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South Place Ethical Society

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Conway Hall South Place Ethical Society night

Conway Hall

The South Place Ethical Society, based in London is thought to be the oldest surviving freethought organisation in the world, and is the only remaining Ethical Society in the United Kingdom. It now advocates secular humanism.

The organisation began in 1793, as a group of nonconformists known as Philadelphians or Universalists. William Johnson Fox, a former theological student of Dr Pye Smith, became minister in 1817. In 1824 the congregation built a chapel at South Place, Finsbury, London.

Conway Hall

In 1926 they built new premises, Conway Hall at 37 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, on the site of a tenement, previously a factory belonging to James Perry, a pen and ink maker. Coincidently this was the birth place of the prominent occultist, Harry Price[1]. However the name of the society reflects the original location.

Conway Hall is named after an American, Moncure Conway, who led the Society from 1864-1885 and 1892-1897, during which time it moved further away from Unitarianism. Conway spent the break in his tenure in America, writing a biography of Thomas Paine. In 1888 the name of the Society was changed from South Place Religious Society to South Place Ethical Society under Stanton Coit's leadership.

The organisation is a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.


  • Moncure Daniel Conway, Centenary History of the South Place Society : based on four discourses given in the chapel in May and June, 1893. London/Edinburgh : Williams and Norgate 1894
  • MacKillop, Ian (1986). The British Ethical Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-26672-6


  1. Harry Price: The Psychic detective by Richard Morris, Stroud, 2006

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