Friendly Societies

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Main Source: David Green's Reinventing Civil Society. Civitas 1993, at


From the Wikipedia:

"A friendly society (sometimes called a mutual society, benevolent society or fraternal organization) is a mutual association for insurance-like purposes, and often, especially in the past, serving ceremonial and friendship purposes also. It is a benefit society composed of a body of people who join together for a common financial or social purpose. Before modern insurance, and the welfare state, friendly societies provided social services to individuals, often according to their religious or political affiliations. Unlike guilds, society members do not necessarily share a common profession.

Before large-scale government and employer health insurance, friendly societies played an important part in many people's lives. In some countries, half the population was covered by such societies.[citation needed] Many of these societies still exist. In some countries, they have been incorporated into the health system and become like insurance companies and lost their ceremonial aspect; in others they have taken on a more charitable or social aspect.

In their heyday, members typically paid a regular membership fee and went to lodge meetings to take part in ceremonies. If a member became sick they would receive an allowance to help them meet their financial obligations. The society would have a regular doctor who the member could visit for free. Members of the lodge would visit to provide emotional support (and possibly to check that the sick member was not malingering). When a member died, their funeral would be paid for and the members of their lodge would attend in ceremonial dress—often there was some money left over from the funeral for the widow. Friendly societies also had social functions such as dances, and some had sporting teams for members to participate in. They occasionally became involved in political issues that were of interest to their members.

Each lodge was generally responsible for its own affairs, but it was associated with an order of lodges such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, or the Independent Order of Foresters. There were typically reciprocal agreements between lodges within an order, so that if a member moved cities or countries they could join a new lodge without having to serve any initiation time. The ceremonies were also fairly uniform throughout an order. Occasionally a lodge might change the order that it was associated with, or a group of lodges would break away from their order and form a new order, or two orders might merge. Consequentially, the history of any particular friendly society is difficult to follow. Often there were unassociated orders with similar names." (


David Green:

"For liberty was not only an intellectual ideal, it was the guiding philosophy of the common people who acted out its values in their everyday lives. This reality is nowhere better exemplified than in the work of the friendly societies, those organisations for mutual aid which flourished in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and which were joined by the vast majority of working men, far exceeding the membership of the other characteristic organisations of the working classes, the trade unions and the co-operative societies. (In 1910 there were 6.6m registered members of friendly societies; 2.5m members of registered trade unions; and 2.5m members of co-operative societies.)

The friendly societies are of additional interest for two other reasons. First, the record of the friendly societies contradicts the wide perception today that, although a market society is undoubtedly the best way to generate prosperity, it provides inadequately for the health and welfare of its citizens. As Chapters 3-10 relate, the historical reality turns out to have been the opposite of the legend of welfare before the welfare state widely believed today.

And second, the experience of the friendly societies shows that we have under-estimated the displacement effect of the welfare state. Thatcher Governments thought it an adequate response to defects in the health service, for example, to introduce competitive tendering within the state system. But this was to misunderstand the true character of a free society. Competitive markets are a necessary but not sufficient condition of freedom. The welfare state did not only suppress the incentive system of the competitive market, it also suppressed those institutions which served as proving grounds for men and women of good character and which provided outlets for idealism, service and achievement. We must therefore find new ways to re-energise `civil society'.

In Britain the friendly societies were the most important providers of social welfare during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The friendly societies were self-governing mutual benefit associations founded by manual workers to provide against hard times. They strongly distinguished their guiding philosophy from the philanthropy which lay at the heart of charitable work. The mutual benefit association was not run by one set of people with the intention of helping another separate group, it was an association of individuals pledged to help each other when the occasion arose. Any assistance was not a matter of largesse but of entitlement, earned by the regular contributions paid into the common fund by every member and justified by the obligation to do the same for other members if hardship came their way. They began as local clubs, holding their common fund in a wooden chest or strong-box, but the nineteenth century saw the gradual evolution of national federations with hundreds of thousands of members and carefully managed investments.

