less frequently for Quarterly Meeting or "National" stock. There was an annual audit, and deficits arising from the Meeting's treasurer's authorised expenditure could be made good by collections.


3. Registration and Marriage


Preparative Meetings were permitted to keep their own transcripts of local births, marriages and deaths. These were usually copies of the entries sent to the next Monthly Meeting after a verbal announcement of the event at the Preparative Meeting.


The Preparative Meeting played a vital role in the marriage preparations as the man would announce his intention at both the Men's and the Women's Preparative Meetings. As that Meeting would know the parties better it was often left to them to make the necessary investigations prior to the marriage.


4. Charity


Although the Monthly Meeting dealt with the actual administration of charity, the Preparative Meeting was usually in a much better position to know the details of a particular case and to discern those most in need.


Charity transactions included responses to charitable appeals such as disasters and refugee crises. Collections were often taken for individual Friends who had met with trouble such as fire, flood or other accidents.


5. Suffering and Tithes


The Preparative Meeting was the obvious place for the collection of information about the local Friends' position concerning tithes and other church charges. The records fall into two categories:


a) Financial and factual digests of hardships and of goods lost by distraint as a result of Friends' refusal to pay such charges;


b) Statements of refusal to pay and the grounds for such refusal.


Annual assemblies of heads of households were held within the Preparative Meetings to record both categories ready to take to the next Monthly Meeting.


It is important to note the difference between a preparative meeting/particular meeting and a meeting for worship/allowed meeting. Only the larger meetings for worship became preparative meetings. The meeting for worship or allowed meeting had no place in the administrative structure of the Society and therefore few records survive unless the meeting became a preparative meeting.


As the Society of Friends was able to open and close meetings quite easily there have been a large number of preparative meetings in Hertfordshire. Some of these have had a long history and others a shorter one. Some of the preparative meetings have a large survival of records and for others there is little.


The list has been compiled from a list held by the Friends House Library and the records held at this Office. These are the Preparative Meetings that have been noted:


Ashwell Preparative Meeting


See NQ2I


A meeting was settled at Ashwell in about 1668. The meeting house was registered in 1691. The meeting closed in 1836.


From 1668-1798 it was a part of the Baldock and Royston Monthly Meeting and from 1798 a part of the Hitchin Monthly Meeting.


Baldock Preparative Meeting


See NQ2B


According to Urwick's History of Non-Conformity in Hertfordshire (1835), the first Quakers in Baldock were a Baptist woman and her husband who were "convinced" when George Fox first visited the town in 1665. However, there are no extant minute books to prove this. There was probably a meeting house in Baldock from about 1669. In 1904 the Hitchin and Baldock Preparative Meetings amalgamated and in 1932 the "Baldock" part of the name was dropped. The meeting house was sold in 1925 and demolished in 1945.


From 1668-1798, this meeting came under the Baldock and Royston Monthly Meeting, between 1798 and 1865 under the Hitchin Monthly Meeting and from 1865 under the Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting.


Berkhampstead Preparative Meeting


The records of this meeting are held at Buckinghamshire Record Office, County Hall, Aylesbury, HP20 1UA


In 1760 the meeting which had previously been held at Weston Turville in Buckinghamshire moved to Tring where it remained until 1818 when a meeting house was built in Berkhampstead. It closed in 1892 and re-opened as an allowed meeting in 1899, regaining Preparative Meeting status in 1939 and re-emerging as an allowed meeting in 1950.


1760-1843: Buckinghamshire Quarterly Meeting: Upperside Monthly Meeting


1843-1857: Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire Quarterly Meeting: Upperside Monthly Meeting


1857-1865: Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire Quarterly Meeting: Upperside and Leighton Monthly Meeting


1865- : Bedfordshire Quarterly Meeting: Luton and Leighton Monthly Meeting


Bishops Stortford Preparative Meeting


A Monthly meeting was established in Bishops Stortford in 1668 but in 1748 it was dissolved and joined to the Hertford Monthly Meeting as a Preparative Meeting. In 1791 the Preparative Meeting was handed over to Thaxted Monthly Meeting [Essex]. It was discontinued in 1800 and re-opened in 1828. It closed again in 1850 not to open again until 1963. The meeting was finally discontinued in 1967.


Buntingford Preparative Meeting


See NQ2J


A meeting was established at Buntingford in 1674 and the meeting house was built in about 1715. The meeting was closed in 1836. The meeting came under the Hertford Monthly Meeting.


Cheshunt Preparative Meeting


A meeting had been established at Flamstead End by 1672. The meeting was a part of the Enfield Monthly Meeting and help towards the running costs was given by the Hertford Monthly Meeting, although the Enfield Monthly Meeting complained that the Hertford Monthly Meeting did not pay its share regularly. In 1707 the meeting house was registered as a place of worship and the meeting probably became a part of the Hertford Monthly Meeting at this time. A new meeting house was built in 1727. The meeting was closed in 1820.


Chorleywood Preparative Meeting


The records of the Albans Monthly Meeting are held at Bedfordshire Record Office, County Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford, MK42 9AP: see DDE 177 for details


The meeting held at Rickmansworth and Chorleywood was included in the Buckinghamshire Quarterly Meeting in 1668. In 1703, however, when the Albans Monthly Meeting was established this meeting was transferred to it and before 1724 it joined with the Flaunden and Watford Preparative Meeting. It was known as the Chorleywood Preparative Meeting from 1764. This meeting closed in 1827.


The meeting opened again as an allowed meeting in 1956 but soon became a Preparative Meeting under the Jordans Monthly Meeting and met in the Chorleywood Memorial Hall.


Cottered Preparative Meeting


Cottered Monthly Meeting was established in 1668. The meeting house opened in 1691. In 1761 the meeting was joined to Hertford Monthly Meeting and became a Preparative Meeting. The meeting was closed in 1821.


Datchworth Green Preparative Meeting


See NQ2F


In 1928 an allowed meeting was opened at Knebworth and in 1935 it moved to the village hall at Woolmer Green. In 1936 the meeting was recognised as Preparative Meeting and about 1940 it again moved this time to the Baptist Chapel at Datchworth Green. The meeting closed in December 1958.


Harpenden Preparative Meeting


The records of the Luton and Leighton Monthly Meeting are held at Bedfordshire Record Office, County Hall, Bedford, MK42 9AP: see DDE 177 for details.


An allowed meeting was opened at Harpenden in 1920 and it was given Preparative Meeting status in 1928. A meeting house was built in 1933.


Hemel Hempstead Preparative Meeting


The records of this meeting are held at the Bedfordshire Record Office, County Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford, MK42 9AP: see DDE 177 for details


A meeting for worship was established in 1667 and the meeting house was built in 1718. The meeting was discontinued in 1905. An allowed meeting opened in 1949 and was accorded Preparative Meeting status in 1956. It is now a part of the Luton and Leighton Monthly Meeting.


