Quaker businesses

Quaker trades

Quakers came from many backgrounds. Many early Friends were small scale farmers owning the land they worked, or husbandmen renting small farms.

Tithes, confiscation of animals or goods, and imprisonment for non-payment made it more difficult to continue with farming with its longer term investment. It was easier to carry on shop trade even if part of your stock was removed. The practice of travelling to other meetings also made it difficult to look after the land. Thus farming was replaced by small crafts and trades.

Because of their consistently honest dealings, people knew that when doing business with a Quaker you would get a good quality product at a fair price and would never be cheated. Quaker businesses therefore tended to flourish.

Quaker merchants

In some places there were small groups of well-educated people who were drawn to Quakers. Education was valued as a true preparation for life in all its aspects. Where the children in these families would have traditionally gone to university and entered “the professions” (law, medicine, etc), these options were barred to Friends because they would not swear an oath. In addition, Friends imposed their own restrictions, disallowing businesses that involved gambling, war/violence or petty fashions. So they chose instead, businesses where they could apply their mind. Insistence upon simple living, frugality and integrity meant that they were willing to work long hours and endure considerable periods of experiment with little reward. Their strong intellect meant they could be innovative. Thus many of the big names in business had Quaker origins: Barclay, Lloyd, Cadbury, Fry, Rowntree, to name just a few.


Many Quaker families became involved in banking through their work as goldsmiths. These included the Freames, the Gurneys, the Backhouses, the Lloyds and the Barclays.

Joseph Freame (son of the founder of the bank Freame & Gould) was a member of Tottenham Friends Meeting. In 1733 he formed a partnership with James Barclay. This partnership, Freame, Gould & Barclay, conducted business in Lombard Street in the City of London. This was the first appearance of the name Barclay in banking.

Their bank was one of among twenty or so banks (including various Gurney banks) that amalgamated in 1896 to form Barclay & Co. Ltd.

Joseph Freame was a fairly active Friend. In 1711 he was clerk of London Yearly Meeting. In 1713 he published Scripture instruction – digested under several sections, by way of question and answer, in order to promote piety and virtue, and discourage vice and immorality, with a preface relating to education. This was a popular book which was later used in the Lancasterian schools as one of their regular text books.