Even if you were not a member of Swarthmore House you might be interested to see more of the house, home of George Fox, which gave us the name Swarthmore.
Swarthmoor Hall was built early in the 17th century by George Fell of Hawkswell, near Ulverston, whose son Thomas (a barrister and Bencher of Gray’s Inn, London) married Margaret Askew of Marsh Grange, near Dalton, in 1632. A strong family tradition claims that Margaret Askew was great grand-daughter of Anne Askew who in 1546 suffered martyrdom under Henry VIII, for her Protestant views. Branches of the family were in existence in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Cumberland, Lancashire and elsewhere. During the Civil War, Thomas Fell was on the side Of the Parliamentarians; he held many important positions in the North of England – was Vice-Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Chancellor of the Duchy Court at Westminster, M.P. for Lancaster, Lord of the Manor of Ulverston, and Judge of Assize for North Wales and Chester. He and his wife were Puritans, and were very hospitable to travelling ministers and lecturers. Margaret became a “Seeker,” of whom there were a number in Westmorland, Cumberland and Lancashire. It was during one of the Judge’s absences on circuit in late June, 1652, that George Fox first came to Ulverston and Swarthmoor Hall.
He convinced Margaret Fell and her family, and many of the household, of the Truth as seen by him and his followers. On the Judges return, an important meeting took place between him and George Fox in the parlour, and as a result of this meeting, the Judge gave permission for Friends to meet every Sunday in the Great Hall. These meetings for worship continued there for 38 year; till after George Fox had given the Meeting House nearby in 1688. Towards the end of’ his life, the Judge used to sit in the parlour and listen to the meetings in the Hall. He died in October, 1658, and was buried by torch light under his pew in Ulverston Parish Church.
With his death ended the security from persecution which his family had hitherto enjoyed. By his will he left money to found a school in Ulverston which developed into the Ulverston Grammar School in the 20th century. From 1652 till 1654 Swarthmoor Hall became the base of George Fox’s activities and for many years was the centre of Quakerism, which spread from the North throughout England and to many other Countries. Of members of the household (though not related to Judge Fell) Leonard Fell became a well?known preacher, Henry Fell (the Judge’s Clerk) travelled to Barbados, etc., Ann Clayton to Rhode Island, where she successfully became the wife of two of the Quaker Governors, Thomas Salthouse, a “Publisher of Truth” in the South-West of England, and William Caton, the companion of Judge Fell’s son, and Margaret’s secretary, a faithful “Publisher” in England and in Holland.
Margaret Fell was indeed the “Mother of Quakerism.” She had a genius for friendship, and received letters from the Quaker preachers from many parts of’ the world. In 1660, she visited London to try and persuade Charles II to implement his promise of religious toleration.
Through her pleadings four thousand Friends were set free from prison. Later, she made two long journeys visiting Friends in their Meetings in North and South England. From 1664 to 1668 she was in prison in Lancaster Castle, because she refused to give up holding Quaker meetings at the Hall, and also refused to take the Oath of Allegiance. After receiving a free pardon from Charles II in 1668, she travelled South, visiting Friends in prison, and at Bristol in 1669 at the age of 55, she married George Fox, aged 45.
George Fox continued to take his message throughout England and to America, and during his marriage he stayed at Swarthmoor for about 4 years. In the parlour he dictated part of’ his journal and wrote many letters and had many interview. He died in London in 1691 and was buried at Bunhill Fields in the City.