Druids Background

Druids in Tutbury – 1920

The Birmingham Equalised Order of Druids

Researching the War Memorial at the Magic Attic, we came across an article in the Burton Chronicle from 5th February 1920 detailing the unveiling and dedication of a War Memorial we had not heard about previously.  It was in the Castle Inn on Bridge Street, mounted on a wall with gold lettering on a black background.  

It was dedicated to the 6 Fallen and a further 36 who served in the Great War who belonged to the group who met at the Castle Inn.  The Chairman of the group was Major HL Newton, the Vice Chairman was Dr. HR Wolfenden and the Vicar unveiled the memorial although it is not clear if he was actually a member.

The group were the “Who’d Have Thought It?” Lodge 1498 of the Birmingham Equalised Order of Druids.  It would appear that the Druids of the 19th and early 20th century were non-religious, non-political societies often in the vein of Friendly Societies typical of the day.  If anyone knows anything about the Druids of this period or the whereabouts of the memorial that was once on the wall of the Castle Inn please get in touch via the contact page.

There is little direct information about this organisation – the information below is gathered from a number of websites to try to provide an overview.

From: http://www.aod-uk.org.uk/home.htm

Ancient Order of Druids

Justice, Philanthropy and Brotherly Love

This is the parent and founding order of the modern Druidic Societies, and was revived in the year 1781. Its object is to preserve and practise the main principles attributed to the early Druids, particularly those of justice, benevolence and friendship.

Since its revival the order has adapted itself to modern conditions whilst still preserving most of its original characteristics. The basic pattern of justice, benevolence and harmony, however, remains the foundation upon which the order rests. It has lodges in many parts of England, and close contact with “ The International Order” throughout the world.

Ours is not a religious organization – in fact any discussion on religion or politics is forbidden within the lodge rooms. We run our own Convalescent Home Fund for the benefit of members and their wives, there is also an Annuitants Fund for brethren in need.

Membership of the English order is open to gentlemen only, and candidates for membership must be personally vouched for by two brothers of the order as being suitable for admission.

From: http://birminghamhistory.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?t=24059

There were a number of druid orders started in the 18th and 19th century, possibly 20+, certainly the oldest being similar in many ways to freemasonry.

The first such group was the Ancient Order of Druids (AOD) formed in 1781 in the King’s Arms Tavern in Poland Street, off Oxford Street in London.  It is generally accepted that a builder by the name of Hurle founded the Order.  The AOD operated as a fraternal society in many ways like the RAOB.

The first Lodge to be recorded in the Midlands was in Dudley in about 1800 and later in Birmingham about 1810ish.  In Aston there was a least one Lodge, The Aston Manor Lodge which met at the Golden Cross certainly by the early 20’s.  The Druids were never as strong in Birmingham as they were in other parts of Warwickshire, particularly Coventry.

The AOD suffered a number of splits in its history, mainly due to some of the members wishing to form true friendly societies like the Oddfellows of the Ancient Order of Foresters.  The major two splits were Lodges which went on to form the United Ancient Order of Druids in 1833 and the Order of Druids in 1850ish.

The Sheffield Equalised Druids are an off-shoot of the Order of Druids about 1890ish.  They were a district of the Order of Druids which went their own way.  The equalised bit refers to the fact that equal benefits for sick and funeral pay were paid to members across the whole district rather than being down to individual Lodges.  I have come across a mention of a Birmingham Equalised Order of Druids in a history of Burton on Trent but have never seen any other details.

Churchill was initiated into the Albion Lodge of the AOD at Blenheim Park as his uncle the Duke of Marlborough was a (honorary) member.  There is no indication he was in any way an active member.  This may seem strange as most members of the AOD were working class but the Albion Lodge was something special in the Order.  At times it became a debating society for local politicians and its annual feasts were well attended by many of the well-to-do in Oxford.

From: http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u219/twigmore/Druids.jpg

“Sheffield Equalized Independent Druids” – date unknown – Source: www.i169.photobucket.com/albums/u219/twigmore/Druids2.jpg

Ref: 20210210 1210

Photo SEQ Photo \* ARABIC1 – Sheffield Equalised Independent Druids

From: http://www.druidsfriendly.com/about.htm

Druids Sheffield Friendly Society

Who are we?

Druids Sheffield Friendly Society has been helping members with their financial welfare since 1858. We are a mutual friendly society, which means that there are no shareholders and therefore the Society is owned by and run for its members. The profits are shared amongst the members by way of competitive premiums, stronger performances and discretionary payments to members from surplus funds.

The Society’s roots go back to the industrial revolution when there was no welfare state: if a person was off work due to illness they received no income. Often families had no life assurance to pay for funeral costs or to replace lost income. Many small societies were set up amongst friends and communities where people paid a small contribution and members received a small payout in times of need. There were many ‘Order of Druids’ lodges throughout industrial towns and cities, organised into Districts. Over a period of years, many of these amalgamated until the individual Districts consolidated to become Druids Sheffield Friendly Society in 1998.

What do we do?

We are a traditional but progressive friendly society, offering modern products to meet the needs of our members, including long term tax exempt regular savings plans, Junior ISAs, Stocks and Shares ISAs, Child Trust Funds, Sickness and Healthcare plans.

Why ‘Druids’?

We are often asked about the ‘Druids’ in the name – traditionally a Druid was the ‘wiseman’ of a community, giving advice to people in times of need, as well as being a ‘medicine man’ and mediator to solve disputes in the community. Of course, in modern times most people think of a druid as someone who wears a white hooded cloak and visits Stonehenge on midsummer solstice. We actually have no links to druids in the modern sense, although we like to think that all our members are ‘wisemen’, having chosen us to help with their financial security.

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