The Leigh Good Intent Benefit Society was established on 11 June 1849 as a means of providing a form of mutual insurance to which members subscribe in exchange for old age, sickness and unemployment benefits.
For fuller information, see article “Benevolence and Self-Reliance in Leigh in the 19th Century”.
However, the following was written by Lawrence Biddle for the Leigh Parish Magazine in August 1994:
The Society was formed at a meeting held on 11 June 1849 at the Porcupine Inn. The objects of the Society were set out in the introduction to the Rules and read as follows:
“‘Whereas divers persons did in the year one thousand eight hundred and forty-nine, form themselves into a Society, to be called “THE LEIGH GOOD INTENT BENEFIT SOCIETY” and to be held at the Porcupine Inn Leigh, in the county of Kent, for the purpose of administered relief to such of its members as might be afflicted with sickness, lameness, blindness or any other infirmity to which human nature is exposed, which presses with great severity on those whose incomes are limited, and derived from their own personal exertions, and who in time of calamity must severely feel the want of such provision, unless by their industry, prudence and economy, with the blessing of providence they have been able to provide for such an event”
The Rules printed later that year define how the Society was to be managed in considerable detail.
The officers were to be three Trustees, two Stewards, two Deputy Stewards and a Secretary and there were to be eleven Committee members.
Members could join between the ages of 18 and 40 and paid 5/- entrance money and 1/6 per month. Meetings were to be held monthly from 7-9pm during the summer and 6-8pm during the winter. A box was to be provided with 3 separate locks and the three keys were to be held by the Secretary and the two stewards and into this box all money was to be placed.
Members incapable of work were to receive 10/- a week but if their infirmity was created by a fracture there was an additional £1.1.0. There was also a funeral benefit of £4 for a member or £2.10 for the wife of a member.
Mr C F Gregory, surgeon of Leigh (who lived at The Limes, now Leigh House*) was to receive an annual fee of £2.0.0 for examining any sick member of the Society.
There was a long list of “fines or forfeits” ranging for 3d to 2/6 for absence or lateness at meetings or for swearing, cursing or laying wagers or for speaking contemptuously of the Society or its members.
There was to be a General Meeting of the Society on the third Monday in July at the Porcupine beginning between 9 and 10 am with Church and if they failed to attend church in an orderly and decent manner there was a fine of 6d. After the Meeting there was a dinner at a cost of 2/- each to be paid by members whether present or not.
The printed accounts for the year 1866/67 show benefits paid out of £103.15 while the income from subscriptions amounted to £1,544.5.6 with a further £9.16.0 in donations from prominent parishioners. The Society had been running for 18 years and its accumulated assets amount to £1,317.4.11 which included £1,258.12.6 in 3% Consols.
In the following year the committee issued in April a letter as to the arrangements for the dinner to be held on 25 July. The Penshurst Band was to be engaged at £4.10.0. The dinner was to be preceded by Church at which Rev Thomas May would preach and Members absenting themselves from Church would be fined 6d. Evidently the proceedings went on after dinner as any person desiring to join “in the Booth after Dinner” shall pay the sum of 6d to enter the Booth, such sum to be had out in Refreshment.”
It seems very unlikely that any work was done on the day of the Annual Meeting.
*note now Chilling House.