The Foresters, Sun Hill, Cowes

This is now part of The North House, a boutique hotel in the heart of Cowes Old Town.

This building in Sun Hill, Cowes used to be the premises of the Ancient Order of Foresters. Cowes Court was branch no 1822 and in the 1890s and early 1900s was the largest (numerically) in the UK with over 2000 benefit members. The Ancient Order of Foresters which today trades as Foresters Friendly Society was established in 1834. According to their website, the first members came to recognise they had a duty to assist their fellow men who fell into need "as they walked through the forests of life". This 'need' arose principally when a breadwinner fell ill, could not work and received no wages. Illness and death left families financially distressed and often destitute.

Forester’s Hall was constructed in 1865 as a purpose-built meeting hall seating 600 people for monthly Foresters meetings under the guidance of the Court Secretary, John Jolliffe. It was also used for public entertainments including ‘musical duologues and monologues’, concerts, exhibitions, horticultural meetings, lectures, balls and ventriloquial entertainment! You can see sea creatures in the small rounded pediment above the doorway, and a working forester watched by a pelican on a plaque in the centre of the parapet.

In its later years it was occupied by the Department of Employment before becoming holiday rental apartments and finally part of the North House hotel.

Please read more about the history of Cowes buildings with more illustrations on our page Cowes History.

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