An excellent and informative talk by Philip Hoyland with many examples of this forerunner of the NHS. He brought a number of ceremonial items including a brass from Bawdrip Friendly Society.
We hope to find out more of our local Society
On Thursday 21 March 2019 he demonstrated his collection of brasses from local Friendly Societies and to give an account of their role in Victorian life and the early twentieth century. Backed b y a glittering display of part of his collection and in a lively, down to earth and humorous way, he sketched out their work, showed how they were financed and their importance to the village society. The establishment of workhouses and the governments wish to save money both contributed to the explosion of the number of societies in the beginning of the nineteenth century. We can realise the reason for this through the shadow that the idea of the workhouse casts even today and not only through the Dickens’ novels. We were fascinated by a picture of the accounts of money dispersed under the scheme and interested to learn of remnants of their ceremonial and social activities even today. Their regulation and rules had to be agreed by the government and so many of these survive. Societies had their box in which money was stored and thus the origin of the phrase ‘on the box’ for ‘on benefit’ was explained. He had a box from Fivehead with its three locks so no one person had access. Meetings were often held in pubs and the varied lists of fines provided a picture of some unacceptable activity, e.g. wearing a hat to a meeting or having a dog with you or playing shove ha’ penny in church could be costly. Of course we were interested in the Bawdrip society. Phillip showed us the Bawdrip emblem of an acorn. The reason for this choice was that from small beginnings great things grow. Many other emblems were based on the pubs where a group might meet, e.g. the Rose and Crown or the Anchor at Combwich. Many included hands and hearts – the hand of friendship and comradeship. Only two references to the Bawdrip society have yet been noted by our chairman; both of these being descriptions of the Walk Day in the 1870s. (See below for reports from 1876 and 1877)
Every society had a Walk Day with a ceremonial gathering, a walk to the church and then a dinner. Each member had to carry his brass emblem variously decorated and on poles of various sizes. Societies were men only but there were also women’s groups . Phillip showed us photos of these events, very military like processions but there were also more rumbustious activities. Pictures of workers incapacitated by drink or tales of women loosening their stays for running races both amused.
A lively discussion ensued and a member of the audience produced a beautiful ceremonial sash similar to those worn. The meeting ended with a talk about cleaning – not Brasso and the use of restorers’ wax featured – and a chance to examine his sparkling display more closely.