Freemasonry is not the only fraternal organisation. The oldest of these were formed in the 1700s. The range of organisations is very wide – from Old Friends to Druids, Oddfellows to Knights of the Phoenix, Buffaloes and Freemasons.
|The orders themselves range from benefit societies to temperance groups and fraternal orders. All of these groups wore, or wear, regalia and conduct ceremonies. The Library and Museum of Freemasonry has one of the most extensive collections of regalia from these societies and these examples are regalia from the most commonly encountered organisations. We do not hold membership records for these other organisations and in some cases they may not have survived. We can often help with identification.|
|The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes
The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes was created in the 1820s by a theatrical impresario. It is a fraternal order, still existing today, with philanthropic motives. There are a number of sub groups or ‘Banners’. Members can pass through four ‘degrees’ of membership – Kangaroo, Certified Primo, Knight of Merit and Roll of Honour. Each of these has distinctive regalia including aprons, cuffs, collars and chains. Individual lodges and the organisation itself produce ‘jewels’ for wear by members.
|Ancient Order of Foresters
The AOF was founded in 1834 from an earlier fraternal order, the Royal Foresters. It became a national friendly society offering benefits to members and admitted women for the first time in the late 1800s. Its regalia was primarily a sash showing two foresters – this was later altered to include the image of a female forester reflecting their admission. The society still exists as the Foresters Friendly Society.
We hold a wide range of material from clubs and societies – some frivolous such as the Ye Ancient Order of Frothblowers which was established in England in the 1920s as a drinking club with charitable aims and others well known such as the Grand Order of Water Rats, formed by showbusiness personalities in 1889 and which continues to exist as a well known charitable organisation.
|The Gregorians, the Jerusalem Sols and the Bucks
A wide range of fraternal organisations grew up in parallel with Freemasonry in the 1700s. The Gregorians, the Jerusalem Sols and the Bucks are just three of these. Their regalia was frequently elaborate and made in imitation of the civic and national orders and regalia developing at the time.
The Oddfellows is a friendly society that traces its origin in legend to ancient times and which continues to exist as a major friendly society today. The UK branch is the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows and there is also an international organisation, the Independent Order of Oddfellows which derives from a breakaway by the American Oddfellows in 1834. A wide range of regalia, jewels and ceramics exist with Oddfellow images. There are a large number of ‘degrees’ of membership with the first five being the initiation, white, blue, scarlet and gold degrees.
|Loyal United Friends
This friendly society was originally formed mainly from Eastern European immigrant communities in London at the end of the 19th century. Its original headquarters still exists at 19 Princelet Street, now the Spitalfields Centre. In addition to regalia, boxes and even spectacle cases exist bearing its symbolism.
|Original Grand Order of the Totally Abstinent Sons of the Phoenix
This order which appears to have existed from the mid 1800s until just after the Second World War was a temperance order having male, female and junior divisions. Their regalia consisted of a shoulder sash and large jewels for their lodge masters known as ‘grand nobles’. Serving Grand Nobles carried a phoenix topped sceptre as their badge of office. There were splits in the ‘Original Grand Order’ that led to the formation of the ‘United Order’ and ‘Ancient Order’.
|The Independent Order of Rechabites
The Rechabites were a major temperance organisation in the 19th century. They now exist as the Rechabite Friendly Society based in Manchester. Regalia consisted mainly of aprons and sashes and ceramics such as teacups are also found bearing the order’s symbolism.