THE Red Rose Friendly Society has celebrated its 150th anniversary.

Based in Preston New Road, Blackburn, the society is now one of Blackburn’s oldest businesses.

It began life as Blackburn Philanthropic Mutual Assurance Society in 1863, a self-help organisation run for the benefit of its members, a purpose it still retains today.

During a time when death wasn’t far from the door, friendly societies became highly popular as one of their primary functions was to provide a method of funding funeral expenses.

The Blackburn Philanthropic was organised by local businessmen who would generally have been the employers of the people the Society was designed to benefit.

Ordinary people would take out ‘penny policies’ for the funeral expenses of themselves and their families and the money would be collected each week.

Often these policies would be taken out on the birth of a new family member, a sad reflection on the high infant mortality.

Today, the Friendly Society has assets approaching £20million with more than 60,000 members but strives to offer low cost family funeral expense plans.

They also offer children’s savings plans, adult tax exempt savings plans, over 50s plans as well as investments in ISAs, JISAs, bonds and the Child Trust Fund.

Red Rose has retained it’s mutual status which means that there are no shareholders and any profits are distributed to its members by means of annual and terminal bonuses.

Chief executive, James Geddes said “We are all proud of our status and of the way the members have supported the Society for 150 years.”