Hertford Preparative Meeting


See NQ2C


A meeting for worship was established in about 1655 when George Fox visited Hertford, and the meeting house, one of the oldest in the country, was erected in 1670. The meeting was known as the Hertford Preparative Meeting until about 1854 when it became known as the Hertford and Hoddesdon Preparative Meeting. In 1915 Hoddesdon acquired its own Preparative Meeting once more.


Hitchin Preparative Meeting


See NQ3A


The Hitchin Preparative Meeting was established in the early eighteenth century although the first extant minute book begins in November 1761. From April 1904 until November 1932 the meeting was known as the Hitchin and Baldock Preparative Meeting (adjoined). After November 1932 it went back to being known as the Hitchin Preparative Meeting.


Hoddesdon Preparative Meeting


See NQ2D


It is generally believed that George Fox himself instituted a meeting at Hoddesdon either in the 1650s or in the 1660s. In the 1830s it became known as the Ware and Hoddesdon Preparative Meeting. In 1854 the meeting became part of the Hertford and Hoddesdon Preparative Meeting. In 1915 the Hoddesdon Preparative Meeting became independent once more.


Hunsdon Preparative Meeting


See NQ2H


A meeting for worship was established in Hunsdon possibly in the late seventeenth century. The meeting was discontinued in 1815. It was a part of the Hertford Monthly Meeting.


Letchworth Preparative Meeting


An allowed meeting was opened in Letchworth in 1906 and was accorded Preparative Meeting status in 1907. The meeting house was built at about the same time.


Markyate Preparative Meeting


The records of the Luton and Leighton Monthly Meeting are held at Bedfordshire Record office, County Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford, MK42 9AP: see DDE 177 for details


In 1654 it is thought that a meeting was established in Markyate Street, Dunstable (Beds) and Sewell (Beds). It was accorded Monthly Meeting status but was amalgamated with Dunstable Preparative Meeting in about 1753. The meeting house was sold in 1761.


Radlett Allowed Meeting


During the latter half of the Second World War some members of the Albans Meeting living in the Radlett area found it difficult to travel to St Albans, so an allowed meeting opened at Radlett in 1943. The meeting was discontinued in 1945.


Royston Preparative Meeting


See NQ2K


A meeting was settled at Royston by 1660. The meeting house was registered in 1691. The meeting was discontinued in 1841.


Originally part of the Baldock Monthly Meeting, it then became a part of the Hitchin Monthly Meeting.


Albans Preparative Meeting


The records of this meeting are held at Bedfordshire Record Office, County Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford, MK42 9AP: see DDE 177 for details


A meeting was established in St Albans by about 1669. The meeting house was built in what is now Spencer Street. The meeting was discontinued in 1830 and the meeting house was closed. In 1899 an allowed meeting opened but closed in 1900. The meeting re-opened once more as an allowed meeting in 1905 and was accorded Preparative Meeting status in 1906. Originally part of the Albans. Monthly Meeting it became part of the Luton and Leighton Monthly Meeting.


Sawbridgeworth Preparative Meeting


It is thought that a meeting was established in Sawbridgeworth in about 1659 but had been discontinued by 1748.


Stevenage Preparative Meeting


It is believed that a meeting was established in Stevenage in the late seventeenth century. The meeting house was registered in 1691 in Shephall. The meeting was discontinued before 1761.


Ware Preparative Meeting


See NQ2E


A meeting for worship had been established in Ware by 1660. A meeting place was secured in about 1670 and the meeting house in Kibes Lane was built about 1729. In the 1830s the Meeting became known as the Ware and Hoddesdon Preparative Meeting. In 1854, however, this Meeting joined with that of Hertford to become the Hertford and Hoddesdon Preparative Meeting. The Ware Preparative Meeting was discontinued in 1864.


It was a part of the Hertford Monthly Meeting.


Watford Preparative Meeting


The records of this Meeting are held at Bedfordshire Record Office, The County Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford, MK42 9AP, see DDE 177 for details


The Watford Meeting was included in the Buckinghamshire Quarterly Meeting in 1668. In 1703 it transferred to the Albans Monthly Meeting. In 1724 it amalgamated with the Rickmansworth and Chorleywood Meeting. The Meeting was discontinued in 1827. An allowed Meeting opened in 1902 and was accorded Preparative Meeting status in 1904. It is part of the Luton and Leighton Monthly Meeting.


Welwyn Garden City Preparative Meeting


See NQ2G


A Meeting was established in about 1923, the meeting house in Handside Lane was opened in January 1926.


Ampthill Preparative Meeting (Beds)


The records of this Meeting can be seen in NQ3 and at Bedfordshire Record Office, County Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford, MK42 9AP: see DDE 177 for details


The Meeting in Ampthill was established in 1727. The meeting house was built in 1754. In 1798 the Meeting became part of the Hitchin Monthly Meeting and in 1865 moved over to the Luton and Leighton Monthly Meeting. The Meeting was discontinued in 1880.


Note 1: Register Digests


Extracted from My Ancestors were Quakers, E H Milligan and M J Thomas pp3-4, pp18-23


The digests made by the Society in 1840-1842 (see NQ1/5B/1-2, NQ1/5C/1 and NQ1/5D/1) at the time of their surrender to Somerset House, were not transcripts. The registers relating to meetings within each of the then Quarterly Meetings in England and Wales had their contents systematically arranged so that, under each letter of the alphabet, entries in each series (ie births, marriages and burials) appear in approximately chronological order from the seventeenth century to 1837. Witnesses to marriages whose names appear in the original registers were not transcribed in the digests. The digests were made in duplicate, one copy being held centrally (now in the Friends House Library) and the other returned to the Quarterly Meeting.


Births Digest


See NQ1/5B/1-2


Columns 1-2: The reference is to the original registers as listed in the 1841 report of the Registrar General's Office. The registers now at the Public Record Office, have a revised numerical series. If entries are in an identical form in more than one register there will be two or more bracketed figures in the digest. If entries are different in spelling or information given, there will be two (or more) entries in the digest.


Column 3: Name


Column 4: Date of birth (usually year, month and day)


Column 5: Place of birth


Column 6: Name of parents


Column 7: Parents' abode


Column 8: Occupation


Column 9: Monthly Meeting: It is important to be clear that this means the Monthly Meeting responsible for surrendering the register. It may be the style of the Monthly Meeting at the time of the birth, especially in nineteenth century entries; but because of the changes in style following amalgamations of Monthly Meetings, the likelihood is that it was not the name of the Monthly Meeting at the time that the birth entry was made.


Column 10: NM for non-member: Children, both of whose parents were in membership at the time of the birth, had until 1959 a right to membership. The entry "NM" indicates that a child, while not having that right, had some claim to be under the care of Friends. In general, this tended to be where one parent only was in membership. In some cases, however, "NM" was entered where neither parent appears to have been in membership - perhaps because one parent had been disowned for marriage before the priest to a non-Friend.


