January 2010 newsletter
by J R Ashby
The Oddfellows Friendly Society
Main illustration: Courtesy of Ron James: The Oddfellows Plaque,
depicting those members of the Mexborough Branch of the
Oddfellows Friendly Society, who fought during WWI.
those far off days when Mexborough, and its area, first became
industrialised, the welfare state was just a dream and if a man
could not work, and earn money, then he, and his family, became
homeless and starved, preferring this to the cruelty and indignities
doled out by the workhouse.
Therefore, groups of men banded
together to form, what became known as ‘Friendly Societies’ The
friendly society set out to enable their members, by a combination
of mutual insurance and self help, to obtain benefits in the event
of sickness, accident, or death.
Burial Clubs, enabling a poor
man’s relatives to give him a decent funeral, were very common.
Many also ran deposit societies, to provide a fund against the event
that the man could be laid off or placed on three day working; they
also had ‘Goose Clubs’ to provide for Christmas; or ‘Slate Clubs’
As industry came to Mexborough, some of the
representatives or agents held offices in the front room of their
‘As is the nature of the beast’ where groups of men meet
beer will inevitably be served, and after a short time some of the
agents homes became ale houses and later public houses, taking their
name from the occupation of the men who frequented the
A good example of this is the Miners Alms,
Doncaster Road, Mexborough, which began in a small terrace house
across the road to the present building.
As will be appreciated
the friendly society was very important to the working man and one
of the most important things a migrant worker would do, when
arriving at his new place of employment, would be to seek out the
local representative of his friendly society, such as the Oddfellows,
the Foresters, and the Buffaloes.
One of the friendly societies,
to be found in Mexborough was the Oddfellows.
descend from the medieval trade guilds and, with their membership
being specifically for skilled craftsmen, from an assortment of
different trades, they became known as The Oddfellows.
A representative of the Oddfellows describes the origins of their
name, which to modern ears sounds an unusual one, thus: “fellow
meant a craftsman who had completed his apprenticeship.
were fellow craftsmen from an odd assortment of trades they were
termed Odd Fellows”.
They began, in this country, in London but
by 1730 a group had established itself in Sheffield.
because of the threat of revolution, as had recently been witnessed
in France, one of the first Combination Laws was past making it
illegal for numbers of men to congregate and also to make oaths of
elegance to support one another, this being punishable by
imprisonment, transportation, or even death, but despite the threat,
groups grew and some were formed locally.
In Swinton, which was
known as the Rockingham Branch, one was founded in 1836 at the
Ring-o-Bells, Church Street.
But soon after this, in 1841, sixteen craftsmen formed a group in
This was named ‘The Lily of the Valley Lodge’ after
their patron saint St. Mary, and met at the Old Masons’ Alms, Main
Street, under the leadership of John Parkin.
In 1850 the
formation of Friendly Societies, because they removed pressure from
the Poor Laws, was made legal, and meetings became more open and it
became so much simpler for gentlemen to be members.
the Oddfellows changed their allegiance to The South Yorkshire Hotel
and remained there for over fifty years.
It is known that in
1935 meetings were held at the British Legion Offices, then situated
to the rear of the NatWest Bank and that by 1950 their meetings were
held in the Montagu Arms, Montagu Square, High Street.
British Legion Offices 1939
Following the 2nd W.W. the Welfare State was established, in this
country, and numbers, both needing their services and attending
meetings, of the friendly societies declined, until in c1988 the
Mexborough Branch merged with the one situated in Rotherham.
During the build up to the1st WW the Mexborough Branch of the
Oddfellows held meetings at the South Yorkshire Hotel, Swinton Road,
Mexborough and was one of the largest in the area with 293 members.
You will therefore understand why both a representative of the
Oddfellows and I were mystified, as to how, in November 2009, a
plaque depicting all those members of the Mexborough Branch of the
Oddfellows, who serve in the 1st WW, was discovered during
renovations to the New Masons’ Arms, Doncaster Road, Mexborough.
The ex-landlord, John Lee, on making the discovery very kindly
donated the plaque to our society and it became my intention, rather
than these brave men become just a forgotten name on a list of men
written on another forgotten list, that Ron James and I were
prepared to, where it was possible, research into them, and discover
what happened to the men.
Firstly, for ease of research, it was necessary to transcribe all
As the original was: over ninety years old; written
in mediaeval script, which was badly faded; this was extremely
difficult to do.
Because of this difficulty the names of those
that were killed, in the war were checked for correctness against
those listed on the war memorials of the surrounding towns and
Ron worked very hard in the latter and took photos of them all.
Work then began on the men and the decision was taken to accomplish
this in alphabetical order.
