Evolving from medieval Trade Guilds, the Oddfellows began in London in the late 17th century with more and more groups establishing themselves around the country. In villages there were often insufficient numbers of ‘Fellows’ in individual crafts to form dedicated guilds for their own trade. In these circumstances, therefore, fellow workers from all trades in a village joined together in one guild. Such ‘guildsmen’ came to be called “Odd Fellows” because they were fellow craftsmen from an ‘odd’ assortment of trades.
The photograph below is of the Tattenhall Oddfellows and is believed to have been taken from the bowling green which was previously situated behind ‘The Bear and Ragged Staff’ public house. The view, which includes the wall and the rear of ‘The Nine Houses’, is now as it was then albeit that the bowling green is long since gone and that the wall is currently covered in ivy. In Tattenhall, the local Lodge (branch) was known as the ‘Crallan’ Lodge and was part of the ‘Independent Order of Oddfellows, Manchester Unity Friendly Society’. The final meeting of the Tattenhall Lodge took place in December 2003, bringing to an end 164 years of Oddfellow history in the village.
NG – represented ‘Noble Grand Branch Chairman’ (8th from left seated on chair).
VG – represented ‘Vice Grand Deputy Branch Chairman’ (9th from left seated on chair).
PPGM – ‘Past Provincial Grand Master’ (7th from right seated on chair). This heavily bearded gentleman who is seated immediately in front of the only woman in the photograph (she has a hand upon his left shoulder) is George Ashton. He was Grand Master in 1878 and 1885
The standard emblem of the Independent Order of Oddfellows (as shown on the sash in the photograph above) is a shield divided by a cross. In the top left quarter is an hourglass; in the top right quarter are crossed keys; in the lower left quarter is a beehive; in the lower right quarter is a lamb and flag. Flanking the shield are figures of ‘Faith’ with a cross (left) and ‘Hope’ with an anchor (right). Above the shield is a globe with the word ‘BRITAIN’ – surmounted by a heart in an open hand and surrounded by laurel sprays.
These emblems and symbols illustrated the kinship of the Oddfellows as follows:
Heart in open hand – this was a characteristic Oddfellow symbol which signified friendship and that any act of kindness (the hand) was without merit unless it was accompanied by the proper impulse of the heart.
The globe – this represented the universal spirit of benevolence in Oddfellowship.
Hourglass – this signified truth, the shortness of time and the certainty of death. It taught promptness in assisting those who were in need and in improving oneself in practical virtues.
Crossed keys – this reflected the security of the order, and the treasures that were laid up in Heaven for those who believed.
Beehive – this illustrated justice as the reward of industry and the prosperity of a society based on right, fitness and justice.
Lamb and flag – this was the emblem of faith, purity and humility.
‘Past Provincial Grand Master’ George Ashton was a highly skilled Cabinet Maker who lived at what is now ‘No 2 Rosebank’ – this was located directly opposite Mary Stoneley’s Grocery and Tobacconist Store (currently ‘The Dog House’). Churchwarden for a number of years between 1897-1905, he was also the village undertaker. As the ‘Past Provincial Grand Master’ he is is seen leading the Oddfellows Procession below. Such processions through the village of Tattenhall must have been a spectacular sight and appear to have been well attended.
Some residents of Tattenhall still treasure the work of the ‘Past Provincial Grand Master’ and Cabinet Maker ‘George Ashton’ and they are sufficiently lucky to own a piece of furniture from this former Oddfellow and skilled artisan. The image below is not only evidence of the skill of George Ashton but provides evidence of the nature of ‘Trade Guild’ membership.