Quaker meeting house and burial ground, Priory Road, Milford Haven
This Friends’ Meeting House was built in 1811 for American Quaker families who had set up a whaling centre at Milford Haven in the 1790s. The masterplan for the emerging new town set aside this plot for a burial ground and meeting place for Quakers, who weren’t allowed to use established cemeteries.
The first person buried here was Abigail Starbuck, who died in 1801. Her husband Samuel and his brother Daniel were leaders of the American settlers. The first mate of the whaling ship in Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick is named Starbuck (the character’s name was later used for Starbucks coffee shops).
In 1814 Timothy Folger was buried here. He was another leader of the settlers. You can see his former home in Hamilton Terrace.
Notice the meeting house's simple design (the interior is pictured above). Quakers meet to seek a sense of deeper connection beyond themselves without preachers, creeds or hymns. Anyone who feels moved may stand and speak.
This method of worship aroused suspicion and sometimes hatred among other Christians. So too did the Quakers’ pacifism. The Milford Haven settlers had prospered in Nantucket until they refused to take sides in the American War of Independence.
The poet Waldo Williams, originally a Baptist, became a Quaker and attended meetings here after the Second World War, during which he had been a conscientious objector. He was appalled by Britain’s post-war militarism, including its participation in the Korean War and compulsory National Service for young men. He withheld tax payments in protest, for which he was jailed in 1960 and 1961. His possessions were auctioned in lieu of taxes, but fellow Quakers bought and returned them.
In 1917, when Britain was short of food as a result of German submarines sinking merchant ships, the Quaker burial ground became a chicken run, complete with poultry house. An objector said this was an insult to the Starbucks and other dead founders of the town. The council’s surveyor said the graves had been netted off.
Meetings are still held here on Sundays. Visitors are welcome to enter the front garden area at any time, or to enter the building by arrangement. Follow the link below for details.
With thanks to David Doorbar
Postcode: SA73 2DS View Location Map