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house1864Quakers and the non-conformist tradition in the south of France

A pacifist community called locally "les Couflaïres" (the inspired ones) existed from early in the 17th century in Congénies and villages nearby. They raised sheep and silkworms and made woolen and silk stockings in the Vaunage, a sunny and fertile valley between Nîmes and Montepellier, which they called "little Canaan". Protestants made up the majority of the population in this region and the « couflaïres » were a community apart.

During the American revolution of 1775-1783 the British government encouraged British ships to seize any French vessels they could find, and their cargo, because France was supporting the colonists. One British Quaker, Joseph Fox (no relation to George Fox) co-owned two ships and against his will his co-owners obtained Letters of Marque permitting the ships to gainfully engage in attacking and raiding French ships on the Atlantic.

Cemetery at Maison QuakerFox was appalled and determined to accept his share of the profits only on behalf of the French proprietors. He invested the money and when peace was declared he directed his son Dr Edward Long Fox to go to Paris and take out out a paid notice in the Gazette de France offering to compensate all owners and insurers of two ships (and their cargo) which had been seized. Dr Fox invited people to write to him stating their claims. In order to place the notice Dr Fox had first to obtain the consent of the First Minister of France. When the Gazette was published he discovered that there had been added to his wording (presumably at the direction of the Minister) an introductory paragraph detailing the faith and practice of the Quakers and categorically stating that Quakers did not indulge in piracy.

The notice in the Gazette de France with its introductory paragraph was read in Congénies, and five of the "couflaïres" wrote a letter to Dr Fox explaining that they were not claiming any booty but they were impressed by Quaker ideas, which they fully shared, and would like to meet him. Thereafter they sent Jean de Marsillac to visit Friends in London and in 1788 founded the first Quaker meeting in France.

The Meeting House was built in 1822 with the help of funds supplied by both American and English Friends. The Meeting, which through the 19th century numbered some 200 large families over a wide area, died out following emigration of the pacifist young men to avoid compulsory military service. The young Quaker women left behind married protestants and were absorbed into that community.

houseThe last Meeting for Worship held in 1905, the Meeting house was sold in 1907. It served a wide variety of purposes during the early 20th century before it was renamed Villa Quaker and converted into a private residence by Quakers who retired from the British Consulate in Marseille. Having been sold on twice, each time to Quakers, it was bought by France Yearly Meeting in 2003. The Maison Quaker reopened its doors in 2004 for meetings for worship, retreats, workshops and discussion groups.


Maison Quaker
11 avenue des Quakers
30111 Congénies


+33 (0)4 66 71 46 41 or
(0)7 66 51 64 85 (mob)
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Quakers in France