An unusual relic of the Fraternal Society of Bucks

The style of the engraving on the badge shown in Fig 1 suggests a date in the mid-eighteenth century. This was a period that saw the birth, and a flourishing, of many friendly and fraternal societies; the engraved motto — ‘Unanimity is the Strength of Society’ reflects this feeling. 


Fig 1 (Stock Number 5026z)

Although Freemasonry is the most familiar of these movements, due to its long history and survival, there were others.  The motto on the badge illustrated above is one that is recorded for the Noble Order of Bucks, at one point the leading rival to Freemasonry in Great Britain.  The eighteenth and nineteenth century newspapers contain references to this order from 1739 until 1818 (by which time the Order is assumed to have become virtually moribund). (See note 1)

The majority of badges and medals that survive for Freemasonry are made of metal, both precious and base.  The Bucks, however, seem to have favoured ceramic badges (see below) and objects transfer- printed with designs very similar to those that they used on paper.  A good example of this is a jug sold by Bonhams ( See note 2) in London (see below):

    
Fig 2

A close examination of the decoration on this jug reveals that the lower medallion in the design features a very similar image to that shown on the badge in Fig 1 encircled by the same motto.

An article published in 1890 by Henry Rylands (See note 3), a leading Freemason, includes a very detailed survey and analysis of the material available about the Society of Bucks. He quotes an eighteenth century manuscript entitled ‘The Constitution Book of the Antient and Noble Order of Bucks’.

This manuscript reveals much about the organisation, purported history of the Order, the toasts they drank and, importantly, the regalia of each rank within the Order.  In its final section, it states that ‘The Forresters are to have the emblem of the Old Man teaching his Sons Unanimity by the Fable of the Bundle of Sticks, to a green ribbon, with this motto [Unanimity is the Strength of Society]’.  It is this scene that appears both on the jug and on the badge.

 The manuscript reveals that the badge illustrated is that of a Forrester of whom there were eight in each Lodge.  The Forrester was a rank within the Society of Bucks coming below the Grand Buck, the two Deputy Grand Bucks and the four Rangers.

The published research illustrates a range of badges for the different ranks but the only Forrester’s badge illustrated is an oval example in Liverpool enamel. (See note 4)  The badge shown in Fig 1 can therefore be seen as a rare survival of an Order that, despite its popularity in the second half of the eighteenth century, seems to have disappeared by the time of the death of George III in 1820.

Luke Schrager

Note 1
vide Reid, W: The Bucks: Some Relics of a Defunct Fraternal Society: English Ceramic Circle: Vol. 15, Part 2: pp.209-222 and Boney, K: The Liverpool Society of Bucks: Apollo: January 1962: pp. 8-10.

Note 2
https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/15273/lot/194/. The image is 'zoomable' and shows the emblem clearly.

Note 3
Rylands, H. : A Forgotten Rival of Freemasonry- The Noble Order of Bucks: Ars Quatuor Coronati, Vol. 3 (1890): pp. 140-167.

Note 4
Wyman, C.: The Society of Bucks: English Ceramic Circle: Vol. 10, Part 5: pp.293-304.


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