Extracts from previous Newsletters.

Issue 22 - July 1995


Recent research has established a link between the two Charts 2 & 27. The key figure in the two charts was Robert HARDS (1807 - 1883) one of ten children born to Zebulon HARDS and Sarah nee' HOARE. In 1832 Robert married Sophia LOVELOCK, and it was she who provided the main clue, having an unusual name easy to find in the Hards Family Society's records.

Robert's grandson William (1837 - 1945) had an interesting pastime as an official of the Ancient Order of Druids. His ceremonial apron suggests that the Order's meetings were held in some solemnity, but little is known of the rituals performed because the proceedings were conducted in secret. William did however keep a notebook in which fines were recorded: members appear to have been fined mainly for talking.

The Ancient Order of Druids was established in London in 1781 on somewhat vague principles of philanthropy and brotherhood. Establishing secret societies had become something of a fashion at the time but, unlike the Freemasons, the Druids excluded religion and politics as subjcts for discussion. They confined their interests to companionship and mutual assistance. Subsequently various branches of the Druid movement sprang up both in Britain and overseas. Some of these sought to place greater emphasis on the advancement of social ideals. science and ethical values, whereas others turned into early forms of insurance company, guaranteeing their members financial assistance when in need.

Trial by Ordeal

It is perhaps just as well that the modern-day Druids had only tenuous links with their forebears in Celtic Britain. The original Druids were priests who wielded considerable power as mystics, bards, soothsayers , and judges. It was they who decided who would be sacrificed to appease the gods, and who would be banished for committing theft or other crimes. When in doubt of someone's guilt they would subject the accused to "ordeals", such as making him walk through fire , or throwing him bound into a river to see if he sank.

One aspect did however link the ancient Druids with their modern counterparts - the emphasis on secrecy. Initiates were forbiden to write down any of the secrets imparted to them. In fact, maintaining secrecy was a way for the early Druids to hold on to their power over the Common people. The mystery surrounding their knowledge of medicine, law, and religious rituals ensured that the Druids influenced every facet of Celtic life. When the old Celtic society was swept away by the Roman Empire the Druids spirit lived on in various ways throughout the Middle Ages. Even today the ecclesiastical, medical, and legal professions shroud their work in bewildering secrecy. The English Constritution too is an example of unwritten law that is followed without question.

One thought occurs to me here: is the Hards Family Society a secret society? It is certainly exclusive, because its membership is restricted to those who are linked to the Hards family. But it bears little resemblance to a conventional secret society. There are no ordeals to go through before being initiated. Nor fortunately, do we have a Grand Archpresident who requires human sacrifice - otherwise attendance at family reunions might be considered too risky an undertaking. On the other hand, some Druid principles such as mutual assistance and a sense of history would perhaps be fitting for a Family Society.

It would be interesting to know what became of the Druids after the time of William Hards. Perhaps other Society members know of links with the Druids...?

Ilona Hards

Munich, Germany.

Extracts from previous Newsletters.

Issue 33 - January 2001


Following the above article in Newsletter 22, IIona & Peter Hards have now shown me his ceremonial apron and sash, and the 1897 Rule Book, for the Branch of the Order that William belonged to. A photograph of the sash is shown below, and the Rule Book gives an insight into the organisation and purpose of the Order. It is evident that William Robert's father, William Hards (1843-1901), had also been a member of the Order in his day, for his name is printed in the Rule Book as the Arch-Druid of the Lodge for two consecutive half-years in 1878 and 1879.

The Lodge was governed through a Committee of management by an Arch-Druid, assisted by a Vice-Arch, each elected for six months. The Arch-Druid acted as Chairman of the Lodge at all meetings, and it was his responsibility to " preserve order and decorum". There was also a Seretary, elected for a year, and several other officers, including four Bards,chosen by the Arch-Druid and Vice-Arch, whose duties included seeing "that the brothers give the sign and countersign on entering and leaving the Lodge." No-one was to be admitted without the current password.

The Branch where William Hards served as Arch-Druid was known as "The Conqeror" Lodge, of the United Ancient Order of Druids Friendly Society, within whose constitution it functioned. The registered office of the Lodge was in Austin Street, Shoreditch, a short distance from the top of Shoredith High Street in London. It is not clear from the Rules wether this was where Lodge mettings were held. Probably not, for the Rules refer secretivley to " the house where the Lodge is held".

Loyal United Friends

A decorative panel on the ceremonial red sash shows a pastarol scene with a traditional grouping of female figues before an enthroned patriarchal figue; in the foreground a heraldic shield of three trees, and the motto "United to Assist". The pictorial apron has yellow and red borders, round the formal temple scene, with many occult symbols of wisdom, beneath the legend "Loyal United Friends". The border legend states the apron was presented to William Robert Hards on 20 December 1904.

