Bradwell: Ancient and Modern

A History of the Parish and of Incidents in the Hope Valley.

By Seth Evans (1912)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013

Chapter XXXI.


Some Curious Records.

When a complete history of the Friendly Society movement in this country comes to be written - not the history of one particular Order, but covering the whole ground right back to the days and doings of the ancient Guilds - it will form a highly interesting contribution to the literature of the country. And not the least interesting portion of it will be that relating to the many small, self-contained, and independent societies established for mutual help in the towns and villages during the eighteenth century, before the establishment of the big incorporated Orders, such as the Oddfellows, Foresters, Druids, Shepherds, etc. Certain it is that the men - and women too - of Bradwell, then an isolated but

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populous place in the Peak, consisting mainly of lead miners and weavers, and tradesmen dependent on those workers, were among the first to set up those organisations, which served their day and generation exceedingly well. In the latter part of the 18th century there was an “Old Men's Club” and an “Old Women's Club”. Unfortunately, the interesting records and chronicles of the oldest of these societies are not to hand, but it is a fact that one called “The Old Club Friendly Society” was established in Bradwell very early in the eighteenth century. This is clear, because there appears to have been some defection of members in 1789, when the disaffected brethren formed a society of their own, which they designated “The New Club Friendly Society”. But the weakest went to the wall, and that happened to be the “New Club”, which after a struggling existence for thirty-four years decided to dissolve itself and again unite with the parent body. Hence it was that “The United Society” was established on the 3rd of July, 1813, “in consequence of the New Club Friendly Society in Bradwell (which commenced the seventh day of March, 1789) having agreed to dissolve the same, and unite with the Old Club Friendly Society, for the better benefiting and assisting each member in the time of sickness and infirmity, and for the further aid and improvement of the stock”.


To members of present-day Friendly Societies, at any rate, the “articles to be observed by the charitable and brotherly members of the United Society in Bradwell”will be both interesting, instructive, and amusing, as showing how their forefathers conducted their business. The governing body consisted of a master, two stewards, and twelve assistants. The first master was Joseph Hallam; the first stewards were Robert Middleton and Obadiah Stafford; and the assistants were Robert Middleton (Dale End), Isaac Palfreyman, junr., Philip Barber, junr., Benjamin Morton, Robert Bradwell, Isaac Palfreyman, senr., Benjamin Somerset, Thomas Morton, Isaac Furniss, William Bradwell, Charles Middleton, and William Jeffery. The “articles” had to be “perused and approved” by two magistrates - Samuel Frith, the famous “Squire Frith of Bank Hall”. the popular sporting squire, and Marmaduke Middleton Middleton, of Leam Hall; and after these two dignitaries were satisfied with them they were “exhibited to and confirmed by the Court” at the Michaelmas Quarter Sessions, 1813, and signed by A.L. Maynard, clerk of the peace.

The society, curiously enough, had two classes of members, and each class was dealt with differently both as regards payments and benefits; the entrance fee varied from 1s. 8d. to 3s., according to age, which varied from 15 to 30 years; the subscription was a shilling a month for the first class and 6d. a month for the second class, the rate of sick pay being proportionate to the subscription. And the funeral benefit, too, was on a sliding scale; for instance, a member of the first class dying after having been in the society two years, his representatives received £2, for four years £4, and for seven years £5, the benefit of the second-class member being exactly half those sums.

That they were kept up to the scratch in their payments is evident, for a first-class member had to forfeit twopence, and a second-class member a penny, if he neglected to pay; the amount was doubled for a second neglect, and for neglecting to pay a third time the member was publicly exposed by notice being given in the clubroom, and excluded from the society - a rough-and-ready way of doing things. Evidently there was no such thing as suspension in those days; rigorous expulsion was the penalty for those who neglected to pay

This old society existed before the days of banks in this district. It is not said whether the officer who held the cash was accompanied by a bulldog, armed with a revolver, and guarded home by the constable, but certain it is that he was provided with a box - a big, strong chest with three locks and three keys to it, one for the Master and one each for the stewards. In this box the “cash, deeds, bonds, notes, books”, etc., were kept.

The Master continued in office one year only, when the head steward was promoted to the position, “provided he behave himself as he ought to do”. By this we are led to infer that they were not exactly perfect a century ago. Who were to be the judges as to whether he “behaved himself as he ought to do” we are not told. This “Master” was an important individual, something approaching a little god in the place - at any rate in the society. For instance, he had two votes on every question that came before the meetings, while the stewards and assistants had only “single votes”. And the whole of the business was conducted by these fifteen important personages, who “shall sit together in one room on all occasions, neither shall any interrupt them nor enter therein, but upon business of their own. If any offend herein, shall forfeit sixpence, or be excluded”. Rather a wide difference between “forfeiting” sixpence and being expelled.