During the nineteenth century and until early this century most families took pride in being self supporting but wages were such that, if the breadwinner fell ill or died, hardship was the invariable result. The philosophy forged by this harsh reality was mutual aid. By the early years of this century the friendly societies had a long record of functioning as social and benevolent clubs as well as offering benefits: such as sick pay when the breadwinner was unable to bring home a wage due to illness, accident or old age; medical care for both the member and his family; a death grant sufficient to provide a decent funeral; and financial and practical support for widows and orphans of deceased members. Medical services were usually provided by the lodge or branch doctor who was appointed by a vote of the members, but most large towns also had a medical institute, offering the services now provided by health centres. The societies also provided a network of support to enable members to travel in search of work.

Membership of the friendly societies grew steadily during the eighteenth century. By 1801 an authoritative study by Sir Frederic Eden estimated that there were about 7,200 societies with around 648,000 adult male members out of a total population of about nine million. This can be compared with a figure based on the Poor Law return for 1803 when it was estimated that there were 9,672 societies with 704,350 members in England and Wales alone.

By the time the British Government came to introduce compulsory social insurance for 12 million persons under the 1911 National Insurance Act, at least 9 million were already covered by registered and unregistered voluntary insurance associations, chiefly the friendly societies. In 1910, the last full year before the 1911 Act, there were 6.6 million members of registered friendly societies, quite apart from those not registered.

The rate of growth of the friendly societies over the preceding thirty years had been accelerating. In 1877, registered membership had been 2.75 million. Ten years later it was 3.6 million, increasing at an average of 85,000 a year. In 1897 membership had reached 4.8 million, having increased on average by 120,000 a year. And by 1910 the figure had reached 6.6 million, having increased at an annual average rate since 1897 of 140,000." (

Early Friendly Societies

Michael Hulme and Collete Wright:

‘Whereas it has been an Ancient Custom in this Kingdom for Divers Artists to Meet together and unite themselves into Society (But more especially for those who follow any Art or Mystery) to promote Amity and true Christian Charity…’ (Rules of the Second Mechanics Society, Plymouth, 1794 as cited in Gorsky, 1998).

Friendly societies originated in Britain in the 1630s and 1640s. They were an evolution of the centuries old communal organisations of gilds and although they were similar to freemasonry societies, members of friendly societies were more likely to be wage earners or artisans rather than merchants or professionals. By the early 1700s friendly societies became better established and there were increasing trends towards institutionalisation at a local level through rules and charters and at a national level through the Friendly Societies Act of 1793, which aimed to grant various privileges in return for registration (Gorsky, 1998). During the nineteenth century, friendly societies experienced exponential growth in membership and an increasing trend towards affiliated societies with multiple lodges. Membership in 1793 surged from 600,000 to 4 million in 1874 becoming the most well attended voluntary associations after churches (Beito, 2000).

Friendly societies membership was overwhelmingly working-class and although friendly societies did have various functions, the vast majority aimed to insure against sickness and death (Eden, 1994). As the London Gazette stated in 1742: ‘There are in this city and suburbs another sort of societies, both of men and women (which are very numerous) denominated box-clubs, for the relief and mutual support of the poorest sort of artisans during sickness or other incapacity’ (as cited in James, 2001).

Similarly, one of the three rules of a friendly society holding meetings in a Derbyshire village pub recorded in 1736 the purpose of the society as follows:

- ‘And to every one that shall belong unto it after they have been in it one whole year, if sickness should come on them they shall have given unto them three shillings a week so long as it shall continue on them, and if their sickness be judged to be incurable they shall have two shillings a week while they live, and at their death shall have twenty shillings for to bury them if so required, and every member or at least those that are bidden shall convey their brother's corpse to the grave, & upon neglect of not coming, notice being given them, they shall forfeit sixpence to the box without good & just reasons be given to the Master and Wardens and they approve thereof’ (as cited in James, 2001).

