Before modern-day insurance companies and wellfare reform, it was commonplace for individuals and communities to band together and create what were called Friendly Societies. These groups would help each other with insurance, pensions, savings, or cooperative banking on small scales. These groups were able to provide a service to individuals and often according to their religious, political, or trade affiliations.
One such group was the Fringford Friendly Society, based in the village of Fringford, Oxfordshire. This society, part of the Mansfield Lodge of the Independent Order of the Oddfellows (Manchester Unity), was created on the 15th January 1872 (during the 37th year of Queen Victoria), but was dissolved (with the member’s consent) on the 17th February 19141.
During its years of operation, the Fringford Friendly Society had commissioned George Tutill, then a famous and highly-respected flag maker (and founder of one of the companies in our group), to create a banner for the Society to display on their processions, and to be displayed inside the village hall. The banner itself is a double-sided beauty, depicting biblical figures on both sides, and adorned with two inscriptions: UNITED WE STAND DIVIDED WE FALL, and ALL MEN ARE BRETHEREN. The colours are still remarkably preserved, and the banner is complete with two poles made for carrying it. George Tutill’s name can be found on the bottom of the banner, as well as the Tutill company contact details on a small badge attached to the left hand bottom edge. The black and white photo above shows the banner being carried during an annual procession outside Fringford church, circa 1900 – 1910.
The banner was recently found at the village hall, still incredibly well preserved and as colourful as when it was made. The village now wish to donate the banner to the safe keeping of The National Museum of Labour, Manchester.