Bradford Friends Mettinghouse
Part of the larger Marshallton Historic District, the Bradford Friends Meetinghouse is a Quaker place of worship that was built from 1764-65. The one-story stone building had a large porch added to two sides in the 19th century and is one of the oldest meetinghouses in the Delaware Valley which has been in continuous use since its construction. Abraham Marshall, the son of the famous botanist, Humphrey Marshall, played a key role in expanding the Meeting and the building of the venerable Bradford Friends Meetinghouse. The meetinghouse still opens its doors to both the curious and devout every Sunday for silent worship. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
Backstory and Context
The Bradford Friends Meeting can trace its origins back to 1716 when a group of Friends requested the formation of an occasional Meeting during the winter months from the Newark Monthly Meeting. Newark approved the request. However, the Chester Quarterly Meeting rejected it. The request was later approved in 1719 as the Chester Quarterly Meeting shows receipt and approval of the request from the “Friends in the Forks of the Brandywine” for establishment of a winter meeting every other 1st and 5th day. Continuation of the meeting to the summer months was approved in 1721 and the meeting was extended to every 1st and 5th day in 1725.
From 1722 to 1727, Derbydown Homestead, the Marshall family home, served as the Friends’ meetinghouse. The Meeting built their first meetinghouse in the late 1720s, a frame structure that sat in the northeast corner of he Marshall farm until 1765 when the current meetinghouse was completed. The original meetinghouse was eventually removed and is now the site of the Friends’ cemetery where both Humphrey and Abraham Marshall are buried. In 1764 the Friends began to gather fieldstone with which to construct a new, more permanent structure. The stone was then shaped and formed by skilled masons and the simple meetinghouse was completed the next year. The only major alteration to the structure since then was the addition of a large porch on two sides of the structure sometime in the 19th century.
The interior of the meetinghouse is as austere as the exterior. Unlike the interior of most Quaker meetinghouses which are divided into two sections for male and female worshipers, the Bradford Friends Meetinghouse is quartered by removable panels. It is thought that this was done to provide smaller, more intimate rooms in which to worship. The interior is paneled in smooth pine and poplar and features hand-made shutter stops and door latches. The meetinghouse is still without electricity or a central heating system. The Friends utilize natural light and the building is heated by two wood burning stoves with the members providing a portion of the wood to heat the meetinghouse.
For decades, the Bradford Friends Meetinghouse was the center of the community and Marshallton grew up around it. Today, it still is the home of the local Meeting and welcomes all to pass through its doors every Sunday for silent worship that features neither sermons nor singing.
Pennsylvania Register of Historic Site and Landmarks. "National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form." United States Department of the Interior/National Park Service. February 5, 1971. Accessed March 6, 2018. http://www.dot7.state.pa.us/CRGIS_Attachments/SiteResource/H079504_01H.pdf
"Bradford Friends Meeting: 1716, 1726, 1765." fgcquaker. Accessed March 6, 2018. https://www.fgcquaker.org/cloud/bradford-friends-meeting/pages/1716-1726-1765
Peterson, Charles. "Historic American Buildings Survey: Bradford Friends Meetinghouse, Northbrook Road, West Bradford Township, Marshallton, Chester County, PA." Library of Congress. 1997. Accessed March 6, 2017. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/pa0292/