Rules and amendments we have:-

First, the rule set, handwritten, as presented to the magistrate at Preston on 16 December 1794.

Second, there is a set of amendments dated 17 July 1822.

Third, the amendment to the rules dated 20 January 1877

Fourth, printed rules dated 1901, purporting to be rules from 1794 and/or 1877. These rules post-date those from 1877.

Fifth, printed rules from 1904. These rules are so fundamentally different from all the previous rules and amendments that they need to be treated separately.

We do not have the amendment to rules that took place between 1794 and 1822. Almost certainly the changes made were quite minor. Neither do we have the amendment shown in the Register of Friendly Societies at the National Archives (ref FS2/4) which lists an amendment or new set of rules dated 29 June 1857.

The following summary of each rule start with those from 1794 and note any changes made to that rule up to and including 1901

Information compiled by C.J. Topping. 

The Introduction – This is titled in the 1901 printed rule book as the “Address”. The text refers to the usefulness of such societies in alleviating want in times of distress and uses imagery from the New Testament to illustrate the benevolent and charitable intentions of friendly societies started on similar lines to the Downham society.

Rule 1 Deals with the appointment of two stewards to oversee observation of the rules of the society.  This rule had been fundamentally amended prior to 1877, most likely in 1857. The amended wording giving the aims of the society – to provide sick and death benefits. The original wording from 1794 formed the last sentence of the revised rule. In 1877 there were minor changes but without the change that probably occurred in 1857, it is impossible to put these into context.

2 A box to be provided with three locks and three keys – one for each steward and one for the person looking after the box. (Note: this was usually the landlord of the place where the society met)

If a key was lost it had to be replaced by the looser in addition any cost arising (This could be from having to open the box without the lost key and could involve replacing the lock as well as possibly a new hasp & staple). This rule remained unaltered to and including 1901

Person who looked after the box had to provide a bond to cover the amount in the box. This document to be kept separately from the box. Again this rule remained unaltered to & including 1901.

A Clerk to be appointed to keep the membership records and assist the Stewards as well as ensuring the accounts balanced and all cash was put in box. Again – unaltered to & including 1901

5 A Register to be kept recording names, ages, trades and places of abode – that new members gave this information to the stewards on their entrance. Also, that if a member removed himself from Downham he had to inform the stewards or be fined 6d. Again these rules remained up to & including 1901

6 Stewards had to serve 3 months and were appointed in turn as their name appeared in the membership book. The dates on which they took office (1st March; 1st June; 1st September; 1st December) were noted. The fine for refusing to take office was 2s6d. This rule was slightly amended in 1877, by removing the dates the stewards were to take office. The fine remained the same.

This rule instructed the serving Stewards to give the books, cash etc. to the new Stewards. If there had been any fraud or embezzlement, the old Stewards were fined 5s0d or excluded the society, as a majority of the members decided. This rule remained unaltered up to & including 1901

Meetings to be held once per calendar month: between 7pm to 9pm from Michaelmas to Lady Day and between 7pm and 10pm from Lady Day to Michaelmas.

Each member to pay 6d subscriptions for the relief of sick members.

1822 – Subscriptions increased to 8d and had to be paid within the first hour of the meeting. Fine for non-compliance – 2d.

1877 – Subscriptions increased to 10d per month. The time of the meeting was to be between 7pm and 9pm throughout the year.

 Each member to spend 2d on meeting nights (no more or less). Absent members had to pay the 2d for each night they were absent but this money was kept separate from the capital stock was to be spent at the annual meeting which was on the day after Christmas day, unless this day was a Sunday, in which case it would be the day after.

1822 - The annual meeting was changed to Whit Monday

10 Members were allowed to get 3 months in arrears with their subscriptions but fined 6d for each month not paid all subscriptions and fines. If it got to 4 months the member was excluded from the society.

11 Stewards to attend every meeting (unless prevented by sickness or other ‘reasonable cause’ as decided by the members) or fined 2s6d.  If absent had to send their key to the meeting or fined 1s0d. The box was only to be opened in the presence of the membership. The society was to be continued as long as 3 members wanted it. This rules remained unaltered up to & including 1901

12        New members were only admitted is they had no bodily infirmity, led a sober life and had a sound constitution. Not allowed to be a member of another society. Each new member to pay 2s6d entrance money, 3d to the Clerk and 4d for a copy of the rules. They had to be a member for 12 months before becoming eligible (free) to receive any benefits. After the initial formation of the society, any man who wished to become a member had to give his name on a meeting night and the society had to vote on their admission on the following meeting. The prospective member had to leave the club room during voting. Any member disclosing who voted for or against his admission was fined 5s0d or excluded.