This society of “charitable and brotherly members” flourished in the days long before the temperance movement took hold. Those were the times when most folk brewed their own peck o'malt, when brewers' drays were unknown, when every publican was his own brewer, and when it was thought the proper thing to give

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“ale” to children at Sunday School festivals. The officers of this society loved their pint pot, or its contents, because while a “forfeit” of sixpence had to be made by any one of them who dared to be absent from any business meeting, “everyone who attends shall have a pint of ale allowed him, to be paid for out of the box”.


That there were occasional “scenes” at the meetings is not to be wondered at, and some of the language used was not too choice. When drink was in [and] wit was out, and the calling of “nicknames” was quite the order of the day. In the days of the old society there had been many a lively time in the club-room, so that when the amalgamation came these “charitable and brotherly” folk agreed to put the bridle on themselves by declaring:-

“That there shall be strictly observed the following orders in the club-room during club hours, viz.: First, if any member of this society shall come in disordered with liquor, so as to be a disturber, and incapable of discharging his office or duty as a member, shall curse, swear, talk profanely, or call anyone present by any other name than to which he answers, he shall forfeit twopence, but if he continue to offend he shall forfeit sixpence or be excluded. Secondly, after the Master or stewards shall demand silence, if anyone speak, until liberty be given him by the Master, he shall forfeit twopence, and no more than one to speak at once on matters of business. Thirdly, if any member plays or promotes playing at any game or games, he shall forfeit twopence or be excluded. Fourthly, every member shall keep his seat during club hours, except he change to oblige his brother; in default thereof he shall forfeit twopence”.


Here is another curious “article”. showing that football was among the “ unlawful exercises” in those days: “If any member of this society has received pay from the stock, and sufficient proof be given that he has caught the venereal, or has been working at any trade or calling, drinking to excess, wrestling, fighting, football playing, or any unlawful exercise whatever, he shall be excluded”.


The members had a right good jollification every Whit Tuesday, when they held their annual feast, when beer and the Bible appeared to be the order of the day. Under pain of exclusion all the forfeits and arrears had to be paid off on the club night before the feast, and for neglect to do this there was a further forfeit of a shilling, to be paid on the feast day. And at the same time honorary members paid what they pleased, all the money being thrown into the feast, which was held at the public-house after the members had attended service at the Wesleyan Chapel. Sometimes, however, John Barleycorn had got hold of some of the members before they went to chapel, and in order to preserve some sort of decorum a rule was made to the effect that “every member that resides within two miles shall attend where it (the feast) is held; the master, stewards, and assistants at ten o'clock, or forfeit threepence each, and the members at eleven in the forenoon, or forfeit twopence; they shall attend in good order to hear divine service, and every person who quits his ranks, either going or coming, shall forfeit threepence. If any member shall fight, challenge to fight, strike, threaten to strike, or in any wise disturb the harmony of the society, he shall forfeit two shillings and sixpence or be excluded”. But apparently a good many kicked over the traces when the taps were turned on later in the day and the fine was no longer operative. Likewise if the master, or some member appointed by him, does not wear the club hat girdle at the funeral of a member, and upon the Sunday preceding every club night, he shall forfeit sixpence.

And a member of this society could not even be buried without ale, for when a member died whose residence was within two miles from the place of meeting, “the master, stewards, and assistants shall attend at the house of the deceased, and thence attend their brother's corpse to the grave, for which they shall receive five shillings for ale”. The custom survives to-day, for in the Bradwell Friendly Societies there are what is known as “The Twelve” - a dozen members who are appointed every year to attend the funeral of a brother, but, of course, the “ale” is missing.

After all, the members of this old-time Friendly Society were very jealous of each other's honour and integrity. If a member was proved to have “upbraided” another without cause, for having received money out of the box, he had to forfeit half-a-crown or be excluded, and anyone convicted of felony was expelled from the society “for ever”. As will be seen in a former chapter, these were the days when every man between 18 and 45 years old was liable to be called upon to serve in the Militia, and in Bradwell a certain number were ballotted every year. Even this was provided for in the articles of this society, for:-

“If any member shall voluntarily enter into His Majesty's regular forces, and continue therein three months, he shall be excluded from this society. But if a member be impressed into His Majesty's service, or be obliged to serve in the Militia, and be maimed and incapable of work, he shall receive such allowance as the club shall think fit, but if he be entitled to any pay or pension from the Government, then he shall receive nothing from our stock”.

