The Oddfellows in Tutbury

The Independent Order of Oddfellows (IOOF) was founded in the early 1800's and grew to be perhaps the largest of the Victorian "Friendly Societies". These were self-help associations for working people, who contributed a few pence each week to funds that provided funeral, sickness and unemployment benefits in time of need. They provided an important safety net in the years before the creation of the Welfare State.

In Tutbury, the organisation styled itself the "Loyal Sir Oswald Mosley Lodge number 909 of the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows". There were different regional and national groupings of Oddfellows, often rivals, and Tutbury came under the aegis of the "M.U." or Manchester Unity grouping.

The Tutbury IOOF Lodge started about 1834 with the patronage of the local squire, Sir Oswald Mosley of Rolleston Hall (1785-1871), a noted Antiquarian and Naturalist (and great great grandfather of the Oswald Mosley who achieved notoriety in the 1930's).

The Oddfellows' heyday in the village was probably around the turn of the century, when it had over 400 members. As well as insurance benefits it was a focus for much local social activity, including musical evenings and participation in church parades. This continued through to the 1950's and 1960's, when many of us still remember the annual train excursions to the seaside as one of the highlights of our childhood.

The Lodge members originally met at The Wheel Inn, but later opened their own Oddfellows Hall at the top of High Street. With the advent of the Welfare State, the Friendly Societies lost some of their raison d'etre. The Tutbury Lodge closed in the 1980's and amalgamated with the Burton-on-Trent Lodge which is still active today.

The Hall was converted to commercial use. The World War 1 memorial plaque, which had hung in the Hall, was moved to the Church. Many of the Lodge records (membership application forms, contribution and benefit ledgers, accounts, minute books, etc.) were rescued from a builder's skip by the then Curator of Tutbury Museum and they form a valuable part of the Museum's archives today. The membership application forms in particular can be useful for family historians and have been transcribed. In addition several memorial boards listing deceased members were salvaged and are displayed in the Museum.

Hierarchy and ritual formed an important part of the Oddfellows' proceedings and the Museum also holds a number of decorated sashes and other office-holder regalia.