The Foresters Hall

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.

Roger Logan

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

Roger Logan