Past History of the Trust

2016 - Museum relocation

The Museum relocated to Tunstall in Stoke on Trent

October 2015 - FHT AGM 2015

The annual meeting of trustees was held in August 2015 at Foresters House, Southampton. Two new trustees were welcomed to their first meeting. Michael Grealy, a Past High Chief Ranger of Foresters Friendly Society joined the Board earlier in the year. Linda Levett is the new High Chief Ranger of FFS, and serves for one year in an ex-officio capacity. Trustees welcome her and wish her well in her own chosen charity she will support during her year in office with FFS, Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The stepping down of George Yalden, who had been one of the six initial trustees appointed in 2005, and David Watkins, the retiring FFS High Chief Ranger, were noted, both being accorded a vote of thanks for their past services. Continuing trustees are Jim Launchbury, Chairman, Roger Logan, Honorary Secretary and Malcolm Prechner. Humphrey Clarke, whilst no longer a trustee, continues to act as Honorary Treasurer.

Trustees dealt with a range of business including confirmation of the Trust’s Annual Report for 2014, matters relating to the progress of the proposed move to Tunstall, and Reports from the Honorary Secretary and Treasurer. The accompanying photo shows trustees at the meeting.


June 2015 - Temporary closure of Museum & Archive

Trustees have to announce that the Museum & Archive at Southampton is currently temporarily closed to large visiting groups, although small groups and individual visitors are still welcome. This is to enable preparations to be made for the proposed move of all the services provided by The Foresters Heritage Trust to premises at Tunstall in the English Midlands.

It is intended to continue the Research Enquiry e-mail, postal and phone arrangements for as long as possible, however it will at some point be necessary to suspend these whilst equipment is being relocated.

The existing website is unaffected by the move and trustees hope that it will continue to offer a useful source of information until such time as a full visitor and enquiry service can be reinstated.

Trustees extend their thanks to all who have supported and shown interest in the work of the Trust to date and look forward to being able to continue with this as soon as possible.


June 2015 - Invitation to serve as charity trustee

The Foresters Heritage Trust is an independent, Charity Commission registered organisation, constituted by virtue of a Trust deed, dated 19th April 2005. It is governed by a small Board of Trustees. Vacancies having arisen on the Board, the present trustees wish to appoint up to 4 (four) new trustees. Requests for further details/application forms should be submitted by e-mail to or in writing to the Trust’s postal address,

Currently appointed trustees are Jim Launchbury, (Chairman), Roger Logan, (Honorary Secretary), Michael Grealy, Malcolm Prechner and George Yalden. The ex-officio trustee nominated by Foresters Friendly Society is David Watkins, FFS High Chief Ranger for 2014/15. David brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience of Foresters. His chosen charity as HCR of FFS is Sense : for deafblind people, and we wish him well in his endeavours on behalf of Sense. Whilst stepping down as trustee, Humphrey Clarke continues to act as Honorary Treasurer. Trustees also record their thanks to Janet Clements for the contribution made to the Trust’s work during her time as a trustee.


June 2015 - Post Office Insurance Society

Towards the end of 2014, the Post Office Insurance Society, (POIS), became part of Foresters Friendly Society. POIS was established in 1878, as a workplace based society, with ‘the first object?being to provide financial support for the widow on the death of a member. Members contributions were collected by local secretaries, a natural consequence of day to day contact with members. What was described as a landmark came in 1932 with the introduction of free deductions from official pay. The need for this was partly the consequence of POIS membership being opened up to all branches of the Civil service from 1929.

The society registered as a friendly society under the Friendly Societies Act in 1911. Seven years later Tables of contributions and benefits constructed on an actuarial basis were constructed. In later years ten and fifteen year endowment policies were a major success for the society, in the mid 1970’s it being the leader in the field in this type of insurance business. In 1978 POIS members celebrated their centenary, see accompanying photo of the centenary luncheon, Blackpool.

The Trust has been given both documentary material and artefacts associated with POIS for its Museum & Archive, thus broadening the coverage of its important collection.


January 2014 - Getting our message across

Trustees have a duty to be prudent in exercising their responsibilities for meeting the aim of the Trust, which is to promote interest in the history of the friendly society movement, in particular the Ancient Order of Foresters. Mindful of the need to budget for the intended relocation of the Museum & Archive, expenditure in recent years has been kept to a level considered necessary to enable objectives to be met.

During the past year, in order to expand its 'outreach' capacity, the Trust has used some of the income from donations by Courts and individuals to invest in equipment useful for promoting awareness of its work. A desk top mobile display unit, consisting of three panels, appropriately with green backing, was purchased for use at events across the country. It was displayed to good effect at the 2013 FFS Secretaries Conference, High Chief Ranger's charity dinner and the FFS High Court Meeting.

A photo-frame was also acquired, enabling a continuous display of selected images of items from the Trust's collection, and other sources, to be presented. Assembled by trustee George Yalden, the presentation currently shows over 170 colourful items, including regalia, people, memorabilia, etc. This has been made available at social and other events during 2013. Both items provide additional resources in the Trust's Museum when not being used elsewhere.


January 2014 - Relocation of Museum & Archive

Negotiations continue on the proposed relocation of the Trust's Museum, Archive and administrative offices to Tunstall, near Stoke. Trustees are currently considering details of proposed arrangements provided by Foresters Friendly Society and will be responding shortly.

Regrettably, we have recently lost the services of trustee John Goldsmith, whose professional background enabled him to make a valuable contribution to the re-location discussions. Trustees appreciate the reasons for John stepping down and wish him every success for the future.

Intending visitors to the Museum & archive while it is still in Southampton are advised that it will be the intention of trustees to close the facility during 2014 to enable museum artefacts and archive material to be boxed up prior to the move. Trustees therefore recommend that dates for proposed visits should be made with the Honorary secretary as soon as possible.


August 2013 - Trustees for 2013/14

In the accompanying picture, the seven Foresters Heritage Trust trustees for the coming year are shown at their July meeting. This year Janet Clements, who is a FHT trustee in her own right, is also the Foresters Friendly Society nominated ex-officio trustee as High Chief Ranger of the Society. She has chosen for her charity to support during the year the children's charity Barnardo's and trustees wish her well in efforts to raise funds for this deserving cause.

