Extracts from “Grange Meeting: a Historical Sketch”
by George R Chapman, written for the Tercentenary in 1960, with subsequent additions
This booklet was first published in 1960 for the tercentenary of Grange Meeting, and re-issued with some additional material in 1984. Some copies are still available from the Clerk of the Meeting. What appears here is a version abridged for the Yearly Meeting website. Publication on the website follows the interest shown in the Religious Society of Friends as a result of the celebration in 2004 of the 350th anniversary of the first Quaker Meeting for Worship in 1654.
GRANGE MEETING FROM 1657
“Robert Turner having, about the year 1657, been instrumental to the convincement of a few who lived at Grange, near Charlemont in the Province of Ulster, this year, their numbers being considerably increased through the labours of other travelling Friends, a meeting was settled there.” (1)
“1660 or 1662 a meeting was settled at Upper Grange near Charlemont.” (2)
William Edmundson, the apostle of Quakerism to Ireland, had already been largely responsible for the commencement of several Friends Meetings in Ulster prior to this date. The first meeting was held in his own house in Lurgan in 1654. Others settled soon after were Ballyhagan, Toberhead (Co. Londonderry) and Lisnagarvey, also one or two meetings in Co. Antrim and Co. Cavan.
The missionary impulse of early Friends was very evident as a continuous stream of visiting ministers [Quakers who were respected by their congregations for their preaching] from England came with messages to strengthen those who were already “convinced” or to declare “truth” to any inquirers they could contact. It is just possible that William Edmundson and Richard Clayton (a visiting Friend from England) may have made an impact on some individuals living near Redford, Co. Tyrone, as Rutty tells us that in 1654 from Lurgan they travelled northwards on foot to Coleraine and Londonderry returning via Strabane, Ornagh, Dungannon and Charlemont “publishing truth in the streets” of some of the towns and making contacts with those who would receive their message until they came to Margery Atkinson’s house near Kilmore, Co. Armagh, where a meeting was settled later known as Ballyhagan (3) and moved to Richhill in 1793.
Grange is a common place name in Ulster, there are at least ten Granges in Co. Antrim and several others in Co. Armagh. To distinguish our Grange from Grange near Toomebridge, Co. Antrim (where a meeting was already established), Friends in Dublin called the farthest one, which was in the south west corner of Co. Antrim, north of Lough Neagh “Low Grange” [or Lower Grange] and our Grange “Upper Grange”.
The fort of Charlemont was an important military garrison, guarding as it did the lower waters of the Blackwater River and the approach road to Co. Tyrone. Round this fort the town of Charlemant clustered and on the northern side of the river Moy [was] founded in 1764. In the early Quaker records our Grange is frequently referred to as “Grange near Charlemont” or “The Meeting beyond Charlemont”.
Since the beginning of the seventeenth century conditions in Ireland had been very unsettled. The flight of the Earls was followed by the Plantation of Ulster when English and Scottish Protestant settlers were given grants of land provided they fulfilled certain conditions. The rebellion of 1641, centred chiefly in Co. Tyrone, was a determined attempt by the natives to regain control, and its subsequent overthrow left the country unsettled and impoverished and life generally was very difficult for the new settlers. It was from among them that the first converts to the new quaker movement were drawn.
The rebellion of 1641 in lreland was associated with the Great Civil War in England and Scotland, so that fighting did not cease until the last Castle surrendered in Co. Cavan in 1653….. When the early Friends accepted the tenets of Christian pacifism from George Fox, they were not ignorant of the terrors of war, they had seen its results only too closely.
A resort to arms had taken place in all three countries to settle disputes that concerned religion as well as political power… [Quakers] themselves had mostly been brought up under the Church of England, and obliged by law to attend its services. They had lived to see its two chief men, the King and the Archbishop (4) tried and executed, and the prayer book service forbidden to be read in public under legal penalties. Those who began to meet regularly here 300 years ago prayed not only for sins forgiven, but also for new courage to meet the difficulties of life. They also prayed that Christ would show them, when all great men and churches seemed to have collapsed, what kind of church and worship He would have them follow.
