The Quakers, also known as the Society of Friends have had an unbroken presence in Cork since the 1650s. The Meeting House in Grattan Street, shown in the photograph, was built in 1833, replacing two former buildings on the same site, and was used for worship until 1939. After 1939 the building was used as a medical dispensary by the Southern Health Board. It is now a health centre administered by the Health Service Executive. A new Quaker meeting house was opened at Summerhill South in that year.
George Fox, who founded the Quakers, visited Cork in 1669. It was in Cork also that William Penn became a Quaker. Penn's family had extensive properties in Cork.
Many Cork Quakers were merchants and businessmen and were widely respected for their honesty and industry. During the nineteenth century the Beales, the Pikes, the Newsoms and other Quakers were among the most successful merchants and industrialists in Cork. During the Famine, the Cork Quakers, like other Friends around Ireland, opened soup kitchens in an attempt to alleviate the suffering caused by that dreadful catastrophe.
A fine history of the Quakers in Cork is Richard Harrison's 'Cork City Quakers: A Brief History 1655-1939', privately published by the author in 1991.
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