Former Sons of Temperance Friendly Society Building


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
176 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8ET


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Statutory Address:
176 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8ET

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Southwark (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Friendly society headquarters, now offices, 1909-10 by AC Russell.

Reasons for Designation

The former Sons of Temperance Friendly Society building at 176, Blackfriars Road, of 1909-10 by AC Russell, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Historic interest: the purpose-built headquarters of a large international temperance association and affiliation of friendly societies; * Architectural interest: an eye-catching piece of Edwardian street architecture that evokes the design of contemporary pubs and banks; * Signage and iconography: the building retains its original signage, stained glass and mosaic roundels, all loudly announcing the identity and character of the organisation for which it was built.


The Order of the Sons of Temperance (SOT) was established in New York in 1842 as a teetotalist friendly society, with the dual aim of sustaining its members in a teetotal way of life, and of providing them with a modicum of financial security in case of ill-health, and their families with an insurance payment in the event of their death. The organisation, conceived on Masonic principles with lodges, insignia and rituals, overseen by a Supreme Patriarch, soon spread to other US states and to several Canadian provinces, and had amassed 100,000 members by 1847. The first UK lodges were established in Liverpool and other northern cities in the late 1840s, and in 1853 a National Division of Great Britain was formed. Within this were numerous Grand Divisions, the largest of which, based in London but with branches as far afield as Ipswich and Reading, commissioned the present 176, Blackfriars Road as its headquarters in 1909-10, replacing a pair of terraced houses occupied by the SOT since 1904. The architect of the new building was Arthur Charles Russell, an honorary member of the Order, and the work was undertaken by J Marsland and Sons at a cost of £5,400. The building remained in SOT hands until 2011; it is now (2013) the offices of an architect's practice.

The friendly society movement in England, though apt to trace its origins back to medieval or even classical antecedents, appears to have its roots in the late 1600s, and burgeoned with the urbanisation and industrial growth of the two centuries that followed. The societies themselves were extremely diverse in their aims and organisation, but tended to combine the functions of working-class social club and mutual insurance body, seeking in their latter role to alleviate the financial precariousness that workers faced during this turbulent period, and to circumvent the increasingly punitive and humiliating provisions of the Poor Law. Members (usually all-male, though some societies, like the SOT, also admitted women) subscribed for a certain amount each week or month, and received benefits that might include sick pay, unemployment insurance, a modest pension and, in the event of their death, compensation for their families and a payment to cover funeral expenses and thus avoid the shame of a 'pauper's burial'. Though initially organised at a purely local level, the demands of financial solvency tended to favour large nationwide affiliations such as the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows and the Ancient Order of Foresters, both of which developed an elaborate, quasi-Masonic ritual that helped foster a sense of belonging among the membership. These solemnities notwithstanding, the social side of friendly society life often revolved around the public house, a fact that became embarrassing later in the C19 as the societies sought to present themselves - e.g. in the debates surrounding the 1867 and 1885 Reform Acts - as emblems of the respectability, political maturity and economic self-reliance of the British working man. Coffee taverns, temperance hotels and other teetotal alternatives to the pub were already appearing under the aegis of the temperance movement - another American import that took root in Britain during the early C19 - and friendly societies that were themselves founded on teetotalist principles, like the SOT and the Rechabites, might take advantage of these institutions, or else adopt their model when developing their own premises. In Britain, the economic functions of the friendly societies began to be subsumed by the welfare state under Lloyd George's reforms of the early 1900s, but their ethos of brotherhood and self-help still resonates, and a number remain in existence today.


MATERIALS: stucco, red brick and granite to front elevation; plain stock brick to rear.

PLAN: the building, once in mid-terrace but now free-standing, comprises a four-storey front range facing Blackfriars Road and a single-storey hall behind.

EXTERIOR: architectural display is restricted to the tall Blackfriars Road elevation, which - like many buildings associated with the temperance movement - deliberately recalls a public house. The style is Edwardian 'Free Classical', with the tripartite division of the facade emphasised on the first and second floors by a giant Corinthian order. A shallow bow window with a scrolled cartouche marks the middle bay, while the window architraves to right and left have broken pediments with big triple keystones. The frieze above is inscribed ‘SONS OF TEMPERANCE FRIENDLY SOCIETY’. The low attic storey is of red brick striped with stucco, the middle bay having diminutive Ionic half-columns and a frieze inscribed ‘LONDON GRAND DIVISION’. The parapet, which sweeps up to a balustrade over the middle bay, is topped with four spiked balls. At ground level the central window and the round-arched doorways on either side have moulded keystone surrounds of polished red granite, the twin panelled doors and window joinery being of hardwood. In the window are stained-glass spandrel panels, designed to be seen from without, showing the star-in-triangle-in-circle insignia and ‘LOVE – PURITY – FIDELITY’ motto of the Sons of Temperance. The middle pane has painted lettering which reads ‘ORDER OF THE / SONS OF TEMPERANCE / REGISTERED FRIENDLY SOCIETY / LONDON GRAND DIVISION’. A clock, of later (probably mid-C20) date but also bearing the name of the organisation, projects from a bracket above.

INTERIORS: both doorways lead to small entrance lobbies whose green mosaic floors again display the Sons of Temperance insignia. The left-hand lobby, which gives access to the ground floor, contains plaques recording the establishment of the London Grand Division in 1867, the commencement of the present building in December 1909 and its grand opening twelve months later. The right-hand door leads to the stair, which has a green tiled dado, decorative iron balusters and elaborate hardwood newels with ball finials. The first floor was originally the committee room and forms a single large space with a herringbone block floor and a deeply-moulded ceiling; a board recording past Grand Worthy Patriarchs of the Order originally hung here, and still survives within the building. The topmost floor is a small flat, presumably intended for a resident caretaker, and retains two small fireplaces with decorative surrounds.

The single-storey rear block, separated from the front range by a narrow light-well, is a rectangular hall with a hipped clerestory roof supported on open timber trusses, which spring from moulded corbels set in pilasters on the side and end walls. The wood-block floor here has been replaced.


Books and journals
Cary, S F, Historical Sketch of the Order of the Sons of Temperance, (1884)
Cordery, S, British Friendly Societies, 1750-1915, (2003)
Gosden, T H J H , Friendly Societies in England, 1815-75, (1961)
London Grand Division, Order of the Sons of Temperance Friendly Society, The First Hundred Years, (1967)
'South London Press' in , (December 23 1910)
KM Heritage, 176 Blackfriars Road, October 2013,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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