About Portsmouth Friends Church
The Portsmouth Friends Church is a historic Friends Meeting House and cemetery of the Religious Society of Friends, at 11 Middle Road and 2232 E. Main Road in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
After being closed for a few years, the church reopened in 2020 and is currently holding service on Sundays at 10:30 AM. There is also a Bible Study being held Wednesdays at 11 AM in the Fellowship Hall. Contact us to find out more information about the Bible Study.
A Brief Church History
In 1638, exiled religious dissidents from the Massachusetts Bay Colony founded Portsmouth, the second oldest colonial community in Rhode Island. The Quaker community developed shortly after the community was founded.
The Portsmouth Friends Meeting House was built between 1699 and 1702. It was constructed at about the same time as the meeting house in Newport. Both are among the oldest meeting houses in the United States and among the earliest houses of worship in Rhode Island. Rhode Island was one of the few colonies that welcomed Quakers and there were monthly meetings in homes as early as 1660 before the meetinghouse was built. Additions were made to the meeting house through the years. Quakers had a strong influence in the community.
The meetinghouse was occupied by English forces during the course of the American Revolution. Records show that Hessian troops occupied it as well.
After the war the Friends decided that Quakers should not hold public office, so their power within the community lessened.
In 1784 the meeting house was used as a school. Students boarded with Quaker families nearby. When the school was closed in 1788, the remaining funds were used to start what would become the Moses Brown School in Providence.
The meeting house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.