It seems clear that they were showing real courage in setting up their separate meeting [about that time]. King Charles II, before leaving Holland, had promised freedom to tender consciences. It was not known how this would be interpreted by the new Government. In fact, not so long after the King’s return, the outbreak of the Fifth Monarchy Rising in England caused the authorities to arrest large numbers…. on suspicion. Among these we find, according to Fuller’s Sufferings, that 124 Quakers were imprisoned in Ireland in 1660, 135 in the following year, but in 1662, only 47. As no list of names has been preserved, we do not know if any Grange Friends were among them……
The very early records of Grange Meeting have not been preserved and so it is not possible to trace in detail the very early history of the meeting. From what references are available it seems pretty certain that those who were “convinced” in and around Grange were members of a closely knit community and most of the first families associated with the meeting intermarried amongst themselves. Two of the early members of the Meeting at Grange, William Stockdale(6) a Friend in the ministry, and Thomas Francis, removed their dwelling from Charlemont to the city of Londonderry to encourage and help those who had been convinced and were meeting together there. They remained there for about two years and Rutty tells us “those who had been convinced in that place proved like the stony ground in the parable, soon withering; and the said two Friends being discouraged from staying, returned to their former place of abode so the meeting (in Londonderry) ceased.”(7).
One of Friends earliest testimonies was against the payment of tithes or other Church dues, and payment in kind was forcibly taken in lieu of the amount levied. It frequently happened that what was taken was in excess of this amount, but Friends do not appear to have offered any violent opposition to such seizure of property as it was part of their teaching to offer the other cheek… but it must have been very tantalising to see the hard earned fruits of their labour taken in this way. It was one of the duties of the meeting to collect and record the sufferings of Friends in respect of non-payment of tithes or for some of their other testimonies…..
The following minutes of the Quarterly Meeting refer to members of Grange Meeting who were persecuted for non-payment of tithes.
PROVINCE AND QUARTERLY MEETING HELD IN LURGAN the 26th of the 2nd Mo. 1729.
Account given that several Friends belonging to Charlemont Meeting were taken with a warrant and sent to Omagh gaol for their testimoney against Tythes but by the favour of the gaoler there, because of a raging fever in the gaol at that time (of which several died) gave them liberty to go home till he would send for them: and several more of that meeting are under the like persecution for small matters, the greater being taken; and also severe taking of tythes in several other places, particularly upon Friends of Ballinderry meeting, account where of is desired may be sent in the Epistle to the half years meeting……
PROVINCE AND QUARTERLY MEETING HELD AT BALLYHAGAN the 11th of the 8th Mo. 1729.
Account from Friends of Charlemont Meeting who were desired to continue their care in doing the needful concerning the Friends of their meeting who were prosecuted on account of their testimony against tythes, that since last meeting the Friends who were prosecuted were summonsed to prison, and Thomas Greer and John Haydock prepared and went 20th inst. as Friends upon inquiry do find, and think to submit themselves to confinement, and Williarn Powell went also but did not appear with intent of being confined, because he offered to pay what was charged upon him, but it being rejected without the whole sum for the three was paid together…..
Why did the early Friends object so strongly to the tithe system? Not merely because it was unfair that they, along with Presbyterian and Romanist peasants had to pay this tax for the upkeep of clergy and buildings for the Established Church which they refused to attend. In addition they thought that all preaching and ministry depended for its value on a definite call from God. At best the tithes seemed to be used to entice young men from the universities into the Church in order to earn an easy living. At worst the tithes went to some absentee cleric, or to some layman who made a profit for himself. All this was very far from the Christ-centered Church they caught a glimpse of in the New Testament. Had not Christ’s coming put an end to the Temple priesthood and sacrifices? The Gospel was free to all. Therefore to demand or pay compulsory tithe was almost a blasphemy.
In 1680 all Friends in Ireland were asked to write down their objections to payment of tithe individually. 780 answers were recorded in a large book in Dublin (9) including 21 men and 19 women from the meeting near Charlemont…..
The difficult years of the reign of James II and the events leading up to the Battle of the Boyne must have caused much anxiety to the peaceful farmers connected with Grange Meeting. Lawlessness was abroad; many houses were burned and pillaged and Friends suffered considerable material loss but their lives were generally spared. “Near Charlemont in the County of Tyrone, Friends generally kept their places…”
Friends in England were very concerned that their fellow members on this side were called to suffer so much material loss and £600 was forwarded to Ireland to assist in relieving some of the distress. This was in addition to £150 which was sent direct to Ulster Friends and a further £1,060 sent in 1692 which was evenly distributed to each Province. A letter of thanks was sent for this generous help but requesting that no further help of this nature should be sent. Rutty says “in those calamitous times were Friends very nearly [ie very closely] united in affection; and even from the Friends of Barbadoes there was £100 sent for relief.”
