Huntspill Friendly Society pole head

Contributed by Somerset Rural Life Museum

Huntspill Friendly Society pole head

Friendly Societies provided insurance for workers before the welfare state. They served social purposes and companionship and offered to members funds for funerals, money for medical care, and sick pay. Members also participated in ceremonial parades when banners were displayed. The highlight of the year was the annual feast day. Friendly Societies were particularly strong in rural communities in Somerset during the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were carefully administered and members adhered to strict rules. Women were excluded from most 'clubs'.

Club 'brasses' were mounted on poles and used during parades. The pole heads had different motifs, often depicting symbols of friendship and community. The Huntspill Friendly Society brass comprises oak leaves and acorns, symbolising strength, longevity, Englishness, and the idea that regular small contributions can grow into something useful.

A popular saying is that 'Great oaks from little acorns grow'.

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