In the summer of 2010 a Moonrakers walk prompted questions regarding the origins and use of the Foresters Hall on Colne Road, at the top of the village, in the area known as Cock Hall. It is a fine, large three storied building. The Hall itself was on the top floor.
Dr Roger Logan of The Foresters Heritage Trust, a charitable organisation who store archives of the trust and answer queries, such as ours was very useful and supplied the information here.
The hall was built around 1869/70. However by then the Foresters had been active in Cowling for over 30 years, meeting regularly in different public houses over that period. Thus the Foresters were active in the village when New Roadside (as the early modern village was known) was in its infancy and most textile workers were either domestic or working in small mills or workshops.
Trevor Hodgson & David Gulliver in The History of Cononley, where similar friendy societies were forming, suggest it may have been that working people were feeling increasingly insecure. Poverty had been on the increase after the Napoleonic Wars and the wealthy had been more reluctant to help. The 1834 Poor Law Ammemdment Act had brought in the fear of the workhouse for the needy. Agitation among working classes manifested itself in the Chartist movement and so Hodgson & Gulliver say it is not surprising to see working men banding together to protect themselves against misfortune.
One public house used for meetings was the long gone Masons’ Arms, Middleton. The Foresters record of this confirmed the existence of this 19th century pub for Moonrakers. Dr Logan thought that the move to build their own Hall by the Court “Compassion” No 104 of the Ancient Order of Foresters might have been prompted by Temperance movement of the time. Possibly it was no longer good for business to be linked to a public house for meetings.
A court was a branch. The earlier courts, such as Cowling’s were in The Royal Order of Foresters. The original founders would have given the court its name and number. The names tended to be virtues or have moral attributes, so Court Compassion fits into this pattern.
Dr Logan stated “The registered purposes of a Foresters Court were, as laid down by contemporary legislation. However as a general rule we might say that members combined for establishing locally a common financial fund, into which they all paid, and were, in consequence, eligible for sickness and death benefits.”
He goes on to say, “As the century progressed some courts extended their activities, as authorised by law, such as making mortgages avialable to members. There were also added benefits such as the travelling system by means of which members could receive financial support whilst searching for work away from home.
Dr Logan was surprised at the size of Cowling’s Foresters Hall. Funds could not be used to pay for the building, which was paid for by subscription. He suggested that the lower part of the building might always have been used, as now, for residential purposes.
The members would have met in the hall weekly, to pay their contributions and hear the sick list. They therefore knew who was gaining benefits that week!
The hall would also used for social purposes by the Foresters and others.
The Cowling Court Compassion No 104, seceded or left the Ancient Order of Foresters as early as 1899. However Dr Logan suggested that the Cowling Foresters may have continued independently long after the secetion from the order.
This shows that Cowling folk, were from quite early in the 19th century, grouping together to provide benefits in times of difficulty.’ Cowinheeaders’ have long had a reputation for being careful with money. Here we have 19th century proof!
We thank Dr Roger Logan of The Foresters Heritage Trust for his hard work in answering our queries and enclose his information and statistics below.
Court “Compassion”, No. 104 of the Ancient Order of Foresters (AOF)
Established 1834 at the Black Bull, Cowling
From the outset it functioned as a Court-out-of District, thus bearing the full liabilities of the Sick and Funeral fund.
Named founders : James Nelson, James Thompson, John Emmott.
Landlord at Black Bull in 1834 – Christopher Snowden
The Court originated as a Court of the Royal Foresters. In this it had the same name, but with the number 163. It had probably been founded in 1831 (see note below).
