Young fellow leading Norfolk recruiting drive for the Oddfellows

]Jonathan Larter, who, at 28, is one of the youngest Oddfellows branch chairmen. Picture: RICHARD BA

]Jonathan Larter, who, at 28, is one of the youngest Oddfellows branch chairmen. Picture: RICHARD BATSON - Credit: Archant

At 28 he is one of the youngest chairmen in a national friendship network.

Janet, John and Jonathan Larter of the Trafalgar branch of Oddfellows, based at North Walsham, weari

Janet, John and Jonathan Larter of the Trafalgar branch of Oddfellows, based at North Walsham, wearing their traditional regalia. Picture: RICHARD BATSON - Credit: Archant

And Jonathan Larter is keen to recruit more members of all ages to one of the largest and oldest organisations of its kind in the UK.

The Oddfellows is a non-profit friendly society which combines social events with supportive benefits ranging from special offers to holidays and health care.

Gas engineer Mr Larter is the Noble Grand, or chairman, of its Trafalgar branch centred on North Walsham, but with 500 members across a large swathe of Norfolk.

The organisation officially dates back to 1810 when it provided somewhere for wage earners to meet and put into a kitty to help each other in times of need. But, even in the age of the welfare state, it is still a popular group with more than 310,000 members and 136 branches nationwide.

The society is looking to recruit more people locally to strengthen its branches, which include five in Norfolk.

Mr Larter, from Horning, said: 'We are trying to increase the social side and would like people young and old to come along have some fun and find out what we are all about.

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'People think we are a secret society, but we are not. Our motto is 'Making Friends, Helping People'. We are open to all ages. It is an historic organisation, and for special occasions some members will wear traditional regalia, such as sashes and medals, but most of the time we are a very informal branch and just enjoy getting together.

'While we would love to have more younger members, the Oddfellows welcomes people of any age who would like somewhere safe and comfortable to meet friendly people.'

The branch has helped cancer patients with hospital transport costs and students, including orphans, with course and sports equipment. Oddfellows also has a care and welfare helpline providing members with support in times of need.

The Trafalgar branch, also makes regular charity donations including to Happisburgh Lifeboat, North Walsham War Memorial Hospital and the East Anglian Air Ambulance.

National and regional Oddfellows have also supported the Sheringham RNLI since 1961, raising £600,000 to fund three lifeboats for the station.

Mr Larter says he particularly enjoys the fundraising side and joined because of his family connections forged by his parents in North Walsham. Mother Janet is branch secretary and father John was Noble Grand six times. His younger brother Christian, 25, is also a member.

National chief executive officer Jane Nelson said: 'Jonathan is one of the youngest branch chairmen we have had in a long time. It really is great to see our younger members become more involved and help us to shape our society. Congratulations.'

? Trafalgar branch events take place on the third Tuesday of each month at North Walsham High School from 7pm and anyone is welcome to come along. Upcoming social meetings include cakes and quiz and beer and bingo nights. To find out more call Janet Larter on 01692 407113.

? Other Norfolk branches are: City of Norwich, Heart of Norfolk (Dereham), King's Lynn and West Norfolk and Waveney.

For more information about Oddfellows, their benefits, and an online archive with more than 200 years of genealogy, social and organisational history, visit