As we approach the end of the century, we see that life was becoming more settled. The “Williamite Wars” were over, persecution of Friends was dying down; the first generation of Quaker settlers had passed or was passing and the second had married and become firmly established. To the normal occupation of farming was often added the pursuits of spinning and weaving in linen or wool, and many of the wills of the period mention looms as legacies.
George Fox only visited Ireland on one occasion (1669) and this lasted for three months….
Economic conditions in Ulster were difficult during the early 18th century and some of the more adventurous young people had their minds directed to the New World and to William Penn’s new colony where all men were to be free to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience…..
Emigration and persecution, coupled with a tendency on the part of the younger members of the Society for a less strict, and more fashionable creed, tended to reduce the meeting. Even in the matter of emigration Friends might not act on their own judgement, but in preparing to emigrate it was usual to give due notice to the meeting and request their approval for such action. The meeting had to be satisfied that it was not running away from persecution which had driven them to this step…..
It is estimated that during the years 1682 to 1750 over 2000 Irish Friends went to Pennsylvania and of these 41 went from Grange, the greatest number from any Northern Meeting…
The original meeting-house at Grange was a low thatched building which may have been sited where the present caretaker’s house now stands. Frequent references are made in the minutes to having it re-thatched. The accommodation provided for a growing meeting was soon found to be inadequate and various proposals were made as to a site for a new meeting house…
AT A PREPARATIVE MEETING HELD THE 25th of 1st MONTH, 1756.
“Whereas James Lord Viscount Charlemont has been so kind as to grant us a lease of this house and park and also the graveyard, for three lives in the name of Wm. Greer, and Thomas Greer, the rent a pepper corn if demanded to build a new house, we think proper to take a list of Friends names that is willing to subscribe towards the building of said house which is desired may be forty feet long, twenty four feet wide in the clear and twelve feet high inside wall and Friends of ability are desired to be generous in their subscriptions.”….
AT A PREPARATIVE MEETING HELD 13th of 6th MONTH, 1777.
“As by a former minute of this meeting Friends agreed to build a small building for the accommodation of our Women Friends at the East end of this Meeting House, but as at several Province Meetings of late so many Friends and others attended that there was not room in the Meeting House for all that came. This meeting taking the matter into consideration conclude it will be best to make an addition of about 20 feet square to the North side of this house so fixed in such a manner as to serve for enlarging the same upon public occasions and also for the use of Women Friends. The Friends before appointed are desired to set about the same work without delay.”
AT A PREPARATIVE MEETING HELD 19th of 7th MONTH, 1778.
“The Friends as before appointed to get the addition to the Meeting House built are urged to get the same finished against the Province Meeting and Friends who have not paid their subscriptions towards it are to pay them to Thos. Greer who is to advance what may be wanting to discharge the full expense on this meetings account.”
The Meeting at Grange (subsequently) declined in numbers, partly owing to the strict discipline then in force, but mainly owing to doctrinal differences which caused such [much?] havoc among the meeting of Friends in Ulster at this time. Another factor may have been the advance of Methodism and the visits of John Wesley to the district, followed by the formation of the Charlemont Circuit in 1781 with a considerable membership. It is recorded that in 1785 James Heather, Killyman, was appointed as a Methodist preacher. He originally belonged to the Society of Friends and is described by Dr. Coke as “Nine parts Methodist and one a Quaker”(17). Responsible Friends could not be found to maintain the meetings for discipline so it was considered advisable for the meeting to be linked to Lurgan Monthly Meeting in 1779. This arrangement continued till 1809 when Grange Monthly Meeting was reconstituted and comprised the meetings of Grange and Cootehill. Owing to the remoteness of the latter and difficutly of travel it was not possible to have much intercourse between the two meetings and while Grange increased from this time, Cootehill declined. Castleshane Meeting had already faded out as had Ballyhaise and Oldcastle Meetings, and so Grange became a Quaker outpost in Co. Tyrone having Richhill as its nearest neighbour…..
From “LIFE OF JOSEPH JOHN GURNEY” (1788-1849):
…..He was accompanied at this time [early 1827] by his sister Elizabeth Fry.
