Minutes of Equitable Friendly Society
You can read the original minutes here. The following (in italics) is a brief summary of the role of Friendly Societies by Martin Gorsky :-
With fostering hand we dry the widow's tear. Be united and persevere. "To a good old proverb listen pray, provide a something for a rainy day.Age brings infirmity, accidents make lame, and sickness dire attacks the human frame. But when disease confines us to our bed, our union funds provide our children in bread.Should God be pleased to end our journey here.
This verse, the motto of the Royal Union Friendship Society, aptly summarises the functions of the friendly society. Sometimes known as benefit clubs, friendly societies were based in public houses where they met each month for a social evening at which members paid a small subscription to the society's 'box' (see figure 1). The payments entitled members to a weekly benefit when ill-health prevented them from working, as well as a lump sum for the family when they died (see figure 2). In the nineteenth century friendly societies flourished throughout Britain and other parts of the world. Before the creation of the welfare state, with its universal health service and social security, they were essential to the survival of families at times of life crisis. Until recently friendly societies have received only limited attention from historians. Far more has been written about trade unions, although friendly society membership probably outnumbered that of unions by about four to one by 1870. Nor do they figure much in histories of social welfare in the nineteenth century, which usually concentrate on the growth of state provision. Most students will be familiar with the development of the poor law, public health acts and education reform, but few will know much about working class self-help. Indeed, the major text on friendly societies remains the pioneering work by Gosden, published in 1961 . This documented the growth of the movement up to the 1870s and showed how the local, independent clubs were replaced in the period by the great 'affiliated orders'.
At the start of the minutes, the Rev E.T.M Phillipps is the Secretary. with Mr. Hunt surgeon to the institution. In 1843 William Hickinbottom took over as Secretary. It seems, prospective members of the club had to be approved by him before paying entrance fee and therafter annual subscriptions. A management committee consisted of some of the Benefit Members and an equal number of Honorary Members including CM Phillipps. People in the club who were sick recieved, for example, 2 weeks pay of 4 shillings. Also members might receive payment at death. On being sick, the doctor will be notified and will issue a certificate to authorise payment. Also parents made payments for their infant children e.g. Thomas Keetley paid monthly amount of 2 shillings and 3 farthings for his infant daughter to assure £18 when she reached age 14. In 1840 it was proposed that a female sub-committee be appointed for the selection of female members. The case of AnnWatts's pregnancy caused particular concern as she was unmarried and the condition may be thought of as the fruit of profligacy.