Independent Order of Rechabites

'We will drink no wine or strong drink'

The Sons of Rechab
Englesea Brook
Old Rechabite Hall, Market Street, Appledore
Jane Richardson

Whilst strolling around the North Devon town of Appledore, I noticed a building at 21 Market Street called the Old Rechabite Hall, reminding me of a card I had bought while visiting Englesea Brook. The card depicts The Sons of Rechab, with a banner ‘We will drink no wine or strong drink’.

In the window of the Old Rechabite Hall was a display, describing the history of the building, information about the biblical Rechabites and their more modern day counterparts.

I am grateful to the author of this information, which I have used as the basis for this page.

The building at 21 Market Street was recorded as an inn in 1747, probably called The Swan. It was sold in 1908 to the Independent Order of Rechabites, a Friendly Society which took its name from the biblical Rechabites. They were the descendants of Rechab, through Jonadab, who forbade the clan to drink wine, and commanded them to lead a nomadic life. Their story is told in the Book of Jeremiah 35:6

“..We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying ‘You shall drink no wine, you nor your sons, forever. You shall not build a house, sow seed, plant a vineyard, nor have any of these; but all your days you shall dwell in tents, that you may live many days in the land where you are sojourners’ “

The Independent Order of Rechabites dates from 1835, one of a number of Friendly Societies set up from the late 18th century to provide working class people with health insurance and death benefit. The founders were a group of Manchester Methodists, and one of the founding principles was total abstinence from alcohol for all members.

Each Lodge or branch of The Order was known as a Tent, reflecting the nomadic status of the biblical Rechabites.The titles and structure were modelled along biblical and tribal lines, and rituals tended to follow those of Freemasonry, with which many of the founders were familiar.

Each Tent was ruled by a High Chief Ruler, assisted by a High Deputy Ruler, Corresponding Secretary, Side and Tent Stewards, Inside and Outside Guardians, a ‘Levite’ of the Tent, and a number of Elders. Each official had his own insignia, and had his own place and role in the meeting of The Tent, particularly in ceremonies surrounding the induction of new members.

Membership was open to all, but before joining and benefiting from the insurance and saving schemes, a document known as The Pledge had to be signed, to swear that the proposed member and his family would abstain totally from alcohol.

The initials IOR on a gravestone indicates that the deceased was a member of the organisation.

In 1999 the Society, by now known as the Rechabite Friendly Society centralised its various groups and regions into a Manchester Head Office. In 2004, the Society was renamed Healthy Investment, and opened its membership to those who enjoy alcohol in moderation.

Today it is a modern financial services organisation committed to providing ethical savings and investment products, with more than 100,000 members. It avoids direct investment in companies in the alcohol, arms, tobacco, gambling and pornography industries.





Comments about this page

  • I recently discovered a picture of my Grandfather wearing a Rechabite lapel badge. It’s generated an interest in the organisation and I am trying to find out all I can about his involvement, about which I previously knew nothing at all. He was Sidney Holland Roberts from Neath in Glamorgan, I would gratefully welcome any information that anyone has. Thank you.

    By Gareth Roberts (07/01/2022)
  • I have a coin token with the shield and biblical characters on one side
    I know nothing about this other than it is the markings of the IOR
    Can anyone please let me know if they are aware of tokens looks like made from zinc

    By Len Lippitt (03/04/2021)
  • My curiosity was sparked about this organisation as I have just found a handkerchief (about 8”x8”) which marks the centenary (1935) of the IOR. It bears the words Peace and Plenty the Reward of Temperance.
    My own Grandparents were Enron Baptist’s, so similar beliefs.

    By Celia (05/09/2020)
  • This is so helpful. My grandfather, a staunch Methodist miner in a little mining village called Kimblesworth, County Durham, was a member of the Independent Order of Rechabites, joining the Mizpah Tent number 3318 on 30 Sept 1911 – his obituary says he served in all the offices of the Tent. I had no real idea what this organisation was about, so I do thank you for your research, Jane.

    By Margaret Bonney (02/09/2020)
  • I have in my possession a China mug celebrating the Independent Order of Reechabites. It belonged to my grandmother who died in 1973. She was a staunch Methodist, in fact the local chapel was built on th e boundary of the family house. I have no idea of its history and the China mark is not precise but is definitely early 20 th century.

    By Janice MacDonald (11/08/2020)

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