“Fifth day morning at Armagh, was highly interesting. It is a fine inland town. We visited the county jail and found a peculiarly open door for intercourse with the prisoners, the first time this has happened to us in Ireland …. Thence to Richhill where a large meeting of Friends and others were assembled at two o’clock: I believe to a good purpose as the gospel was fully preached and gladly received. That night we reached Rhone Hill near Grange where we were kindly entertained by an interesting family of Friends and on sixth day morning we held a large meeting at Grange. It was to me a time of deep exercise of mind. These were the parts in which Friends were once so led away by infidelity and their present state reminded me of the condition of the Jews after they came back from Babylon …. Though there seemed a strong hope of revival and two young people have lately begun to minister there….”
Soon after the Monthly Meeting at Grange was recommenced, the need was felt for a larger meeting-house which would accommodate the increased numbers now attending (many of whom were not in membership), and also to provide room for special gatherings such as Quarterly Meeings etc…..
There is a gap in the records of the meeting between l8l6 and l824 and it was during this period when the present Meeting House was built, probably during the years 1816 to 1818 as a piece of land containing 1 rood was purchased in 1818 for £20 described as opposite the New Meeting House….
The building which was erected at this time served its purpose well and is still in weekly use. The only major repair so far required was to the roof, and this was carried out in the manner recommended by the architect consulted at a cost of £251-0-0 in the summer of 1951.
The Summer Quarterly Meeting in June came to be held at Grange and this became a biennial event which was looked forward to and prepared for with keen anticipation and at one period it continued leisurely over part of four days. The largest gatherings were, of course, on the Sunday, when the whole district seemed to turn out and in addition excursion trains were even run! Many of those who came in this way had little interest or knowledge of Friends’ mode of worship and came rather to enjoy the outward amenities rather than to partake of a spiritual feast. All this was rather embarrassing to Friends and such excessively large gatherings were discouraged. James N. Richardson has pictured for us in a delightful manner a Quarterly Meeting held at Grange in 1882 where important issues were debated and the leading Friends of that time are sketched with insight and imagination. (20)
“For sweet is Grange in summer
And ‘neath its foliage green
O gentle stranger, thow may’st gaze
On many a sylvan scene
Close to the place of gathering
Are cots and sheepfolds seen
And meadow lands and emerald flax
And apple orchards green.
And While the deep ‘Blackwater’
Rolls past the Charlemont Hill
May Grange in month of June
Behold the Quakers still”….
Sarah Barcroft of Stangmore, Dungannon, was a prominent member of Grange Meeting and [early on the 20th century] as she approached the end of a long life, she became increasingly concerned as to the future of the business meeting (Monthly Meeting) at Grange and it was she who suggested the amalgamation of the two meetings of Grange and Richhill to form one Monthly Meeting. Both meetings were situated in similar rural surroundings and it was her judgment that by uniting the two meetings both would be strengthened. Other concerned and responsible Friends in Grange who supported the idea were S Edith Hobson, William Frederick Hobson (Clerk Grange Monthly Meeting), Isaac Edward Haydock and others. Richhill Friends seemed to welcome the proposal and it was in no small measure due to the advice and guidance given by R. Ernest Lamb that the union of the two meetings came to fruition. Details of how ably the matter was carried through can be gauged by the following extract from Minute 12 of Ulster Quarterly Meeting held 21/03/1921.
[Quotation from the joint request from the two Monthly Meetings:]
“….Above all we feel that the union we seek for and hope to attain is not merely the formal linking together of our two constituent bodies. We look to the welding more closely of a spiritual bond of love whereby we may enter more fully into sympathy with each other’s needs and aspirations, sharing one another’s burdens and seeking by mutual service to encourage and uphold each other in our Holy Faith and display more effectively the banner of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”.
“Signed on behalf of Grange and Richhill Monthly Meetings: William F Hobson, Clerk Grange Monthly Meeting, R Ernest Lamb, Clerk Richhill Monthly Meeting”
[Response of Quarterly Meeting:]
“Ulster Quarterly Meeting enters into sympathy with the desires expressed and on the basis of the report now unites the two Monthly Meetings to form one Monthly Meeting to be known as Grange and Richhill Monthly Meeting, trusting that the union may lead to increased life and mutual encouragement. A copy of this minute to be forwarded to the Yearly Meeting.”….
GRANGE IN 1960
For the interest of future generations we give a short account of Grange Meeting in 1960.