It was noticed that many, were
related to the famous Glassworks Dynasty of Barron, who, at the
outbreak of the 1st WW, rather than enlist as offices, which their
position is society, and in some cases education, permitted them to
do, they enlisted as privates to be with the men they work alongside
at the glassworks.
In this newsletter I would like to inform you of a couple of them,
which we have found information on.
Alexandra (Sandy Jun.)
Barron was born in 1885 and in1901 was living at Brook Villa,
On joining up he was aged 31yrs and was single.
He gave his
address as 9, Harlington Road, Mex. where he lived with his parents.
He was employed as a shipping clerk, we believe for Barron’s
His army career began in 1915 with training at the Heavy Section of
the Motor Training Centre, Bisley.
Then, on 14th October 1916 he
embarked from Southampton for Le Harve, France.
His army number
began as 32429 until 23rd March 1918 when he was transferred to the
2nd Battalion Tank Corps and became a Tank Mechanic with regt no.
He was promoted to corporal in August 1918 and, prior
to being demob in 1919, became a sergeant.
He survived the war
and we assume went back to work at the glassworks, married and had
two sons, Alexandra and Keith.
Alex became an engineer in
Edinburgh whereas Keith became an actor of film and small screen.
But this is in extreme contrast to the fate of his cousin.
Barron was born in c1882 in Mexborough the grandson of Thomas Barron
(Sen) Glass Manufacturer.
His father was Thomas Barron (Jun),
and he was brother to Thomas and Horace, and cousin to Alexandra and
Tom, who are also on the list.
In 1901 he was living at 1 Alfred
Place, Mexborough with his father, two brothers and sister, and,
meagre as their home was by today’s standards, they were still
privileged enough to have a servant.
He was employed as a glass
bottle maker, we believe at Barron’s Glassworks.
He enlisted on
the 19th August 1915 at Doncaster, and became Private 3439 in the
of the Kings Own Light Infantry.
Peter, unlike the
other Barrons in the armed forces at the time, must have had a
premonition concerning his impending death, as on 15th October 1915
“while a soldier in actual military service field” made a Will
leaving his gross estate of £529 to his brothers and sisters.
was killed in active service on 5th July 1916 at the Battle of the
Somme, aged just thirty four years.
I am told that he fought
like a lion to protect his comrades from Germans who had infiltrated
He is remembered on: Mexborough War Memorial; the
Barron’s War Memorial, Constant Security, Cliff Street, Mexborough;
also on Pier and Face 11C & 12A of the Thiepval Memorial, France.
But, as with too many, who died during the 1st. WW, I am unable to
find a grave for this poor man.
Here you have read what happened
to just two of those men on the list but to date, despite endless
research we have discovered the fate of only seven others.
anyone can give any information regarding any of those
extraordinarily brave men, listed on the rear page, I would love to
hear from you.
Acknowledgment : Many thanks must go to Ron James who
worked so hard in researching certain items for this publication.
Men who appear on the plaque depicting those members of the
Mexborough Branch of the Oddfellows who served during the
Alexandra Barron, Ernest Hobson, Albert William Jackson, William
Henry Wordsworth, William Henry Stanley, Fred Dobson, Horace
Barron, Peter Barron, George H. Church, John Crow, Bernard
Pearson, Thomas E. Buckley, Frank Corbutt, Edwin Hepworth,
Walter Parrcham, Henry Simpson, Stanley Wright, Ben Pendlebury,
Charles Bullock, Oswald Bullock, Reginald Hebden, William
Hobson, --- Preston, George Preston, James William Briggs, Ralf
Clayton, Harry Jarvis, Fred Hawer, Isaac Chester, Charles S.
Holmes, Sidney H. Pinder, Thomas J. Taylor, Irving Howarth,
Thomas Sayles, Sidney Bullock, Alfred Hayes, Septimus Hopkinson,
Fred Bullock, Fred Hepinstall, Roland Steers, Joseph Hardiman,
George William Elridge, William Rouane, John William Gibson,
Harry E. Lamb, James S. Sayles, G. W. Tuckwood, Alexander
Barron, Leonard Hobson, John Chipp, George Hobson, Horace
Sayles, Nelson Frost, James Haigh, Arthur Hobson, Hubert B.
Cummings, Wilber Denham, Fred William Lucas, Henry Hague,
Charles W. Norton, Ernest Scott and F. Woodhouse
Information Obtained from: Mexborough Branch of the British Legion.
Paul Eyres, Rotherham Branch of the Oddfellows. Commonwealth War
Graves Commission Website. Rotherham Local History Archives. Wills,
Probate Etc. ‘Bridges, Sanderson & Munro’.
This newsletter may not be reproduced, in part or in its entirety,
without the permission of J.R. Ashby.