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Our archives hold over 200 years of genealogical, social and organisational history. If you're an Oddfellows member, they’re all yours to browse and research any time you like. Or you can become an Archive member for just £10 a year.

History

587 BC

Earliest legend of an Oddfellows fraternity is linked to the exile of the Israelites in Babylon, when many banded together into a brotherhood for mutual support. After the fall of Jerusalem (AD70), the fraternity is said to have continued amongst Jewish prisoners and was taken to Rome. It was recognised by Emperor Titus Caesar and from there it spread across the Empire.

History

Early 18th century

Old English Trade Guilds were in decline. Many fraternal societies took their place and became firmly established to support workers with benevolence should they fall on hard times. This included the Odd Fellows – a society representing fellow craftsmen from an assortment of trades.

Odd fact

Dr James Parkinson

Look below the Oddfellows sign on the back wall and you’ll see Dr James Parkinson (after whom the Parkinson’s condition takes its name) in this 1789 Samuel Collins print. It was common practice to have a Branch (Lodge) Surgeon who provided medical treatment for members and their families from the earliest days right up until the establishment of the NHS in 1948. Print courtesy of the Guildhall Museum, London.

History

Late 18th century

Government suspicions of societies that 'administer oaths and correspond by signs and passwords' reached fever pitch, triggered by the French Revolution. So much so, organisations such as ours were deemed illegal and driven underground – exacerbating connotations of ‘secret societies’.

Odd fact

A 'secret society'

When societies such as ours were deemed illegal, government informers were paid to infiltrate Branches (Lodges). Signs and passwords were essential to secure the safety and security of members. Many are still used as part of our Order’s business, to honour our heritage.

History

1796

Following persecution in the UK’s capital, The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows relocated its Grand Lodge (HQ) from its Old Wych St (Aldwych) location to Sheffield. The shift of power to Yorkshire unsettled members in other northern regions, including Manchester. Pictured is a view of the Bull & Mouth (or Boulogne Mouth) Inn, Lady's Bridge, Sheffield where the new Grand Lodge was established.

History

1810

A group of dissatisfied members from the Manchester District of The Grand United Order met in the Ropemakers Pub, Chapel Street, Salford. They established the breakaway society The Independent Order of Oddfellows Manchester Unity, which is us – the Oddfellows. Hooray!

Odd fact

Oddfellows pubs

Public houses were often used as the base for regular Society business. When members met, they often ‘took something for the good of the house’. To secure such lucrative trade, landlords were willing to name their pubs after us. Oddfellows Arms remains a popular pub name to this day.

History

1819

The first American Oddfellows Branch (Lodge) was established in Baltimore, Maryland by Thomas Wildey. A charter (Dispensation) was granted by us in 1820. In 1843, stateside members declared independence from us. Today, there are now many Oddfellows organisations across the globe.

History

1822

Our first annual conference was held in Manchester (30 May-1 June), presided over by Chairman (Grand Master) William Armitt. He presided over a further two conferences in 1823 and 1826.

Odd fact

King William IV

His Majesty, in his early 20s, stumbled across an Oddfellows meeting at the Feathers Pub, Pimlico. Not only did he insist on becoming an instant member, but also the Branch’s Chairman (Noble Grand). Who could say no to royalty? He became a lifelong member.

History

1834

A reminder of our ‘illegal’ status was served, despite prosperous growth. Six men, the ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’, from another society were prosecuted and sent to an Australian penal colony. News reached Deputies at our Hull annual conference, resulting in many rushing home to burn ‘treasonous’ documents. Changes to ritual practices and the removal of oaths ensued.

History

1851

Our ‘illegal’ status was overturned, as Branch Friendly Societies were declared legal. By this time we had become the largest and richest friendly society in the world, spurred by the Industrial Revolution. By joining a friendly society, workers could protect themselves and their families against illness, injury or death.

Odd fact

Helping the RNLI

The first of four Society-donated RNLI lifeboats, ‘Manchester Unity’, was launched in Cleethorpes, Lincs, in 1868. Our second in 1961 (pictured), ‘The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows’, based at Sheringham Station, Norfolk, saved 134 lives at sea until her retirement in 1990. It’s now on permanent display at The Sheringham Museum.

History

1893

A nod to the Women’s Suffrage movement in the UK. Female Branches (Lodges) were introduced to the Society, with equal membership status to men being granted in 1898.