Year Meeting place Secretary Treasurer Members
1840 Black Bull Inn, Ickornshaw nk nk 68
1845 Black Bull, Freegate, Ickornshaw nk nk 81
1846 Masons Arms, Middleton, Cowling nk nk 79
1847 ditto nk nk 84
1848 ditto nk nk 90
1849 ditto nk nk 112
1850 ditto nk nk 115
1851 ditto nk nk 116
1852 ditto nk nk 129
1853 ditto nk nk nk
1854 ditto nk nk 139
1855 ditto nk nk 139
1856 ditto nk nk 136
1857 ditto nk nk 156
1858 Black Bull Inn, Cowling nk mk 170
1859 ditto nk nk 171
1860 Black Bull Inn, Icornshaw, Cowling nk nk 174
1861 ditto nk nk 201
1862 ditto nk nk 207
1863 ditto nk nk 208
1864 ditto nk nk 208
1865 ditto nk nk 204
1866 ditto James Dawson nk 204
1867 ditto James Dawson nk 221
1868 ditto ditto nk 224
1869 ditto ditto nk 227
1870 Foresters Hall, Cowling ditto nk 238
1871 Foresters’ Hall, Roadside, Cowling J Dawson nk 240
1872 ditto ditto nk 241
1873 ditto ditto nk 243
1874 ditto ditto nk 246
1875 ditto ditto nk 245
1876 ditto ditto C Snowden 240
1877 ditto ditto ditto 232
1878 ditto ditto ditto 230
1879 ditto ditto ditto 224
1880 ditto ditto ditto 221
1881 Foresters’ Hall, Cowling ditto ditto 214
1882 ditto ditto ditto 215
1883 Foresters’ Hall, New Rd.Side, Cowling ditto ditto 209
1884 ditto ditto ditto 205
1885 ditto ditto ditto 205
1886 ditto ditto ditto 204
1887 ditto ditto S Shuttleworth 204
1888 ditto ditto ditto 202
1889 ditto ditto ditto 198
1890 ditto ditto ditto 189
1891 ditto ditto ditto 183
1892 ditto ditto ditto 181
1893 ditto ditto ditto 176
1894 ditto S ShuttlewortthS Hartley 170
1895 ditto ditto ditto 166
1896 ditto ditto ditto tba
1897 ditto ditto ditto 158
1898 ditto ditto ditto 151
1899 ditto seceded from the Order
At the date of secession it had 151 members, and £1,962 in funds
Court “Compassion”, No. 163 of the Royal Order of Foresters was established in Cowling in 1831. The date of 13th August 1831, shown on the inscribed tablet on the external wall of the building, is consistent with the little information that we have of formation dates for this period. [ Note – I cannot now find the image of the stone tablet, which I viewed some years back, on the current cowlingweb site]
Following the decision taken by Royal Order delegates to the Great Convention of Foresters , held at Rochdale on 4, 5, 6 August 1834, to re-form as the Ancient Order of Foresters, members of Court “Compassion” decided to join the new organisation. As a consequence on 6th October 1834, a new Dispensation (document authorising the Court’s existence) was issued to James Nelson, James Thompson, and John Emmott, meeting at the Black Bull, landlord Christopher Snowden, with the Court now being No. 104 of the AOF. (AOF, Court Dispensation Book)
Details of the known meeting places, Secretaries, and Treasurers, are shown on the accompanying schedule. (AOF, Foresters’ Directory, various)
The Court registered under the 1850, etc., Friendly Society Acts, and the date of 22nd February 1851 refers to this. The number 161A was, presumably, that given by the Registrar. In 1875 a new Friendly Society Act became Law, and Courts were required to register as branches of the Order, to enable them to be eligible to benefit from the provisions of the new Act. Court “Compassion” did not register until 1888, however when it did, it was assigned the registered no. C211. (AOF, Foresters’ Directory, 1889)
As to the reference to the Compassion Benefit Society, my view is that this is the name taken after the members seceded from the AOF in 1899, however this is just a best guess based on facts currently known.
One interesting point emerges from this. Philip Snowden, the local man who became Chancellor of the Exchequer, is reported in the biographies I have read as being a son of a temperance advocate, John Snowden, and himself a member of a temperance society. This is interesting to note in the context of the initial involvement with the AOF locally of the landlord of the Black Bull, Christopher Snowden in 1834, and the subsequent identified connection of C Snowden (the same as Christopher?) as Treasurer.
I wonder if the construction of the Foresters Hall was an attempt to provide a meeting place for members away from public houses, and thereby induce membership faced with competition from a temperance society that may also have offered friendly society benefits? Funding for the construction of the Hall should have been from voluntary subscriptions made by members and other well wishers. It would have been illegal to use any of the benefit funds maintained by the Court for such a purpose.
Sanctuary “Compassion”, No. 104 of the Ancient Order of Shepherds
Associated with the Ancient Order of Foresters was the Ancient Order of Shepherds. This was described as the second degree of Forestry. Effectively it was a means by which existing Foresters could, by paying additional contributions, receive additional benefits. To belong to a Shepherds Sanctuary (branch) it was necessary to be a Forester, up to the late 1880’s. The existence of a Sanctuary associated with a Court can be interpreted as an indication of the relative wealth of members, since clearly they would need to have sufficient earnings to pay for the two lots of contributions.
Sanctuary “Compassion”, No. 104, was established in 1839. Early details remain to be ascertained, however it clearly maintained a presence, being shown in the Shepherds Sanctuary Directory for 1879 as having 39 members. The Scribe (Secretary) was then J. Smith and meetings were held at the Foresters Hall. During the 1880’s moves were made to separate the Ancient Shepherds from the Ancient Order of Foresters, and it became an Order in its own right prior to 1890. The entry for Sanctuary “Compassion” shows that it had 36 members in 1886 with J Smith still Scribe.
It should be noted that the Ancient Order of Shepherds connected with the Ancient Order of Foresters was entirely distinct from the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds (Ashton Unity) established in 1826, and its splinter organisation, the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds (Wisbech Unity). These were both entirely separate friendly society Orders.
6th July 2010