Ancient Order of Foresters
In the museum we have heritage items relating to the Ancient Order of Foresters.

The Ancient Order of Foresters is a Friendly Society which was formed in 1834. The society is now known as Foresters Friendly Society, and provides its members with insurance policies against sickness and death. There are also policies for children, under the 'teddy trust fund'. In addition to this, it is also the provider of group insurance to several Police forces in the United Kingdom, the Police Service of Northern Ireland being one of the largest. The society has approximately 120,000 members.

In 1874 the American and Canadian Foresters seceded from the Ancient Order of Foresters (A.O.F.) and set up the Independent Order of Foresters (I.O.F.). Their UK head-office is in Bromley, Greater London.

The society became incorporated on the 1st January 2003, in accordance with the provisions of The Friendly Societies Act 1992, and since this date they have taken over two smaller Friendly Societies, the first being the Tunstall Assurance Society, the second being Leek Friendly Society.

The society had a few Courts, which used to be pure ritual-based Courts that performed the Ancient Ritual of the Society. The most famous was Court LUD No. 10,100, which was formed in 1947, by members of the London District Management Committee. However, owing to lack of members, this Court was closed in 2004.

The Society has available to see:-

The Ancient Order of Foresters' origins lie in a much older society called the Royal Foresters formed in the 18th century. Meeting in Leeds, this seems at first to have been a purely sociable society until the members decided that they had a duty to assist their fellow men who fell into need "as they walked through the forests of life". This 'need' arose principally when a breadwinner fell ill, could not work and, therefore, received no wages. Illness and death left families financially distressed and often destitute. Relief of this need has been the main purpose of the Foresters throughout their long history. It was achieved by members paying, initially, a few pence a week into a common fund from which sick pay and funeral grants could be drawn.

The key moments in the Society's history:-

1834 In August 1834 in Rochdale, over 300 branches of the Royal Foresters society (established in the 18th century) transfer their allegiance to the new Ancient Order of Foresters. George Mandley becomes the first High Chief Ranger. 1835 First High Court (AGM) at Salford Town Hall, with 285 branches represented. 1839 - 1840 The first Welsh, Irish and Scottish branches are founded ('Welshman's Friend' No 841, 'Pride of the North' No 1070 and 'Banks of Clyde' No 1109). 1842 David Redfearn is elected as the Order's first Permanent Secretary. Less than 3 months later, he had 'done a runner' to New York with some of the Society's money and an Executive Council member's wife. 1843 Samuel Shawcross is elected the second Permanent Secretary. He becomes the longest-serving person in this role, being at the heart of Foresters and general friendly society developments for the next 46 years. 1850 Foresters attains legal status under the new Friendly Societies Act. 1864 Members set up the first voluntary Lifeboat Fund. By June it raises £225, and by December the first lifeboat paid for by the fund - aptly named 'Forester' - commences its duties. 1884 The Society celebrates its Jubilee year at the AGM in Manchester. 1893 The first female branch, Court 'Martha Blakeney' No 8108, opens in Sheffield. Martha Blakeney was the wife of Archdeacon J E Blakeney, A Canon of York. 1898 The first mixed male and female branch is approved, with 292 delegates voting for the proposition and 213 voting against it. 1912 After the National Insurance Act of 1911, Foresters becomes an 'Approved Society', allowing it to get involved in the state system of National Insurance. It can now accept individuals contributing to the state scheme as members which virtually doubles the total membership of the Society. 1918 The Foresters' War Memorial Benevolent Fund is established to provide financial assistance to members and their families who have been severely affected by the losses of the First World War. 1934 Centenary celebrations include a thanksgiving service, held simultaneously at over 500 locations on 3rd June 1934. Some 1,135 delegates attend the AGM at the Albert Hall in Nottingham, including visitors from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Holland and the United States. 1959 The 125th anniversary of the Society is celebrated at the Aberdeen AGM. 1971 E M J 'Jenny' Rivett is appointed the first female High Chief Ranger. Jenny attended her fist AGM in 1928. 1984 Over 600 members attend the 150th anniversary celebrations at the AGM in Scarborough. This is preceded by a World Conference of Foresters, at which numerous members are present, with over 2,000 Foresters filling York Minster. The voluntary Educational Awards scheme, which continues to this day, is approved and adopted by delegates. 1988 Payments by the Foresters' War Memorial Benevolent reach £1 million. 1994 A 'pilgrimage' of more than 1,000 Foresters visit the grave of Little John, who some argue was one of the first Royal Foresters, at Hathersage in Derbyshire. 2000 The Society starts to become regulated by the Financial Services Authority. 2003 Foresters acquires Tunstall Assurance Friendly Society, followed by the Leek Assurance Collecting Society in 2005 2009 Foresters celebrates its 175th anniversary at the AGM in Manchester, close to where it all began.