History of the Lodge

Early Records / The Old Charges / Other Activities / The Old Minute Books / The Chartist Riots / Resurgence / The Centenary / Other Events Of Interest / The Last 50 Years / The Opening of the new Masonic Hall Tuesday 21st September 1920

Early Records
In the mid-eighteenth century, the town of Colne in North East Lancashire had more than its share of poverty and distress, largely due to a transition from woollen hand-loom weaving to the production of cotton piece goods. Apart from the meagre provision of Parish Relief, there were no welfare services to succour the needy. Yet, like most Northern communities, Colne had its Sick and Burial Societies to provide some kind of assistance for a man and his family, should he fall on hard times.

Such a society was the “Freemasons or Friendly Society” held at the Hole-in-the-Wall, Colne, Lancashire. The Articles of this Society, dated 1757, suggest that, in addition to its work of benevolence, Freemasonry was being practised by its members and other documentary evidence supports the view that this irregular Lodge or Friendly Society had been working in Colne so long ago as 1732.

In 1758 the members decided to regularise the position, for in September of that year, five of their number were initiated in the Lodge of Relief (now No. 42) in Bury, and to three of these a Warrant was issued on the 4th of February 1762, delayed probably because of a change in the Provincial Grand Mastership of Lancashire. The earliest minute book, in fact, provides evidence that modern Freemasonry was being practised by the Brethren initiated in Bury from at least March,1760.

This first Minute book (1760-1775),called the “Forfitt’s Book” contains the first By-Laws, with a list of 35 names, which are of course those of the founder members and the initiates down the latter years. ln addition, it records the fines imposed on members for various offences, the Lodge accounts and the first brief minutes. Following the pattern of most Masonic records at that time, these minutes give merely the dates and names of the officers; the latter comprised the Master, Deputy Master, two Wardens, Boxmaster (Treasurer) and two Stewards. These accounts reveal that, after paying the combined entrance and proposal free of 10/6d (ten shillings and six pence), the candidate had to pay a further 4/6d (four shillings and six pence) for “the second step”. (The modern equivalent of these is fifty two and a half pence and twenty two and a half pence respectively.)

In 1769 mention is made of a contribution, “Paid to the Grand Charity 10/6d”. The accounts show that charity was regularly disbursed both to members and to travelling Brethren.

The Old Charges
Although the “Forfitt’s Book” is the oldest dated evidence in the possession of the Lodge, there are other manuscripts of even greater Masonic interest. These are what are generally known as “THE COLNE OLD CHARGES OF MASONS”, which have in the past engaged the attention of many Masonic historians. The penmanship alone offers evidence of their great age, and it is reasonably certain that Manuscript No. 1 was written between 1670 and 1700, and Manuscript No. 2. Between 1720 and 1740. Nobody knows how they came into the possession of the Lodge, but it has always been assumed that they were used in the ceremonial of early days. Masonic historians agree that the “Old Charges of Masons” have been handed down from the days of operative masonry, and it is possible that the two “Colne Old Charges” came into the possession of the members of the Freemasons Friendly Society in some way, and were used in their ceremonies in the 18th century. These “Colne Old Charges” are now in the safe keeping of Grand Lodge in Great Queen Street, London.

Other Activities
Although the early minutes give little indication of the real work in the Lodge, it is obvious that the members must have been most enthusiastic,for,in May, 1769, a warrant was issued to the Cana Chapter of the First Miracle, No. 5 (now No.116), one of the oldest warranted Chapters in existence.

Then, too, there were records of other degrees, for a warrant was issued in 1805 to the Plains of Tabor Preceptory, No.13 (now No.110) for the Knight Templar degree, which had been working unofficially for some time. The minutes also provide evidence that Mark Masonry was being practised. It is of interest to remark here, that prior to the Union of 1813, none of these extraneous degrees was recognised by the Grand Lodge of England, to which Royal Lancashire Lodge was attached, and that only the Royal Arch was recognised by United Grand Lodge.

The Old Minute Books
From December, 1775, the date of the last entry in the “Forfitt’s Book” until the first entry in the second Minute Book, dated 27th February, 1782, there are no Lodge minutes as such, but, from the account books and the records of Grand Lodge, it is obvious that the Lodge continued to work, for, during that period, many Brethren were registered.