With the overwhelming support given to their efforts by Court (branch) delegates at the FFS High Court meeting (annual conference) in June 2013, trustees are now actively considering how best to plan for the future of the Trust. Their July meeting was almost entirely devoted to discussion of the matter, with a number of clear intentions emerging.


August 2013 - Caring for our Collection

Many items in the Trust's collection need conservation or improved means of ensuring their survival. Two such items were recently sent for professional framing to achieve just this. One was an item appropriate to the current increasing interest in the commemoration of World War One.

A nicely decorated, hand-made Roll of Honour from Court "Providence", No. 5134 at Ventnor, Isle of Wight was found in the collection suffering badly from having lost its original frame. Bearing the names of twelve local members who lost their lives, it is representative of the many Rolls of Honour and War Memorials produced throughout the British Isles after the Great War. The unveiling ceremony at the Friendly Societies Hall in Ventnor was reported in a contemporary Foresters' Miscellany and a copy of this accompanies the Roll.

The second item framed was a poster for the Fetes and Flower show held at Corbett Hospital, Stourbridge, Worcestershire, on August Bank Holiday Monday and Tuesday, 1903. This fund raising event was organised by the Friendly and Trade Societies of the district. The poster, a fascinating document illustrating an important element in working peoples' lives, was deteriorating, with fraying edges and discolouration. Now framed, this colourful poster, bearing the names of some astonishingly described artistes, is happily in a condition which should ensure its survival, enabling it to be appreciated by all those seeing it


2012 review - 2013 preview

As 2012 disappears perhaps to be best remembered by images of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, we can look back on the successful completion of 7 years of The Foresters Heritage Trust and 5 years of the existence of its Museum, Archive, website and Research Enquiry Service.

Whilst the number of visitors to see the colourful collection of artefacts has not been large, those who have come to see us, including parties from Foresters Courts (see illustration) have enjoyed their visits. We were delighted to welcome the Foresters Friendly Society's new Chairman, Mike Wilkinson, to the Museum & Archive at the end of October 2012 for an introductory visit.

Around 180 research enquiries were dealt with during the year covering Foresters Court history, family history, local history, identification of items such as sashes, certificates, horns, etc., and interpretation of strange initials on medals, documents and sashes/collars. Enquiries came in from around the world.

Continuing the policy of adding items of significance for the Museum collection, two major items were purchased for the Museum this year, thanks to Foresters Courts who generously continued with their annual donation in these financially constrained times and the kind support of individuals who made donations. The Recent Additions page contains details of some of the acquired items. Smaller items were also accepted by kind donation. (see illustration) Our thanks go also to all who thoughtfully deposited documents for our ever growing Archive in 2012.

The website continues to be the means by which the Trust's collections are made widely accessible to both Foresters and the wider public, with over 13,800 visits to date.

Trustees were pleased to welcome Liz Abbott as ex-officio trustee during 2012, being this year's Foresters Friendly Society High Chief Ranger. We wish her well during her term of office and in raising funds for her chosen charity, Macmillan Cancer Support.

Our hope for 2013 is that the interest of incoming managers of Foresters Friendly Society will be aroused by the wealth of history in the care of trustees and the challenges of the future will be met in a positive way. Trustees intend themselves to take this approach, and every effort will be made to present examples of the Trust's work to Foresters' conferences and meetings, and where the opportunity arises, to other audiences.


Gordon Hillier

Trustee of The Foresters Heritage Trust from its inception in June 2005 until 2008, and its first Chairman, from 2005 to December 2007, Gordon Hillier died at the end of December 2012. During his connection with the Trust, he brought inspiration and enthusiasm to the history and heritage of an area of life once common-place in working peoples' lives, now, sadly, virtually lost to public consciousness. It would indeed be a tragedy if his unselfish, unstinting, efforts were to come to nought.

Gordon came from a Forestric family. His father was an officer of Court "Winchester Castle" at Winchester in Hampshire, and it was into this Court that Gordon and his brother Donald were enrolled. Both were chosen to serve the South Western District of the Order as District Chief Ranger, Gordon subsequently attaining the Order's highest elected office, High Chief Ranger, in 1996/97.

It was my good fortune to first meet him when the six initial trustees of The Foresters Heritage Trust assembled to take on the task of fulfilling those objectives approved by the Charity Commission upon the formation of the Trust. As Honorary Director, I worked closely with Gordon and fellow trustees to design and create a permanent Museum, to organise an Archive, and to construct a website, all of which had to be accessible, and comprehensible, to the public.

Gordon was a skilled administrator, and led by example. Draft meeting Minutes came back from him 'topped and tailed' ready for circulation; he drew up Standing Orders for the conduct of business; devised an acceptable format for the Annual Report and formatted a register of items deposited with the Trust. Nothing was too menial for him to tackle, for example dismantling and re-erecting storage racking with tools brought in from home, or cleaning and polishing fastidiously the multitude of trophies and cups, and he was ever ready to respond positively to my sometimes unusual requests for help.

Of these, the one clearest (and fondest) in my memory is the pair of us walking over Southampton Railway road bridge and up Shirley Road to Foresters Head Office carrying, a-la the Eric Sykes silent film The Plank, several 20 foot long, 6 inch diameter, heavy duty cardboard rolls procured (at no cost) from Carpetright for use in conserving and storing a number of the massive Court marching banners in the Trust's care. Never was my admiration for Gordon as a committed enthusiast to preserving Foresters heritage ever greater.

The accompanying photo shows Gordon at the opening of the Museum & Archive in 2007.


June 2012 - Forester lost with RMS Titantic

Recent widespread commemoration of the tragic loss of RMS Titanic in April 1912 has increased awareness of the fate affecting working people, not only as 3rd class passengers but also as members of the crew. At Radlett in Hertfordshire, members of AOF Court "Nell", No. 6443 felt this loss directly, as recorded in their Minute Book, now held in the Trust's Museum & Archive at Southampton. At their meeting of June 1912, the following was entered

Unanimously agreed that the secretary send a letter of condolence on behalf of the Court to Bro. J Gunn upon the loss of his son in the wreck of the White Star Line steamship 'Titantic' in mid Atlantic.

