Ancient Order of Royal Foresters

From Kook Science

The Ancient Order of Royal Foresters, also referred to simply as the Order of Royal Foresters, was a British fraternal society that was supposed to have existed at least since 1813, based on a dispensation document dated to that year in which the Supreme Court No. 1 of the Royal Foresters at the Old Crown Inn, Kirkgate, Leeds, Yorkshire granted one John Smithson permission to form Court No. 2 at Shoulder of Mutton Inn, Knaresborough, Yorkshire. Just over two decades later, at a 1834 meeting, members of the Ancient Order of Foresters seceded from the Royal Foresters, and the parent order was in the decades thereafter supposed to be reduced to just a few courts, most in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and some abroad in the British Empire, including Australia, where there were at least six courts supposed to exist as late as 1875.


The ritual work of the Royal Foresters was based on the legends of Robin Hood and involved an initiatory duel with clubs or cudgels.


Stevens, Albert C., ed. (1907), "Ancient Order of Foresters", The Cyclopædia of Fraternities (2 ed.), New York: E.B. Treat and Co., p. 222, 

The first evidence of the existence of a Court of Foresters from which a direct line of succession is obtained is dated 1813, and takes the form of a dispensation from No. 1 Court of Royal Foresters, held at Old Crown Inn, Kirkgate, Leeds, for the opening of No. [2] Court at the Shoulder of Mutton Inn, Knaresborough. The dispensation says:

The Supreme Chief Ranger and officers of No. 1 Supreme Court of Royal Foresters held at the house of Mr. Hugh Black, inn-holder at Leeds, having the welfare of the institution at heart, as tending to improve the morals of men, and make those good who are inclined to be so, do grant, and give our full consent to Brother John Smithson of Knaresborough to assemble and hold regular Court of Royal Foresters at the house of Mr. Richard Lister, inn-holder of Knaresborough, by the firm, style, and title of No. 2 Royal Foresters, and there to perform all the rites and ceremonies of Ancient Foresters as practised of old at our Secret Swaine Mote.

The dispensation provided, also, that the sole power to grant dispensations was reserved by Supreme Court No. 1, and that the Chief Ranger of Court No. 2 should communicate at least once a year with Supreme Court No. 1. The date of the dispensation, 5,817, translaed (counting from Adam) as 1813, "is the only absolute date we can find in connection with the history of the Order." [Foresters' Directory, Glasgow, 1887.]