History

1912

We became one of the government’s approved societies to administer National Insurance. In fact, our Society’s actuarial tables were the blueprint for the government’s recommendations of contribution vs payment.

Odd fact

Three Links

Look at the top of our logo and you’ll see our Three Links symbol. It stands for Friendship, Love & Truth, which is the motto of the Oddfellows Order. The use of signs and symbols played an important role in early Society days, as many workers were illiterate and proved essential for communication.

History

1942

The government made early musings of a Welfare State, with social security and a national health service (introduced in 1948), free education, council housing and full employment. National Insurance administration was taken in-house. We lost many top administrative staff to new government depts, as they sought our welfare expertise. Pictured is Sir William Beveridge, author of the Beveridge Report, which outlined a system of social security that could be operated by the state.

History

1978

Our first female Chairman (Grand Master) Dorothy M Merrell was inaugurated at our annual conference in Margate. Previously in 1964, she received the Society’s Meritorious Jewel – the highest award the Society can bestow a member, apart from that of being a Grand Master.

Odd fact

A life-changing legacy

Our HA Andrews Memorial Fund was created in 1971 to honour a remarkable Society Secretary, Herbert Arthur Andrews. Since then, the Oddfellows’ major charitable fund has donated over £780,000 to good causes. And it is all thanks to the generosity of individuals and our Branches.

History

1996

A National Oddfellows membership package was introduced. Pictured is Susan Jardine, our first National member, being welcomed by our then Chairman (Grand Master) Ken Hughes. Previously, each Branch would deliver a unique set of benefits to its members.

History

2008

We invited 24 fearless, driven and creative ‘older’ members to feature in our inspirational ‘Active and Ageless’ photographic exhibition. The display, which toured the UK, remains on show at Oddfellows House, Manchester and showcases pilots, actors, musicians, marathon runners and marmalade makers.

Odd fact

Pam Ayres pens Oddfellows poem

"It's nice to be an Oddfellow, and we're not odd at all, The benefits are many and the outlay very small, We do our bit for charity, to help out those in need, And as for social life, we like it very full indeed!" First verse of 'the Oddfellows', by past member and ambassador, poet Pam Ayres MBE.

History

2010

We celebrated our bi-centenary in style. Events included a Friendship Walk in Greenwich, London, the hosting of an International Conference and the commissioning of The Oddfellows book, authored by Daniel Weinbren.

History

2012

We welcomed Jane Nelson, our former Financial Director, to take the helm of the Society as Chief Executive Officer. Jane is the Oddfellows’ first female CEO and remains in post today.

History

2013

We became an Incorporated Friendly Society, enabling our greater investment in services and products to benefit members.

History

2013

We moved to our current central home on Manchester’s Deansgate. The foundation stone of the Grade II-listed former Courthouse building was laid by Chairman (Grand Master) George Lickess in the company of The Lord Mayor of Manchester, Councillor Naeem ul Hassan JP, CEO Jane Nelson and guests in March the following year.

Odd fact

International Oddfellows

There are many Oddfellows-named organisations around the world. Despite their self-governing nature, on occasions we come together to network. Pictured is our CEO Jane Nelson (front row, 3rd from left) at the Oddfellows in the Philippines' inaugural Grand Lodge meeting held in Dumaguete City in October 2015.

History

2016

We present the first part of a £88,000 donation from our HA Andrews Memorial Fund to the Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Unit (PSBRU) at the University of Bradford. The money is to help the PSBRU undertake a three-year research study which explores how the regenerative power of hair follicle cells speed up wound healing.

History

2017

Manchester, UK, was hit by a terror attack on 22 May. 22 people were killed and many more suffered physical or psychological injuries as a result of the bombing of Manchester Arena. Our members were deeply shocked by the news and sought a way to help the victims, their families and friends. The result was a £10,000 donation to the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund charity. #WeStandTogether

History

2018

We launched ‘Unity Mutual’, our new financial services brand offering simple savings, investments and protection products to help families plan for the future. Take a look at www.unitymutual.co.uk

Being an Oddfellow is now engrained in our family’s DNA. I’m an 5th generation ‘Oddie’ and very proud to be part of the Society today.

Paul Eyre Member of South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire District

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Love history? Our archives hold over 200 years of genealogical, social and organisational history. If you're a member, they’re all yours to browse and research any time you like. Or you can become an Archive member for just £10 a year.

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