ODDFELLOWS from Chester and Deeside are planning to walk around the City Walls and enjoy a strawberry tea as part of the society’s national 200th anniversary celebration.
Some 50 members will take part in the four mile walk on July 7, equalling 200 miles – one for every year the Oddfellows has been running.
The society was originally set up in 1810 to help protect and care for its members, at a time when there were no trade unions, no welfare state and no National Health Service.
At a time when Guilds took care of the needs of tradesmen such as stonemasons, the Oddfellows brought together people with ‘odd’ trades such as the lone blacksmiths and craftspeople working in villages.
They met in public houses and paid a few pence a week into a fund. If they became ill, or fell on hard times, their families were paid an allowance from the fund.
Throughout the past two centuries the society has evolved but maintains the tradition of helping people to the present day.
Originally there were four Oddfellows lodges in Chester. They banded together in 1884 to buy the Oddfellows Hall, a former mansion house in Lower Bridge Street.
When this was sold in 1998 the Chester and Deeside lodges joined together and moved to premises in Saltney. The branch now boasts 1,000 members.
Branch secretary Denise Turner said: “These days we tend to focus on the social welfare of our members. “We hold weekly coffee mornings but people can drop in for a chat at any time. Membership does bring lots of benefits like optical and dental benefits.
“We have members of all ages who enjoys bowls matches, lunches and theatre trips.
“The hall itself has become a focus of the community with dance classes, yoga, karate and even the Town Council holding its meetings here.”
Management committee member Rose Cugley said: “It was mostly men who were Oddfellows to start with but now women play a big part in it too.
“In the early days being a member of the Oddfellows meant that you didn’t have to go to the parish for a handout if you were sick but when things like the National Health Service and the welfare state came in the branch numbers began to dwindle.
“We now have a strong membership again. Prince or pauper everyone is equal in our eyes and we don’t allow any discussion about religion or politics.”
The Oddfellows is a not-for-profit society and is still one of the largest branch based organisations in the country. There are approximately 100,000 members and 150 branches nationwide. Many people join to expand their social networks and take part in a range of social activities including quizzes, games and musical nights, day trips, dances, and meals out. There is also an opportunity to join a travel club which hosts summer holidays and overseas trips for members.
For further information about the Chester and Deeside branch email: firstname.lastname@example.org.