Consequently, friendly societies had two main purposes – that of mutual support and financial assistance. The inseparability of these criteria is summarised by the mission statement of the Fraternal Aid Society to provide; ‘for mutual moral and material assistance’ (as cited in James, 2001).

However, friendly societies tended to have a specifically welfare oriented approach to mutual support and financial assistance. Funeral insurance intended to decrease the number of pauper funerals, which have been classified as ‘the ultimate social disgrace’ (E.P. Thompson, [1963], 1991). These societies tended to consider applications for aid on a case-by-case basis. The

Scots Charitable Society, for example, provided individualised funds for such diverse purposes as ship passage, prison bail and old-age pensions. Cash allocations were classified as ‘charity’ and ‘relief’ rather than ‘benefits’. Although there is a multiplicity of factors contributing to the emergence of different friendly societies, there is a surprising agreement on the general ideology promoting their emergence.

A section of the Charter from the Friendly Society of Free and Accepted Masons, which was established in 1737, explains the founding ideology as follows:

- ‘We whose names are hereunto subscribed, do unanimously agree to erect and establish a Beneficial Society of FREE and ACCEPTED MASONS for the mutual benefit and Support of each other, as well in respect to do Our utmost to promote the Interest and Advantage of the Members in their respective Trades, as to Provide for and Support those under such Misfortunes, and Sickness, which they may be visited or afflicted with from the HANDS of ALMIGHTY GOD (as cited in James, 2001).

The idea that power and productivity could be increased through collectivism was particularly important at this time. It descended from political and social trends exemplified in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. Hobbes argued that society should be based on the idea of social contract because pursuing individual interests would result in ‘the war of all against all (Hobbes, [1651] 1996). As the cover of Leviathan shows, every person was thought to constitute a part of the King’s own body whose collective action would supersede the sum of its parts (Hobbes, [1651] 1996).

Such notions of collectivism underpinned the ‘brotherly’ rhetoric endemic in many of the historical sources on friendly societies. In 1858, Spry explained that friendly societies were established for ‘literary men… to meet periodically to eat beefsteaks, tripe, etc, and enjoy one another's company, and call their officers by high sounding titles, and style themselves Brothers’ (as cited in James, 2001). Similarly, after a visit to Britain in the 1880s the Austrian Professor Baernreither stated that friendly societies ‘are also increasing the cohesion of the working class, and welding together elements...into a social power, by creating a union based on brotherly support.’ (as cited in James, 2001). Biologically unrelated individuals thus used kinship to construct the solidarity thought necessary to achieve successful collective action (Beito, 2000)." (

Friendly Societies in the Nineteenth Century

Michael Hume and Collete Wright:

The rapid growth of friendly societies during the nineteenth century was a result of changes in British working life. The Industrial Revolution had produced mass mobility as people moved from rural agrarian employment to urban industrial employment. The number of specifically ethnic friendly societies, such as the French Huguenot clubs in London and Orange Lodges in Liverpool attests to the fact that friendly societies provided more than just financial assistance. Especially at a time when male workers would migrate without their families, friendly societies provided a sense of belonging through a ‘kinship’ structure of support. Nevertheless, during the nineteenth century, individualism and notions of self-help became increasingly important. These developments were informed largely by trends towards individualism inaugurated during the Protestant Reformation and especially during the French Revolution where the Rights of Man declared that each person was master of his self. Tracts on ‘self-help’ especially those popularised by Samuel Smiles became increasingly important as guides to living a proper life of moral worth. Successive Liberal governments promoting values of thrift and self-help and the increasing trend towards voluntarism – founded on individual responsibility for well-being – further cemented the concept that the individual was responsible for his own well-being.

Increasing urbanisation also meant that migrant workers no longer received the poor relief that supplemented the rural wage. This, coupled with the increase in a more disposable income provided by industrial jobs meant that there was a greater need to purchase insurance through friendly societies.