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By way of closing the notice of this society of bygone days, it may be stated that, by rule, “every member shall use his endeavour, both by example and admonition, to suppress and discourage vice and profaneness in general, to promote the faith and practice of our true religion in particular, with good neighbours, to cultivate the peace and happiness of this society to the glory of God and the honour of our country”.

With the advent of the Oddfellows, and the establishment of other benefit societies, this club gradually dwindled in membership and funds, but it struggled on until about 1880, when the few remaining members, all aged men divided the funds and dissolved the society.


The first defection from the ranks of this United Society was in the year 1821. Apparently they were neither so “united” nor so “charitable and brotherly” as their name seemed to imply, for there were ructions in their ranks. In those days young children and old people earned just a trifle at “winding bobbins” for the weavers, and when old John Wragg's pay was stopped because he earned eighteenpence a week at this job there was a big rumpus.

The section who sympathised with old John formed a club of their own, and were joined by many young men, who constituted themselves “The Independent Union Sick Society”. Those who met and constituted themselves a new society were Thomas Jeffery, Thomas Fox, George Fox, George Elliott, Thos. Andrew, John Bradwell, junr., John Pearson, John Hallam, John Middleton (smith), George Bradwell, and Thomas Middleton (meadow). And although nearly a century has passed since then, the descendants of these men remain as members to-day. Here are the members of the new club who joined the first day, December 8th, 1821:-

Mark Ashton.
Ellis Ashton.
Thomas Ashton.
John Ashmore.
George Ashmore.
Benjamin Barber.
John Barber.
Wm. Bradwell, senr.
Edward Bennett.
Robt. Bocking (Hills).
William Burrows.
William Cooper.
John Cooper.
John Cheetham.
William Cheetham.
Richard Cheetham.
Emanuel Downing, senr.
Richard Kay.
Emanuel Downing, junr.
Geo. Maltby, junr.
George Downing.
Abraham Dakin.
Johnson Evans.
Edward Evans.
William Evans.
James Evans.
Robt. Elliott, senr.
Robt. Elliott, junr.
William Elliott.
John Elliott.
Isaac Furness.
Robert Furness.
William Fox.
Jeremiah Gilbert.
Thos. Hallam (Hills).
Richard Hallam.
John Hallam (New-Nook).
Adam Hallam.
Robt. Hallam, junr.
Edward Hallam.
Samuel Hallam.
Jacob Hallam. junr.
William Howe.
Thomas Howe.
Robert Howe.
Samuel Howe.
Robert Hilton.
Henry Hill.
Adam Hill.
John Hall, senr.
John Hall, junr.
Micah Hall.
Wm. Hibbs, junr.
Robt. Jackson.
Thos. Jeffrey, junr.
Geo. Maltby. senr.
Thomas Middleton (Smith).
Thos. Middleton, jun.
John Middleton (Asters).
George Middleton (Hatter).
George Middleton (Hill Top).
Robert Middleton (Meadow).
Robt. Morton, junr.
Robt. Pearson.
Isaac Pearson.
Joseph Revell.
Thomas Revell.
William Revell.
Richard Walker.
Jacob Worsley.

Thus the United Society was shaken, and the present Independent Union Sick Society formed. Jeremiah Gilbert was the pioneer of Primitive Methodism, and his membership of this club fixes the date of his first appearance to mission for the new sect.

The rules of this new club would doubtless be curious composition, but the earliest copy we have is dated 1849, when they were registered by Act of Parliament, and signed by Joseph Hall, George Bradwell, Frederick Morton, and Robert Howe.

There is nothing mentioned about prosecuting members who might embezzle money belonging to the society, but if he refused to make the same good the club night after his fraud was found out he was to be excluded from the society.


The reference to “nutting” in the following rule is interesting: “If any member of this society, having received pay from the stock, and proof be given that he had, at the time, caught the venereal, or had been working at any trade or calling, drinking to excess, fighting, football playing, nutting, making bargains, etc., or any other unlawful exercise whatever, he shall be excluded”.

Provision was also made for cases where members enlisted in the army or were balloted in the Militia. If he was balloted into the Militia, and happened to be called out, he received no pay during the time of his “servitude”, but on his return he was re-admitted, but if a member either enlisted into the army or into the Militia as a substitute he was expelled.

In those days imprisonment for debt was common, but in such a case the unfortunate member was excused payment of his contribution, nor did he receive any benefit whilst in prison, but when he was liberated he was received into membership.

