Commemorative Items

Commemorative items have, as the years have passed, become a regular feature of friendly society culture.  Defining the moment at which they were produced, they offer an opportunity to assess what a society had achieved  and where it currently stood. The AOF, with its origins in 1834 witnessed many milestones commemorated at the national and local level.

Pottery, jewels, booklets have been the principal physical means of commemorating special moments. Each of these is represented here.

What’s special about OUR collection of AOF commemorative items?

> Original research, carried out in our Archive, provides ‘added value’  information about our commemorative items;
> All of our commemorative items will be displayed on a rota basis in our Museum;



Subject Headings

Commemorative Items
Jewels and Medals
Personal Regalia
Recent Additions

Further Reading

The Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society - 150 Years, Walter Cooper (1984)

Gallery of currently available images (click on image for enlargement and details)
Decorated Crockery   HCM Badges   Centenary Booklet - 1934   Court LUD - 1947   Foresters' Miscellany - Coronation 1953   125th Anniversary Booklet   1977 Jubilee   150th Anniversary        

Decorated Pottery

In their early years, friendly society Orders soon established a tradition of producing decorated pottery, along the lines of that found in the Freemasons. Examples in the Independent Order of Oddfellows and the Loyal United Free Mechanics have survived.  The temperance societies generated large amounts of such decorated material, since of course, tea was preferred to alcohol.

The Ancient Order of Foresters participated in this vogue. Seen here is a jug bearing the name of the Order.  Jugs and bowls, cups and saucers all featured. Often the articles were of the style called Sunderland Pink Lustre Ware. This used a soft shade of pink as the principal colouring against a white background. The wording on such items could be voluminous, with several short poems and odes appearing.

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HCM Badges

With the celebration of the Jubilee of the Ancient Order of Foresters in 1884 came the introduction of High Court badges. The illustration shows an example of that issued to delegates at Ipswich, lettering still remarkably clear. Other isolated 19th century examples are in the Trust’s collection, however it is from around the early 1920’s  that a fuller set of colourful metal badges exists, often bearing the town crest with the venue and year inscribed.. 

From these gradual trends become evident. Between 1914 and 2002 delegates found themselves invited to 48 different venues. In the period 1914 to 1939 every year a new setting was chose. After the War two patterns start to develop, Firstly there was a distinct tendency to favour seaside towns, many of which were contemporary popular holiday resorts. There was also a growing inclination to go back to previous meeting places. The single most popular destination was Scarborough which played host to the Foresters on no less than eight occasions between 1949 and 2002.  Eastbourne with six visits, Llandudno and Torquay each hosted the High Court on five occasions.

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Centenary - 1934

In 1934 members of the Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society celebrated 100 years of continuous existence. The world was vastly different from that of 1834. The United Kingdom was itself smaller. In 1912, the Liberal Government’s introduction of a state national insurance scheme for many working men and women, had, fundamentally altered the nature of the Foresters and other Orders. Court Secretaries workload increased dramatically.

Reflecting on the Order’s history at the end of 100 years, a writer in the Centenary booklet commented ‘The spirit underlying the Order, and the qualities which formed its background, are the enduring essence of the Order’s fabric. Nevertheless, the story would be incomplete were tribute not paid to those Foresters whose unselfish labours have brought the Order to its present position of pre-eminence and soundness.’

The AOF of 1834 had a voluntary membership of 848,452 in 223 Districts comprising 4,101 Courts with 946 auxiliary juvenile societies. The number of insured persons with the AOF as their Approved Society was, at the end of December 1932, 674,942, of which 520,646 were men and 154,296 women.

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Court LUD - 1947

Honorary Courts, as forums for non-benefit activities associated with Forestry were a distinctive feature of the AOF. The first, so far as research has revealed to date, was Court “Charterhouse”, No. 5671, a Court in the London United District for Honorary members only from 1872 to 1896.  In the Weymouth District, Court “Highclere”, No. 7634 was founded in 1887.  Several Honorary Courts were formed across the UK In the post 1939-45 War period.

