Joseph Pickvance notes on Editing George Fox's Writings

Scope and Content

Papers relating to his work on editing the writings of George Fox (1624-1691), founder of Quakerism.

Administrative / Biographical History

George Fox was born into a relatively wealthy family in the staunchly puritan village of Drayton-in-the-Clay, Leicestershire in 1624. On his father's death Fox inherited a large sum that ensured he had no financial concerns for the rest of his life. Little is known about his early life, but in 1635 Fox was apprenticed to a shoemaker in Mancetter, Warwickshire. Following a drinking session with two other youths, and aged 19, Fox broke his apprenticeship and headed to London. He returned home after nearly a year and spent the next few years wandering the Midlands. His self-imposed isolation led him to reject traditional clerical structures, leading to a break with his parish church in about 1646. Supported by income from his shoemaking, Fox travelled further afield into Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

In 1647 Fox heard a voice that led him to reject many of the teachings of mainstream Puritanism. He rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, opposed oath-taking and objected paying tithes to either the church or a private person. His preaching achieved little early success in the Midlands, being jailed in both Nottingham and Derby. Fox's belief in pacifism meant that he turned down an offer of freedom and a captaincy in the campaign that ended at the battle of Worcester in September 1651. Once Fox was freed in 1651 he continued to travel, tapping into the local discontent, particularly in Yorkshire and Lancashire. He spoke to a thousand strong crowd on 13 June 1652, following a vision on Pendle Hill. From here the church began to take on a more organised form and Quaker missionaries soon spread throughout the British Isles.

Fox continued to travel and preach eventually heading to London and meeting with Oliver Cromwell on 9 March 1654. On 27 October 1669 Fox married the widowed Margaret Fell. Fox was imprisoned on a number of further occasions throughout the country and travelled as far afield as America. During the mid-1670s, following his release from Worcester, he spent most of his time at or near Swarthmoor Hall, resting and putting his collection of letters in order. These were to form the basis of his memoirs which were published in 1694.

By 1680 Fox was spending most of his time in London, attending meetings, lobbying Parliament and reviewing pamphlets, despite his bouts of ill health. On 13 January 1691 Fox died of congestive heart failure and was buried three days later at Bunhill Fields meeting house, London. (Extracted from Oxford DNB)

Thomas Joseph Pickvance (1911-2000) was appointed as temporary Staff Tutor in Natural Science in the Extra-Mural Department at the University of Birminhgam in 1949 becoming Senior Lecturer in 1961 and Assistant Director (Sciences Courses) in 1971. He retired in 1973. His publications include 'George Fox and the Purefeys: A study of the Puritan background in Fenny Drayton in the 16th and 17th centuries' (published in 1970), 'George Fox on the Light of Christ within' (1978) and 'A Reader's Companion to George Fox's 'Journal'' (1989).

Access Information

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Custodial History

Donated by Elsa Pickvance, Birmingham, November 2001

Related Material

Papers of Hugh McGregor Ross [U DRO]; file U DRO/7 is particularly relevant to his collaboration with Pickvance

Other repositories:

University of Birmingham Staff papers: T. Joseph Pickvance, 1948-1977 (Ref US65)