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Image of Chequers Inn

Amicable Society of Bressingham

Deposited on one of the many archive shelves in Norfolk Record Office is a gem of a printed booklet titled Articles: Agreed and made by the Amicable Society at Bressingham and dated 21 January, 1804. The 36 Articles codify the conditions that entitled the 31 members, aged between 18 and 41, to financial benefits following sickness or death.

Members met monthly  “at the Sign of the Chequer in Bressingham”, paying 4 pence beer money each meeting and 2 shillings on the annual Feast Day. Attendance by non-members had to be approved by the Stewards and included a condition that non-members must spend 6d in the “club-room” and 3 shillings on the Feast Day. However, the Amicable Society was much more than simply a club and drinking society; a contribution of one shilling per month ensured members who fell “sick, lame, or blind, so as to be incapable of doing any work” received 7 shillings 6 pence per week for any illness lasting up to six months, and long-term debilitating ill health merited 3 shillings 6 pence per week for life. But support was conditional; the Society valued thrift and discouraged drunkenness. There was a strong moral code: men “disguised in liquor” were fined, members with “venereal disease” and fathers of illegitimate children were excluded from benefits, and “counterfeit” claims of illness resulted in exclusion.

Written during the Napoleonic Wars and at a time of rapid price inflation, members of the Amicable Society of Bressingham would have experienced profound agricultural change as a result of land improvement schemes such as the Parliamentary Enclosure of common and ‘waste’ lands in Bressingham and Fersfield and developments such as threshing machines. In the new age of Enlightenment and reason, self-help was deemed a greater virtue than Providential guidance. Hence mutual societies had emerged during the eighteenth century to insure and protect members against the vagaries of life, especially individuals without recourse to other forms of relief. Whereas the ‘deserving poor’ could appeal to the Poor Law when they were unable to work due to ill health, the ‘middling sort’ had fewer options.  Members of the Amicable Society of Bressingham were apparently relatively well off as they were sufficiently affluent to employ “servants, workmen, or assistants”, and were therefore unlikely (and undoubtedly unwilling) to rely on the Poor Law handouts.

Waveney Valley Studies, 1963, records a similar Society called the “King’s Head” club of Dickleburgh, which was established during the late eighteenth century. The “King’s Head” and Bressingham Amicable Society had much in common, such as monthly fees which were safeguarded in a chest or box – and holding meetings in pubs.  Interestingly, the Bressingham articles mention a “box or chest with 5 locks and keys (for safe keeping the money, books and papers)”. Diana Burroughes, Churchwarden for St John the Baptist Church, Bressingham wonders whether the heavy, centuries-old chest with five locks in St John the Baptist is the very chest once used by the Amicable Society. And finally, the Bressingham Amicable Society articles (and the “King’s Head”) are a poignant reminder of the important role pubs have played in English life for so many centuries. Diana has also pointed out that her late husband, Eric, always referred to the room most recently used as the main dining room in the Chequers pub as the ‘club room’ – the Amicable Society articles refer to the “club-room” as their meeting room. History surely reminds us of our important links between past and present which should not be discarded lightly.

Please note the following references for the ‘Amicable Society’:

‘Articles agreed and made by the Amicable Society at Bressingham on the 21st day of January, 1804”, Norfolk Record Office, C/Scg 3/2
‘Dickleburgh’s 18th Century friendly society’ , 1963, in Pursehouse, Eric, Waveney Valley Studies: Gleanings from Local History (Diss)
Overton, Mark: Agricultural Revolution in England: The transformation of the agrarian economy 1500-1850 (Cambridge, 1996)


NAHRG Lecture Programme 2021/22

NAHRG is the county local history and archaeology club. Every winter, we organise a monthly lecture series at the UEA on a Saturday afternoon. This season’s programme is attached and your members are cordially invited. Non-members of NAHRG are welcome to try one or two lectures free of charge before joining.

This season has been arranged later than usual so I apologise for the short notice of the first talk (this Saturday, 30 October)

Visit our webpage: NAHRG – The Norfolk Archaeological & Historical Research Group

Press Release image

Press Release

Residents demand “STOP” to the development of a massive Anaerobic Digester at Bressingham in South Norfolk

Bressingham and surrounding villages rally against the construction of an enormous Biomass AD plant being built without planning permission that will put more than 10,000 extra vehicle movement onto single track roads.  

French parent company Engie SA and developers BioWatt Limited stand to make millions from Government subsidies at the expense of the  environment and communities. Feeding the plant will involve 10,000+ heavy vehicle movements through single-track country lanes.  Maize will be grown for the AD plant  creating soil erosion, soil mineralisation and flooding. Maize requires large quantities of artificial fertiliser which contributes 10% of the worlds CO2 in its manufacture. Growing crop monocultures damages wildlife and the soil. 

Growing crops for fuel is not green energy and it takes hundreds of hectares to produce the same energy as one wind turbine.  More energy is put in than comes out. The government has announced that there will be subsidies to stop burning gas in domestic boilers while at the same time government is subsidising gas production from land that could be growing food to eat. There are better ways to produce energy than burning gas. 

The impact on local ecology and biodiversity is now an issue of national and international priority.  Biogas production is not carbon neutral, as some of its advocates argue, it is a considerable contributor to carbon emissions from pesticide and fertiliser manufacture and  lorry and tractor exhausts.  Up to 10% of the methane the plant makes can be lost in leaks and poor sealing. Propane is burnt in the methane production and added to the gas produced to increase its calorific value.  These are well documented issues and have been known for a number of years.  Digesters in other countries have been closed after only 5 years because of the problems they caused.  

There is huge concern, opposition and anger to this development from communities and local councils. The current development will be four times larger than its original plan.  Biowatt hope to finish the construction then get retrospective planning permission for what they have built. Biowatt has used this strategy on a number of other projects. Consultation with local communities has been at a bare minimum with no consideration of the problems that the 10,000 vehicles on single track roads driving through small villages will cause.   

This development takes advantage of an arbitrary feed-in tariff set by the government to encourage green energy. This strategy is wrong because they have failed to take into account the scale of these developments. Large scale anaerobic digesters allow those who have enough money to invest to profit by compromising the environment and the community at the expense of the taxpayer.

Please contact:-

Sue Butler –

William Hudson 07879 666100

Christine Merton –

Parish Councillor Vacancy

Your Parish Council Needs You

Would you like to play a part in your community?

There is a vacancy for a Parish Councillor


You must live or work in Bressingham or Fersfield or live within 3 miles and have no serious criminal record

To find out more contact

Mike Mortimer – the Parish Clerk

01379 641909

Wood chip piles

Free woodchip

There is still plenty of woodchip available. It is free for parish residents to take away for use on their own properties. Please take from furthest end and be considerate to others in the amount you take.