Bro Gunn junior was an assistant steward on the liner, aged 28. A memorial to the crew, stewards, sailors and fireman was erected in 1915, and is now located within the ruins of Holy Rood church, Southampton. By coincidence this is almost opposite the site of the first Foresters Head Office building in Southampton, at 136 High Street, which opened in 1968, following relocation from London.


June 2012 - Foresters medals

Previous items have featured early Foresters medals, including the oldest currently identified from 1839. Recently a visitor to the Trust's Museum & Archive at Southampton brought in an inscribed medal, dated 1852.

As the inscription on the reverse indicated, it had been awarded to a Bro. Boileau, of Court "Pride of Walthamstow", No. 2404, as 'a mark of respect' on 5th May 1852. Research in the Court Dispensation Book held in the Trust's Archive, showed that the Court had been founded in 1851, and that Bro Boileau had been one of the named founders. As a consequence it was quite probable that the medal had been presented to Bro Boileau for his services connected with the establishment of the Court or possibly as the first, or second, Chief Ranger. Sadly he did not have much time to bask in any glory, his death being recorded in the London United District Mortality List for April 1853.

The medal is of a design differing from other examples of the period. Instead of a central insert showing the Emblem of the Order, ie two Foresters with heraldic shield, this medal has an insert showing a beehive. By sheer chance it was just recently that the Trust received an enquiry from Adelaide, Australia, with a query about a similarly designed medal.


June 2012 - Review of the Year

The past 12 months has continued to show the need for the Trust to maintain its role of promoting friendly society history. Some of our principal activities were :-

  • Responding to research and general enquiries from around the world sent in by e-mail, letter or by phone. Over 200 enquiries were dealt with in 2011, many requiring hours, if not days of research to provide a satisfactory answer,

  • Receiving, cataloguing, and in the case of documents, shelving a wide range of material deposited with the Trust for its collections. Some of the physical objects are described elsewhere in this update. As old Court, District and associated organisations documentation comes to light this too is added to our Archive shelves, and we are grateful to all those who have taken the time and effort to arrange for us to have material which might otherwise have been lost to posterity. Thanks too, to our volunteers for their continuing participation.

  • Explaining to visitors to the Museum the wealth of history that lies behind the visible objects displayed. Without exception the response to seeing the colourful and often unusual material has been positive.

  • Updating the website periodically, to provide an important link to those around the world seeking details of the friendly society story. This has now received nearly 13,000 'hits'.


June 2012 - George Tutill at 175

In 2012, the firm of George Tutill Ltd is celebrating 175 years in business. To friendly society historians, the firm is known as a leading supplier of regalia of all types, including collars, sashes, jewels, badges etc. Primarily it is recognised as the most prominent manufacturer of large marching banners. These were supplied to the many working people's organisations to be found across the country, such as trade unions, co-operatives, church based organisations, and of course, friendly societies. Many of those featured on our Banners web-page came from the company's premises in 83 City Road and date from the late Victorian period. The accompanying picture shows a fascinating Instruction card recently found in one of the large wooden boxes in which the banners were transported.

George Tutill Ltd. is today based in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, where the firm relocated to, the City Road premises having been severely damaged in the blitz experienced by Londoners during 1941. Part of the Flagmakers Group, it still produces flags and ancillary items, and later this year the website will have historical detail added to it, keeping alive the name of a highly successful 19th century Yorkshireman whose legacy is to be found throughout the world.


November 2011 - Trustees 2011/12         

Joining the Board of Trustees in June 2011 was Richard Darlington, the current High Chief Ranger of Foresters Friendly Society. As the ex-officio appointment, Richard will serve on the Board for one year, and the Trust is fortunate in having with them for this period a man with extensive knowledge of the Foresters and practical involvement in charity administration. A Past District Ranger of the former London United District of the Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society, his is well versed in the history of the AOF.

For his chosen charity while serving as HCR, Richard has chosen Guide Dogs for the Blind. This well established charity has helped many over the years and despite current economic conditions, he hopes to raise a substantial amount to enable their useful work to continue.

Trustees were pleased to welcome back George Yalden to their meetings after a spell of illness which included a serous operation. We wish him improved health in the future. The current line up of trustees is completed by Jim Launchbury, Chairman, Roger Logan , Honorary Secretary, Humphrey Clarke, Honorary Treasurer, Janet Clements, John Goldsmith and Malcolm Prechner.

Discussions in connection with the Trust's previously mentioned proposed relocation from Southampton to Tunstall continue.


November 2011 - Volunteers acknowledged         

All charities rely to some extent on the contribution of volunteers to the work being undertaken. Over the years the Trust has been fortunate in having several volunteers who have contributed in different ways to its smooth running. Recently, trustees acknowledged the committed efforts of two ladies who, for the past three years have come in regularly to the Museum & Archive at Southampton to undertake whatever was asked of them.

Elizabeth and Maureen (pictured here with trustee/Honorary Secretary Roger Logan) were presented with arrow shaped brooches as a small token of the efforts they made to assist the Trust. Their sometimes tedious, but nevertheless essential, tasks have included indexing much of the rare documentary material held by the Trust in its Archive. As a result of their efforts, the Trust now has useful structured lists of hundreds of AOF District and Court Rules, with their myriad amendments, all of which have, in addition to being catalogued and ready for input on the computer, been sorted into an accessible retrieval system. In addition, the two ladies also have listed and filed in folders, District and Court balance sheets and accounts, some going as far back as the 1880's and 90's.

Much more than can be recorded here has been achieved by Elizabeth and Maureen and Trustees are in their debt for creating a sound base for future operation of The Foresters Heritage Trust Museum & Archive.


November 2011 - Work in progress         

Much of the work of the Trust is routine and as such doesn't make for startling headlines. With the objective of the Trust being to promote education in the history of the friendly society movement, these activities lie at its core, and as the Trust moves through its seventh year of existence a brief note of what we do may be appropriate.

The largest volume of activity is in responding to research enquiries. These come in by e-mail, letter and phone. Covering family, local and sometimes wider social and economic history, they provide many challenges. Often researching an enquiry can take hours, even days, and trustees, while not charging a fee for research, are requesting satisfied users of this service to consider making a small donation towards costs. So far this year we have dealt with over 160 enquiries of all types.

