back to listing

From the Library Archives: The Ancient Order of Froth Blowers

14th August 2019

Written by Jo Patrick

Volunteers are working on digitising the Scrapbooks – a vast local history resource in the Library’s archive.  There are twenty-nine scrapbooks, full of newspaper articles ranging in date from the late 1880s to the early 1930s.  Institute members selected items they thought would be of interest and carefully pasted them into the large books.  For volunteers this work shines a light on Guildford and its inhabitants, reminding us of a way of life long gone.  One volunteer uncovered this story about The Ancient Order of Froth Blowers. 

My curiosity was piqued by an article in which appeared the Guildford Froth Blowers.  I thought it was some sort of spoof – it had to be hadn’t it? Not at all; Ye Ancient Order of Froth-Blowers was indeed a very active charity dedicated ’to fostering the noble Art and gentle and healthy Pastime of froth blowing amongst Gentlemen of-leisure and ex-Soldiers’. Running from 1924 to 1931, it was founded by Bert Temple, an ex-soldier and silk-merchant, initially to raise £100 (equal to £5,602 today) for the children’s charities of the surgeon Sir Alfred Fripp.  The men were known as ‘blowers’ and women, ‘fairy-belles’.  Froth blowing captured the public’s imagination so that by 1928, there were over 700,000 members who raised £100,000. 

Froth Blowers

Ye Ancient Society had branches all over the country, including Guildford, which seems to have been very successful.  A cutting from the Surrey Weekly Press of the time, informs us that the local branch had 2000 members.  In the accompanying photograph (seen on this page), you can see the ‘top table’ at the corresponding dinner. Now, was the highly successful recruiter, the Second Fairy also known as ‘Fairy Tornado’ having a particularly good time or was she just blinded by the flash?!

It would seem that local branches, also known as Vats, could raise the funds for local causes and The Guildford Vat of Froth Blowers appear again later in the same scrapbook.  This time with a fund-raising effort to organise an outing to the seaside for the poorer children of the town.  A second newspaper report informs the reader that enough money was raised to take 300 children to Bognor for the day.  It was a splendid occasion by all accounts, and on their return to Guildford, each child was given an apple, a banana and an orange, as well as a shilling and a piece of Bognor rock. A newspaper cutting in the Archive features a breakdown of all the costs of the day. I wonder what happened to the £4 1s balance? Perhaps the adults had some fruit as well?

Click here to view our Library & Archive pages.