Marriage Digest


See NQ1/5C/1 and NQ1/5B/1


Columns 1-2: The reference to the original details are given under "Birth Digest"


Column 3: Name


Column 4: Residence


Column 5: Description of occupation


Column 6: Names of parents, in some cases names of step-parents are given


Column 7: Parents abode


Column 8: To whom married - name - residence: it should be remembered that the digests of marriages give entries under each party and that fuller particulars are likely to be found by looking up the other entry


Column 9: Where married


Column 10: Date of marriage (usually year, month, day)


Column 11: Monthly Meeting - for explanation see notes under "Births Digest"


Burial Digest


See NQ1/5D/1 and NQ1/5B/1


Columns 1-2: The reference to the original details is given under "Birth Digest"


Column 3: Name


Column 4: Date of death (usually year, month, day)


Column 5: Age - this is prefixed with about. This could mean that the age is only correct on the actual date of birth


Column 6: Residence - care should be taken not to assume that this is the place of death


Column 7: Description or profession or trade


Column 8: Monthly Meeting - explanation given under "Birth Digest"


Column 10: Place of burial


Column 11: NM for non-member - The question of the interment of non members in Friends' burial grounds arose particularly in relation to disowned persons, more especially when their spouses were still in membership. Regulations adopted by Yearly Meeting 1744 provided that "when any person, not a member of the Society, is permitted to be buried in a Friends' burying ground, it is to be noted in the margin of the register." The book of discipline adopted in 1833 much more explicit provision for "one or more proper persons" to be appointed by the Monthly Meeting, to authorise the burial. Friends were to exercise discretion in complying with any application for the burial of a non-member.


See pp29-31 for a list of digests abstracted from E.H. Milligan and M.J. Thomas, My Ancestors were Quakers pp20-23


Note 2: Quaker dating


The Quakers refused to use the pagan names of days and months. Therefore they named each month from one to twelve and each day was just given its figure in the month. Before 1752 the first month was March and the twelfth month, February. After 1752 the first month was January and the twelfth month, December.


Thus as an example Monday 5th May 1883 would read the 5th day of the fifth month 1883.


Note 3: Quaker Tombstones


Whilst tombstones were sometimes erected in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, they were far from widespread. Yearly Meeting noted in 1717 that the "vain custom" was recognised in some places and that the stones should be removed and that no others be set up. The advice was given again in 1766. In 1850 Yearly Meeting agreed that graves might be marked by "a plain stone, the inscription on which is confined to a simple record of the name, age, and date of the decease, of the individual interred." In the years following a number of such stones were erected in relation to those who had died previous to 1850.


Note 4: Sufferings


Following a conference in the autumn of 1675 a "constant meeting about sufferings" was established, the series of minutes (now held at Friends House Library) beginning in June 1676. It dealt with cases of suffering anywhere in the country, and for this reason had a network of county correspondents who were in a position to bring to light cases where the prosecution might have been illegal. It met weekly until the late-eighteenth century and was entrusted with more and more work of a general nature being defined by the Yearly Meeting of 1833 as "a standing committee of this meeting ... entrusted with a general care of whatever may arise during the intervals of this meeting affecting our religious society and requiring immediate attention". The Meeting for Suffering meets on the first Friday of each month in London and is the general executive body of the Society of Friends.


Friends could be and were prosecuted for the following offences:


1) For not going to church;


2) Holding a meeting of five or more people under the pretence of worship;


3) Refusal to swear an oath;


4) Refusal to pay tithes, church rates and other customary dues;


5) Opening their shops on First Days (Sunday) and holidays (the Society believed that every day was holy and therefore there was nothing special about a Sunday);


6) Travelling on a First Day;


7) Being vagabonds or common nuisances;


8) Contempt of courts and magistrates (refusal to swear an oath or to remove their hats);


9) Teaching without a Bishop's Licence.


The main acts under which the Society was prosecuted were as follows:


a) The Quaker Act 1662 (13 and 14 Charles II c.1)


b) The Conventicle Acts 1664 and 1670


(16 Charles II c.4; 22 Charles II c.1)


c) The Recusancy Act 1580 (23 Elizabeth I c.1)

Date: 1643-1995



It is hoped that the classification system reflects the hierarchy in which the documents were created. An explanation has been given at the beginning of each section as to how those particular records fit into the overall scheme of Quaker record keeping. It is, however, recommended that readers should study the introduction before using the records unless they have a prior knowledge of the Quaker structures.




