New project to tell stories of Swaffham’s charities

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The stories of some of Swaffham’s community organisations are to be told in a new project launched by town researchers.

Members of the Swaffham History Group have begun a new study, Charity Begins at Home, looking at the benevolent groups that have existed in the town over the centuries.

The first two books in the series are set to go on sale in the Swaffham Museum over the next couple of weeks, with more planned to follow.

And officials are appealing for anyone with information about local groups to come forward.

Group chairman Marion Hancock said the idea for the latest project followed the popularity of its last work, which looked at the town’s old pubs and brewery.

She said: “The project looks at the way people have helped each other in times of need, mainly before the welfare state became a reality.”

The first book focuses on the Swaffham Gilds, which met in the parish church during medieval times and were banned in 1547, following England’s conversion to Protestantism under Henry VIII.

And Mrs Hancock said signs of the groups can still be found in the town today.

She said: “The details which have been discovered about the 14 gilds which met so many years ago is fascinating and vague traces of some of the chapels used still exist at St.Peter and St Paul.”

The second book will look at the Freemasons, of which Swaffham’s first branch was formed in 1764 and many prominent residents have been members.

Future books will look at groups including the Ancient Order of Foresters, the Antidiluvian Order of Buffaloes, the Independent Order of Oddfellows, the Independent Order of Rechabites, a temperance society, the Swaffham Co-operative Society, before it focused largely on its foodstore operation in the 1950s, and the Royal British Legion.

The group says it is particularly keen to hear from anyone with information or pictures relating to the Legion, though not of recent commemorations at the war memorial or from the 1940s and 1950s.

Both publications will be available from the Swaffham Museum, priced at £2.50 each.

The group meets on the second Monday of the month, between 2 and 4pm, in the museum’s education room.

Anyone with any information is asked to email littlebethany@tiscali.co.uk or phone 01760 724470.