Discover a fascinating document from the archives.
This month’s Document of the Month reflects on the prevalence of Friendly Societies during the 19th century, a time of urban and industrial growth and before the creation of the welfare state. The aim of these voluntary societies was to provide insurance for its members against debts if they became ill, infirm or died. Members would meet once a month, usually at a local pub, to provide a social aspect to the society. Members would pay a subscription that entitled them to handouts should they fall on hard times.
The rules or “laws” of these societies were written or printed in an official booklet, as shown in the document ‘Chilvers, Coton: Laws of the Miners loan Society, held at the house of Sarah Davenport, Chilvers Coton’ published on the 7th March 1854. In this booklet, the Society outlines their 15 laws. The 2nd law listed specifies their ethos, which states “The object of this society is to raise by equal contribution from each member, a fund, for the purpose of lending the same in sums of not less than five shillings, not exceeding fifteen pounds.” The rulebook is signed by William Mallaborne, Secretary, and witnesses William Baddeley, William Davenport, William Davis and John Baraclough.
Many other societies are listed in the ‘Printed official list of Friendly Societies in the county of Warwick whose rules were certified under the Friendly Society Acts, 1793-1855’. This list includes the Jolly Weavers Friendly Society that met at the Bird-In-Hand in Little Park, Coventry and the Ancient Order of Foresters at the Red Lion Inn, Tysoe. Many of these societies still thrive today, such as the Ancient Order of Foresters that now go by ‘Foresters Friendly Society’ and continue the society’s aim to “assist their fellow men and women ‘who sometimes needed help “as they walked through the forests of life’ ”.
Images courtesy of Warwickshire County Record Office, QS0083/2/60.