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Published: 16 July 2022

By Andy Ross

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The Ancient Order of Foresters

The Ancient Order of Foresters is, as its name suggests, old, and its history includes New Zealand.

Back in the 18th Century the Royal Foresters Society was created in the UK and in 1834 the Ancient Order of Foresters was established from the 300 branches of the Royal Society, in Rochdale. In 1852 the Oder was established in New Zealand, bringing with it the Society's magnificent if somewhat florid intentions: "to cheer the unfortunate; to sympathise with those whom accident or disease has overtaken; and to dry the cheek of the mourners." In 1875 the Onehunga branch was created, (Onehunga is now a suburb of Auckland and you can find out more about the area here. If you want to know how to pronounce the name you can hear it two different ways on this page.) and this page from Te Ara shows the banner of the branch while this page shows the back and front of the same banner and its various accoutrements. 

In New Zealand the online auction site is called Trade Me and there are some great historical items to find on it. This week's treasure is three articles from the Onehunga branch of the Ancient Order - a splendid silver trophy, a neck collar and a sash. The trophy was the First Prize 75 yards Handicap won by E Wilson on April 3rd 1893 at Onehunga Foresters Sports, while the collar has a badge and the initials P.C.R. (Past Chief Ranger) embroidered on it.  (Some examples are on this page.) The sash is green with the badge of the Scoeity embroidered on it and a small silver pin of a stag's head with A.O.F. beneath it. This link is for a page of these sashes with their interesting history and the second one down is an example of the piece in the collection. All the textiles were probably the work of George Tutill and Sons. George Tutillwas the largest manufacturer of trade union banners in the world and had the world's largest Jacquard Loom in his City Street premises in London. 

It is exciting to have an opportunity to learn more about these pieces and their history. Hopefully there will enough to piece together their story of how they came to be auctioned off.