A Friendly Society generically classified any group or club with members contributing to a mutual fund affording them future benefit. The Government did appear to realise those providing sick and aged poor relief would alleviate their own burden, so introducing a 1793 Act was aimed to encourage public membership for the purpose they defined as :- That the protection and encouragement of Friendly Societies in this Kingdom for securing by voluntary subscriptions of the members thereof separate Funds for the mutual relief and maintenance of the members in sickness, old age, and infirmity, is likely to be attended with very beneficial effects by promoting the happiness of individuals and at the same time diminishing the public burdens.
Rules, regulations and registration requirements were further clarified through various later Acts, eventually permitting in 1875 the registration of society branches run by a central body. These schemes gained wide popularity among village workers when the lack of any national welfare or pension meant illness, accident or death would inflict extreme hardship on families. The alternative would be begging or the poorhouse. The shame of not being able to cover ones own funeral expenses would persist thereafter.
A Friendly Societies Council apparently dated back in Sutton from 1883.
Its objects are to promote means whereby succour may be extended to brethren of affiliated societies in tmes of distress. The patron is Sir A. B. Markham, M.P.; Mr T. Booth, president; Mr W. Molyneaux, treasurer; Mr T. Bowen, secretary, Brook Street, Sutton-in-Ashfield; Mr H. Shaw, assistant secretary.
Evidence of one Sutton, Hucknall Huthwaite and Blackwell District Juvenile Brothers Friendly Society, based at the Peacock Inn, Hucknall Huthwaite, Mansfield, can only assert year 1902 when the Chief Registrar listed them among their recently dissolved. A charmingly titled Good Intent Friendly Society covered wider parish district, up until a more stringent Insurance Act forced a 1913 sale of all their land and properties held for rent, leaving behind Club Yard addresses in both Sutton and Huthwaite. According to Needham's town directory, there were approximately 34 Adult Friendly Societies in the parish, counting upwards 2,500 members, as well as a lodge of Freemasons named Ashfield, plus several other kindred socieities.
Rules governing the White Lion Inn Sick & Dividing Society can reveal a fortnightly club subscription of 1/- plus 1½d for refreshments, would expect the princely sum of £4 payed out upon death. And a good team of officials could make further profitable investments to mutually benefit all members. Their annual meeting proudly reported a record dividend of 19s in January 1932, plus a substantial December dividend of 18s. 6d. for all 60 members.
Press archives can furthermore identify various other Huthwaite clubs and societies being run by locally respected gentry or businessmen attuned to the elite world of finance. They were represented attending funerals of members or relations and usually took name from the public houses able to host regular meetings. But this list so far clearly shows diversity with a separate women's club amongst church, plus larger company interests.
Peacock Hotel Sick and Dividing Society
White Hart Death and Dividing Society
Shoulder of Mutton Death and Dividing Club
Workpeople's Death and Dividing Club
C.W.S. Sick and Dividing Society
Wesleyan Women's Death and Dividing Club
Most Friendly Societies were made redundant through 1940's introduction of Unemployment Benefits, Welfare and National Health Services. Larger Societies may have evolved into some of the Nationally recognised Insurance Companies, but they certainly did found one specialised surviving branch, which was officially first recognising by 1836 Regulation of Benefit Building Societies Act.