Friendly Societies

Ancient Foresters costume circa 1910

Friendly Societies are fraternal groups which exist to provide services to their members. Although viewed at times with suspicion by the authorities, they flourished in the 1800s and provided financial benefits to their members, such as payments for ill-health or a lump sum upon death, in return for payment of a small monthly subscription.

For the societies to succeed, they needed to attract and retain members and this was often achieved by creating a sense of community and brotherhood. This included regular social events as well as enacting secretive rituals and ceremonies, often involving the wearing of elaborate costumes and the reciting of verses. Most societies also created a fictional background history, claiming links to the distant past — for instance, Oddfellowship was claimed to have been introduced to England by the Romans.

In the Huddersfield area, at least 120 Oddfellows' Lodges, around 50 Druids' Lodges, and over 30 Foresters' Courts and Golden Fleece Lodges are known to have existed during the 1800s, along with a smaller number of lodges of Gardeners, Ancient Shepherds, Peaceful Doves, Ancient Britons, Royal Archers, Buffaloes, and various independent "sick clubs".

Although predominantly male-only, a number of (likely unregistered) "female lodges" existed, including Female Forresters at Marsden, Meltham, Slaithwaite, and Holmfirth.

Friendly Societies

This page was last modified on 17 January 2017 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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