Old Reference: Q1-2 New Reference: NQ2/1A/1-2


Old Reference: Q3 New Reference: NQ2/2A/1


Old Reference: Q4 New Reference: NQ2/5E/1-2


Old Reference: Q5 New Reference: NQ2/5C/3-37


New Reference: NQ2/5F/35


Old Reference: Q6 New Reference: NQ2/3B/1-2


Old Reference: Q7 New Reference: NQ2/8A/1


Old Reference: Q8 New Reference: NQ2/5H/1


Old Reference: Q9 New Reference: NQ2/8A/3


Old Reference: Q10 New Reference: NQ2/5F/1-6


Old Reference: Q11 New Reference: NQ2/4C/1


Old Reference: Q12 New Reference: NQ2/1A/30


Old Reference: Q13-17 New Reference: NQ2/1A/34-38


Old Reference: Q18 New Reference: NQ2/4A/1


Old Reference: Q19 New Reference: NQ2/5E/53-58


Old Reference: Q20 New Reference: NQ2/5C/220-227


Old Reference: Q21 New Reference: NQ2/5E/151


Old Reference: Q22 New Reference: NQ2/8A/2


Old Reference: Q23 New Reference: NQ2/8B/4


Old Reference: Q24 New Reference: NQ2/5F/587-589


Old Reference: Q25 New Reference: NQ2/9A/11


Old Reference: Q26 New Reference: WITHDRAWN


Old Reference: Q27-34 New Reference: NQ2/1A/3-10


Old Reference: Q35 New Reference: NQ2/2A/2


Old Reference: Q36 New Reference: NQ2/4A/2


Old Reference: Q37 New Reference: NQ2/3A/2


Old Reference: Q38 New Reference: NQ2/5E/3-52


Old Reference: Q39 New Reference: NQ2/3A/1


Old Reference: Q40 New Reference: NQ2/5C/38-70


Old Reference: Q41 New Reference: NQ2/5A/1-7


Old Reference: Q42 New Reference: NQ2/5H/2


Old Reference: Q43 New Reference: NQ2/8B/1


Old Reference: Q44 New Reference: NQ2/5F/7-33


Old Reference: Q45 New Reference: NQ2/9A/1


Old Reference: Q46-48 New Reference: NQ2/1A/31-33


Old Reference: Q49-57 New Reference: NQ2/1A/39-47


Old Reference: Q58-60 New Reference: NQ2/2A/10-12


Old Reference: Q61 New Reference: NQ2/4C/2


Old Reference: Q62 New Reference: NQ2/3A/4


Old Reference: Q63 New Reference: NQ2/6B/1-5


Old Reference: Q64 New Reference: NQ2/5G/3


Old Reference: Q65 New Reference: NQ2/5D/23


Old Reference: Q66 New Reference: NQ2/5E/59-150


Old Reference: Q67 New Reference: NQ2/5I/2


Old Reference: Q68 New Reference: NQ2/5C/228-308


Old Reference: Q69 New Reference: NQ2/5A/12-40


Old Reference: Q70-71 New Reference: NQ2/5A/41-42


Old Reference: Q72 New Reference: NQ2/3A/3


Old Reference: Q73 New Reference: NQ2/8A/5


Old Reference: Q74 New Reference: NQ2/5H/6


Old Reference: Q75 New Reference: NQ2/8B/2


Old Reference: Q76 New Reference: NQ2/5C/1


Old Reference: Q77 New Reference: NQ2/5F/590-650


Old Reference: Q78 New Reference: NQ2/5F/651


Old Reference: Q79 New Reference: NQ2/4C/5


Old Reference: Q80 New Reference: NQ2/4A/3


Old Reference: Q81, Q81A New Reference: NQ2/1A/11


Old Reference: Q82-83 New Reference: NQ1/1A/1-2


Old Reference: Q84 New Reference: NQ2/1A/13


Old Reference: Q85-86 New Reference: NQ2/1A/15-16


Old Reference: Q87-98 New Reference: NQ2/1A/18-29


Old Reference: Q99 New Reference: N12/2A/1


Old Reference: Q100-102 New Reference: NQ2/2A/3-5


Old Reference: Q103A-B New Reference: NQ2/2A/6-7


Old Reference: Q104-105 New Reference: NQ2/2A/8-9


Old Reference: Q106 New Reference: NQ2/5H/4


Old Reference: Q107 New Reference: NQ2/2B/1


Old Reference: Q108 New Reference: NQ2/3A/5


Old Reference: Q109-110 New Reference: NQ2/9A/2-3


Old Reference: Q111 New Reference: NQ2/9A/8


Old Reference: Q112 New Reference: NQ2/1B/6


Old Reference: Q113 New Reference: NQ2/5G/1-2


Old Reference: Q114 New Reference: NQ2/5D/24


Old Reference: Q115 New Reference: NQ2/5I/1


Old Reference: Q116 New Reference: NQ2/5C/169-218


Old Reference: Q117 New Reference: NQ2/5C/71-168


New Reference: NQ2/5F/34


Old Reference: Q118 New Reference: NQ2/5A/10


Old Reference: Q119A-B New Reference: NQ2/5A/8-9


Old Reference: Q120 New Reference: NQ2/5A/43


Old Reference: Q121 New Reference: NQ2/3B/3-6


Old Reference: Q122 New Reference: NQ2/3B/7


Old Reference: Q123 New Reference: NQ2/6B/1


Old Reference: Q124 New Reference: NQ2/7B/1


Old Reference: Q125 New Reference: NQ2/5H/3


Old Reference: Q126 New Reference: NQ2/8A/4


Old Reference: Q127 New Reference: NQ2/8B/3


Old Reference: Q128 New Reference: NQ2/9A/6


Old Reference: Q129 New Reference: NQ2/5B/2


Old Reference: Q130 New Reference: NQ2/5A/11


New Reference: NQ2/5F/36-586


New Reference: NQ2/5C/219-221


Old Reference: Q131 New Reference: NQ2/9A/7


Old Reference: Q132A New Reference: NQ2/4C/3


Old Reference: Q132B New Reference: NQ2/4D/1


New Reference: NQ2/10A/25


New Reference: NQ2/11A/19


Old Reference: Q133 New Reference: NQ2/9A/5


Old Reference: Q134 New Reference: NQ2/9A/4


Old Reference: Q135-139 New Reference: NQ2/1A/48-52


Old Reference: Q140 New Reference: NQ2/2A/13


Old Reference: Q141 New Reference: NQ2/3A/6


Old Reference: Q142-143 New Reference: NQ2/3A/8-9


Old Reference: Q144 New Reference: NQ2/5B/10


Old Reference: Q145 New Reference: NQ2/4D/2-10


Old Reference: Q146 New Reference: NQ3/1A/1-2


Old Reference: Q147 New Reference: NQ3/1A/1


Old Reference: Q148 New Reference: NQ2I/7A/1


Old Reference: Q149 New Reference: NQ2B/7A/1


Old Reference: Q150 New Reference: NQ2A/7A/1


Old Reference: Q151 New Reference: NQ2K/7A/1


Old Reference: Q152 New Reference: NQ2/6C/1


Old Reference: Q153-4 New Reference: NQ3/6B/1-2


Old Reference: Q155 New Reference: NQ2B/5A/1


Old Reference: Q156 New Reference: NQ2B/5B/1


Old Reference: Q157 New Reference: NQ2/6A/5


Old Reference: Q158 New Reference: NQ2/6B/9


Old Reference: Q159-160 New Reference: NQ2J/5A/1-2


Old Reference: Q161 New Reference: NQ2/6C/2


Old Reference: Q162 New Reference: NQ2J/5B/1


Old Reference: Q163 New Reference: NQ2C/7A/2


Old Reference: Q164 New Reference: WITHDRAWN


Old Reference: Q165-6 New Reference: NQ2C/6A/1-2


Old Reference: Q167-170 New Reference: NQ2A/5A/1-4


Old Reference: Q171-172 New Reference: NQ2A/5B/1-2


Old Reference: Q173 New Reference: NQ2A/5A/5


Old Reference: Q174 New Reference: NQ2A/5B/3


Old Reference: Q175 New Reference: NQ2A/5A/6


Old Reference: Q176 New Reference: NQ2A/5B/4


Old Reference: Q177 New Reference: NQ2A/5A/8


Old Reference: Q178 New Reference: NQ2A/5A/7


Old Reference: Q179 New Reference: NQ2A/5C/1


Old Reference: Q180 New Reference: NQ2A/5B/5


Old Reference: Q181 New Reference: NQ2K/5B/1


Old Reference: Q182-3 New Reference: NQ3A/5A/1-2


Old Reference: Q184 New Reference: NQ2E/6A/1


Old Reference: Q185-188 New Reference: NQ1/1A/3-6


Old Reference: Q189 New Reference: NQ1/2A/2


Old Reference: Q190 New Reference: NQ1/3A/1


Old Reference: Q191 New Reference: NQ1/7A/1


Old Reference: Q192-3 New Reference: NQ1/1A/7-8


Old Reference: Q194-7 New Reference: NQ1/2A/3-6


Old Reference: Q198-200 New Reference: NQ1/3A/2-4


Old Reference: Q201 New Reference: NQ1/4A/1


Old Reference: Q202 New Reference: NQ1/6A/1


Old Reference: Q203 New Reference: NQ1/5B/1


Old Reference: Q204 New Reference: NQ1/5C/1


Old Reference: Q205 New Reference: NQ1/5D/1


Old Reference: Q206 New Reference: NQ1/5B/2


Old Reference: D/EX 86 Z1-2 New Reference: NQ2F/1A/1-2


Old Reference: D/EX 86 Z3 New Reference: NQ2F/1B/1

Related material:

Further Reading


All the following books were used to help compile this introduction:


J Godber, Friends in Bedfordshire and West Hertfordshire (1975)


V Rowe, The First Hertford Quakers (1970)


R M Jones, The Later Periods of Quakerism Volumes I and II (1921)


W C Braithwaite, The Beginnings of Quakerism (1912)


W C Braithwaite, The Second Period of Quakerism (1919)


E H Milligan and M J Thomas, My Ancestors were Quakers (1983)


All the following documents concern the Society of Friends but are held in other collections in the Record Office. Some of these documents have already been cross-referenced at the appropriate place in the catalogue. This material could not be conveniently cross referenced in the main catalogue.