Following a sudden influx of new members in 1788, a warrant was issued to Royal Yorkshire Lodge (now No. 265) at Keighley. All the Founders were members of Royal Lancashire Lodge. This, the first Daughter Lodge, has had a tremendous influence in the Craft, being the fount from which have sprung almost 100 Lodges in West Yorkshire.

Great social and political changes were taking place at this time, which is reflected in a list of names and occupations of members of the Lodge, submitted to the Clerk of Peace in 1799 in accordance with the Secret Societies Act of that year. This list indicates the widely differing types of men that masonry was attracting into its ranks at that time. There was serious industrial unrest. Also, in this part of Lancashire, and with Napoleon threatening an invasion of England, the international situation was extremely grave. All these factors are reflected in the records of the Lodge, causing low attendance at meetings, the near bankruptcy of the charity fund, irregularity of meetings and a scarcity of candidates; but somehow the Lodge continued to function in spite of these drawbacks.

The Chartist Riots
By 1818, the ousting of hand labour by machinery, together with the Corn Laws, caused severe unemployment and distress and led to the Chartist movement. Yet the Lodge continued to carry out the ancient customs of the order and disburse its charity to the needy members as well as to many Masons travelling in search of work. Conditions in the town were getting progressively worse. By 1840, hundreds of people being out of work, with many dying of malnutrition and fever. Agitators moved silently into the town, secret meetings were organised by the Chartists, improvised weapons were made and hidden and the scene was set for one of the saddest episodes in the annals of Colne.

On the night of the 10th August 1840 (the regular Lodge night for Royal Lancashire Lodge), the Chartist and machine breakers clashed with the police, severe fighting and much bloodshed ensuing. The military were brought in to restore order and many people were seriously injured. The Master of Royal Lancashire Lodge, Joseph Halstead, serving as a Special Constable, was found lifeless in a side street. He was buried a few days later in the presence of his Brother Masons.

Resurgence
Attendances during this period of unrest were often as low as four or five and for several years there were no new candidates. Then, too, many of the Brethren were in arrears with their subscriptions and the affairs of the Sick Club were wound up. For some years it looked as though only a miracle could save the Lodge from extinction, when suddenly, in 1852, there came a change of fortune. During that year three prominent men, two of them members of an old and respected Colne family, the Parkers, joined the Lodge and a new secretary was appointed. The miracle had happened. From then onwards meetings were regularly held, the ceremonies carried out thoroughly and correctly, the minute and account books being properly written up. As a result, applications to join the Lodge came from a succession of well known personalities in and around Colne, landowners, professional men and representatives of a new class, the industrialists. The last-named were the men responsible for the founding and expansion of the new power-driven weaving and spinning concerns, which were, in succeeding decades, to change the face of Lancashire and turn what had largely been an agricultural community into an industrial one. History was being made and was reflected even in the annals of this obscure Masonic Lodge in the windswept town upon the hill.

In 1853, Colonel Thomas Goulburn Parker, J.P., D.L., of Browsholme Hall, head of the Parker family, joined the Lodge. In the years to come he was to take a most active part in its affairs and in those of the Province, of which he eventually became Senior Warden. Through his influence and that of his wide circle of friends, the Lodge prospered. The introduction of the railway too, led to an interchange of visits with other Lodges, which helped the members of the Lodge to be kept better informed on Masonic matters and to build up a high standard of working.

The amount of money expended on relief gradually diminished, an indication that conditions were improving and that poverty and distress which had overshadowed the district for so many years, were giving way to happier times.

The Centenary
The Centenary of the issue of the Warrant was celebrated when Provincial Grand Lodge held its Quarterly meeting at Colne on the 4th September, 1862, and in 1863 its number was changed to 116. Here it may be remarked that it had 8 numbers during its existence. The Centenary Warrant, however, was presented only in 1883, by Major Nicholas Le Gendre Starkie, R.W. Provincial Grand Master, an event 21 years overdue.

Other Events Of Interest
A second Daughter Lodge, Queens Jubilee, No.2193, Nelson, was founded in 1887 and, in the same year, Royal Lancashire Lodge raised a substantial sum of money for the East Lancashire Systematic Masonic and Educational Fund, the forerunner of the East Lancashire Masonic Benevolent Institution, now East Lancashire Masonic Charity.

