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Clubs and Friendly Societies
 

Leg of Mutton Friendly Society

Ashtead had a friendly society, founded in 1841, called the Leg of Mutton Friendly Society after the Leg of Mutton Inn in which the members met. The printed rules of the club, which survive from 1895, state that the society’s object is to,

‘‘provide by voluntary subscriptions of the members for the relief or maintenance of the members during sickness or other infirmity, whether bodily or mental; for insuring money to be paid on the death of a member, or for the funeral expenses of a wife of a member’.
 

Membership was open to any man aged between 16 and 40 and each prospective member was required to produce a medical certificate certifying that he was ‘of sound constitution’ at the time of joining. It cost 2s 6d to join the society and then 2s per month. In the event of sickness or injury (other than brought on himself by ‘debauched or irregular practices’) a member would receive 12s a week for up to six months and then 6s a week for the next six months. Those claiming sickness benefit might be subjected to a medical examination. At the end of each year any profits remaining to the club were divided between the members. On the death of a member each member paid 1s towards the cost of his funeral or 6d on the death of a member’s wife. Members were excluded if convicted of any crime or if found to be ‘of a drunken, quarrelsome disposition, or much given to fighting’. A 3d fine was payable for swearing, gambling or carrying ‘any liquor out of the room to drink’; a 1s fine was payable for talking about the society’s affairs to non-members or for provoking discord.

Clothing club

The object of the Ashtead clothing club was to help the poor of the parish to buy warm clothing and blankets for winter. Ratepayers were ineligible for membership. Each member was allowed to pay a small amount of money from 3d to 1s each week between January and October with a bonus of 1d per shilling added at the end of the season on total deposits of 10s or more. Members were only allowed to buy goods from shops that were approved by the charity managers and purchased goods were subject to their inspection and approval. Anyone found guilty of drunkenness or immorality was excluded from the club. A note in the parish magazine for January 1889 reminded members that ‘it is intended that their purchases should consist of warm clothing, boots, blankets &c, and not of artificial flowers, ribbons and laces’ with the warning that the club managers would refuse payment for such items.

Click to enlarge

Ashtead Clothing Club Rules, reproduced by permission of the Surrey History Centre

Coal club

The coal club operated in a similar way. Prospective members had to be approved by the rector, with only one depositor allowed from each house. Deposits, payable at the village schools between January and October, could be a minimum of 6d and a maximum of 2s at any one time with a bonus of 3d per shilling added to total deposits of between 5s and 10s. As with the clothing club, drunken or immoral behaviour resulted in exclusion from the club.

Penny bank

In February 1892 a penny bank was set up at the parish school, with forty eight boys making deposits totalling 25s. Each depositor received a small book in which his deposits were recorded and when his deposits had reached 1s the amount was transferred to the Post Office Savings Bank, receiving an annual rate of interest of 2.5%. In September 1894 the schoolmaster, Alfred Boyd, wrote to parents encouraging their children to become members: ‘We should like every child to become a depositor if possible. To teach our scholars to be thrifty and to put by for rainy day is of vast importance especially in these times’. As a result of his appeal, fifty four children joined, bringing the membership up to 127.

Burial club

In the June 1893 edition of the parish magazine the rector proposed the setting up of a burial club or guild, ‘such as been found useful in some other parishes’. The purpose of the guild was to provide respectable, church going men as bearers and to discourage the custom of heavy drinking that typically accompanied funerals. The rector stated that ‘at present a funeral often involves poor people in great expense; they are expected to provide (perhaps) eight bearers, not only with a fee, but also with refreshments, and it is a constant source of discredit that many bearers never enter the church except when paid to carry a coffin, do not join in the burial service, and often go direct from the graveside to the public house, where they sometimes spend the rest of the day.’ Those using the guild’s services were charged 2s 6d and all other expenses were met from a fund maintained by voluntary subscriptions. A wheeled bier was bought to bear the coffin because it required fewer men than the traditional method of carrying the coffin on men’s shoulders and was thus cheaper and ‘more conducive to propriety’. Members were required to wear black clothes underneath specially made white smocks (the wearing of white smocks at funerals being an old custom in Ashtead) with purple badges.