KINGSTEIGNTON SICK CLUB
Six months after the Friendly Societies Act was given Royal Assent in 1875, Watts, Blake, Bearne & Co set up a sick club whereby for the payment of a nominal subscription, members would receive sickness pay when they were prevented from working due to illness or accident.
Certain illnesses and causes of injuries such as intemperance, venereal disease, and injuries caused by wrestling and cudgel playing were excluded from the cover provided.
The Western Times reported on the introduction of the club as follows in its edition of 25th February 1876:-
"KINGSTEIGNTON - INAUGURATING A WORKING MENS SICKNESS CLUB
The desirability has been more than once mooted at the Newton Abbot Board of Guardians of, if possible, impressing on all large employers of labour the importance of establishing among their employees a club that will secure to its members in cases of accident or sickness a fixed amount sufficient, except, it may be in the cases of large families to supply their immediate necessities without at once pauperizing themselves by applying to the Guardians for relief. The Guardians exhibit a strong desire as a rule to help those who help themselves, and by the advocacy of such clubs. It must not be considered that they have any pecuniary motive in view, but knowing how strong an aversion some parties have to becoming paupers at first , but who, once obtained relief, unblushingly apply on subsequent occasions, they think it well to prevent it, if possible, the first application, and encourage the provident. The staple industry of this place is its clay works. The majority of the inhabitants are either clay-cutters, carters or bargemen. Of the four companies carrying on the works Messrs Watts, Blake, Bearne, Co. are the largest, their stone-ware clay works being second to none in this part of England. The number of hands they employ is very large and their wages good. It is with this Company, assisted by a handsome donation from the proprietors that a sick club has been established conforming to the following rules. 1st - The object of the Club is to raise among the Members thereof a Stock or Fund to support each other in sickness. 2nd - Men in the employ of Watts, Blake, Bearne & Co., at the Kingsteignton Clay Works are the only persons eligible for Membership. 3rd- Every Member must pay into the Club 3d. Per Week. 4th - Any Member disabled by accident or natural sickness, after the Club has been established three months, shall receive Eight Shillings per week during his illness. No Member shall receive pay for more than three months for one sickness, or accident, and no Member shall perform any manual labour whilst receiving pay from the Club. 5th- No Member shall receive any pay from the Club if disabled by Fighting, Wrestling, Cudgel playing, or from any result of his own intemperance, or whilst suffering from venereal disease, or in respect of any accident received whilst working for other employers. 6th- If at any time the Funds of the Club increase so that a higher rate of pay can be safely agreed upon, this may be done by a majority of Votes at a General Meeting of the Members called for the purpose. 7th- If any Member shall by feigned sickness or in any other way, attempt to impose upon the Club, he shall be fined 5/- for each offence, and unless the fine in every case be paid he shall be publicly expelled from the Club. 8th- Any Member leaving the service of Watts, Blake, Bearne & Co, shall forfeit all that he may have paid into the Society and shall have no further claim on the Funds of the Club.9th The Subscriptions to be paid weekly to Watts, Blake, Bearne & Co., who will undertake to give Interest on the respective amounts. 10th - The Overlooker (James Vallance) and any two Members the Subscribers may appoint, shall act as a Committee and keep proper accounts of all receipts and payments and do everything that may be necessary for the welfare of the Club. It will thus be seen that the rules are stringent enough to prevent imposition whilst for the small payment of 3d any member at any one sickness may secure £5 4s in three months. This in most cases would keep him from pauperizing himself, but if found insufficient the Guardians would willingly assist him. The men evidently feel the importance of the project, and last Friday over 100 met at the house of Mr Vallance for the purpose of confirming the rules and having jollification over the event, and partly to celebrate the marriage of Mr Lewis Bearne, the eldest son of one of the firm. The supper was liberally subscribed to by the proprietors and a capital spread was done ample justice to".