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Heralding Our History: Quaker-founded Fallsington a village full of stories


For anyone who ventures onto the streets of the historic village of Fallsington in the lower part of Bucks County, it does not take much imagination to feel as if you have left some of the modern world behind. Those who currently live and work here take pride in the welcoming community vibe that emanates from the many buildings located within its boundaries. Whether a vintage home or public space, the long and varied history found here may surprise you. But how, and when, did it all begin?

The settlement of Fallsington occurred just years prior to the founding of the Township of Falls in 1692. It all started with William Penn, the proprietor of Pennsylvania. Upon receiving the land grant from King Charles II in 1681 as a payment of a debt to Penn’s father, the younger Penn sought to officially settle the land that he now governed. He and his agents shared information about all that the colony could offer, from opportunities for those who had experienced persecution because of their religious beliefs, to skilled tradesmen and merchants who could help share the bounty far and wide, and everyone in between.

Those who initially settled along “The Falls” of the Delaware River in what would become Fallsington were active members of the Society of Friends, or Quakers. They had names that you may recognize even today — William Yardley, James Harrison, Phineas Pemberton, William Biles, William Dark, Lyonell Brittanie [Britton], William Beake.”

Most traveled to Pennsylvania with their families, some arriving as early as 1679; a detail view of the 1687 map by Thomas Holme easily finds their local land plots. The men first met for worship in 1683 in the home of Biles and quickly began discussion of building a proper meetinghouse for the growing community. The construction was completed in 1690. William Penn occasionally worshiped with these local men when residing at his “country” home located nearby, Pennsbury Manor, from 1699.

Of particular interest is Lionel Britton, one of those early Friends to settle in Fallsington. He and his wife arrived here in 1680 with Lionel listed as a blacksmith in public records. He and his family moved to Philadelphia where he worked as a merchant and meeting records indicate that he was received as an active member of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in June 1705. However, a letter dated to 1708 tells us things had changed, “…Mass is set up and read publicly in Philadelphia, among which Lionel Britton or Brittain, the church warden is one, and his son is another.”

“Church warden” is not a title used among the Friends and we believe indicates his conversion to Catholicism. He and his wife are buried at the Catholic burying ground near Old St. Joseph’s Church in Old City. Estimates for the year 1757 suggest that a mere 1,365 persons were actively known to practice this faith tradition in all of Pennsylvania at a time when the estimated population of Philadelphia numbered some 19,000 in 1760.

These and many other stories are found within the boundaries of the village and nearby and we look forward to sharing some of them with you as part of this series.

For more information about Historic Fallsington Inc, visit: or contact us: 215-295-6567 or

Kimberly D. Praria is executive director of Historic Fallsington Inc., which is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for guided tours and other programs. Those who prefer to explore on their own can buy a map at the museum shop or at Fallsington Antique & Craft Shop.

“Heralding Our History” is a new weekly feature. Each month, the Herald will delve into the history of one of its towns.

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