The Quaker Meeting House at Come to Good
During the English Civil War (1642-1651) George Fox, then a young man, received a revelation which led him to propose a new “dissenting” Christian faith. He travelled throughout England and also abroad to the Netherlands and Barbados preaching and teaching people about his new faith.
The period was a time of great turbulence not only in government but also in the religious order. The act of uniformity in 1662 had laid down the prescribed forms of public prayers and administration of the sacraments. Over 2,000 clergymen refused to acknowledge these changes and were expelled from the Church of England. The Quaker Act of the same year specifically required subjects to swear allegiance to the King. Quakers would not do this out of their religious conviction and suffered a period of persecution which only relented after the enactment of the Toleration Act of 1688. Nevertheless the Quaker faith gained many converts during this period and numbered some 60,000 by 1680.
The Quakers have been a strong element within the non-conformist movement in Britain. It has been argued that this movement was one of the essential factors which kindled the industrial revolution of the 18/19th centuries and the embedded ethos of probity and fair minded dealing, which characterised the Quakers, was favourable to expanding commerce. The people of the Quaker movement are also known for their refusal to participate in war, their plain dress, refusal to swear oaths, opposition to slavery and tee-totalism. Many famous British institutions were founded by Quakers, including Barclays, Lloyds and the Friends Provident banks, shoe retailer C & J Clarks and the three big confectionery makers Cadbury, Rowntree and Frys.
George Fox came to Cornwall in 1656 and was quickly arrested and interred for eight months in Launceston Castle gaol whilst his followers spread the message throughout the county. The early records of Quakers in Feock, at the time of the Commonwealth, identify a meeting place at La Grange farmhouse, which was then occupied by Walter Stephens. The records reveal that a group of Feock men were fined for holding meetings there in 1663, after the restoration of the monarchy. Meeting were also held at Penelewey Barton, which was also occupied by Walter Stephens. The date of the move to Come to Good is uncertain but possibly occurred in the 1680s when Walter agreed that his son, John, could use this land which he also farmed.
The current building was constructed in 1710 and at this time the two windows either side of the original door were installed, having been recycled from Penelewey Barton which was also being refurbished at the time.
The derivation of the name Come to Good has been the subject of controversy over the years. It might be supposed that it derived from the Cornish Cum-ty-coit, meaning house in the wooded valley, however the evidence appears to point to it actually originating with the Quaker connection and being a comment on the meeting place.
The inside of the Quaker Meeting House
Meetings for worship after the manner of Friends continue to be held in the meeting house each Sunday at 10.30 and all are welcome.
Written by Phil Allen