The inauguration of Court “LUD”. No. 10100, on the 29th June 1947 at the Three Nuns Hotel, Aldgate, London, was celebrated with a star studded forestric gathering. Conducted under the auspices of Court “Charterhouse”, No. 5671, the HCR, Bro A J Howell, HSCR Bro E J Hicks, and Order Secretary, Bro J C Lennox, supported by the officers of Court “Charterhouse” initiated an impressive collection of Past officers. These included District Chief Rangers, members of the District Committee of Management, a retired District and Assistant District Secretary, together with the serving three principal LUD Officers, Bro G T Stubbs, Bro F T Shaw and Bro W N Huggins. After business was concluded all present sat down to Dinner

After 57 years fulfilling the objectives of its founders, the final meeting of Court “LUD” took place on 19th October 2004, followed, as the initial meeting had been, by a meal.

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Foresters' Miscellany - Coronation 1953

In an era of rationing and drabness, the cover of the Foresters’ Miscellany of August 1953, like the event it was celebrating, came into members lives like a shining light. Comparison with the regular green, standard format appearance was dramatic. In full colour, the significance of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was evident. Costing purchasers threepence halfpenny (under 2p) including postage and packing, this was a bargain. At High Court in Bridlington that year, Bro A A Gregory described the Coronation edition as ‘an outstanding achievement and well worth keeping as a souvenir of a wonderful event. Thanks were due to the Editor [Bro R T Pickett], to the printers and writers of the articles contained in that number.’

The Foresters’ Miscellany, founded in 1836, was the official organ of the AOF. Its continuous history makes it one of the longest running publications of its type. The full accounts of the annual High Court Meeting, with verbatim reporting, make it a wonderful source of information about Foresters, their involvement with the Order, and the recognition of services often freely given to a very caring and colourful culture. The title, now without the apostrophe, continues today, as the Official Journal of The Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society Limited.


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125th Anniversary Booklet

The political ‘wind of change’ proclaimed by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1960 had certainly seen a parallel in friendly societies by 1959, the year that the Foresters’ celebrated their 125th Anniversary at Aberdeen. The loss of state insurance business in July 1948 had forced a rethinking of the scale and structure of the Order which had resulted in the elimination of independent Courts out-of-district and a dramatic reduction in the number of smaller Districts with their consolidation in larger units.

The words of the Foresters Miscellany Editor, Bro R T Pickett,gave cause for thought. ‘As we come to the end of the 125th Anniversary year of the Ancient Order of Foresters we might well ask ourselves why an organisation like ours has survived this considerable measure of time. In the crises and vicissitudes of modern life it is given to few organisations or businesses to last a century or more, even in Britain where traditions are common. Of course our objects and ideals are laudable enough, but in themselves are not necessarily a guarantee of longevity.’ 

Bro. R G Bellamy, HCR put things in context. ‘We often take for granted the achievements of our forefathers who bequeathed upon us a most noble heritage in this our Order, which was built up by their own spirit of independence…without Forestry the country would not be what it is today.’ 




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Queen's Jubilee - 1977

On the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977, the AOF sent a Loyal Address to Her Majesty, as shown. Signed by the High Chief Ranger, Bro. George Penfold, and the Order Secretary, Bro. Gordon Irish, the Address noted that ‘As Your Majesty’s reign enters its 26th year it will be our aim to continue [the Order’s] benevolent work with renewed enthusiasm and determination.’

As a practical gesture, the Order made a gift of £2,500 to the Commonwealth Youth Exchange Programme. This was designed to help promote friendship and understanding among young people throughout the Commonwealth. The Executive Council chose the fund in tribute to Her Majesty’s well known interest in the welfare of young people and in recognition of the international character of Forestry and the work of the Order’s branches overseas.

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150th Anniversary

Celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Ancient Order of Foresters gave rise to many successful locally organised events throughout the UK, with the focus turning in September 1984 to the High Court Meeting at Scarborough, under the Chairmanship of High Chief Ranger Bro. Raymond Roddie.  Immediately preceding this was the First World Conference of Foresters. Over 80 delegates and visitors from around the world attended, joined on the day by members from over 100 UK Districts.

York Minster provided, as recorded in the Foresters’ Miscellany, ‘a setting of special grandeur for the special High Court church service.’ Two trains were chartered to take delegates and families from Scarborough to York. Canon J J Richardson, Vicar of Leeds. captured the spirit of the occasion. ‘There must be many thousands of people who have had good cause to praise God for the hand of fellowship and support, encouragement and generosity that this remarkable and distinguished Order has extended.’

Tangible mementos of the Anniversary, examples of which are in the Trust’s collection, included an Anniversary Plate, shown here, 150th Anniversary Jewel, silver medallion on 18” (45 cm) silver rope chain, English pewter tankard, white candle, silver plated teaspoon and painted enamel box.

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