Benevolent or friendly societies were established from around the 1650s as mutual saving or insurance societies, and were successful throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Each member paid into a common fund from which they would receive funds in times of unemployment, sickness or death. With the establishment of the welfare state in the twentieth century, the need for such societies subsided, although some still exist today as financial service providers. This painting depicts the office of an imaginary friendly society and its name, seen in the top right corner, is 'Allfaire', a pun on the function of such societies. It is winter and the society’s members are queuing for aid and blankets. However, the depiction of an angry committee member in the centre suggests that there may be a disagreement in how the aid is distributed.
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The Library and Museum of Freemasonry
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More on this painting
purchased by the Library and Museum Charitable Trust, 2006