Date Description Reference


1757 Rental and particulars of the estate of William Weston devised to the Devonshire House Monthly Meeting (Middx) 38076


1787 Sale notice for the furniture at Amwell House of John Scott (the Quaker poet) 79854


1866 Sale particulars of the meeting house at Furneux Pelham E1385-1403


1688 Deed of a messuage used as a Quaker meeting house in Markyate Street 83078


1798-1818 Lucas family letters and manuscript episodes in Quaker history, short stories 7670-67893; 67894


1709, 1890 Bishops Stortford meeting house erection and notice of meeting 70900-70901


1780 Manuscript copy of John Scott's "Hymn to the Trinity" DE4348


1716 John Waller - will and papers concerning a bequest of £5 for the entertainment of Quakers preaching at Ashwell 53963-53970


1808-1836 Meeting house registers and and certificates - Archdeaconry of Huntingdon 63721/1-9


1820 Certificate of extracts from registers of the Society of Friends, Hounsditch D167


1609-1935 Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting - Friends Burial Ground, Cottered and deeds of the meeting house Kibes Lane, Ware 53979-54026


1739 Ralph Radcliffe - JP committed fellow to Hertford for robbing a Quaker, who refuses to swear against him D/ER/C248/27


1840-1842 Register of public houses held by Lucas Brewery, Hitchin contains 2pp with a description of the meeting house Hitchin 10898


1792 Detailed letter of John Mitchison a Quaker of Carlisle to Archdeacon Egerton of Durham concerning the injustice of tithes AH2329


1832 Lady Bridgwater's reply concerning assisting a poor orphan, recommends her going into service in a Quaker family to preserve her morals AH2432


1755 Will of Ann Hickman, spinster of Hertingfordbury with a declaration by her brother James that he is a Quaker and renouncing execution of her will D/EAs 2083


c1930-1950 Photograph of Friends meeting house, Hertford [built 1670] CV/Hert/27


1661-1935 Deed of barn and cottage off Holm Street, Biggleswade once used as a Quaker meeting house D/ESb T102


1725 Lease of a close in Welwyn called Fullwell [A Quaker charity] D/EX8 T6


1706 Copy of letter to a Quaker watchmaker D/EP F49


c1950-1964 Printed appeal, Friends School Saffron Walden, meeting houses at Hertford, Berkhamsted and Stevenage D/EX167 Z3


1918 Papers concerning the letting of buildings adjacent to Cherry Tree Hotel, Southgate to Box Meeting of Society of Friends' trustees D/EBt Q52


1922-1963 Correspondence, papers etc for exchange of land and houses at Southgate Green (Middx) between the trustees of Poole's charity and the Box Meeting of the Society of Friends D/EBt Q55


1697-1887 Deeds of meeting house, Dagnall Lane, St Albans D/EOy T11


1786-1804 Quaker marriage certificate of John Waldock of High Wycombe (Bucks) and Sarah Smith of Hollyport (Beds) at Maidenhead D/EB1547 T1


1950 Sale particulars of land called the Quaker burial ground at Tring D/EMy B61


1929 Copy proofs of the chapter about Quakers in R L Hine's History of Hitchin D/Z23/W5


1922 Deeds of the Quaker meeting house and burial ground, Bishops Stortford D/ETe B28


1712-1723 Births of Quaker children noted in the Tewin register D/P106 1/2


1772 Quaker marriage certificate of Benjamin Evens of Woodbridge Suffolk and Hannah Porter at the Ramsey Meeting D/EL F37


1850 Quaker marriage certificate of John Giles of Stepney and Sarah Eves of Kelveden, Essex D/EL F38


1840-1863 Minutes: Hitchin Circulating Book Society (formed among the Quaker community) D/EX312 Z1


1716 Apology in church register by men who broke into Layston Church to ring the bells for the wedding of a Quaker D/P65 1/3


1738/9 Letter to the Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends - William Weston's condemnation of actions of John Pryor towards John Stout D/EP F285


1726 Letters from L Page to her husband concerning the army D/EP F262


1829 Deeds of newly erected meeting house in Akeman Street, Tring and garden adjoining D/EVy T12


1979 Photocopy of photograph of drawings of the Hitchin and Hertford meeting houses and maps showing Quarterly Meeting areas; information on general meetings PC292


1657/8 Hertfordshire Quaker records in Sessions rolls (see guide) Library


1707-1782 Lists of inhabitants of Ardeley distinguishing Quakers and dissenters D/P6 8/1


nd Quaker burial grounds, Hoddesdon Ware, Baldock, Hertford, Hitchin and Bishops Stortford D/EGm 5


c1953-1970 Miscellany D/EGm 317


1994 List of Hertfordshire pupils at Ackworth Quaker School near Pontefract, Yorkshire, 1779-1930, compiled by J Y Dunning Record Office Library

Held by: Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Hertfordshire

Physical description: 1839 files
Access conditions:



Local Quaker records deposited in HALS usually sit under a 50-year restriction rule. This is for confidentiality regarding personal matters such as notes about applications for membership or about terminations. Such matters are normally in Minute books and their associated documentation.


However, items of public knowledge such as manuscripts of books subsequently published, newscuttings etc, do not need to have the 50-year restriction, and librarians/archivists are asked to use their discretion about making such non-sensitive items available to enquirers.


Please note that written permission can always be given to bona fide researchers to inspect material deposited within the last fifty years, on application to either the Clerk of the time, or the Custodian of Records of the time, of Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting. The names and addresses can be obtained from Friends' House, Euston Road, London if they are not known, though usually any local Friend can supply the information.


The records of the Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting are held at this Office, see NQ2 in the main catalogue. The records of the Ampthill Monthly Meeting, which were retained by the Hitchin Monthly Meeting can be found in NQ3 in the main catalogue. Other records concerning Ampthill are also held at Bedfordshire Record Office, County Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford, MK42 9AP. [see DDE 177 for details]


The records of the Luton and Leighton Monthly Meeting are held at Bedfordshire Record Office, County Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford, MK42 9AP. [see DDE 177 for details]


Closure Period


The Society of Friends has a standard closure period on all material under fifty years old, to protect sensitive information about members. However, bona-fide researchers wishing to see these documents, should make an application in writing to the clerk of the Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting stating the reason for their research and the documents they wish to look at. It is be noted that the Record Office, in agreement with the clerk to the Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting, will not allow access to these records without this permission in writing.


