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AOF

 Ancient Order of ForestersThe Ancient Order of Foresters  (AOF)was founded as a friendly society in 1834 and still operates as an insurance company today. It had its origins in freemasonry but the Chewton Mendip branch was set up and run by the ‘ordinary’ people of the village.
 The officials who ran the Chewton Mendip ‘Court’ were carpenters, gardeners and  shop keepers. A co-operative shop opened soon afterwards and a working mens club, now know as the Social Club, was built in the early 1900s.As the badge shows, the AOF did not ban women but the statistics provided only record men.
Court “Waldegrave”, No. 8551, of the AOF was established at Chewton Mendip in 1896 as a member of the Bath United District of the AOF. It was amalgamated  on 1/7/1949 with Court “Queen of the West”, No. 2942, of Bath. The Priddy Friendly society still operates today.
 An article in the Western Gazette in 1883 shows there was an earlier Friendly Society had been set up c1833 which was disbanded because the funds had been mismanaged. George Tredaway, the schoolteacher, and the Rev Phillpot advised that the old society should be wound up.
Foresters AxeThe members of the Ancient Order of Forresterd carried a ceremonial axe. Unlike the bronze age votive axe, this was full size although it is made of wood. An explanation of the regalia is provided in a website about the history of the Foresters.The link between the Mendip Foresters of the medieval period was probably coincidental and unintended. They were a fearsome bunch of game keepers who would happily blind and maim anyone found hunting in the royal forest.
Foresters RegaliaThe members also wore colourful sashes when ‘on show’. They would processes from which ever pub they used as a meeting place to the Priory on special occasions. It is believed this set or regalia belonged to Reg Middle.
 Church Door GroupMembership of the foresters is one reason for explaining the group photograph on the left. They are not wearing their finery but they are wearing buttonholes which suggests they were attending a wedding but some of the names fit. This picture was supplied by Ken Church and his father Maurice Church, is in the back row, and is third from the right. Maurice is also shown in the photograph of the Old Post Office and the Handbell Ringers of 1904 . Maurice was the treasurer, possibly the last one.Other recognisable people are  Stanly Middle who is on the far left of the back row. The man with the mustache who is fourth from the left of the back row may have been Charley Tucker who is seen in the Cricket Eleven of 1904 as are several other people in this picture. The Earl Waldegrave at the time can also be seen in the Cricket 11 picture. The man of the far right of the may have been Albert Pearce who is also seen in the Bell Ringers of 1904 picture and lived in Lower Street. Reasy Curtis who is second from the left in the middle. It is possible that the man seated in the middle of the middle row was Mr Cox who was the court secretary from 1896 – 1908 and is also seen in the 1904 Cricket 11. Seward Heal  is first on the left of the front row.
 They used to meet at the pub . They stared in the old Waldegrave Arms and then move across the High Street to what was then the Rising Sun when the old Waldegrave Arms was demolished in 1934. They probably met at the Rising Sun from then on but it later changed its name to the Waldegrave Arms.
The Court Secretaries were, G J Cox 1896 – 1908, A L Brown 1909 – 1930, G H Gill   1931 –  1940 (at least) and A I Church c.1946 – 1949.G J Cox may have been the George Cox  buried in the Chewton Mendip churchyard and the Mr Cox shown in the pictures. Al Brown may have been Albert Lionel Brown also buried Chewton Mendip churchyard. g Gill probably ran the shop with Ernest Collis.
The Court treasures were E H Collis  1896 – 1905, C T Wookey   1906 – 1909, G Gill                     1910   – 1925 and M Church  1926   – 1940 (at least).C T Wookey was probably Charlie Wookey who ran a foundry, wheelwright and undertaking business in Bathway. Maurice Church is described above.
Membership (Voluntary)   Adult malethe statistic show how the membership grew even though the population of the village fell. The total population of the village halved between 1850 and 1950.1897   1898   189920        23        221900   1901   1902   1903   1904   1905   1906   1907   1908   190926        41        44        46        46       51    59        67        64        701910   1911   1912   1913   1914   1915   1916   1917   1918   191964        65        67        74        2        75       72      72     69        70

1920   1921   1922   1923   1924   1925   1926   1927   1928   1929

73        70       72        70       67       65       64       65        65       63

1930   1931   1932   1933   1934   1936   1936   1937   1938   1939

64        65        69       68       66        60      62       60       62       59

1940

57

NOT KNOWN AFTER 1940

Membership (State scheme under 1911 National Insurance Act)1910   1911   1912   1913   1914   1915   1916   1917   1918   1919n/a      n/a      n/a      63        66        66        69        69        69        0Presume all state members transferred to District State insurance Court.
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