We also continue to receive material generously donated to the Trust for its collections. Some material is rare, occasionally unique. Such is the case in a deposit of documentary material recently received relating to the Blossom family. As valuers and actuaries the members of this Sheffield family were prominent in friendly society matters from the late 19th century through to the 20th century. Illustrated are two interesting items now in our collection. Our thanks go the donor for these items, as do thanks to all who have made considerable efforts to arrange for items to be passed to us.


March 2011 - Inscribed Foresters medal from USA         

We are always pleased to hear from anyone having a friendly society related item seeking information although as mentioned in a previous news item, the resources for this are now limited. From Palm Springs, Florida, USA recently came an e-mail with the following image attached. Although described as an elk, it is more probably a stag, this being a prominent illustrative feature of 19th/early 20th century Foresters. The medal dates from 1886, bearing the inscription 'Presented by Ct. Knickerbocker to J.J. Luger 1886'.

From editions of the Foresters' Directory it was possible to identify Court "Knickerbocker", No. 7210 of the Ancient Order of Foresters, as originating in New York, USA in 1885. Thus the medal could well have been awarded to the first Chief Ranger (Chairman) elected to serve the Court in its inaugural year. The design is non-standard, and the view of the Trust's Honorary Secretary, Roger Logan, is that it may well have been an off the peg item, modified for Forestric use.


March 2011 - The Foresters Heritage Trust Open Meeting at Tunstall         

In connection with the intended removal of The Foresters Heritage Trust Museum & Archive from Southampton to Tunstall, trustees are organising an 'Open Meeting' at the Foresters Friendly Society building, Station Chambers, The Boulevard, Tunstall, ST15 5DU, on Wednesday 20th April 2011. The following is a statement from the Trustees giving details.

The Foresters Heritage Trust is making significant progress with pursuing the option of moving from the head office of the Foresters Friendly Society (FFS) in Southampton, to premises owned by the Society in Tunstall, Stoke on Trent.

There are a number of issues to be considered, and resolved, before an irrevocable commitment is made. To bring everyone up to date, and to avoid misunderstanding, the current position is:

  • A planning application for change of use to museum purposes has been submitted to Stoke City Council. It is hoped that a decision will be received in early April.
  • A lease is in preparation between FFS and the Trust for use of the premises, and to determine how the property will be administered.
  • An open meeting for all interested parties will be held at Station Chambers, Tunstall, on Wednesday 20th April, when the outline development proposals will be described, along with some ideas of how you can help to assist the Trust, in practical and other ways. The Trust is committed to try and secure a viable future for its collections and operations.

The future of the Trust is dependent on the strength of support it can generate. Please do join us in helping to make this venture a success. For more details, and to register your interest in attending the open meeting, please contact the Chairman, Jim Launchbury.

The two photos show the building as erected in 1910, and as altered in 1939, since when further alterations have taken place.


January 2011 - Major changes affecting Trust         

For some while the enforced relocation of the Trust from Southampton has been anticipated. The move will see the Museum & Archive closed at Southampton, with, in due course, a more limited facility being opened at Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, in Staffordshire. Developments will appear on our News Page, however, there are some immediate changes affecting service delivery. The post of Director/Secretary has been cut, so that the Research Enquiry service will be greatly reduced. The former Director/Secretary, Roger Logan, has accepted an offer from the Trustees to rejoin the Board, and, pending the move to Tunstall, he has agreed to act as Honorary Secretary to the Trust, dealing with admin matters and providing a limited enquiry response service.

Shown alongside are the trustees for 2010/11, including the Trust's new Chairman, Jim Launchbury and the ex-officio representative from Foresters Friendly Society, the High Chief Ranger, Michael Grealy (see more below).


January 2011 - FFS High Chief Ranger joins FHT Board         

With a long experience of the Foresters behind him, Michael Grealy is well placed to bring usefully informed comment and guidance to the work of the Trust. Michael comes from Yorkshire and has been involved at Court level for many years. He served as Chief Ranger of the former Leeds District of the AOF and actively engaged in fund raising work undertaken locally. As Foresters High Chief Ranger he has chosen the Royal National Lifeboat Institution as the subject of his Charity Appeal. Funds raised will go towards equipping and training lifeboat crew members, estimated as currently being around ?,200 per crew member.

In connection with the Foresters association with the RNLI, the recently enhanced Museum at Sheringham on the Norfolk coast has, as one of its major exhibits, the former RNLI lifeboat 'Foresters' Centenary'. This was in service from 1936 until 1961. With the 'Friendly Forester' lifeboat, in service 1953 to 1983, currently included amongst the maritime exhibits at Blackgang Chine near Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, the efforts of members in supporting the RNLI in the past are much in evidence, and Michael hopes for a similar positive response to his Appeal.


July 2010 - Trustees 2009/2010         

In the March News update we were delighted to welcome Jim Launchbury, as this year¡¯s ex-officio trustee nominated by Foresters Friendly Society, in his capacity of High Chief Ranger of the Society. Whilst working exceptionally hard on his chosen Appeal for the year, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Jim has attended and contributed to every FHT trustees meeting held since he was appointed.

This month we are pleased to present a picture of all 7 trustees, accompanied by the Trust¡¯s Director/Secretary.  From left to right these are John Goldsmith, Jim Launchbury, Malcolm Prechner, Carl Genese, Janet Clements, Humphrey Clarke, George Yalden, and Director/Secretary, Roger Logan. 

At the Trustees annual meeting in June 2010, Carl Genese and Humphrey Clarke were unanimously re-elected as Chairman and Honorary Treasurer respectively, whilst Roger Logan¡¯s term of appointment as Director/Secretary was extended for a further six months.