In 1869 an anonymous commentator described the need;

- ‘To provide for a rainy-day, to set aside some tithing from the harvest time of health and strength to meet the requirements of an hour when both may fail, is the duty of every man who values the glorious privilege of being independent. More especially it is the duty of every working man (as cited in James, 2001).

Furthermore, industrial jobs and commensurate trends of self-help encouraged people to become more concerned about health issues. This tended to supplement Georgian consumerism and also encouraged the demand for sickness insurance owing to the growth of a health culture based on the commercialisation of medicine, the growing importance of doctors and the rise in hospitals and dispensaries.

Although notions of mutuality and community are maintained in the rhetoric and underlying structure of friendly societies, there is also evidence of trends towards an incorporation of the themes of individualism and self-help. Whilst middle class definitions of respectability were based on individualism and self-help, friendly societies aimed to achieve moral worth through proffering an alternative definition founded on collective self-help and independence from external control (Cordery, 1995).

During the nineteenth century there was a series of conflicts between the working-class members of friendly societies and elite patrons and government officials. The basis of the conflict was whether working-class members were able to govern themselves. A Writ of the Amicable Society in 1736 provides evidence for a long history of self-government where members were elected from the whole membership;

- ‘1st. This Society is to be governed by one Master, two Wardens, & 6 Councell, which are to be chosen out of the whole body’ (as cited in James, 2001).

Nevertheless, in an 1823 pamphlet entitled A Few Observations on Friendly Societies, Bercher claimed that friendly societies were incapable of self-government owing to ‘habits of idleness and intoxication’ (as cited in Cordery, 1995) largely because friendly societies’ meetings were held in public houses. Whilst pubs had long been centres of commercial activity, they became progressively more offensive to a middle-class populous placing increasing emphasis on values of sobriety, self-help and thrift.

Holding meetings in public houses had a practical purpose – so that the landlord could provide security for the societies’ funds and a place to meet free of charge if the landlord was also a member. Meeting in public houses was also socially important because it provided an appropriate setting for the societies' communal activities. Often, club nights, annual feasts and festivals were more important than the financial concerns of friendly societies (Cordery, 1995).

Nevertheless, it was through the adaptation of middle-class values that friendly societies fought for independence. Through adopting values of individualism and self-help and transforming them into values of collective self-help and independence from external control, working-class members gained access to social power. Indeed, members were fined if they blasphemed, encouraged game-playing during meetings or failed to attend members’ funerals (Beito, 2000). The Committee of 1825 explained that members ‘do not like to see the management in hands other than their own; and they have an undefined apprehension of an invasion of their funds by the government’ (as cited in Cordery, 1995). The anonymous author of A New and Compleat Survey of London wrote in 1742 that:

- ‘Tho' these societies consist of the meanest and rudest of the citizens, yet by their admirable regulations and constitutions (of their own making) they are kept in best order and decorum...Those of these societies which are of long standing and have amassed a considerable sum of money for a fund, oblige every member at his admission into the club, to pay five shillings entrance money and in some ten shillings’ (as cited in James, 2001)

Whilst public house meetings continued to be a bone of contention, by 1850 it was widely accepted that friendly societies had gained sufficient respectability to be capable of self-government. The overall importance and strength of friendly societies was noted in 1889 by the Austrian professor Baernreither who commented that 'the influence exercised by the Friendly Societies, as voluntary fraternities, cannot possibly be overestimated' (as cited in James, 2001).

