Parnell was imprisoned in the Castle where, aged just nineteen, he died of starvation and neglect. He is remembered by a plaque in the Castle. Before religious toleration in 1689, countless other Quakers were beaten, ridiculed and had their goods distrained for their beliefs, but they continued to worship in their own way.
The earlier Meeting Houses were in the Dutch Quarter, where there is still a Quaker Burial ground and in Shewell Road, where Culver Square shopping precinct now stands (with its fountain designed by a Quaker sculptor).
Colchester Quaker Heritage is rich. Some eighty Friends were imprisoned during the seventeenth century, the best known of whom was James Parnell. In 1655 he preached the message inspired by George Fox (the originator of Quakerism) that the experience of Christ was free to all without the mediation of clergy or ritual.
Quakers believe everyone is equal and they have a peace testimony: many have been conscientious objectors, others are active in mediation and conﬂict resolution in area of strife. Some work for prisoners, the homeless and the disadvantaged. Their religion they feel, should be expressed in their lives.
Quakers believe there is something of God in everyone, so there can be no barrier of race, colour, class or gender. They have no creed, so people of differing views ﬁnd underlying unity. Religion should be a living experience, playing its part through every day of the week.
This does not mean the Quakers (or Friends as they like to be called) are ultra puritans: they are interested in the arts, like to live simply and with moderation, but have a whole-