July 2010 - Trust's 5th Anniversary       

Unbelievable though it feels, June 2010 marked the anniversary of the creation of The Foresters Heritage Trust in 2005. The achievements in these five years have been noteworthy and past and present trustees can look back proudly on several major achievements, not the least of which has been to place a wide range of both general and specialised historic material relating to the friendly society movement within easy reach of academics, family and local historians, members of Foresters Friendly Society and the general public. It has done this by creating

  • an enquiry service, which has responded to around 200 e-mail, letter and phone enquiries annually from people around the world, seeking information about ancestors who were Foresters, details of the contribution of Courts to local community life, and the meaning and significance of regalia. Details of many Courts celebrating Anniversaries have also been made available to Secretaries ;
  • a Museum, opened in 2007, which has played host to a number of visitors, including several parties from Foresters Courts, who have enjoyed being shown what all agree is an unexpectedly fascinating and colourful collection;
  • an Archive, also opened in 2007, which has been used by researchers from various academic institutions, as well as by two or three individual researchers. The results of the academic studies have contributed to post graduate degree award theses or to papers delivered at national or international conferences;
  • a website, which went live in August 2007 and has had over 7,800 hits, a remarkably large number, given the nature of the subject. The favourable response can be seen on the Guest Book page.

The picture shows then Chairman Gordon Hillier welcoming Dr Nicholas Mansfield, who performed the opening ceremony in August 2007.


July 2010 - Foresters and Philately         

There are many specialised themes and topics that can be researched and presented using material relating to friendly societies. George Yalden, one of our trustees, was recently successful in a philatelic competition in which he took as the theme ¡®the Ancient Order of Foresters¡¯.  Under that heading he was able to present a display (see photo) of a number of AOF related items, including stamps, first day covers, franked envelopes and postcards. George won the award for Best overall, against some of the countries leading thematic collectors, many winners of international awards. 

In being presented with an engraved glass tankard, this great success was made all the more sweet with the judge saying that the subject was one of the most unusual topics that he had seen. Congratulations George on taking friendly society heritage into what at first seems an unlikely area.

We would, of course be pleased to hear from anyone with philatelic material having friendly society connections. Whilst a substantial collection of items has been assembled already, there will always be something that could enhance it. So if you have anything that you would like to donate to the collection do contact us at


July 2010 - Oddfellows  200th Anniversary         

Trustees send their congratulations to the Directors and members of the Oddfellows  as they celebrate 200 years of, as they put it,¡¯ making friends and helping people.¡¯  To commemorate this astonishing achievement, a new book entitled ¡°The Oddfellows ¨C 200 years of making friends and helping people¡¯ has been published. Lavishly illustrated, it has been researched and written by Daniel Weinbren, of the Open University, one of the leading active researchers into friendly and fraternal society history in the UK.

The book goes a long way into making the activities of the Oddfellows accessible. It is brought to life by the inclusion of members views and feelings about their organisation, emphasising the strong family tradition connected with the Unity. Academically the book has clearly been meticulously researched and for anyone interested in the history of friendly society Orders it is a thoroughly good read.


March 2010 - Trustee Profile - James (Jim) Launchbury         

We are delighted to welcome as this year¡¯s ex-officio trustee, James, better known as Jim, Launchbury. As serving High Chief Ranger (HCR) of Foresters Friendly Society, his role is to promote the benevolent and charitable aspects of the Societies activities.  The Foresters Heritage Trust¡¯s constitution provides for the appointment of the HCR to the Board of Trustees, enabling a valuable connection with the Society to be maintained.  Since its foundation in 2005, the Trust has been pleased to benefit from the participation of successive High Chief Rangers during their term of office from September to September.

Jim Launchbury has connections with the Society extending back to 1980. After a career in the army he took on the post of District Secretary with the South Western District. Subsequent to this, in 1988, he was appointed District Secretary of the most extensive of all Forestric Districts, London United. Following incorporation of the Society at the end of 2002, he has sustained his active involvement and is currently a Court Secretary and Area Coordinator for North London.  He thus has a well informed knowledge and understanding of the Societies development over a highly significant period of its history. 

Jim is delighted to be able to bring to the Board of The Foresters Heritage Trust this wealth of experience. Although committed to working tirelessly for his chosen charity of the year, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society, he is looking forward to playing a full part in the work of the governance of The Foresters Heritage Trust.

  New Trustee - Jim Launchbury

March 2010 - A family of Foresters - 100 Years Ago         

Featured on our home page is a picture encapsulating the longstanding tradition of family membership of the Ancient Order of Foresters.  From a century ago, it shows the Mathews family of Cambridge, resplendent in their sashes, collars and badges, as they posed for the camera in 1907. All eleven family members pictured were members of the AOF.

Head of the family was Bro. T C Mathews, Sr, then aged 55, a member since 1888, in Court ¡°Excelsior¡±, No. 5956 which met at the Friendly Societies Institute in Cambridge. All of the adult male members of the family belonged to Court ¡°Excelsior¡±.  His wife, Sis. T C M Mathews, and all the adult daughters belonged to Court ¡°Jane Stead¡±, No. 8250, an all female Court established in 1893, also meeting at the Friendly Societies Institute. The younger members of the family belonged to the highly successful Cambridge District Juvenile Society, which had over 800 members.

  A Family of Foresters 100 Years Ago

October 2009 - Trustee Profile - Humphrey Clarke         

Amongst the re-appointments made at the Annual Meeting of the Trustees in July 2009 was that of Humphrey Clarke as Honorary Treasurer of the Trust. In this brief profile the wide experience and abilities that Humphrey brings to the post may be seen.

Quite literally, Humphrey has been a Forester from birth, being enrolled by his father as a Juvenile Member into Court ¡°Pride of the Heath¡±, No. 2837, the local court at Bagshot in Surrey. His Grandfather was a Trustee of the Court. During the 1950¡¯s and 60¡¯s he attended several High Courts (Annual conferences), taking part in the Sunday morning High Court Church Parades and service. Humphrey became an adult member in 1961, and is proud of the fact that the entry recording the Court¡¯s agreement to his admission as an Adult Member is shown in one of the Court¡¯s Minute Books now lodged in The Foresters Heritage Trust Museum.

During the 1960¡¯s and 70¡¯s he was an active member of Court No. 2387 and Court ¡°Pride of the Park¡±, No. 5167, Sunninghill, Berkshire. The same period saw him as a delegate to High Court on several occasions. He served the Bucks & Middlesex District as a Committee of Management member and as District Chief Ranger. On moving to Croydon in the mid 1970¡¯s joined local Court 3896, becoming its Secretary in the late 1980¡¯s. Currently he is an active member and Trustee of Court ¡°Wellington¡±, No. 3449 based at Epsom, regularly attending Area Meetings and social functions.

