Quaker History – the beginning
The Religious Society of Friends was formed during the religious, social and political upheaval of mid – 17th Century England.
In 1647 George Fox, the founder of Quakers, experienced a spiritual revelation which convinced him that individuals can know God directly. He emphasized a personal, direct experience of Christ, acquired through both direct experience and through reading the Bible.
George Fox travelled throughout England gathering small groups of followers who called themselves Friends of the Truth but became popularly known as Quakers.
In 1654 the first recorded Quaker Meeting for Worship in Ireland was held in Lurgan, Co Armagh. The movement quickly spread to Dublin and the first substantial Quaker Meeting House was built in 1686 in Meath Place.
The Quakers in Eustace Street, Dublin
In 1692, Quakers in Dublin established a second substantial Meeting House at Sycamore Alley, off Dame Street and with enlargements over the years acquired a frontage on Eustace Street.
The Meeting House at No 6 Eustace Street consisted of a large meeting room that could seat over 1,000 people, two libraries, an office space, a large tearoom and a number of committee rooms.
From the beginning, Quakers took a radical stance in relation to many issues. For example the organizational structure is non hierarchical and men and women are seen as equal in value, both in terms of their spiritual insights and their ability to contribute to the organization.
In the 19th century the Central Relief Committee was formed by Dublin Friends and was the base for the Quaker Famine Relief Programme. As the majority of Quakers were based in Ulster and Leinster and the greatest need was in Connaught, Quakers put in place a model of working closely with local groups. This model is still used today by international charity groups working to provide relief in areas of greatest need.
Eustace Street Meeting House has been used for many activities over the years. In the 1960s young Quakers met there regularly to discuss spiritual, social and political issues and to organise fundraising events. The funds raised were used to provide Christmas Children’s parties for children of the inner city.
In the 1970s and 1980s ANCO/ FÁS offered courses in upholstery for people who were unemployed at Eustace Street.
Until 1986 Eustace Street was the headquarters for Quakers in Ireland. This is now in Stocking Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 and includes an historical library.
Shifts in population and increasing membership numbers at suburban Meeting Houses meant that in 1987 the Meeting House was sold to the Irish Film Institute.
In 1988 – present day – Dublin Quakers moved into 4/5 Eustace Street (originally purchased in 1817) where public Quaker Meetings for Worship are held every Sunday morning at 11am for one hour and on Thursday evenings at 6.15pm for half an hour.