A Friendly Flag

A busy and varied week at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, Yeovil.

Highlights included transferring a jigsaw puzzle of a Dorchester town crier (500 pieces) to Dorset County Museum (the lady on reception recognised the gentleman on the box lid as ‘Bruce’) and collecting a Friendly Society Flag and Flag Pole from Corton Denham Church, between Yeovil and Wincanton.

This was a particularly rare opportunity to receive a Village Friendly Society Flag together with the Flag Pole, as they often become separated or damaged. In this case, the flag was flown from the top of Corton Denham Church Tower and carried during the Friendly Society’s annual ‘Club Day.’

Before the advent of National Insurance around 1911, many villages had a Friendly Society. Villagers would contribute to a mutual fund to help fellow residents in time of need, want, sickness or even funeral costs; to avoid a pauper’s burial. Villages also had a Club Pole Emblem, which was placed on the top of long poles and carried, along with a flag, through the village on the annual Club Day. “The hospitality of the Landlord” was also partaken of although “temperance” Societies did exist.  The ‘friendly’ nature was often reflected in the flag itself with the symbol of ‘joined hands’ and also on tokens issued by the Society

Many of the Club Pole Emblems are elaborate designs like Ilchester with a star and a moon or more simple like an acorn and Friendly Societies live on today in familiar organisations like ‘Friends Provident.’  We were excited to have the chance to receive a flag and flag pole to reflect this intriguing time in our South Somerset and National heritage, by the generosity of Corton Denham Parish Council.

The only problem was scale and logistics. The Flag on its own – not a problem. The Flag and Flag Pole measured 15.5ft long or around 5 metres and the distance to Corton Denham around 11 miles. Various schemes were considered, but dismissed as we wanted to keep the Flag Pole in one piece! Fortunately and with great skill, our colleagues at South Somerset District Council Lufton Depot had the vehicle and the trailer and the expertise to not only collect the Flag Pole but to pack the flag pole securely and deliver it safely to CHAC within 1.5 hours of setting out. A good job all round!

Collecting the Corton Denham Friendly Society Flag on Thursday 5th June 2015 – with great skill and thought from our District Council Colleagues. Also pictured is one of the “Old True Blue Friendly Society Jugs” as used by Yeovil Old True Friendly Society – the original ceramic handles have been replaced by metal ones.

DSCN1407 DSCN1409 Frinedly soc jug

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