Our history

We've been around for quite a while and we're proud of our history and heritage. On this page we delve deeper into the Sheffield Mutual archives...enjoy!

Friendly societies are one of the oldest types of financial service organisations and have been around for hundreds of years. Here, we take a trip down memory lane and look at the history of Sheffield Mutual...

Friendly societies came to the fore following the industrial revolution in the 18th century and their popularity grew from the simple premise that if a group of people contributed to a mutual fund, they could receive benefits at a time of need - particularly illness, death or unemployment of a household’s breadwinner.

In 1875, friendly societies were acknowledged by the government under the Friendly Societies Act 1875 and membership was encouraged as new systems of auditing and registration were introduced. People joined in large numbers and by the late 1800’s, there were around 27,000 registered friendly societies across the UK in towns and villages.

Between 1911 and 1948, friendly societies administered the state sickness benefits scheme for working people for whom membership of a friendly society was compulsory under the National Insurance Act of 1911. By 1945, before the nationalisation of the Welfare State, 14 million people, mainly male workers, were members of friendly societies. Numbers fell when the welfare state was nationalised in 1948, and the NHS as we all know today was introduced. 

Friendly societies struggled to survive and had to adapt their offering to meet the needs of new members. Today, there are around 140 friendly societies registered across the UK offering savings and investments, income protection, life cover and private medical insurance products to their members. Many have names which reflect their origins and are locally based but others, such as Sheffield Mutual, have grown significantly and offer their products to members nationwide.


Founded as a district

Founded as a district of The Order of Druids Friendly Society by George Wood. Sheffield was the largest district in the UK.



Registered under the Friendly Societies Act 1875.


District secedes

The ‘Sheffield Equalized’ district decides to secede from The Order of Druids by 9,018 votes to 282.



Registered as The Sheffield Equalized Independent Druids Friendly Society with the motto "Equality, Truth & Fidelity". The Society was based at 35 and 37 Suffolk Road in Sheffield.


Half yearly meeting

Half-yearly meeting - membership was at 21,134, with capital of £72,723.


Introduction of National Insurance Act

Lloyd George introduced the National Insurance Act to “provide for insurance against the loss of health and for the prevention and cure of sickness and for insurance against unemployment, and for purposes incidental thereto”. Friendly societies like the Sheffield Equalized Independent Druids were given a major role in administering health insurance.


Membership grew

Society’s membership grew as the demand for sickness and accident plans increased for the working class and membership was compulsory. Pay-outs were made to sick and injured mine workers.


Introduction to the NHS

Nationalisation of the Welfare State (introduction of the NHS) was pivotal for friendly societies as it ended the public-private-partnership initiative of Lloyd George and membership numbers fell significantly.


Registered under the Friendly Society Act

We registered under the Friendly Society Act 1974 and relocated the head office to Wilkinson Street, Sheffield.


Celebrated our 100th anniversary as an independent organisation.


Changed our name

Changed our name to the Independent Druids Friendly Society.


Society becomes regulated

The Society becomes regulated by the Financial Services Authority.


We renamed

as Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society.


Moved location

We moved offices to our head office at Tankersley near Barnsley.


We become dual-regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) & Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), who both replaced the FSA.



The Society paid over £1m in bonuses to its members.


We celebrated our 125th anniversary.


£175 million in assets

Reached £175 million assets at the end of 2019.


Approval of incorporation

Members' approval of Society's incorporation.


A busy year!

We appointed Russell Investments as our Outsourced Chief Investment Officer (OCIO). Our assets increased to over £200 million for the first time.


We celebrated our 130th anniversary!

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