Humphrey, who is now retired, spent his working life in National Westminster Bank in its branches, local area office and international division where he spent several years in its financial planning unit.

He is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Bankers.

  Humphrey Clarke - Trustee Profile

October 2009 - The Foresters Heritage Trust Now Registered For Gift Aid

As a charity the Foresters Heritage Trust has been able to register with HM Revenue & Customs to be eligible for Gift Aid payments.

These payments are a refund to a charity of the UK Income tax which an individual will already have paid on donations which they make. Whenever an individual  makes a donation to the Trust, the Trust Director will ask the donor to complete a simple form if they pay UK Income Tax.  The Trust can then claim Gift Aid on the donation, thereby increasing its value to the Trust by 28% at the moment. There is no extra cost to the individual.

This is a very simple and useful additional income source for the Trust which will help individuals further support the Trust¡¯s work.

  The Foresters Heritage Trust Is Now Registered For Gift Aid

October 2009 - Foresters Friendly Society 175th Anniversary High Court 2009

Trustees were delighted to be asked to participate in this very special event which was held in Manchester in September. Using material drawn from the Museum & Archive collections, they were able to present a representative sample of items relating to past High Court Meetings.

The accompanying illustration shows trustees George Yalden and Malcolm Prechner, with Director Roger Logan, on their stint of duty. Three other trustees were also in attendance, Carl Genese, Janet Clements, Humphrey Clarke, spreading the load. They were able to explain something of the history connected with the items displayed. These included commemorative items from the 100th, 125th and 150th anniversary years of the Society in 1934, 1959 and 1984, respectively.

Other memorabilia included a book of newspaper cuttings recording the 1934 chain of Church Services held throughout the UK on the same day at the same time; High Court venue books, with their illuminating advertisements of local manufacturers and retailers in documents going back to 1894. Also featured was a display of old photographs, Who do you think these are?, with delegates being asked to help with identification. Our thanks to those who participated in this.

  175th Anniversary of The Foresters Friendly Society

May 2009 - Appointment of Director         

At the beginning of February 2009, the Trust took a further step in its development with the appointment of a part-time, paid Director and Secretary. Roger Logan was appointed on a twelve month contract, having previously stepped down from being a Trustee, a position he had held since the formation of the Trust in June 2005. His associations with Foresters¡¯ heritage extend back as far back as 1991, when, with Audrey Fisk, he was appointed Joint Co-ordinator of the then informal heritage trust. Following the creation of the Charity Commission registered Trust he took on the role of Honorary secretary and subsequently Honorary Director.

Roger anticipates 2009 as being a busy one for the Trust, as its horizons expand. He is delighted to be working with officers of the Foresters Friendly society as they devise and implement projects associated with the Society¡¯s 175th anniversary year. With the number of enquiries from website visitors increasing, the research enquiry service can be expected to make substantial demands on his time. Nevertheless, Roger would welcome seeing visitors at the Museum & Archive at Southampton, and invites anyone wishing to pay a visit to contact him at


May 2009 - Who do you think you are?

Trustees of The Foresters Heritage Trust were delighted to be asked to contribute to a feature on Friendly Societies in the BBC¡¯s family history magazine which accompanies the television series of the above name. From our collection, a few illustrative items were selected and sent to the freelance writer compiling the feature. In the event just one was used, an extract relating to health declarations, made by intending members of the Order. Written text was also provided, including a case study of a prominent member from Southampton, A J Dyer. This appeared in full in the feature.

Running to six pages in length the feature provides extensive information on the various types of friendly and benefit society. Published in the April 2009 edition, the generous amount of space donated to the subject provides what is probably the widest popular exposure of the subject of friendly societies to date. Already the Trust has received a number of enquiries citing the feature as the source of our address.


May 2009 - Foresters Timeline

One of the projects being undertaken in connection with the Foresters Friendly Society¡¯s 175th anniversary year is the production of an illustrated timeline in the form of a handy leaflet. This will be issued to delegates at the Society¡¯s High Court Meeting (Annual General Meeting) in September 2009 at Manchester.   The brainchild of Jill Chipchase, Company Secretary,  developed in conjunction with the Trust¡¯s Director, Roger Logan, the timeline presents significant and interesting events and personalities from the founding of the Society in 1834.   

Court ¡°Welshman¡¯s Friend¡±, No. 841 was the first AOF Court to be established in Wales in 1839, just five years after the creation of the Order. The accompanying illustration of the Foresters Hall at Bagillt in Flintshire was very kindly made available for inclusion in the timeline by the Bagillt History Club.  This is gratefully acknowledged by the compilers of the timeline. The building shown was constructed during the 1880¡¯s and subsequent to its use as a Foresters meeting place had a wide range of uses. It still stands today.


January 2009 - Foresters Court WW1 Remembrance Board

A chance conversation has led to the rediscovery of a significant item of local and Foresters¡¯ history on the Isle of Wight.  At a display of local transportation history presented by  Cowes  Heritage in historic Northwood House, FHT Hon Director Roger Logan mentioned to  David Jones of Cowes Heritage the intriguing story of a ¡®lost¡¯ or at least, unseen for many years, World War One Foresters Cowes Court ¡®Foresters Isle¡¯  Remembrance Board.  Within days David had located the Board, and provided photos, one of which is, with David¡¯s kind permission, reproduced here.

The Foresters¡¯ Cowes Court (branch) No. 1822 was in the 1890¡¯s and early 1900¡¯s, numerically the largest in the UK, with over 2000 benefit members.  In a purpose built meeting hall (1865) in Sun Hill, West Cowes (the present street facade of which has recently been repainted and presents a striking addition to the streetscape) members held their monthly meetings under the guidance of the Court Secretary, John Jolliffe, who held the post from 1865 until his death in 1918.  In addition to the male Court, a female members Court ¡®Emma Ward¡¯, No. 8422, met here, as did a strong juvenile Court which acted as a feeder to the adult courts. 