Consequently, by the end of the nineteenth century friendly societies had succeeded in securing legal governmental protection without direct external control such that the British reformer and power-broker W.E. Gladstone recorded in the 1870s that;

- ‘Friendly Societies have become so important and telling a feature in the Constitution of British society in its broadest and most fundamental part that any account of our nation and of the people, to whom we rejoice to belong, would deserve no attention as a really comprehensive account of it if it was wanting in a good and full description of such Societies’ (as cited in James, 2001). In summary friendly societies were a product of early modern ideas about the efficacy of collective action and the sacrifice of individual concerns for the good of the community. Whilst nineteenth century society tended towards a individualistic society based on revolutionary notions that the individual is master of his self, friendly societies retained their belief in the importance of collective self-help and mutual support whilst incorporating the newly emerging possibilities of self-empowerment, and social advancement. Whilst the purpose of friendly societies was welfare oriented - to make provision for the most basic biological needs during sickness, friendly societies also provided a support network based on kinship structures for migrating industrial workers. As the following sections will explore, friendly societies thus evidence trends similar to those involved in Social Lending. Most notably, the concept of community and collective advantage. Social Lending schemes are akin to friendly societies in that peer to peer lending has arisen following trends towards individualism, juxtaposed with a new desire for community." (


Source: Internet Based Social Lending: Past, Present and Future. By Professor Michael K Hulme and Collette Wright. Social Futures Observatory, October 2006.



There is a lot more detail in Chapter 3 of David Green's book, at

David Green:

"The emergence of federations had considerable implications for the internal government of the societies. The prevailing ethic in the earliest clubs was that everyone should have an equal say in common decisions. And since it was possible for all the members to meet in one place the normal practice was for decisions to be taken in a general assembly of all members. These early meetings were not only to reach decisions, but also for enjoyment, as the rules of the early clubs reflect. Invariably, they provide for the maintenance of order as well as the distribution of beer to members.

The early institutions of manual workers tried out several different methods of self-government. First, there was the referendum: members who could not all meet in one place could still all vote. Second, there was the solution of having a governing branch, with power rotating from branch to branch. Third, there was the delegate meeting, each delegate being closely bound by the instructions of his constituents. Fourth was the representative assembly, comprising elected members free to take the decisions they believed best, in the light of the facts of which they were aware and their constituents' wishes or interests as they saw them.

Gradually, a three-tier federal structure emerged—branch, district and unity—which combined significant local autonomy with representation at district and unity (national) levels. In the affiliated orders the branches—known as lodges among the Oddfellows and courts among the Foresters—retained wide powers, though final decision-making authority rested with an annual or biennial assembly. This assembly was known by different titles in different orders, though most retained the tradition of a movable meeting to guard against the emergence of a geographical centre of power. In the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows the governing body was originally known as the Annual Movable Committee; in the Ancient Order of Foresters the High Court; in the Independent Order of Rechabites, Salford Unity the High Movable Conference; and in the Grand United Order of Oddfellows as the Biennial Movable Delegation. Each assembly was empowered to make, annul, or amend the rules of the order. And each concluded with the election of the president, and the executive committee, which usually comprised the chief officers and between six and a dozen other members.

The most important duty of the executive committee in any order was to supervise the management of the districts and lodges. It was obliged to examine the books and accounts, to protect minority interests in the lodges, and to ensure that the society's rules were observed. It also acted as a final court of appeal for disputes which could not be settled in lodges or at district level. The chairman of the executive committee, who was also the president of the order, was usually appointed for one year. He was given various titles: Grand Master, High Court Ranger, Chief Shepherd, Most Worthy Patriarch and High Chief Ruler.

The most important official was the Grand Secretary, sometimes with that title, at other times variously called the Corresponding Secretary, Permanent Secretary, or High Court Scribe. The societies prided themselves on the absence of barriers to the advancement of any member to senior office.

It was only later in the nineteenth century that an intermediate level of organisation was introduced between local branches and the national level. It was found advisable to spread the liability for death benefit more widely than amongst members of each branch, where even a few deaths in rapid succession could exhaust a small fund. Many societies evolved a district structure to spread the risk. Each district took its authority direct from the central body, but was governed by a committee of representatives from the individual branches. Apart from controlling the funeral funds, the districts also served as intermediate courts of appeal, and supervised the management of the various lodges, examining accounts and intervening where necessary. Lodges were required to send in yearly balance sheets and reports, to the district as well as to the central body.7 However, some branches disliked the additional control that the district system entailed, and refused to affiliate.