The curious titles of the officers, the design of the sash and the apron, and the formality and secrecy that the Rules prescribed for meetings, all contribute a solemnity and importance to the proceedings of the Lodge, whose stated objects are comparatively mundane. As the words "friendly society" in the name of the order suggest, its main purpose was to provide members with relief in sickness, distress, or unemployment,and death benefit for members, their wives, or their widows.

Perhaps because this was its purpose, the Order was a fairly young man's society: only men between the ages of 16 and 40, not being of unsound health (or of improper character) could be initiated into the Lodge. A Lodge Surgeon, elected from the membership, was available for the medical examination of initiates and clamants of benefit. The Rules do not prescibe an initiation ceremony. If there was any solemn ritual involved it was probably considered inappropriate to desribe it in print. Nor do the Rules state what was to happen to the membership of someone when his age exceeded 40.

The Lodge apparently drew its members mainly from those living "within a radius of three miles from the house where the Lodge was held". It sounds a small circle but, from the registered office, it would have extended from Stoke Newington in the North to Newington, across the Thames, to the south; and from the eoge of Regent's Park in the west to Bromley-by-Bow in the east - a well populated portion of London even in the 1890s. Living outside the circle was no bar to membership, and those members who did were quaintly described as country members.

Members paid an entrance fee of one shilling (equal to 5p today) upon joining, and from 6d to 71/2d ( 21/2p to 31/2p), according to age, each week. All members were expected to attend the Wednesday evening meetings twice a month. Sick benefit to members, whose illness had been duly certified by the Lodge doctor, began at the rate of twelve shillings a week, and tapered down for illness lasting more than twenty-six weeks. Members out of work were allowed a shilling a day when having to travel to find work, and £12 was payable to defray funeral expenses on the death of a member. It is not easy today to guage the purchasing power of these sums of money, but Lodge menbers at that time can be supposed to have maitained a tolerable standard of living with earnings of, say, thirty shillings to £2 a week.

The Rules allowed the Lodge to invest surplus funds, not only in bank accounts, but also in land and property. Fines could be imposed on members for breach of the Lodge rules as to attendance, lateness, or improper conduct at meetings or in debate, and on officers for specific negligence of duty. I am sure it would be wrong to conclude from this that members were inclined to casual or unruly. A Rule Book has to prescibe when a member misbehaves, or things go wrong, and for that reason any rule book tends to paint a sombre picture of its society.

It seems likely that William Robert Hards, presented with the cerimonial apron in December 1904, must himself have served as an Arch-Druid, like his father before him. The Rules of his Lodge give some insght into its workings, including its secrecy, about which there was probably nothing particularly sinister, it must at least have strengthened espirit de corps. Even so the outsider is left wondering just what secrets had been safegarded by not being committed to print at all.

Roger Hards

Extracts from previous Newsletters.

Issue 18 - July 1993


At the time I received Newsletter 17 with its suggestion of a Hards Viking ancestry I was already busy researching the Viking connection with the name Hards, and I can now shed a little more light on the subject. One of the best known Vikings was Canute the Great, known by his fellow countrymen as Knud den Store. By vigorous military action against his rivals, Canute became King of England in 1016 after the death of his father Sweyn Forkbeard in 1014. He added the whole of Denmark to his kingdom two years later when his brother Harald Sweynsson died. In 1028 Norway also became part of the Viking empire. From about 1018 King Canute changed from ruthless warrior of his early tears to become a wise, temperate ruler, and a cultured, religious man. He spent most of his life in the southern part of England, making frequent visits to Canterbury, he protected and embellished churches all over the country, and as a sign of his religious dedication, he went to Rome in 1027.

On arriving In England in1016, he had married Queen Emma, widow of the English King Ethelred the Unready, and they had several sons. One of these, also called Canute, was only given a “district” of the empire – most of Denmark - to rule over on his father’s death in 1035, and he was therefore known by the Vikings as Hard Knud (“harde” in those days being the in Scandinavian word for district). From 1040 to 1042 he was King of England too. Later the Normans, who had difficulty with the Scandinavian languages, called the Viking king Hardi Canute instead of Harde Knud. The word “hardi” has since become associated with the character of Hardi Canute, for whom no danger was too great. He was very different from his father, being dark like his mother, bold like his grandfather Sweyn Forkbeard, and not interested in intellectual matters at all. His reputation was that of a fearless Viking who loved sailing and exploring the world. After becoming King of England he spent most of his time sailing along the southern coast of the country, spending the winter months at the family settlement In Southampton. He also visited his grandfather’s fortress in Gainsborough, In the course of these journeys he is thought to have left behind numerous offspring, but none of these became King of England or Denmark on his death. Instead more peaceful rulers were chosen as his successors in both countries.

Iona Hards