Record

Ref NoDD187
Acc No187
539
TitleMembership Records of the British Order of Ancient & Free Gardeners
DescriptionMembership record cards and register of deaths for lodges of the Ancient Free Gardeners' Friendly Society in Aberdeen and throughout North East Scotland.
Date1930 - 1988
CreatorBritish Order of Ancient & Free Gardeners' Friendly Society
Extent62 bundles; 1 volume
​Open or Restricted AccessOpen
Access ConditionsOpen for consultation at our Town House site, open Wed-Fri 9:30-12:30 and 13:30-16:30. It is advisable to make an appointment. Data Protection Act closures apply to these records.
Administrative HistoryFrom Aberdeen Art Gallery catalogue (access 27/11/2019):
"Rose and Thistle was the first lodge of the British Order of Ancient Free Gardeners to be established in Aberdeen. This was in April of 1880 and was initially under the care of the Kirkaldy District Branch. By 1887 six lodges existed and in September of that year it was decided to form an Aberdeen District Branch.

The British Order of Ancient Free Gardeners, like similar societies, was a friendly society which aimed to help members in times of sickness and need. The Free Gardeners adopted rituals and symbols which owed much to those of freemasons. The influence of the Order spread throughout the North East of Scotland with lodges being set up in places such as Boddam, Elgin, Ballater and Oldmeldrum. In the 20th century the gradual introduction of state pensions and benefits began to undermine the economic basis of the British Order of Ancient Free Gardeners and there was a long period of decline in membership. In 1987, in the Aberdeen Branch's centenary year, the order was dissolved."

From http://www.historyshelf.org/shelf/free/01.php (accessed 2/11/2018):
"Gardeners' societies appeared in Scotland during the seventeenth century. Working gardeners started societies to promote and regulate their profession and to support themselves in time of need. As time passed the main aim became the members' benefits - they were friendly societies.

Non-gardeners could join most lodges. They were called 'free gardeners' and soon they out-numbered working gardeners. All through the 19th century free gardeners continued to found lodges despite the attractions of the many other friendly societies, such as the Foresters, Buffaloes or Oddfellows. Free gardeners made up their own rituals and practices, which helped unite the brethren of each lodge.

Some of the societies joined together in 'Orders' led by a 'Grand Lodge'. There were several orders based in Edinburgh, Glasgow and England. Some of the older lodges stayed independent. At their height in the Lothians there were over 10,000 free gardeners organised in upwards of 50 lodges. Juvenile and even women-only branches opened at the end of the 19th century."

Records of the Old Aberdeen Gardener Fraternity are held at Aberdeen University Special Collections Centre.
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