A rule of interest to present-day societies was, doubtless, made after a good deal of trouble. A sick or infirm member who was so reduced in circumstances that he could not subsist on the society's allowance was permitted to apply for parish relief, but if he entered the poorhouse his benefit ceased, and if he died there funeral expenses were not allowed, but if he was removed from the poorhouse and paid off all arrears due he was again received into the society.

Conviction of murder, felony, perjury, or larceny was attended with exclusion from

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the society, and if he was convicted of any other offence on account of which he was subject to imprisonment or corporal punishment, he had to pay ten shillings or be excluded.


Of course, the members had to have their feast day, when there was a good deal of festivity, in which ale played a prominent part. This “general feast day”, “to commemorate our brotherly love and affection towards each other”, was held on the 16th of May every year. The members “walked in rank” to hear divine service, and any member refusing to walk, or going out of the rank, was fined. The declaration, “every member shall pay one shilling per ale if he partake thereof”, seems to imply that teetotalism was just taking root. That some of those who did “partake” did so freely may be gathered from the fact that for fighting or challenging another to fight on the feast day a fine of five shillings, or expulsion, was inflicted. The expenses of the feast had to be paid by those who partook of it, as the funds were not allowed to be drawn upon for that purpose.

Beer and the Bible again seem to be mixed up, for “every member shall endeavour, as well by admonition as example, to discourage and suppress all vice and profaneness, to promote the faith and practice of our true and holy religion, together with good neighbourhood in general, and to cultivate the peace and happiness of this society in particular, to the glory of God and the honour of our village, that it may be said unto us at the last day ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was sick and ye visited me’”.

The society appointed arbitrators to settle all disputes that might arise among the members. These arbitrators were men who were not interested in the funds. They were seven in number, but only three acted in each case of dispute, and they were appointed in a somewhat extraordinary way. The first arbitrators appointed were Robert Hill, Robert Hallam, George Fox, Robert Hill, senr., John Hallam, Samuel Bocking, and Jabez Birley Somerset. When a case of dispute arose the names of the arbitrators were written on separate pieces of paper, and placed in a box or glass, and the three whose names were drawn out by the complaining party decided the matter in difference.

This old society was in the meridian of its days in 1881, when it had 168 members and a capital of £1,760. Since then it has gradually declined in numbers, for there has not been a member initiated for the last thirty years, the roll now containing 39 names, with some £900 in the funds.


The “Welcome Traveller” of the Peak

Lodge of the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows was established on July 20th, 1829. In the box there remains to-day an interesting relic of the past in the shape of a couple of swords that were held over the heads of the newly initiated, when the ceremony took place in a darkened room, but the skull and cross-bones have long ago disappeared. Here is a complete list of those who have held the office of Noble Grand since the formation of the lodge:-

Thomas Bocking.
William Burrows.
George Downing.
Thomas Broadbent.
Benjamin Hallam.
William Taylor.
Charles Howe.
Thomas Barber.
William Cheetham.
Edwin Bradwell.
Robert Hallam.
Joseph Hy. Taylor.
Samuel Howe.
Ernest Morton.
Charles Bradwell.
John Kay.
Benjamin Walker.
Robert Burrows.
Isaac Bancroft.
Christopher Broadbent.
John Bancroft.
George Ashmore.
George Middleton.
George Bancroft.
Philip Middleton.
John Hall.
Joshua Walker.
Zachariah Walker.
George Walker.
Philip Bradwell.
John Fox.
Jas. Allan Cramond.
Abram Morton.
John Wragg.
Arthur John Baker.
Thos. Hy. Middleton.
Jabez Bradwell.
John E. Jennings.
Arthur Burrows.
Samuel Hibbs.
Walter Howe.
Benjamin Hallam.
Isaac Andrew.
Willoughby Bradwell.
John Dakin.
Albert Elliott.
Anthony Middleton.
Isaac Palfreyman.
Albert H. Walker.
James Middleton.
Ernest Hilton.
Ralph Middleton.
Charles A. Bancroft.

The lodge is No. 373 in the Unity. For many years the meetings were held at Ellis Needham's, the White Hart; then at the Bull's Head, afterwards at the Primitive Methodist School, and now at the Board School. There are 132 members, and £2,185 in the funds.

Within recent years a Rechabites' Tent and a Druids' Lodge have been established.

Editor's Note
[1] “Nutting” to me means “gathering nuts”, but this is obviously not what is intended here! I found the following ‘slang’ definition in the The Free Dictionary to be more appropriate:
  1. The cost of launching a business venture.
  2. The operating expenses of a theater, theatrical production, or similar enterprise.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in February 2013.

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