If any member died before he was free to receive benefits, his entrance money and all monthly contributions (except spending money) were to be repaid to the next of kin.

Any member reaching 70 years of age had [3s?] per week, but if sick lame or blind to have 4s or 6s as per rule 16

1822 - Pension age to be 65, pension was reduced to 2s per week but only if he had not made ANY claim on the box during his membership. The pensions paid were to be paid out of interest on the stock, but if that was insufficient, those who qualified were to have the interest divided equally amongst them. If a pensioner was sick, lame or blind he was to get an extra 4s or 6s as per rule 16

1877 – Most of this rule was rescinded and dealt only with the method of entry into the society. All reference to pensions was removed.

13 Admittance to society to be between 16 and 28 years of age, and if age was disputed, to bring a certificate of his age signed by the Minister and Churchwarden of the place where he was born. This rule remained unaltered up to & including 1901

14 No person to be admitted unless of a sound constitution & free from lameness, sickness and disorder, except that the prospective member made such known to the society. Also no persons following dangerous occupations such as Delvers, Miners, Painters, Gilders & such like or any soldier, seaman or sea faring person or Militia man. If any member started to follow any of these occupations or enlisted in HM land or sea service but not if balloted as a Militia man, to be given a week’s notice of being excluded

Any person satisfying the above criteria could be proposed for membership by any member at a meeting and at the following meeting the proposer having left the room, the member would be admitted unless a majority rejected his proposal.

1822 – Now just a list a unsuitable occupations – ‘Delvers replaced’ by ‘Stone getters’

            Additional wording that no-one admitted who as a member of another society.

15 Any member having VD or any self-inflicted injury by virtue of their lifestyle or who led an irregular life that so hindered his recovery from illness was excluded and not re-admitted unless a majority of members agreed.

Remained unaltered up to & including 1901

16 Sickness Benefit         4s per week

                                                6s per week if confined to bed or room

Only allowed to sign name or similar. Not allowed to do work of any description.

If box less that £20 – 6s reduced to 5s

                                    4s reduced to 3s

                                    2s reduced to 1s

Until funds increased again. There was no limit on the number of weeks these benefits were payable for.

1822 – Benefits as before – 4s & 6s. Trigger for reduction in benefits (to 3s & 5s) now £400 & only reinstated to full benefits if funds increased to £415.

1877 – Sick benefit – (confined to bed           9s per week for first 26 weeks

                                                                         7s per week for next 26 weeks

                                                                         3s per week thereafter

                                    (not confined to bed)    7s per week for first 26 weeks

                                                                          3s per week thereafter

If sum in box below £700 reduced benefits applied –           9s to 8s

                                                                                                7s to 6s

                                                                                                3s – 2s6d

If less than £500                                                                     8s – 7s

                                                                                                6s – 5s

                                                                                                Others – same

1901 – Sick benefit now 10s0d per week for 52 weeks if funds above £1,000

            If funds between £700 & £1,000 –    10s pw for first 26 weeks

                                                                        8s pw for next 26 weeks

                                                                        3s pw thereafter

            If funds between £500 & £700 -        8s pw for first 26 weeks

                                                                        6s pw for next 26 weeks

            Funds under £500                               7s pw for first 26 weeks

                                                                        5s pw for second 26 weeks

17 Blind benefit – unable to decipher benefit

1901 - 4s0d for life

18        If becomes lame 6s0d for life as long as disorder continues. Can work, but this may alter the benefit paid. Rule authorises Stewards to appoint Apothecary or Surgeon – at society’s expense to ascertain if injury is real or pretended if thought necessary. They had to report back to the meeting if this was used. There was also an arrangement for assessing distant members.

1822 – This rule was annulled.

19        The arrangements for Distant Members (those living outside Downham). If they were ill, they had to send a certificate signed by the Minister and churchwarden of where they were living to confirm their incapacity. The stewards were under orders to pay such claimants within 24 hours of receiving the certificate.

