Simplicity and Truthfulness

Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies

Simple living has always been at the foundation of Quaker practice, along with the value of Truthfulness.  This led to Quakers having a reputation for being honest and fair in their dealings with others; speaking the truth at all times, even in the face of adversity.

Herford Meeting House, built in 1670. Simplicity as a Quaker value was applied to every aspect of life from clothes and possessions to places and methods of worship. You can see the simplest of architectural styles. Similarly the interior is very unadorned, containing only plain seating and a table. It is the oldest surviving purpose-built meeting house in the world.
N Connell (HALS ref DEX1024/1/66/3/21)
Marriage Certificate, 1684. Quakers kept detailed records of births, deaths and marriages, making them a rich source of information for family historians. Ceremonies were simple, with each couple making the same vows to each other, putting them on equal footing for their life together. Marriage certificates included the names of all who were present.
HALS (ref 66297)
Burial Register for Bengeo, 1661-1782. As in the marriage ceremonies, funerals were plain affairs. Early Quaker burial grounds were simple fields. Later, they had headstones which were small, basic and uniform in size, without any display of wealth and typically gave just name and date of death. This register was preserved within a Church of England burial register belonging to the rector of Bengeo and was transcribed by W M Wood in 1885.
HALS (ref NQ2/5D/20)
Some Reasons Why I Cannot Pay Tithes, by Richard Scoryer, 1713. Tithes were taxes payable to the Church of England for the upkeep of clergy, but as the Quakers did not recognize any official clergy, they refused to pay. The consequences of non-payment (e.g fines, confiscation of possessions, imprisonment etc) were carefully recorded as part of a campaign to change the law. Although the situation improved after the Act of Toleration in 1689, various forms of persecution continued.
HALS (ref NQ2/4D/7)
Accounts of Sufferings of members of the Hertford Monthly Meeting, 1793 - 1854. Quakers carefully recorded all cases of prosecution or confiscation of property, which they called 'sufferings'. From 1790 these were recorded in 'books of sufferings' which were kept until 1828 by quarterly and monthly meetings.
HALS (ref NQ2/4C/3)
Acknowledgement of a breach of rules by George Robins, 1742 (Baldock Meeting). Robins got married in a church, contrary to the rules of the Quakers. If a person expressed regret and wrote a letter of apology, they could avoid discipline. Those who didn’t faced disownment. Unlike other religions, disownment was not a shunning or an excommunication. It meant that the person couldn’t vote in business meetings. Some offences leading to disownment were: drinking to excess, habitual absence from meeting, marrying a first cousin, marrying without parental permission, marrying a non-Quaker, stealing or any type of lying or dishonesty, parenting an illegitimate child, committing adultery, or paying tithes to another church.
HALS (ref NQ2/5E/2)
N Connell (HALS ref DEX/1024/1/66/3/19)
This page was added on 17/08/2020.

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