George Fox was born in Fenny Drayton, Leicestershire in July 1624. His father was a weaver and was clearly a very godly man as he was known as ‘Righteous Christie’ and his mother was known for her piety. They were members of the Church of England and gave their son a good religious education. Fox was known as a serious boy who concentrated on religious subjects and made comments and observations that were thought, ‘beyond his years.’ Until 11 he had a basic education that did not go much further than to teach him to read and write and he spent most of his time reading the Bible. Following the truths of the Bible he wanted to live a pure and righteous life and some of his relations thought he should go into the Church but the decision was made for him to become a shoemaker and grazier. Much of his time was spent looking after the sheep and this suited Fox’s contemplative nature. As a young man Fox gave up his trade so that he could continue his religious studies and he spent a lot of time with the local vicar, Nathaniel Stevens, who thought very highly of his parishioner.
One night Fox was in prayer when he felt God say to him, ‘Thou seest how young people go together in vanity, and old people into the earth; therefore thou must forsake all, both young and old, and be as a stranger to them.’ (Fox wrote a detailed Journal/autobiography that is the main source of information on his life.) As a result of this he left home and spent the next few years wandering the country, leading a solitary life, spending much of his time in prayer and fasting. During these times of prayer he received revelation from the Lord on religious matters that would eventually form the basis of Quaker beliefs. These revelations would come as complete entities, the main ones being: Christians were ‘saved’ because they passed from death to life, their hearts were regenerated. This had nothing to do with the outward observances of different Christians which were therefore irrelevant. He realised that to be a minister of the gospel one had to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It did not matter how much University learning you had, if you did not have the Holy Spirit then you were not qualified. Therefore you did not need to be a University graduate to be a minister and you did not have to be a man! God created the world and so is not confined to be in church buildings. ‘It was immediately shown to me that the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands but, that He dwells in the hearts of his obedient people.’
Fox now stopped going to his parish church; deciding that it was better to be in solitude and hear and receive guidance directly from God; ‘relying wholly on the Lord Jesus Christ.’ It must have been difficult for him to have stopped fellowshipping with his friends and family but he clearly felt that it was more important to hear God for himself rather than hear a man tell him what God was saying. During these years of seclusion, Fox was tormented by temptations and despair and could find little peace. He tried to get advice from different clergymen but none of them understood what he was going through and just showed there general ignorance of matters spiritual. Finally ‘The Lord opened me that I saw through all these troubles and temptations. My living faith was raised, that I saw all was done by Christ the Life, and my belief was in Him.’ These years were a time of testing, cleansing and preparation for Fox and a time when the Lord gave him a greater understanding of the Bible and gave him direct revelation through the Holy Spirit. In 1647 Fox stepped out and began to preach.
George Fox was born in a house close to this green.