The following information is taken from E.H. Milligan and M.J. Thomas, My Ancestors were Quakers pp20-21




This list indicates when the duplicate set of digest registers is known to be available in a record office or other public repository. Notes are also given where a digest register is known to contain entries relating to another pre-1974 county than that indicated in the title of the quarterly meeting, or where it lacks such entries as might be expected.


Beds & Herts : Available at Hertfordshire County Record Office. Entries for the Bishop's Stortford area may be found in the Essex digests; those for the south (e.g. Flamstead End) in London & Middlesex; those for the south-west (e.g. Watford, Rickmansworth) in Buckinghamshire.


Berks & Oxon : Available at Berkshire Record Office (D/F2 A/20,21,22). No particular comment.


Bristol & Somerset : Available at Bristol Archives Office (SF/R1/1-6). A number of Bristol Friends lived within the compass of Frenchay monthly meeting and entries may be found in the Gloucester & Wilts digests.


Buckinghamshire : Available at Bedford County Record Office. The digests include entries for south-west Hertfordshire (e.g. Watford, Rickmansworth). Some entries for the Tring area may be found in the Beds & Herts digest.


Cambs & Hunts : The area in north-east Huntingdonshire, in the neighbourhood of King's Cliffe, was at different times in the area of this quarterly meeting; of Lincolnshire; of Northamptonshire; and of Warwick, Leicester & Rutland.


Cheshire & Staffs : Available at Cheshire Record Office (EFC 1/14 1, 2, 3, 4) There is a deficiency of entries for south-east Staffordshire (in the neighbourhood of Wolverhampton). North-west Derbyshire (e.g. Low Leighton) is included.


Cornwall : Available at Cornwall County Record Office (D.D.SF.223 i, ii, iii, 224). Reference should be made to Hugh Peskett. Guide to the parish and non-parochial registers of Devon and Cornwall 1538-1837 (Devon & Cornwall Record Society extra series 2), 1979, pp 213-217, 222-224, 226-228.


Cumberland & Northumberland : Entries for south-east Cumberland (e.g. Penrith) will be found in the Westmorland digests; those for eastern Northumberland (e.g. Newcastle upon Tyne) in Durham.


Derby & Notts : Entries for north-west Derbyshire (e.g. Low Leighton) will be found in the Cheshire & Staffs digests; those for northern Leicestershire (e.g. Castle Donington), while mainly in these digests, may also be found in Warwick, Leicester & Rutland; those for northern Derbyshire (e.g. Eckington, near Sheffield) may be found in Yorkshire.


Devonshire : Reference should be made to Hugh Peskett, Guide to the parish and non-parochial registers of Devon & Cornwall 1538-1837 (Devon & Cornwall Record Society extra series 2), 1979, pp 217-221, 224-228.


Dorset & Hants : Available at Hampshire Record Office (24 M 54/25, 26). No particular comment.


Durham : Entries for northern Yorkshire (Richmond monthly meeting) may be found in these digests, or in those for Yorkshire, or those for Westmorland. Entries for north-east Yorkshire (Guisborough monthly meeting) may be found in these digests or in those for Yorkshire. These digests contain entries relating to eastern Northumberland (e.g. Newcastle upon Tyne).


Essex : Available at Essex University Library, Wivenhoe, Colchester. Entries for the Bishop's Stortford area of Hertfordshire are included in these digests; those for south-west Essex (e.g. Waltham Abbey, Barking) will be found in London & Middlesex.


Gloucester & Wilts : Available at Gloucestershire Record Office (D 1340 : A1/R1-4). Entries for north-east Gloucestershire (e.g. Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden) will be found in Warwick, Leicester & Rutland).


Hereford, Worcester & Wales : Available at Hereford & Worcester Record Office, Worcester (898.2: 1303/23-25). Entries for north-east and south-east Worcestershire (e.g. Stourbridge, Dudley: Shipston-on-Stour) are more likely to be found in Warwick, Leicester & Rutland).


Kent : A number of Friends living in north-west Kent had their membership in meetings belonging to London & Middlesex or, in a few cases. Sussex & Surrey.


Lancashire : Swarthmore monthly meeting was transferred from Lancashire to Westmorland about 1805: entries may be found in either digests. Parts of western Yorkshire and eastern Lancashire (e.g. Mankinholes, Todmorden) were transferred from Brighouse monthly meeting to Marsden monthly meeting about 1795: entries may be found either in the Lancashire or the Yorkshire digests.


Lincolnshire : Available at Lincolnshire Archives Office. No particular comment: refer to Cambs & Hunts for note on entries relating to south-west Lincolnshire (e.g. Stamford) in relation to King's Cliffe.


London & Middlesex : Southwark (until 1800 Horsleydown) monthly meeting, including parts of north-west Kent, was always a part of London & Middlesex. The monthly meeting including Kingston, Wandsworth and Croydon was transferred to London & Middlesex from Surrey quarterly meeting in 1804: entries may be found either in London & Middlesex or in Sussex & Surrey.


Norfolk & Norwich : Available at Norfolk & Norwich Record Office (SF 42, 43, 44, 45). North-east Suffolk (Beccles, Pakefield) is included in Norfolk; entries for the Brandon-Thetford area may be found in either Norfolk or Suffolk.


Northamptonshire : Available at Northamptonshire Record Office. No particular comment: refer to Cambs & Hunts for note on entries relating to north-east Northamptonshire (e.g. Duddington) in relation to King's Cliffe.


Suffolk : Available at Suffolk Record Office, Ipswich (FK 6/4/1-4). Entries relating to northern Suffolk (e.g. Beccles/Pakefield) will be found in Norfolk & Norwich: those for the Brandon-Thetford area may be found in either Suffolk or Norfolk.


Sussex & Surrey : The monthly meeting including Kingston, Wandsworth and Croydon was transferred from Surrey quarterly meeting to London & Middlesex in 1804 and entries may be found in Sussex & Surrey or in London & Middlesex digests.


Warwick, Leicester & Rutland : Entries for north-east and south-east Worcestershire (Stourbridge, Dudley; Shipston-on-Stour) are more likely to be found in these digests than in those for Hereford Worcester & Wales. Entries for north-east Gloucestershire (e.g. Stow-on-the-Wold Chipping Campden) are included in these digests. Refer to Cambs & Hunts for note on entries made by Oakham monthly meeting (Rutland) in relation to King's Cliffe: Oakham monthly meeting assumed part-responsibility in 1713 for the meetings at Bourne and Stamford, Lincs.


Westmorland : Sedbergh monthly meeting (north-west Yorkshire) was always a constituent meeting of Westmorland quarterly meeting. Entries for the Furness district of Lancashire (Swarthmore monthly meeting) may be found in either the Westmorland or Lancashire digests. The Westmorland digests contain entries for south-west Cumberland (e.g. Penrith). Entries relating to north Yorkshire (Richmond monthly meeting) may be found in Westmorland, Yorkshire or Durham.


