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  • Andrew James Pooley

The Independent Order of Royal Foresters?

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

History is full o

f mysteries - one of which is the Independent Order of Royal Foresters.

On the 7th October 1837 the following advertisement appeared in the Leeds Intelligencer.

"Purchased by the Independent Order of Royal Foresters, in Keighley, Bingley, Eaton and Bradford District, a valuable stock of funeral robes, together with a valuable pall and bearer. The stock are as follows: one pall and bearer, six black cloth gowns with scarfs, six black cloth coats with scarfs, six staves with crape, nine black silk hoods, a quantity of black horse sheets.

The above stock is in every way suitable for a gentleman's funeral, or any secret Order and may be had on reasonable terms by applying to Mr. William Fox, Lord Rodney Inn, Keighley: Mr. James Butterworth, Joiners' Arms, Bingley: Mr. Sunderland, Turf Tavern near Heaton: and in Bradford of Mr. Richard Scholefield, Unicorn Inn, or Mr. Baxter, Kings Arms Inn".

Today this may seem bizarre, but it throws light on one benefit Victorian Friendly Societies could offer, help with the actual trappings of a funeral. When I found this advertisement I thought that "Independent" might be a variant on Royal Foresters. It now seems that the Independent Royal Foresters were "Independent" of the Royal Foresters and may be earliest breakaway from the Royal Foresters.

Little is known of the "Independent Royal Foresters". The Manchester Courier & Lancashire General Advertiser reported on the 1st August 1835 that Court No. 12 of the Independent Royal Foresters had celebrated it's third anniversary - which gives 1832 as an opening date for that Court.

There are few newspaper references to the Independent Royal Foresters - nothing can be found between 1852 and the last mention in 1909 (Todmorden & District News 14th May 1909). One line of inquiry leads to the village of Lothersdale in Yorkshire. A search of the catalogue of the archives of the West Yorkshire Archives shows that until 1966 there existed in that village Court "Rose in the Dale", Independent Royal Foresters. It is possible further inquiries will provide more information.

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