Birmingham Friends Meeting was established in 1690 shortly after William Penn founded Pennsylvania. Friends worshiped in the cabin of William Brinton until the first meetinghouse, a log structure, was completed in 1722. A community school, also made of logs, was built nearby in 1756. A burial ground was established next to the meetinghouse and a stone wall constructed around them which still stands today. In 1763, the log meetinghouse was replaced by the stone structure we use today. A modern kitchen and education wing were added to the meetinghouse in 1968. A shed and ADA accessible restroom are also recent additions.
For more in depth information about one of Birmingham Friends founding members, Elizabeth Webb and her life as a Quaker, see this document.
Battle of the Brandywine
On September 11, 1777, the Battle of the Brandywine erupted around the meetinghouse. In the days before the battle the Continental soldiers evicted the Quakers and set up the meetinghouse as a field hospital; during the battle they defended from behind the cemetery wall against the flanking action of the British under General Howe. After overwhelming the Continental army, the British took over the meetinghouse and continued to use it as a field hospital. After the battle many of the dead from both sides were buried in the burial ground behind the meetinghouse. In 1920, the local farmers placed a marker stone in the burial ground as a remembrance of the fallen soldiers from both sides who lie there. This stone is now the center of our Peace Garden. (click here for more information about our Peace Garden)
Barclay Rubincam: A Hospital at the Battle of the Brandywine. c. 1970
For more information about the Brandywine Battlefield please visit these links: brandywinebattlefield.org; Chester County Planning Commission: Battle of the Brandywine; Chadds Ford Historical Society: Brandywine Battlefield Task Force.
In 1819, the old community school, built in 1756, was torn down and many of its timbers used to build a new octagonal schoolhouse for the community. Originally named Harmony Hall, the deed called for the school to pay an annual rental of one ear of Indian Corn to Birmingham Friends. In 1846 a public school was built on Street Road to which students started to transfer. In 1905 Harmony Hall was closed as a school. Today the Octagonal Schoolhouse is well maintained and used by the Meeting for a variety of purposes including education classes and committee meetings.
National Register of Historical Places
Both the Meetinghouse and the Octagonal Schoolhouse are listed in the National Historic Register for their contribution to our national identity. They are listed as Birmingham Friends Meetinghouse and School. Please click here for more information: