Archives of the Isle of Man District and individual Tent records of the Independent Order of Rechabites, later the Rechabite Friendly Society

Scope and Content

The content consists of Manx Rechabite District and individual Tent records. Material relating to the District includes a rule book, minute books, agendas, expenses book, registers of membership, a communication book, accounts, death certificate copies, correspondence, reports and a Temperance association constitution. Material relating to the Manx Juvenile Rechabite District includes draft rules, an annual report, report on the 75th anniversary and a leaflet on endowment schemes.

Other contents relates to individual Tents such as the Mona Union Tent (Douglas), Mona Union Juvenile Tent, North Douglas Tent, Douglas Past officers’ Encampment, Mona Jonadab Tent (Michael), Star of Mona Tent (Peel) and Mona Daniel Tent (Colby). Other Tents include the Mona Fellowship Tent (Ramsey), Mona Rushen Tent (Colby), Mona Ebenezer Tent (Sulby), Crosby and Greeba Good Samaritan Tent, Sons of Mona Tent (Laxey), Sons of Mona Juvenile Tent (Laxey), Star of Foxdale Tent and the Santon Union Tent.

The Tent documentation consists of account books, rule books, minute books, meeting agendas, summonses to attend Tent meetings, registers of memberships (and Trustees), enrolment items, declaration books, a nomination book, contribution books, members’ card, cash books, an order book and bank and bond books. Further Tent items within the deposit include correspondence, a lease agreement, a valuation report, sick payment records, a requisition slip, a password key, receipts and an arrears notice.

Further records relate to the Rechabite Head Office (including literature on Juvenile Tents), such as rule books and amendments, statements of accounts, a suspension book, a certificate book, ritual books, Order literature and a guide book of the Registry of Friendly Societies.

Administrative / Biographical History

In the eighteenth century Britain had access to cheap (and probably adulterated) alcohol through the act of smuggling, allowing the population to consume large quantities of it. By the early 1800s the implementation of legislation led to a reduction in smuggling. However with the increase in the pace of the Industrial Revolution, emigration and poor social conditions, the problem of alcohol and drunkenness was still a great concern for many within society. In reaction, a social movement called the Temperance Movement spread throughout Victorian Britain, advocating the practice of abstaining from alcohol. The movement was popular in Non-Conformist circles (particularly the Methodist sector) and various Temperance Societies were established throughout the country.

One society inspired by this movement was the friendly society called The Independent Order of Rechabites. Britain was not yet a welfare state, thus friendly societies were used to bring groups of people together, protecting the ordinary man and his family against illness, injury or death (sickness and funeral funds). The Independent Order of Rechabites was founded 25 August 1835 by the Salford Temperance Burial Society who met in Mrs Meadowcrost’s Temperance Hotel, Bolton Street, Salford. The name Rechabites was inspired by the biblical story in the Old Testament; Jeremiah 35 verses 7 and 8 describe the sons of Rechab who are commanded to refrain from drinking wine and they also lived in tents.

In order to join the Society, the individual participated in an initiation ceremony to which the Order’s aims and objectives were stated. It described that ‘The Independent Order of Rechabites is an association of persons united together for the purposes of mutual benefit and help during times of affliction and the period of death, and for the promotion of the great principle of Abstinence from all Intoxicating Liquors’. Following the values of The Independent Order of Rechabites soon spread throughout the British Isles and various branches (called Tents) were established with their own officers. The different Tents were grouped into Districts in which each Tent provided a representative. The District Council would also elect persons to attend national conferences. The national conference (High Moveable Conference) was the body in which rules were set and the Order’s policies were decided.

The Order’s influence spread to the Isle of Man after Ramsey shoemaker and Methodist preacher James Teare (1804-1868), after moving to Preston, visited the Island in 1835-1836 preaching the evils of alcohol and the need to establish Temperance societies. The first Manx Rechabite Tent was established in Douglas on 25 July 1836 and was called The Mona Union No. 22. By 1852 there were 8 Manx Tents and membership had grown to 375. The business of the Tents was discussed in quarterly meetings where officers were elected and reports were received. Members regularly wore regalia (sashes, aprons, banners and symbolic staffs) at meeting and public processions. The Order also had its own heavily symbolic emblem which was used for instruction purposes. As well as helping members in times of sickness and death, the Order also lent money for mortgages. By 1904 local membership peaked at 4,367.

By the late 19th century changes in recreation and leisure saw the coming of mass entertainment and spectator sport, hindering the Temperance member’s ideas of recreation and leisure based on home and school with self-improvement and sobriety. In 1908 the Old Age Pensions Act and the National Insurance Act 1911 saw the first elements of a modern welfare state and by 1938 Manx membership had declined to 2,353. With the arrival of the National Health Service in 1948 Manx Rechabite membership underwent a sustained decline. By 1978 membership was down to 251 before the eventual closure of all Manx Tents in the mid-1990s.

Access Information

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Other Finding Aids

A descriptive list is available for consultation in the Reading Room.

Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from A. Franklin’s 1999 MA dissertation 'The Independent Order of Rechabites in the Isle of Man: an account with some social comment on the influence and activities of this Friendly Society from 1836 to 1996' (MNH reference number: MS 10217) and the website (accessed 28 June 2016).

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), June 2016.

Related Material

Related material held by Manx National Heritage includes records of individual Tents such as, the Star of Mona Tent (Peel) and its Juvenile Tent, with St Johns; also Rising Star Tent (Glen Maye), 1844-1972 (reference number: MS 09746) and the Mona Daniel Tent (Castletown) and Mona Rushen Tent (Colby), 1865-1961 (reference number: MS 09866).

Other related material include further District and individual Tent records 1836-1997 & 1899-1954 (reference numbers: MS 10043 & MS 10044), various costume & textiles, library, archival and social history resources.