Yorkshire : Entries for north Yorkshire (Richmond monthly meeting) may be found in these digests or in those for Westmorland or Durham. Entries for north-east Yorkshire (Guisborough monthly meeting) may be found in these digests or in those for Durham. Parts of western Yorkshire and eastern Lancashire (e.g. Mankinholes, Todmorden) were transferred from Brighouse monthly meeting to Marsden monthly meeting about 1795: entries may be found in the Yorkshire or the Lancashire digests.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The Records




The records in this catalogue have been received mostly from the Clerks of the Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting at various times. The main body of the catalogue is a re-list of the records previously catalogued under "Q", made to accommodate new accruals. The Concordance at the back of the catalogue, gives the old references together with their new ones. The other records have the following accession numbers: Accession 1797 (received from the clerk of the Hertford Preparative Meeting), Accession 1909, Accession 1964, Accession 2025, Accession 2258, Accession 2409, Accession 2628, Accession 2745 (all received from the clerk of the Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting), Accession 2687 (received from the clerk of the Hertford Preparative Meeting) and Accession 3049, 3087, 3187 and 3243 (received from the Records Curator of the Hertford and Hitchin Monthly Meeting)

  • Baldock, Hertfordshire
  • Cottered, Hertfordshire
  • Hertford, Hertfordshire
  • Hitchin, Hertfordshire
  • Ampthill, Hertfordshire
  • St Alban's, Hertfordshire
  • Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire
  • Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire
  • Buntingford, Hertfordshire
  • Cheshunt, Hertfordshire
  • Datchworth, Hertfordshire
  • Harpenden, Hertfordshire
  • Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire
  • Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire
  • Hunsdon, Hertfordshire
  • Letchworth, Hertfordshire
  • Markyate, Hertfordshire
  • Radlett, Hertfordshire
  • Royston, Hertfordshire
  • Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire
  • Stevenage, Hertfordshire
  • Ware, Hertfordshire
  • Watford, Hertfordshire
  • Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire
  • Religion
Administrative / biographical background:





During the religious upheaval caused by the Civil War many people found that the the observance of the formulae and the religious duties which were advocated by the established church no longer fulfilled their spiritual needs. Many of these people left established churches and societies and wandered up and down the country trying to find religious fulfilment. These people were called Seekers or in some places the Family of Love. They sometimes met together, not formally at appointed places and times to pray and preach, but at their own will. They waited together in silence and as anything arose in any of their minds which seemed to come from God they spoke. These people are considered to be the forerunners of the Society of Friends and many of their practices were adopted by George Fox.


George Fox had been wandering about England in search of fulfilment himself since 1642, during which time he came into contact with many of these groups of Seekers. In 1647 he finally felt that the divine truth, that man did not need any intermediary between himself and God but that he could enter God's presence directly with the help of the Holy Spirit, had been revealed to him. This is to be contrasted with the emphasis placed on the priesthood by Archbishop Laud and his followers. From 1647 he travelled tirelessly around the country spreading his message which drew in many of those who were dis-satisfied with the established church. The Society rapidly absorbed the majority of the Seekers and attracted many others whom the Civil War had caused to reflect on their beliefs.


Quakerism took to its furthest point the love of spontaneity of worship which was characteristic of radical puritanism. The worship was remarkably formless, outward sacraments such as baptism and the Lord's Supper were not observed and much of the time of worship was spent in silence waiting on the Lord.


By the Restoration there were about 40,000 Quakers in England and by 1718 the Society had the largest number of dissenting congregations in the country (672), but were the second smallest dissenting group in terms of numbers. This is probably because Quaker Meetings tended to be small and local whereas other dissenting congregations were larger and centred on one or two places in the area as they had to be big enough to support a paid pastorate which the Quaker Meetings did not.


The Society of Friends was established in Hertfordshire in about 1655 when George Fox visited Hertford, Hitchin and Baldock. Since that time both Hertfordshire and its neighbour Bedfordshire have been influential Quaker counties probably due to their proximity to London. William Penn (the founder of the state of Pennsylvania) moved to Rickmansworth in 1672 and his house became the centre for many Quaker gatherings.


However, until the promulgation of the Act of Toleration in 1689 life for the Society of Friends was not easy. It is uncertain when members of the Society first became known as Quakers, a term which was used originally as a term of derision, but which is in general usage by the Society itself now. They were persecuted by the established church for a variety of offences including not attending worship and not bringing children to baptism (the Conventicle Acts 1663, 1670) and for not paying tithes. [see Note 4: Sufferings] Friends did not believe that they should pay towards the "hireling priesthood" which they felt had no authority and therefore consistently refused to pay tithes. Their goods were distrained and many lost their lives in gaol over this issue. Detailed accounts were kept of these "sufferings" which continued into the nineteenth century. The Quakers refused to swear an oathes of any kind, maintaining that a man should be truthful at all times. It was not until 1722 when an Act, allowing Quakers to affirm rather than swear, was passed that Quakers were no longer prosecuted for this offence. Many Friends were prosecuted for refusing to swear the oath of allegiance. Quaker men also refused to remove their hats in churches, in courts, to the aristocracy or to clergy for they believed that all men were equal in the sight of God. The Quaker Act of 1662 inflicted severe penalties on those attending Meeting for Worship including the sentence of transportation. Other dissenters were not tolerant of the Quakers either, and John Bunyan made several very scathing remarks about the Society.


There was also much hostility in local areas to the Friends. Their Meeting Houses were smashed up and Friends were pelted on their way to Meeting (a far cry from the respect shown to the influential and wealthy Quaker families of the nineteenth century like the Seebohms, the Tukes and the Barclays). This early persecution was due in part to the fact that the Quakers were easily recognisable. Their plainness of dress and speech marked them out as well as angering local shopkeepers who made a great deal of money out of the fashions of the day. They refused to recognise rank, and were also adjured to keep expense at weddings and funerals to a minimum. They refused to use the pagan and superstitious names of the days and months using instead their own dating system [see Note 2: Quaker dating]. They were to use their time sensibly and not engage in idle and profligate activities including the theatre and reading romantic novels. Although many Quakers preferred not to vote it was not forbidden and any Quaker doing so was to do so in a seemly manner.


As Friends were unable to participate in public life until 1722 and even after the Act of Affirmation many strict Quakers frowned on the involvement of some of their members in politics and other duties, many Quakers were involved in trade (and later banking). Their strict rules for the practice of trade meant that they soon earned themselves a reputation for scrupulous honesty; traders were told that they were not to launch into any trade or business which they could not manage honourably and with reputation. Each Friend was to have an annual audit of his affairs. They were to have fixed prices for their goods and there was to be no acceptance of gratuities or buying on credit. In fact, commercial dishonesty, including bankruptcy, was a disownable offence [see disownment].


