An Oddfellows Rule Book

We have noted in several of our previous blog posts that some of the men in Market Lavington were members of the Oddfellows friendly society. At Market Lavington Museum we have an Oddfellows accounts book (see Friendly Oddfellows), James Gye’s membership card for 1899 (see An Oddfellow) and photographs of Oddfellows dressed for an occasion (see An Oddfellows photograph and The Oddfellows again).

We understand that this friendly society supported and visited the sick in the days before the National Health Service. It provided a sort of self help health insurance policy for its members. We find more details about the financial support given in our rule book for the local (Devizes) lodge of Oddfellows.

This little booklet dates from 1862 and informs us that the loyal Providential Dolphin Lodge of Oddfellows met at the Black Swan Hotel in Devizes (mid Wiltshire). This inn, on the edge of the Market Place, still exists in 2022.

There are several pages of rules, starting with explaining the mutual support for members, providing financial relief in sickness and a donation towards the funeral of a member or his wife.

Contributions in the form of an initiation fee and monthly payments went up according to the age of the member.

Benefits were paid weekly during periods of illness, starting at 12 shillings in the first year, but decreasing to 3 shillings after two years of sickness. A lump sum of £12 was paid at the death of a member, half of that if his wife died.

Members met for two hours every two weeks. It would be interesting to find out what they did at their meetings.

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