Friendly/Benefit Societies

Friendly/Benefit Societies arrived in Weston Turville in the early 19th Century. They provided insurance, benefits, saving plans and pensions, offering financial help to working people during sickness or injury, especially before the Welfare State existed. Social events were also organised, most notably the Weston Turville Feast - three days event around Whitsun and a Christmas supper. 

Good Intent Benefit Society - Established 1826 - Chandos Arms Inn

Plough Inn Benefit Society - Established 1831 - Plough Inn

Vine Benefit Society - Established 1855 - Vine Inn

The Elephant Benefit Society - Established 1855 - The Elephant

Royal Britannia Society - Established 1856 - Chequers Inn

Bible Class Benefit Society - Established 1870 (Dissolved in 1881)- Union Chapel Vestry

Transcript of Friendly & Benefit Societies Commission 1874- Appendix


At Western Turville are four clubs 

Mr. Fitken, carpenter is a leading member in the Chandos Arms Club the largest. He urges very strongly that clubs in those parts will never do till they have a regular audit by an officer appointed by Government, as is done with the accounts of overseers. At present working men are apt to think "a majority can do anything." and many wrong things are done. A man has paid 20 years, and if he gives some offence they expel him; a man claims, and sometimes receives a wife's death benefit for his concubine; money is drawn out constantly to pay for the feast and put down to sick pay; and often at a funeral the landlord summons the whole club, and they come to his house before and after, and have a pint all round out of the box. Has often had to go down and stop such proceedings, gets plenty of abuse and knows that in other clubs it is not stopped; in that at the Plough for instance. The books ought to go before an auditor once a year, who should have power to disallow items illegally spent.

[Who is to pay?] Well, who pays for the audit of poor law accounts? The clubs can't an Act of Parliament is wanted.

Doesn't think compulsory audit would keep clubs from registering, it is thought necessary about here, and the influence of the clergy has had a deal to do with that.

The rules should be better enforced, that is now more needed than their improvement.

This club has stood 50 years, has 100 odd members. The money £320 or so, is in the savings bank. Its amount is "a perfect eyesore" to some, they want to have the benefit raised, to divide, to have a supper at Christmas; this last they used to have, and the revival of it is often mooted. It is not six months since they wanted to put an end to the funeral levy, and have all out of the box. I stopped that.

I have no objection to the poor law auditor, no matter who he is, so long as the right man is in the right place; we have him at the board of guardians.

 Sick pay 8s; death money £6 wife's death money £3. The doctor gets £4 to this each man gives 6d., and here is another source of quarrel, they want to have all this out of the fund. Three parts, 75 at least, would vote to that effect, if a majority could carry it. In this view allows that registry has done much, we could not get on without it. [See Questions answered, post.]

Of the club at the Plough, the landlord says there are 40 members. Some years ago it used to break up and divide regularly; this has been abandoned, he does not know how long. It is registered. He is treasurer. The money in the savings bank is £40 only. Sick pay 8s; death money £4; wife's death money £2; contribution 1s 6d a month. The feast is all paid for out pocket, with a little help from the farmers. They pay rent for accommodation. Don't know how much. [You make up a bill I suppose?] Well I don t know ! 

According to Mr Fitken, at this club they have all the illegal items he was speaking of out of the fund, and are quite in the landlord's hands. They will have a three days' feast at Whitsuntide, and then a supper at Christmas. The landlord only allows this in the form of "a little help" from farmers, not as members but because they come "and dine with us." Other statements go to confirm Mr. Fitkin's.

Mr Weedon is secretary of the club at the Elephant. There are only 20 members; it is a life club. There is no seven years' club in this neighbourhood now. The host of the Elephant says, of the last mentioned club, at the Plough, "It broke up and broke up till they could go on no longer so, and now they let her be." 

Mr Weedon says, "We are small, and do not progress." Sick pay 8s; death money as above. The doctor is included. We pay for our feast, 2s 6d or 3s each, and a levy if needed is made afterwards. No band can be afforded. We have had bad health in the club lately, and accidents, which have lowered the fund; there is only £43 now in the savings bank.

No relaxation in the law as to feasts should be listened to. There are too many clubs here.

Mr Joseph Weedon is secretary of the club at the Chequers. Here are only 26 members. It has been 14 years established, and has been higher, but has been unfortunate lately. Some have left, some had accidents; only £12 remains in the savings bank. The feast is paid for, and nothing taken out of the funds; honorary subscriptions bring in a good deal among others the two members, Smith and Rothschild; they give away a good deal of money in these parts. Sick pay 8s for six months, and so on; death money, £4.