The Foresters Hall, the large building in the area known as Cock Hall on Colne Road, was one of several similar ones in Craven. The Ancient Order of Foresters was one of lots of Friendly Societies, operating before a national welfare system. It offered financial assistance in times of sickness and also funeral grants. Each branch of the society was known as a court.
Members would attend the large hall at the top of the building and pay their weekly few pence to ensure sick pay when needed. They would also see a list of members who were sick and receiving pay that week.
The hall was also used for entertainment. The poster below is for one such entertainment in 1877, with comic songs, singing and amusing readings.
The lower floors of the building were always used for residential purposes, but we have no record of the types of people who would be allowed to rent these.
The organisation still exists today as the Foresters Friendly Society.
Below are the contents of a letter to Moonrakers in 2010, from Roger Logan of the Foresters Heritage Trust explaining more detail about the Cowling Court.
Following this we include information (schedule) sent by Roger Logan about the origins of the Cowling Court and where they met previous to the hall being built. In this information is the only written evidence we have of The Mason’s Arms in Middleton actually existing.
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.
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. continued
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.
6 th July 2010
Below is an old picture of the west end of the Foresters Hall showing one of the houses and the hall above.
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 on letter.
Year Meeting place Secretary Treasurer Members
1840 Black Bull Inn, Ickornshaw not known 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