Eversholt Friendly Society

Eversholt Friendly Society was a club to provide sick pay and burial expenses for its members. Members paid in a fixed amount once a quarter, and received fixed sick pay if they could not work. If they died, money was paid toward a funeral. The club started in 1863 and was wound up in 1972.

Membership seems only to have been open to men, and only young men could join. It’s not clear whether an ageing man could, having joined when young, continue to be a member when old. Pre-existing medical conditions of seemingly any sort ruled out membership. Being drunk, gambling or swearing could get a member thrown out.
The club seemed to be very alert to the idea that people would claim to be sick when they were not. The club could appoint a committee of five members to go round and check up on a sick member. If they were really suspicious, the club could pay a member to sneakily watch a sick member’s house from a distance! No RIPA back then, apparently.
The 1930 rule book turned up in a bundle of documents about the friendly society lent by Chris Hawkes via Anna Blomfield. Several of these documents are interesting and will be put online later. I (EJW) have no idea who owns the copyright, if any, of the 1930 rule book of a club wound up nearly 40 years ago, and I somehow doubt that anyone else has either. So I’m just going to go ahead and publish it. Leave a comment below if you’d like. There are also handwritten minute books and account ledgers which are both hard to read and so dry as to be sleep-inducing. It’s also possible that there is some personal information in these that should remain private, so they’ll need review before publication.
After the 1930 rules were published, Chris Hawkes provided a copy of the 1896 rule book. Thanks again, Chris! This too has been scanned, OCRed, proofread and generally messed about with, and is also presented for your consideration. The 1930 rules highlight the changes from the 1896 rules. All of the changes seem to have been simplifying the running of the club – one steward instead of two, quarterly meetings instead of monthly, simpler accounting… It’s worth noting that the rate of sick pay went up from £0.45 per week in 1896 to £0.60 per week in 1930, but the rate of contributions did not change. The minimum time of three days sickness imposed in 1896 was eliminated in 1930. The fines for misbehaviour were either abolished or kept the same. So, the 1930 rules were more generous and less proscriptive than the 1896.
And it would be nice to have the 1863 rules and see what problems came up.

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