Not surprisingly, the call to arms in 1914 and subsequent conscription resulted in many Cowes Foresters serving their King and Country in the Great War, some making the ultimate sacrifice. The Board contains the names of 40 members killed. Amongst their surnames are those of long standing Island families.

The future location and, hopefully, display of the board remain to be determined. In the meantime, however trustees are glad to be able to report positively on this poignant survival from the past.  We would be delighted to learn of similar discoveries made throughout the UK and indeed beyond.  Just e-mail the Trust at   Cowes Heritage may be contacted at or


January 2009 - AOFFSLtd 175th year anniversary

Trustees of The Foresters Heritage Trust are delighted to send their congratulations to members of Foresters Friendly Society on the occasion of the organisation¡¯s 175 anniversary.  In that connection, the Trust was invited to contribute to a number of Society projects.  Illustrated is the 2009 Foresters Friendly Society calendar. Each month features a pictorial display of mainly calendars, or as they used to be called , Almanacks, from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. The picture is accompanied by a short piece of text entitled ¡®This month in Foresters history¡¯, material for which was complied from the Trust¡¯s Archive.

There can be few organisations with such a wealth of preserved ¡®material culture¡¯ as the terminology of the museum world describes it, and Trustees are delighted to be able to make it accessible to visitors to the Museum & Archive in Southampton, England and to a world-wide ¡®audience¡¯ via the net.  The accompanying news item is an example of how spreading the word about friendly societies has led to an exciting discovery in the USA.

  front and back of the calendar

January 2009 - American AOF Dispensation from 1873.

We were delighted to receive an e-mail from the owner of what is currently believed to be the oldest surviving document relating to the Ancient Order of Foresters in the USA. It is one of the most fascinating to come to our attention so far, and as yet the full story behind it has to be researched. Briefly, however, illustrated is a revealing extract from a Court Dispensation, that is authority to exist, issued by the  38th Executive Council of the Order, based at York 1871/72. The eight EC members names are shown, beginning with Francis Rawling, High Chief Ranger for that AOF year. It is for Court ¡°Friendship¡±, No. 5734 of the AOF, for a Court to be opened at the Hall, Main Street, Thomaston, Plymouth in the County of Litchfield, State of Connecticut. The named founders were Frederick Fields, William Wagstaff and Richard M Veale. All very straightforward so far.

The first intriguing issue is the date shown, 8th March 1873.  Records show a Dispensation being sent out to the USA in a batch issued by the 39th EC, based in Cardiff 1872/3, in October 1872. Presumably these had already been drafted up for issue by the York EC, hence the Yorkshiremen¡¯s names appearing on them.  What it does mean that the Dispensations were sent out blank to the New York and Brooklyn District for their officers to complete before issue to a new Court.

This was all taking place at the same time that the NY&B District was airing grievances over a number of issues and asking for the establishment of a colonial High Court on the American continent. What makes this a unique document, in the light of current knowledge, is the existence on the Dispensation of three American Foresters¡¯ officers names, as shown. Ernest A Levy, P J Heybyrne and Phillip Benjamin  were respectively, the Chief Ranger, Sub Chief Ranger and Treasurer of the NY&B District.  By adding their name to the Dispensation were they pre-empting the decision (not in fact made until August 1874) to grant American Foresters the privilege of a Subsidiary High Court?


January 2009 - Trustee profile ¨C Patrick (Pat) Swadling

In the Trust¡¯s Constitution, one trustee post differs from the rest in the way that it is filled.  It was the wish of the then Executive Council of Foresters Friendly Society that the annually elected High Chief Ranger (HCR) of the Society serve as an ex-officio member on the Board of Trustees of The Foresters Heritage Trust.  From the Trust¡¯s point of view this provides a valuable connection with the Society and since its foundation in 2005, trustees have been pleased to welcome successive High Chief Rangers during their term of office from September to September.

The current ex-officio trustee is Patrick (Pat) Swadling. With a personal history of Forestric involvement going back to 1959, Pat has a wealth of knowledge and understanding of how the Society evolved during the latter part of the 20th century.  Having held all the offices at Court (branch) level he brings a well informed perspective to the Trust¡¯s work. This is complemented by experience at the now defunct District level, where he was a District Chief Ranger of the extensive South Western District, and at the time of Districts¡¯ dissolution he was a District Trustee. Prior to taking on the post of HCR Pat had been actively involved with the work of the Heritage Trust as a volunteer.

Outside of the Foresters, Pat¡¯s other interests include local history, and he has several books to his credit in this connection. With his great interest in the history of the Society, in particular the regalia, Pat is proud to be High Chief Ranger in the Society¡¯s 175th Anniversary year, and delighted to be a member of the Board of The Foresters Heritage Trust.


October 2008 - Foresters' Headstones

We were delighted  earlier this year to welcome a small group of visitors to the Museum & Archive from the Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery (FOSOC), website Their particular interest stemmed from work that their volunteers had been doing in the Cemetery clearing access to some of the graves. Amongst the latter were a number with references to both Foresters¡¯ and Oddfellows¡¯. With three Foresters national Executive Councils having been located in Southampton during the 19th century we were able to provide quite a lot of basic information for them about individuals.

Recently FOSOC arranged a guided walk through the Cemetery to show some of the many fine headstones recording the exceptional efforts of past friendly society members from Southampton. The Trust¡¯s Hon Director, Roger Logan was delighted to be invited to go along, and in company with others, saw many fascinating items. A bonus was that, on leaving, a hitherto un-noticed headstone, bearing the initials AOF and with the all-seeing eye were spotted. Illustrated is that headstone with a FOSOC member deciphering the name and inscription.

The Trust is looking forward to further collaboration with FOSOC in identifying, and illuminating the lives of, the many Foresters laid to rest in Southampton Old Cemetery.


October 2008 - Board of Trustees

The October meeting of the FHT trustees considered applications from three prospective new trustees. Each was found to have excellent credentials and their appointments were endorsed. All eight current trustees are shown in the photo on our home page. The Board now consists of Carl Genese (Chairman), Humphrey Clarke (Hon. Treasurer), Janet Clements, John Goldsmith, Roger Logan (Hon Director and Secretary), Malcolm Prechner, Pat Swadling (ex-officio), George Yalden. We intend to provide profiles of each trustee in future updates.


