The Ancient Order of Foresters was formed in Britain in 1834 for the purpose of helping less financially secure workers and their families in times of financial need. For example, when the breadwinner fell ill and could not work resulting in no wages.
Members would pay a few pence a week into a common fund from which they would be eligible for payments in times of financial hardship
Formation of Great Ellingham Foresters
The Ancient Order of Foresters Club Victoria 2179 was formed at the Chequers Inn in Great Ellingham between 1846 and 1848. In the booklet “A Little History of Great Ellingham” the author mentions the creation of the Club at the Chequers saying “when the landlord moved to the Crown it was taken there”.
The landlord of the Chequers Inn at that time was Robert Lebbell who subsequently moved to the Crown Inn in 1851.
Kelly’s Directory of 1896 mentions that the Forester’s Club in Great Ellingham had around 100 members.
In the early 1900s, the Great Ellingham Forester’s Club amalgamated with another club. The clubs together had assets amounting to over £2,000 with 100 members.
Secretary Herbert Barnard Lebbell
According to Kelly’s of 1904, Herbert Barnard Lebbell was then the secretary of the Foresters in Great Ellingham.
The 1901 census finds 29 year old blacksmith, Herbert B Lebbell with his 27 year old wife Selena living in Long Street. Baptised in the Parish Church in Great Ellingham on 5th October, 1873, Herbert was the son of blacksmith and farmer Robert Barnard Lebbell and his wife Mary. Robert Barnard Lebbell was also the parish clerk.
Annual Club Feast with Parade and Dancing
The author of the “Little History of Great Ellingham” also tells us about an Annual Club Feast which was held over a Whitsun weekend around 1901.
On the Sunday evening, there was a Church Parade with banners, regalia and a band. The Band was likely to be the Great Ellingham Brass Band.
On the Monday, a large gathering paraded around the village visiting larger farms returning to ‘headquarters’ about 4 o’clock in the afternoon to sit down to a beef and pork dinner with a special plum pudding and brandy sauce for dessert. This was all washed down with ‘as much beer as you could drink’. The day concluded with dancing taking place during the evening.
The next day (Tuesday), after a cold lunch of leftovers from the meat joints of the previous day’s meal, a parade made their way to Little Ellingham Rectory and Farm. Members of the parade arrived home (presumably in Great Ellingham) by 4.30 pm, although it is said that the parade had lost half of those who had started out as there were three pubs to call at on the way home!
A further meal with drinks was consumed with dancing once again until 11 pm. Volunteers helped to clean up the next day (Wednesday).
All this entertainment for just five shillings per head.
1908 Public Meeting of the Great Ellingham Foresters
On the 15th June, 1908, the Great Ellingham Foresters held a public meeting in the village with the view to starting a juvenile branch to their society. In charge of the proceedings was Mr William Eagling of Little Ellingham.
One of the cheif speakers at the meeting was Mr W R Alison of the Swaffham United District Ancient Order of Foresters. He gave “a historical sketch of the growth of the friendly society movement” and, in speaking about old-age pensions, was reported to say “he had not the slightest doubt that most societies would alter their rules so as to do away with the ordinary sick pay when a member reached a certain age, and substitute in its place a superannuation allowance, which, added to the state allowance, would render the life of the thrifty aged worker more tolerable“.
Mr Colin Bateman also gave a speech as did Mr Lewis, the lay reader, who had also consented to act as secretary.
Forester’s Club Continues
The Forester’s Club continued for some time. Kellys Directory of 1916 states that George Hawes was the secretary of the Forester’s Lodge in Great Ellingham. In 1925 the secretary was George Leach and, in 1937, Mrs W T Pike.
Great Ellingham Parish Registers, Norfolk Record Office. PD/609. Also available at FamilySearch.org https://www.familysearch.org/search/image/index?owc=4J8C-CB7%3A29627201%3Fcc%3D1416598
Booklet “Little History of Great Ellingham” W R Lebbell & S Fay
Norfolk Chronicle & Norwich Gazette June 20th, 1908
1901 census RG12/1549/70
Kellys Directories: 1896, 1904, 1912, 1916, 1925, 1937
Foresters Friendly Society. https://www.forestersfriendlysociety.co.uk/about-us/our-history accessed 03.01.2020