By the mid-nineteenth century this process of evolution from the local club with its participatory democracy to the three-tier structure with a representative assembly and a full-time chief executive officer was well under way. But the original ideal of pure democracy retained much force and was often the yardstick against which proposed changes in the decision-making structure were judged." (

Participatory Democracy

David Green:

"The friendly societies are of special interest because they sought to combine a high level of control by individual members with efficient administration. The welfare state is commonly criticised for excessive centralisation but this has not been a problem faced only by governments. Once the affiliated orders had ceased to be purely local clubs, the balance of power between the centre and the branches was a constant concern.

The affiliated societies produced a number of unique solutions to this age-old problem, solutions which minimised the costs and maximised the advantages for efficiency which a high level of participation can bring. The approach taken by the Foresters was that all lawful authority originated `with and from the Members at large'. Power in the members, says the Foresters' first lecture, `is like the light of the Sun—native, original, inherent, and unlimited by anything human. Power in our Officers is only borrowed, delegated, and limited by the intention of the Members, whose it is, and to whom all officials are responsible.

The early clubs gave the branch chairman the power to impose fines for misconduct and the affiliated orders followed their example. The Foresters' Court Old Abbey, based in Guisborough, empowered its chief ranger to fine members 3d for interrupting another or 6d for swearing or using abusive or insulting language.12 At the same time, the federations as well as the early clubs were keenly aware of the need to prevent presiding officers from abusing their power. Most societies impressed their expectations on a new chairman at his installation ceremony.

The societies did not wholly rely upon moral appeals. Rules also laid down what a chairman could and could not do. The General Laws of the Foresters, for example, stipulate that if the presiding officer vacated his chair `without permission of the assembled brethren, or without first providing some competent person to succeed him', or refused to put to the vote `any proposition that has been legally made', he could, if the offence was not `so flagrant as to cause a motion for his deposition', be fined five shillings for the first offence, ten shillings for the second, and up to 21s for subsequent offences.

A stronger method of preventing abuse was to provide for an officer to be instantly deposed.

In a number of societies the lodge opening ceremony also served to inhibit the tendency for officeholders to become too powerful. In Manchester Unity, at the beginning of every meeting, each office holder was required solemnly to state the duties he owed to lodge members. The elective secretary was required to recite his duties as follows: `To enter every particular transaction, or minute, without prejudice, and explain the same when required by you [the chairman] or a majority of the Lodge.' The financial secretary, in his turn, had to say: `To keep a fair and impartial account between every member and the Lodge; to explain and balance such whenever required by you or a majority of the Lodge, and as far as in my power lies to keep the accounts clear and intelligible.'

In the early clubs the rotation of office was employed to ensure a sharing of the burdens and advantages of office, but gradually rotation gave way to regular elections. In the Manchester Unity, for example, with the exception of the financial secretary who held office at the pleasure of the lodge, it was customary for leading offices to change hands at each six-monthly or annual election.' (


David Green [1]:

Dividing Societies

According to Beveridge, three aspirations contributed to the formation of friendly societies: the first was the desire for security in sickness, the second a desire to avoid a pauper funeral, and the third to save a lump sum for emergencies, old age or spending on a substantial item.20 The affiliated orders were primarily concerned with sick pay, medical care and funeral benefit, though as the nineteenth century progressed they directed their attention more towards deferred annuities for old age and endowment assurance.

