Brigflatts enters the story of the Religious Society of Friends very close to its beginnings in June 1652.
George Fox, making his way North on foot, seeking after the truth, is advised to make contact with the so called Westmorland Seekers. This was a group of people disillusioned with the established church of the time. He is directed to find Richard Robinson, one of the leaders of the group who lived at Brigflatts.
The events are recalled in Fox’s Journal:
‘And from Major Bosfeilds I came to Rich: Robinsons: and as I was passinge alonge ye way I askt a man which was Rich Robinsons: & hee askt mee from whence I came & I tolde him from ye Lorde:’
Richard Robinson’s house can still be seen from the Meeting House garden although it is a private dwelling and not open to the public.
Writing after the events of that year, Fox recalls the vision that he had after climbing Pendle Hill:
‘And ye Lord opened to me at that place: & let me see a great people in white raiment by a rivers syde comeinge to ye Lorde; and ye place was neere (John Blayklinges where Rich: Robinson lived).
This identifies Brigflatts as the place in the vision -the riverside refers to The Rawthey which flows past the end of Brigflatts Lane and reference to “people in white rainment” could be a reference to the large community of Flax Weavers living in the lane at the time who were making white linen.
After spending the night with Richard Robinson:
‘And ye next day I went to a separate meetinge at Justice Bensons: where ye people was generally convict: & this was ye place that I had seene a people comeinge foorth in white raiment: & a mighty meetinge there was and is to this day (neare Sedbarr which I gathered in ye name of Jesus)’
Justice Benson (Gervase Benson) was a local JP who lived at Borrett (the farm that lies between Brigflatts and the edge of modern Sedbergh.)
Later that week Fox goes on to preach in the churchyard of Sedbergh church and then on to the great open-air meeting on Firbank Fell which is now usually identified as the start of the Quaker movement. The crag upon which Fox preached is now known as Fox’s Pulpit and is a popular destination for those tracing the origins of the Society.
A permanent Meeting was settled by Fox at Brigflatts later in 1652 and has continued uninterrupted until this day. The Meeting House was built 23 years later and in 1677 Fox returned here with his wife, Margaret, and her daughter. He records that about 500 were present at that Meeting and “a very good Meeting it was”.