Forster, Charles M. (polehead collector)

Date: 1700s-1800sExtent: 51 objects
Brass polehead from Charles Forster collection
Polehead. MERL 55/255

Charles M. Forster amassed a private collection of Friendly Society Emblems. Members of village clubs carried in procession their club brasses, mounted on poles, on their annual ‘walks’. Parish friendly societies were formed to provide some insurance for their members against sickness or death. In addition they played an important part in the social life of the village. Most of these societies dated from about 1793 when the Government passed an act to encourage their foundation. Several more acts followed during the first 60 years of the 19th century, until government protection led to the decline of the clubs. A few however remained in existence until the National Insurance Act of 1911. Most clubs had a strict code of behaviour laid down in their constitutions and usually the annual meeting was followed by a church service and a ‘walk’ round the parish.

Although poles were carried in this procession in many districts, the use of brass heads was confined to Somerset and the adjoining counties. The design of the brasses was sometimes conventional or represented an interest of the club such as the inn in which the meetings were held.

The collection consists of 51 poleheads.

More Information

The objects are catalogued on the online database. Search using the phrase ‘Charles Forster’

Other poleheads collections include AllenJardine and Shickle

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