In the seventeenth century there were various groups, known as Dissenters, who became increasingly disenchanted with the formality, traditions and hierarchy of the Church of England. These Dissenters were unpopular with the authorities because of their opposition to the established political, economic and religious conventions. One such group was the Quakers.
Quakerism in the Membury area taken from an excerpt from “Around and About Membury” by Ron Craddock
“The despotic stance of religious intolerance is of particular interest to Membury which was, a focal point in the immediate area for practising Quakers, a sect stemming from the activities of George Fox in 1647. The name Quaker derives from the spiritual “trembling” which occurred during early Meetings. It is believed that the first apostles of Quakerism may have visited Membury in 1654 on a journey west. George Fox himself probably came in 1656, and again in 1668.
The Quaker meetings took place in a farm building in Lewsley Lane belonging at the time to John Smith, a Quaker who owned a considerable amount of land; we know the farm building now as the cottage “Quakers”. In 1665, Smith gave the Meeting House to the Quakers, along with a plot of land in Goyle Acre Lane for a burial ground. The old oak door of the Meeting House is preserved inside the tower of the parish church.”
Today, from the original burial ground, there remains just one gravestone from the 18th century and an information stone, dating from 1926. Both are very eroded but read as follows:
“Here lie 80 dead
48 Burials in this Quaker Burial Ground are recorded in the Membury Church Register
besides 24 others recorded in the Membury Quaker Register
In addition there are the wife and 2 children of Edward Smith of Cloakham and five members of the Dymond family (buried here but recorded in the Axminster Church Register)
This Burial Ground was acquired by public subscription in 1926 and vested in the Membury Parish council.”
“Here lyeth the Body of Ann the wife of Edward Smith of Clockham (sic) near Axminster who died the 17 of October, 1717. aged 72 years, mother of the two children mentioned on the other side.
Here lyeth the body of Thomas ye son of Edward and Anne Smith, who died ye 26 of October, 1779(?) in ye 51 year of his age.
Here lyeth ye body of Ann the wife of Joseph Gillett of Chard, and dautur of Edward and Ann Smith of Cloakham who died June 17 - She was during her marriage state a prudent wife, and in her whole life a dutiful child, and died most lamented by her affectionate parents, her husband and brother."