The dividing societies, however, laid greater stress on saving and shared any annual surplus among members. The weakness of the dividing principle was that as the members aged the benefits got larger and the annual surplus smaller. But this lack of actuarial calculation was also its advantage. By paying a higher contribution than was strictly necessary, members knew that the benefits would usually be covered and that any surplus would be returned to them. It also provided a good check on malingering, since each member had an interest in a surplus remaining at the year's end. Beveridge quotes the evidence given to the Royal Commission of 1874 by the Reverend Portman of Steeple Fitzpaine in Somerset. He acknowledged that it might initially seem improvident to divide the surplus each year, but drew attention to the advantages. A `lump' of money of twenty-five or thirty shillings now and then was a great boon to the agricultural labourers. And he had found it was not wastefully spent, but rather used to purchase an item such as a pig, or shoes or clothing. According to Beveridge, `The whole of rural England is or was a collection of Steeple Fitzpaines'."

Deposit Societies

"The same desire for a balance between saving, on the one hand, and security in sickness and provision against death, on the other, led to the formation of deposit and Holloway societies. The earliest deposit society was founded in 1831, but the idea did not catch on until later. In 1868 a society was formed at Albury in Surrey which in 1872 became the National Deposit Friendly Society, by far the largest of its type. Each member made a contribution which, after a deduction for management, went partly to a common fund for sick pay and partly to a personal account which accumulated at interest. Members could choose the size of their contribution so long as it was no less than 2s per month and no more than 20s. This contribution then determined the benefit: the daily rate of sick benefit was the same as the monthly rate of contribution. In addition, each member was urged on joining to make an initial deposit to their personal account of between 3d and £30. This deposit did not affect the rate of benefit, though it had an effect on its duration.

Sick pay was drawn partly from the common fund and partly from the member's personal account in a proportion which varied with age at joining. It was payable until the member's personal account was exhausted. This meant that a person who did not experience much illness would accumulate a large surplus by retirement age. It also meant that someone who was ill for long periods could exhaust his personal account, but in such cases the member received `grace pay' for the same period that sick pay had already been drawn. As a result of these incentives, the National Deposit Friendly Society had low sickness experience.

Benefits were paid as follows. Sick pay for males who joined between the ages of 16 and 30 was paid 25 per cent from their personal account and 75 per cent from the common fund. Grace pay was 75 per cent of benefit. Benefit for males who had joined when they were 40-50 was paid half from the common fund and half from the personal account and grace pay was half sick pay. Membership of the National Deposit Friendly Society in 1872 was about 1,000; in 1899, 46,000 and by 1910, 210,000.22 After the introduction of national insurance the society grew rapidly and by 1939 it had 1,462,183 members."

Holloway Societies

"Holloway societies were based on principles invented by George Holloway who, in 1874, founded the Working Men's Conservative Friendly Society in Stroud. It also combined saving and sick pay but on different lines from the National Deposit Friendly Society. The contribution was substantially more than was necessary for sick pay and the whole contribution went into a common fund. Each year the surplus was divided equally and credited to personal accounts which earned interest. The contribution was the same for all aged up to 30 but increased each year thereafter. Holloway societies also differed in that an individual could increase his share of the distributed surplus by holding more than one share in the society (up to ten shares). The essential idea was to pay more than was necessary for sick pay in order to build up a surplus for old age. However, unlike the National Deposit Friendly Society, it was not possible to run out of sick pay. The two largest Holloway societies were the Ideal Benefit Society of Birmingham (founded in 1893) and the Tunbridge Wells Equitable (founded in 1881)."

Unitary Accumulating Societies

"The accumulating societies without branches were thus named to distinguish them from dividing societies which did not accumulate funds for more than a twelve-month period. Most of the unitary accumulating societies were local in character, but one or two stood out from the crowd. Hearts of Oak was the largest of the unitary friendly societies. It started in 1842 with 12 members. By 1856 its membership was 5,000 and by 1872 it had grown to 32,000. It was governed by an assembly of delegates representing 231 areas into which the country was divided. Before 1911 an effort was made to keep alive the local spirit, but after national insurance such efforts were abandoned. It paid sick pay, death benefit and also offered endowment insurance. It prospered under national insurance, and at the beginning of World War II it had 444,000 members." (

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