The SSF is an international Franciscan religious order. It was formed in the 1930s by uniting groups in the Franciscan tradition including the Brotherhood of St Francis of Assisi. The Society originated in the work of the Reverend Douglas Downes, during the depression following the First World War. Brother Douglas and his associates travelled the roads, sharing the life of itinerant men and boys seeking work. In 1921, a landowner offered a Dorset farm as a base for the work, which became Hilfield Friary. Father Algy Robertson was also an important figure in the formation of the Society.
There are three different orders within the Society: the First Order of brothers and sisters (The Society of St Francis and The Community of St Francis respectively), the Second Order of sisters (The Community of St Clare) and the Third Order of lay men and women.
The SSF collection covers the wide range of activities of the First Order of brothers, including constitution and admission documentation, communication and correspondence between UK and overseas-based missions, personal papers of the brothers and minutes of council and chapter meetings. The collection also includes items from the Brotherhood of the Love of Christ, which joined the Society in 1937 and The Society of the Servants of Christ, a Christian ashram founded in India.