Swarthmoor Hall is visited by people from all over the world, as the place where Quakerism coalesced out of the wider dissenter movement in the turbulent seventeenth century. From there Quakers spread worldwide, hastened on their way by religious persecution in England and Wales.
The historic Hall has an excellent collection of local seventeenth-century furniture, but the only piece that was actually used by that dynamic and defiant Quaker founder, Margaret Fell, is a heavily-carved bed, in an upstairs bedroom which would also have served as a reception room. Ten years ago local Quakers sewed a colourful quilt of triangular patches for this bed.
In 2012the tea garden in front of the café was laid out with little triangular flower beds in the same pattern as the gifted quilt. Over the years the plants have spread and blurred the pattern, so Swarthmoor Hall’s gardener Lynn Bailey and her team of local volunteers are now replanting it.
The gardens are free to wander round 10.00am to 5 pm seven days a week, there is an audio tour of the historic Hall (£6.50 per person) and visitors can sit in the café garden and see how the renewed ‘living quilt’ of flowers is coming along.
Quilts were also important to Quaker Elizabeth Fry in the nineteenth century. She visited every ship taking women prisoners to Australia, and gave them a bag of useful things, including the materials to make a patchwork quilt. She hoped this would keep them occupied on the long voyage, give them something to sell on arrival and a useful skill to keep them from prostitution and theft. The Quaker Tapestry Exhibition in Kendal includes a panel about Elizabeth Fry and her quilts, and is open 10am-5pm Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm on Saturday (annual ticket £7.50, adult accompanying a child 0-4 £2.50, accompanied under-18s go free)
Swarthmoor Hall, Swarthmoor Hall Lane, Ulverston LA12 0JQ