IF you want to attract someone’s attention not much beats whipping your kit off and standing there in the altogether. Especially if you shout at the top of your voice at the same time. It is a method of protest thankfully not yet employed by the current wave of anti-oil agitators, but maybe time will tell.

It was, however, once a tool in the box of a fledging religious movement, whose members would never dream of doing such a thing today – I presume. But in the years following the English Civil War, when Quakers were trying to get established, it was a different story.

The faith group had been founded by George Fox and Margaret Fell in Lancashire in the mid-1650s and almost immediately made its way to Worcestershire.

It was first recorded in Worcester in 1655 when members were sent to prison for interrupting services. In fact speaking to the priest was a form of Quaker witness, although not appreciated by other members of the congregation.

But it went a bit further than that. Richard Baxter, the Kidderminster Puritan minister, wrote that Quakers at the time walked “naked through the streets as a Prophetical act” and entered churches during services to “shout abusively up the aisles, calling the ministers deceivers, hirelings and liars”.

In 1657 in Worcester, Thomas Allington went “into one of the places of Publik worship where he stood still and spake not a Word and was taken out and set in the stocks”.

Meanwhile Edward Bourn, a physician and mainstay of Worcester Quakers, was imprisoned for thirteen weeks for “exhorting the People in the College (otherwise the Cathedral) to Fear the Lord and repent”.

The aforesaid George Fox, a Quaker founder, was also imprisoned in Worcester. In 1673 he was incarcerated in the Castle jail for fourteen months and it was there he wrote his famous journal.

Fox was eventually taken to London where his sentence was quashed. His journey was the first recorded instance of stagecoach travel through Worcestershire and it lasted four days. Not even a coach drivers strike on either.

But by the 18th century, and being accepted as an established presence, Quakers tempered their ways and became gentle people of plain speech and sober dress. Indeed in Worcester they were the leaders of almost every reform that benefitted their fellow men: the abolition of slavery, prison reform, provision of soup kitchens, improvements in housing and working conditions and universal education.

However they did not lose their inner steel and when Elizabeth Fry, a leading Quaker and prison reformer, visited Worcester in 1824 she went to both the city and county jails and “addressed the prisoners in plain and forcible language” about mending their ways. Although at least she didn’t take her clothes off.