August 2008 ¨C Changes to website

Regular visitors to the site may have noticed that we now have a facility to enable comments about our site to be submitted for inclusion in our Guestbook.  If you would like to record your comments about our website and our work for others to see, please use this new facility.


August 2008 - Changes in the Board of Trustees     

Fellow trustees recently bade farewell to two of the five initial trustees who took office when the FHT was registered in June 2005. At the end of June 2008 Gordon Hillier, stood down as Trustee, having relinquished the post of Chairman in November 2007. Under his guidance the Trust had moved from being an idea to a reality. Shortly after, Audrey Fisk notified her intention to resign with immediate effect due to ill-health. Her involvement with Forestric heritage extended back to 1991, when, with fellow current trustee Roger Logan, she was appointed Joint Co-ordinator of the then informal heritage trust established by the AOF. Both Gordon and Audrey will be sorely missed.

To augment the Board of Trustees, it was with great pleasure that the appointment of John Goldsmith, a former County Museum Officer for Cambridge, was confirmed by trustees. When the next trustees meeting takes place in October the opportunity to arrange for a photo of current trustees to be taken and inserted subsequently on our home page.


May 2008 - The Foresters Heritage Trust - an update

It scarcely seems possible that the Trust is approaching the first anniversary of the formal opening of its Museum & Archive in August 2007. The positive reaction received suggests that we are well on the way to successfully meeting our charitable objective of promoting education in the history of the friendly society movement in all three of our service areas.

The Research Enquiry service offered has provided many enquirers with information drawn from our Archive about family or local community association with the Ancient Order of Foresters, and occasionally, other friendly societies.  We have been able to help with identification of regalia, records of individual involvement and the establishment, growth, and sometimes decline, of local Courts.

The Museum¡¯s doors have been open to visitors since October 2007. Since then the Visitors book records individuals and groups who have been in to see us. Many favourable comments have been received on the displays, however we are keen to continue with development in this area. We were delighted, therefore, to be offered two purpose made display cases by the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in London. (see image)  Recently installed these have greatly improved the professional presentation of our material. Our thanks go to the Museum Director, Diane Clements and Curator, Mark Dennis, for their generous support in this area.

The success of the website, has perhaps, been the most rewarding achievement so far. As can be seen from our home page, in the ten months since it was created, there have been over 2000 hits. This clearly indicates that we are reaching out to a far wider audience than could ever be attained by our Museum and Archive, access to which is naturally limited to local people or those making a specific longer journey to get to Southampton. The world-wide audience that we have reached is confirmed by e-mail enquiries received from Australia, New Zealand, USA, etc.

One of the most astonishing successes has been the forging of links with descendants of Thomas Corrigan, featured in the Museum-Ephemera-Fugitive Pieces feature, and other researchers. From differing perspectives all are looking into the eventful life of a man condemned to death in London, reprieved at, quite literally, the last moment and subsequently transported to Australia where in due time he was able to make a new life for himself. We are grateful for permission to publish these photos of Thomas Corrigan and his youngest daughter, Elizabeth Alice (lady seated) with her children.

The success of the website as a means of enabling us to ¡®meet¡¯ with those who have an  interest in friendly societies and their members, has prompted further development of the site. A new subject heading  ¡®Recent additions¡¯ is being inserted on the ¡®Museum¡¯ page. This will offer scope for presenting images and text relating to newly acquired or identified items.

The contents of the Archive are becoming better known to us as a result of the engagement of a part-time project assistant to label, list and create a searchable computerised database.  We are finding some fascinating and rare documents, shedding new light on friendly society history at all levels. An example is the Financial Return for Court "Unity", No. 3665. In due course we intend to offer an on-line searchable facility, but practical constraints mean that this is a longer term project

Do contact us if you have any comments to make on this or any aspect of our work. The e-mail address is on the ¡®Contact us¡¯ page.




9th August 2007 - Formal Opening of the Foresters Heritage Trust Museum & Archive

Trustees were delighted to welcome over 30 invited guests to the formal opening of the Museum & Archive on Thursday 9th August 2007. The proceedings began with a few welcoming remarks by Michael Baker, Chairman of the Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society Ltd., in whose premises the Trust¡¯s facility is located.  Gordon Hillier, Chairman of The Foresters Heritage Trust, then outlined some of the history leading to the establishment of the Museum & Archive, acknowledging the efforts and support of those involved in the undertaking. After describing the significance of the Trust¡¯s collections in the context of social, family and community history he introduced Dr Nick Mansfield, Director of the People¡¯s History Museum, Manchester, who had kindly agreed to perform the opening ceremony.

Expressing his thanks for being invited to participate, Dr Mansfield recalled his own long standing interest in the subject of friendly society research, extending back to when he worked in Gressenhall Museum, Norfolk. More recently, at the People¡¯s History Museum, the opportunity had arisen to establish a significant collection of over 400 banners, many of which originated with friendly societies. There was in addition a display devoted to friendly societies, and he invited those present to visit the Manchester Museum before October 2007, when it is due to close for some two years to enable a major rebuilding programme, supported substantially by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Dr. Mansfield then formally opened the FHT Museum and Archive by ceremonially untying the bow of green ribbon and opening the doors to the facility. By kind permission of the AOFFS Ltd, guests adjourned to the Society¡¯s Board Room, where light refreshments were available. Old friends and those new to the subject were able to inspect a small display of items and view the Trust¡¯s newly established website on a large screen display.

Representatives of many spheres of activity were present and included Alan Whitehead, MP.  Initial response from those touring the Museum & Archive was very positive. This suggests that the potential for Trustees to achieve the declared charitable aim of seeking ¡®to promote education in the history and background of the friendly society movement, in particular the Ancient Order of Foresters¡¯, is attainable. Trustees look forward to building on the achievements to date, and, with continuing support and guidance, establish a first rate facility of significant public benefit. 

The Museum & Archive will be open to visitors from 1st October 2007. Visiting arrangements will be as shown on the Trust¡¯s website.



© The Foresters Heritage Trust. Registered Charity No. 1109859. Address: Station Chambers, The Boulevard, Tunstall, Stoke on Trent ST6 6DU