Saffron Walden



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Friendly Societies, often called Box Clubs, were the social security system of their time. The idea was to pay in a small amount into the box weekly in order to get financial help during illness and disability, and to pay for funeral expenses. Most were based in pubs, where the landlord benefited from the amount spent on beer. Unfortunately many such clubs collapsed leaving their members out of pocket, but some tried to achieve higher standards, and proclaimed high-minded rules and regulations. One such was the New Union Society which met at the White Horse inn from 1822. Its rules can still be found among Saffron Walden Museum archives reference 40394.


Rules and orders to be observed and kept by member of New Union Society meeting at sign of White Horse in Saffron Walden, inst Sept 9th 1822, printed 1823. They met once a month on the first Monday of the month.

Object to establish a fund for mutual benefit of whole... that brotherly love would prevail.. assisting each other in the hour when we most stand in need, that of sickness and dire distress... by mutual compact we may be enabled to support each other, and smooth the rugged road... by moral certainty insure a something in sickness, and convey us with decency to the grave... let friendship prevail..,’

51 members, no tradesmen, no one earning 12s a week, no one over 35. ‘Any member upbraiding a brother member on account of his age or calling, shall forfeit one shilling.’

Every member pay 2s p.m. beer included, every member pay 5s to box for entrance, and 6d for article.  Forfeits for not paying. One dinner a year, at midsummer. Stewards guard the box.  Forfeits for divulging secrets.

No payouts until member for 1 year ‘after which if any member becomes sick or lame (except by quarrelling, drunkenness or whoring) whereby he is rendered incapable of working’ to get 8s from box every week during illness; if breaks leg or arm £2 from box second club night after giving notice to steward of same over and above weekly pay; while receiving payouts, must keep up own payments to the box.

‘If any member be drunk, by frequenting public houses, or be found gaming, or behaving in any manner disorderly’ forfeit 2s.6d or be excluded.

Other forfeits for pretending; also ‘if any members affliction comes by fighting or quarrelling, and it be prove he began or was the aggressor, he shall have no benefit from the box, but if the same ends with death, there shall be allowed £5 for his funeral’.Everyone had to go to the funeral, or pay forfeits (unless it was smallpox).

Could possibly get help towards surgeon’s bills if he ‘shall happen to break a small bone’. If afflicted for 9 months, would get 4s per week.

If man lost wife, he could get £2.10s from box towards her funeral charges.

If anyone volunteered for HM service, he was excluded but if forced could be re-admitted on discharge if he was fit and had no wounds which would affect his trade or calling.

Forfeit 4d for swearing, fighting, betting, smoking in society room during club hours, etc  No tobacco allowed from box.

Excluded: any member guilty of murder, theft or any other felonious action.