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At its very simplest, the friendly society was a club – members shared an agreed risk by each paying a fee to cover eventualities that might be the cost of a funeral, an annuity or a pension – but they also fulfilled an important role providing welfare to those for whom rapid social and economic change created great hardship.

In Scotland, where the gap between the rich and poor was particularly marked, friendly societies sprouted in newly industrialised towns and cities across the country – their essence seen in the verse inscribed to a remarkable George III painted mahogany money chest offered by Lichfield auctioneers Wintertons on September 24. We of the Lothians did unite, The Lawdable scheme to prosecute, With open hearts we sink our cash, To help our breatheren in distress. Noble sentiments indeed.

Sourced from a private Derbyshire home, the historical chest, measuring 19in high by 25in wide by 17in deep (48 x 64 x 43cm), was also exceptional for its all-original painted decoration including a triple city shield crest, leafy ornament and an additional inscription Instituted July 15th 1768. Inside were compartments labelled Cash and Till and six short drawers numbered one to six.

There was some institutional interest from Scotland but there was no doubt about the winner – an American private collector currently based in the Midlands who let out a yelp of joy when she successfully bid a double-estimate £9800 (plus 15 per cent buyer’s premium).

Incidentally, following the creation of the Welfare State it has been estimated that something in the region of 30,000 friendly societies closed and only a handful survive today.