First Day morning meeting is the main gathering of the week when we have a normal attendance of between fifty and sixty and occasionally upwards of seventy. About half these numbers are children and after the first half hour of meeting they leave for First Day school held in the Old Meeting House. An arranged meeting is held each First Day evening, except during Seventh and Eighth Months, and as well as members is attended by those of other denominations living in the district. A Scripture Union Meeting for young people is held on the first First Day of each month and this together with First Day school is in charge of members of the meeting. Preparative Meeting on Ministry and Oversight meets regularly when the needs of the meeting are prayerfully considered and appointments made to visit members and attenders who are sick or for some reason are considered in need of a visit.
Monthly Meetings held at Grange, Richhill or Tamnamore are not only occasions where the Monthly Meeting business is conducted, but are times of happy social fellowship with members of Richhill and Tamnamore Friends.
The decision this year  to build a Bungalow on the Meeting House premises has created considerable interest and enthusiasm amongst members. It is, in the first instance, for the use of William Brien, until recently a member of Dublin Monthly Meeting but now a member of this Meeting and throughout the past twenty years a welcome visitor to Grange. William Brien has been engaged in Home or Foreign Mission work for the past thirty-four years and last year returned from Pemba because of illness, where he had worked with the Friends Service Council since 1944. He expressed a wish to reside within the bounds of our Meeting and when efforts to rent a suitable house failed the Meeting decided unanimously to build a bungalow. G. Philip Bell, Architect, and a member of Lurgan Preparative Meeting submitted plans and in a matter of a few weeks after the suggestion to build was made a sum of £1,500 of the estimated cost of £2,000 was promised. It is hoped the bungalow will be completed by the end of this year.
[From the 1984 Edition:]
The above bungalow was duly completed, and William Brien was the first tenant, where he continued to live for sixteen years. When in residence he played an important part in the life of the meeting. He only moved nearer to Lurgan because he found transport from Grange rather difficult. He is now a member of Portadown Meeting and when he visits Grange from time to time he receives a warm welcome.
We at Grange are grateful for our Quaker faith and heritage and would ask God’s guidance and help that we might be faithful in our day and generation. As we look to the future we find our hopes already expressed in the words of the Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier:-
‘We know not what the future hath
Of marvel or surprise
Assured alone that life and death
His Mercy underlies.
We know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air
We only know we cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.”
GRANGE IN 1984
In looking back over the years since the publication of the Historical Sketch of Grange Meeting in 1960, what has occurred in the life of the Meeting worthy of recording? Several matters come to mind:-
During the 1960s Grange Friends felt greatly exercised that we as a Meeting had practically no Missionary outreach. Our Meeting on Ministry and Oversight met and after much consideration decided to recommend to our Preparative Meeting that we should subscribe one-tenth of our normal annual income to Missionary work.
In furtherance of this scheme a special Preparative Meeting was held on 12th of 3rd month, 1969, when the matter received careful consideration and the Friends then present gave their wholehearted approval of the following Minute:-
“Minute 6: The suggestion has been made that we as a Meeting should have a definite Missionary outreach, perhaps by subscribing one-tenth of our normal annual income towards Missionary work. It has been decided that this idea has much to commend it and it is accepted by this Meeting.
The Preparative Meeting on Ministry and Oversight is to be asked to bring forward to future Preparative Meetings the name of a Missionary Society or Societies to which we could subscribe”.
In consequence of this decision our Meeting has subscribed annually to Missionary Societies, such as The Qua Iboe Mission, The Evangelical Friends Mission (U.S.A.), The Scripture Union, etc…..
1: Wight and Rutty: History of the Rise and Progress of the people called Quakers in Ireland, Dublin 1751, p119
2: ibid, p 342.
3: William Edmundson’s Journal, 3rd Ed, Dublin 1820, p55.
4: Archbishop Laud, executed 1645.
6: Author of The Great Cry of Oppression published 1683.
7: Wight & Rutty p 343.
9: Record Office, 6 Eustace St., Dublin.
17: History of Methodism in Ireland, CH Crookshank, Belfast 1885, vol 1, p407.
20: The Quakri at Lurgan and Grange, James N Richardson, 1899.
(a) In editing for the web-site some additions in square brackets have been put in for clarity.
(b) The booklet quotes from 18th century Minutes, and uses ‘ye’ in some places. In out transcription we have used ‘the’ instead of ‘ye’. In Old English there was a letter called a ‘thorn’ that looked like ‘ye’ but was in fact pronounced ‘the’.
(c) In the abridgment we have kept the reference numbering of the original, whence the gaps in the sequence.