Thursday, 1 March 2012
This week I am surveying and recording an Oddfellows Hall in Lancashire. I know very little about the Oddfellows and this has been a fast learning curve. It's not a building type covered by the English Heritage listing selection guides, although Masonic lodges are covered. Although they were established for philanthropic reasons, to protect the interests of a community of individuals, they shared many characteristics with gentleman's clubs, albeit in a mainly working class environment, and in most cases women were excluded. They also seem to have been born out of roots in the trade guilds in parallel with the freemasons and many kept the regalia and ceremony and retained the names of "lodge" and "grand master", so it is easy to see why they might be treated with suspicion. But my observations are that they had a benign influence and were instrumental in protecting workers interests before the creation of the welfare state. The Oddfellows are listed as one of the UK Friendly Societies.
The interiors of these buildings are known to members of the Independent Order of Oddfellows (Manchester Unity) but not to the rest of us. Although I have now recorded the remains of this interior in Lancashire it will be interesting to see if I can unearth any examples of other interiors to see how they compare.