Sunbrick Burial Ground

Last week, KP and I attended Sunbrick burial ground on Birkrigg Common on the Furness peninsula, once old Lancashire, but now within Cumbria. It is a bleak, wild place, and neither is it easy to locate. The lanes are narrow and the hills barren, yet find it we did. In this ancient place, used for interring Quakers from the 1650s to the 1760s, over 200 of them lie under the sod. The most famous of its occupants is Margaret Fell, later wife of George Fox, the movement’s founder. There are no markers or stones here with names and dates; such ostentation and celebration was thought unseemly by early Friends, who lived and died with simplicity. Yet Mistress Fell/Fox was a redoubtable woman, a brave heroine of Christian faith. Whenever I write about Quakers, I am required to differentiate between the heroic, evangelical founders and the moribund ultra-liberals of the mid- to late-twentieth centuries, who are but the step-children of their more illustrious forbears.

When George Fox was imprisoned by the government in the 1660s and 70s for refusing to yield to snarling Anglicanism, she went down to London to petition the King himself. As a gentlewoman, whose first husband was a judge from nearby Ulverston, she enjoyed better access to power’s corridors than most common folk. Still, that did not prevent her from suffering several stints of imprisonment herself at Lancaster for attending unauthorised meetings for worship.

I believe Mistress Fell is now with the Lord Jesus, for whose pure and simple worship she spent the latter portion of her life. That there would be no memorial in that windswept, rugged place is not unfitting. We followers of the Lord are to seek our reward and vindication in Him, not in earthly blandishments and flatteries.