Friends have never supported war, believing instead that there is a peaceful solution to all conflict. This led to Quaker homes being stoned on victory nights when they refused to come out and join the revellers. Not only were Friends forbidden to fight themselves but they were also forbidden to pay for a substitute to take their place (this was a disownable offence) nor were they to seek or accept profit, or enrich themselves by commerce or other circumstances dependent on war.


During the late eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century numbers in the Society began to decrease and many Meetings closed and others amalgamated. This was due in part to the strict membership rules and the fact that at that time disownment was quite common, especially for marriage to a non-Friend or marriage before a priest.


The Friends' collective way of conducting church business in formal meetings, which had no chairman, but a clerk to record the minutes which were formulated at the time with the agreement of the Meeting, meant that many records have survived. However, there was no paid pastorate (see Ministry) which meant that the Society could afford to open meetings wherever they were required as the buildings were not costly to maintain.


The Society was originally organised in four tiers: Yearly Meeting, Quarterly Meeting, Monthly Meetings and Preparative Meetings.


The first Yearly Meeting met in 1668, although its procedure was not formulated until 1672. The first Women's Yearly Meeting met in 1784. The Meeting's main function, according to the Epistle 1718, was to undertake "the great and weighty oversight and Christian care of the affairs of the churches pertaining to the holy profession and Christian communion". Both the Men's and Women's Yearly Meeting considered the queries that were presented to them by the Quarterly Meetings who had collected the information from the Monthly and Preparative Meetings. The queries were aimed at helping the Yearly Meeting to get an overall picture of the state of the Society. In 1682 there were three queries and by 1696 this had grown to eight. The number of queries continued to grow until they covered a whole series of topics such as Quaker apprenticeship for Friends' children, regular attendance by Friends at meetings, avoiding worldly ways, keeping out of undue debt, drawing up wills carefully, the provision of Quaker schools and the proper preparation for marriage. The Meeting also received accounts of sufferings and received propositions from the Quarterly Meeting. It also acted as a court of appeal for appeals against the decisions of the Quarterly Meetings either by individual Friends or Monthly Meetings. A working index, 1672-1856, compiled from contemporary indexes to each minute book, is available, along with the minute books themselves, at the Friends House Library, Euston Road, London.


Until 1861 the Yearly Meeting consisted technically of the representatives from the Quarterly Meetings, such ministering Friends as were in London at the time (see Ministry below) and the members or correspondents of the Meeting for Suffering with certain Friends from Wales. Scotland and Ireland. Other Friends, however, attended in increasing numbers and in 1861 Yearly Meeting was constitutionally opened to all male Friends, women being included later. The separate Women's Yearly Meeting was disbanded in 1908 when men and women met together. Lists of 6000 male representatives, 1668-1861, arranged chronologically and alphabetically are available at the Friends House Library, Euston Road, London.


All the records of the Yearly Meeting are held at the Friends House Library. However, epistles, which were compiled by the delegates at the end of each Yearly Meeting, were circulated to all members of the Society usually via the Quarterly and Monthly Meetings (and thus are often found amongst the records of these meetings). The practical business that had been transacted earlier in the meeting was embodied into minutes. In 1738 it was resolved that each Quarterly Meeting clerk should have a book of extracts of the most important. Yearly Meeting minutes of continuing value, and manuscript volumes entitled, Christian and Brotherly Advices Alphabetically Digested were prepared. A further stage was reached in 1782, when a printed book of extracts was approved in order that that the clerks of all meetings might have the decisions of the Yearly Meeting at their finger tips. The minutes were mainly advisory but the advisory effect was strong and they were usually reinforced from Quarterly Meeting downwards although remote rural areas were often hard to reach. These books can be found in the records of the Quarterly and Monthly Meetings.


The Quarterly Meetings were established in the 1660s at the same time as the Yearly Meeting and initially covered one county each although by the 1760s some Quarterly Meetings covered two or more counties. The Quarterly Meeting was made up of representatives from the Monthly Meetings for which it was responsible.


The main function of the Quarterly Meeting was to act as a channel of communication between the Yearly Meeting above it and the Monthly Meetings below it. The Quarterly Meeting was responsible for passing on recommendations from the Monthly Meeting to the Yearly Meeting and generated administrative and clerical duties for the Monthly Meetings to perform. The Quarterly Meeting collated the information collected by the Monthly Meetings on births, marriages and deaths prodded the Monthly Meetings into investigating the state of the Preparative Meetings, arbitrated disputes between Monthly Meetings, especially over poor relief, and helped with the management of property and trusts, although complex cases may well have been referred upwards to the Yearly Meeting. Up to 1700, and in some parts later, there was no hard and fast line between the business of the Quarterly Meeting and that of the Monthly Meeting, and cases of difficulty often came to whichever Meeting met first. Gradually, however, the Quarterly Meeting developed its role as a court of appeal, taking action when the Monthly Meeting reported a problem and hearing appeals by Friends against Monthly Meeting proceedings, notably in the case of disownment. From 1st January 1967 the functions of the Quarterly Meetings were considerably curtailed and they were renamed General Meetings and removed from the structure as seen in figure 1.


The Quarterly Meeting, as did all Meetings, met in two parts: the Men's Meeting dealt with the main business including finance and discipline and formulated the answers to the Queries as they were required by the Yearly Meeting. The Women's Meeting, which dealt with poor relief and family matters, as well as formulating the answers to their own set of queries, often had time to be more reflective on religious themes.


As with all Quaker business meetings there was no chairman. The meeting began (as indeed it would today) with a period of silent worship and the Meeting could contain long periods of prayerful silence. The business was presented by the Clerk and then discussed by the Friends who were present. Matters were not debated as the Friends desired to make a harmonious decision. At the end of each item the Clerk formulated a minute which conveyed the sense of the decision and it was agreed by those present. Often Clerks made rough drafts at the meeting and fair copied them later. Some of the Meetings could last two or three days depending on the volume of business.


A Quarterly Meeting for Hertfordshire was established in 1668 when George Fox returned to the county. In 1765, however, the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Quarterly Meetings amalgamated to become known as the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Quarterly Meeting. In 1865 this Quarterly Meeting amalgamated with that of Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire to become known as the Bedfordshire Quarterly Meeting.


The records of the Hertfordshire Quarterly Meeting and those of the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Quarterly Meeting are held at this Office (including the register digests for the period to 1837) and can be found in section NQ1 of the catalogue. The records of the Bedfordshire Quarterly Meeting after 1865 are held at the Bedfordshire County Record Office, County Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford, MK42 9AP


The Quarterly Meeting was responsible for about seven or eight Monthly Meetings, although the number could be as few as four. The Monthly Meetings were established in the 1660s, along with the other meetings. They were, as indeed they still are, the principal meeting for business in the Society. It met in two parts, as did all the meetings in the Society and followed the same format as the Quarterly Meeting.


Its functions, however, were much more diverse that those of the Quarterly Meeting. It was responsible for collating much of the information required by the Quarterly Meeting and passed onto the Yearly Meeting. The Monthly Meeting was usually responsible for between four and seven Preparative Meetings.

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