1877 – Certificate had to be signed by a surgeon not Minister & Churchwarden

(Rule 18 in 1901)

 

20        Distant Members had to send a letter and certificate every month until able to work, when they were to inform the society immediately. If the distant member imposed on the society by falsely claiming sickness he was to be excluded.

1877 – Certificate had to be signed by a surgeon not Minister & Churchwarden

(Rule 19 in 1901)

21        Stewards to visit any sick claimant in Downham once per week. Fine for neglect of this duty – 2s6d

1877 – Stewards had to visit all sick within 2 miles of Downham. Fine remained the same.

(Rule 20 in 1901)

 

22        Death Benefit - £3.00 (free member only). Benefit for death of 1st wife only - £1

1822 -  Death Benefit increased to £4.00 If in receipt of sick benefit at time of death and four or more days into the weekly sick pay, their NoK would get that week's sick benefit in addition.

Death Benefit for 1st wife – now £2

1877 – Death Benefit now £8.00 and £4.00 for death of 1st wife.

(Rule 21 in 1901)

 

23        Stewards & Clerk to attend the funeral of any deceased member, plus any member who chose to attend. After the burial, all attendees from the Society to go to the club room and spend 1s0d. They were also allowed to open the box and pay the £3 as per the last rule.

1822 – Sum to be paid now £4. Also, no longer to have 1s0d to spend after the burial.

1877 – Sum to be paid now states £8

(Rule 22 in 1901)

 

24 If member commits suicide, (as found at inquest), no Death Benefit paid

            Also, any member committing any felony to be excluded.

1822. There is some confusion here as the death benefit was increased to £4 in 1822, but this rule states that the sum of £3 guineas not be paid in the event of suicide. This may indicate that there was an increase in the Death Benefit for members from £3.00 to £3.3s between 1794 and 1822.

(Rule 23 in 1901)

 

25 If stock reduced to £5 or less by extraordinary circumstances, at the next meeting, all remaining members to contribute 1s0d each or be excluded.

1822 – Another indication of an amendment between 1794 and 1822. The amendment in 1822 increases the sum by which the members had to pay 1s0d to £400 and states this replaces £20 as in previous rule. The 1794 rules, as above state the trigger was £5.

1877 - This rule was rescinded.

27        Anyone proposing to divide the funds or dissolve the society to pay 5s0d or be excluded. This included any combination with such a proposer.

(Rule 25 in 1901)

28 Fine for being intoxicated in any meeting or making a disturbance – 2d for each offence

1877 – Now rule 26 - fine of 2d still the same but now included bad language and unruly behaviour with fine increased to 6d for these offences.

29 Any member bringing in a stranger to the meeting fined 2d and the stranger had to spend 2d!

(Rule 27 in 1901)

30 Only the Stewards allowed to call for more than each member’s 2d spending money per night.

(Rule 28 in 1901)

 

31 Each member to pay the Clerk 3d at the December meeting. All monies due to be paid at this meeting and the accounts settled. 1s0d fine for Clerk if not done.

1822 – The date for paying the Clerk & settling accounts changed to last meeting before Whit Monday

1877 – The date changed to the first Saturday in May.

(Rule 29 in 1901)

 

32   Annual Meeting – day after Christmas Day unless it was a Sunday then the day after, unless three quarters of the members decided against it. Members to pay 1s0d each for dinner if demanded. Members to attend between 11am and 12 noon.

1822 – Changed to Whit Monday. Members now had to pay their proportion of expenses of the dinner. Time to attend now 10am-11am until the meeting finished. 1s0d fine for non-attendance.

(Rule 30 in 1901)

33 Any member seen intoxicated when receiving benefit – loses benefit for that week

(Rule 31 in 1901)

34 No member to claim ignorance of the rules. Each member to pay 4d for copy of rules on entry. Clerk to read out rules (if required) at admission of each member

(Rule 32 in 1901)

35  Any dispute not covered by the rules a committee to be formed who would decide the matter, any member not agreeing to abide by their decision fined 2s5d or excluded. Any member appointed to committee but refusing to serve fined 2s6d.

(Rule 33 in 1901)

Rule 35 in 1901 stated the offences for which a member could be expelled, and the procedures to be gone through for expulsion.

 

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