New Lodge furniture was bought and dedicated in 1890 to replace that which had been in use since 1760.

A Lodge of emergency was called for on the 19th of October, 1912, when the Sesqui-Centenary was celebrated, and the Lodge received the congratulations of the Provincial Grand Master, the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Derby.

In 1922 a third Daughter Lodge, Colne, No. 4402, was founded and, in 1929, a warrant was issued to a fourth Daughter Lodge, Roses Lodge, No. 5140.

On the 21st of October 1960, a Bi-Centenary Warrant was issued and dated 27th March 1960, the Centenary Warrant being engrossed with an amendment to this effect, even though the original Warrant is dated 1762.

The Last 50 Years
In the last fifty years we have made steady progress, initiating, passing and raising nearly ninety candidates and we have had seven personal 50th celebrations and one personal 60th. We can continue to look towards the future with optimism.

The Opening of the new Masonic Hall Tuesday 21st September 1920
By the deputy Provincial Grand Master W.Bro. Col.Sir Alan J.Sykes M.P.

Tuesday last will be a memorable day in the annals of freemasonry in Colne.; indeed the ceremonies of that day will be regarded by the craft as historical, as it marked a definite stage in the progress of local freemasonry, for almost two centuries Freemasonry has had a habitation and a name in Colne, but it remained for Tuesday’s function to give it a permanent establishment in the town. A Masonic Hall or Temple has been secured for the accommodation of the brethren, and the consecration of the premiers took place on Tuesday afternoon. The building is situated in Albert Road, the premises formerly occupied by Dr’s Hobertson and Keay.  This place has been reconstructed to form Club rooms and Masonic Temple for” Royal Lancashire Lodge”

Entering the premiers from the main entrance of the building in Albert Road, the visitor passes through a large double vestibule, with oak panelled doors, with stained glass top lights, and is brought directly into a large lounge hall, with polished parquet floor, tastefully and symbolically decorated with lincrusta panelling and fibrous plaster. A feature of this hall is the large stained glass window, the full height of the room. From this room opens out a large and accommodating reading and smoke room, which is tastefully decorated and furnished, and has a direct outlook on to Albert Road through a large bay window. Opening from the hall on the other side, through an ornamental plaster arch surmounted by the crest of the “Royal Lancashire Lodge” is the annexe to the lounge. In this room, there is fitted up a small bar with polished Mahogany front and leaded lights, and from this annexe also opens the lavatory and conveniences neatly finished off with white tiling.

The Steward’s private premises occupy the rear of this ground floor and consist of living room two good bedrooms, bathroom and scullery. The main oak staircase leading out of the main lounge hall brings the visitor to the first floor when there is an entrance through double doors to a  large banqueting hall which will comfortably dine at least 100 people. This room is beautifully decorated and has direct lavatory accommodation adjoining.  On this floor there is a large serving or cutting up room, which is directly connected to the kitchen in the basement by a lift; and has good pantry accommodation. Leaving this floor the visitor ascends to the second floor; the principal room on it being the Temple, which will accommodate 100 people. The scheme of decoration in this room is typical of what a lodge room should be and is well in accordance with the antiquity of the lodge. There are also a storeroom and anti room on this floor both of which are tastefully decorated and furnished. From this floor, a staircase leads to a roof conservatory. The basement contains a large garage capable of holding four cars, a good cooking kitchen fit up with two large ranges and other necessary appliances. The heating vault, coal and coke store’s, a large keeping cellar, and a wine cellar. The contractors on these alterations where;  Mr.W.Townson masons work,  Mr.H.J.Caddy joinery work; Mr J.Skelton (Nelson) plumbers work; Mr.Jas.Laycock plasters work; Merss  Brotherton and Ernshaw electricians work; and Mr.H.Wooster Decorating Work. Mr S Thornton was the Clerk of Works, and the adaptation of the premises was from the design of Mr.T.J.Harrison, Architect Nelson, who has received many congratulations upon the tasteful and convenient arrangements of the building.

As already indicated, the ceremonial, or official opening of the new Masonic Hall took place on Tuesday afternoon, and in special recognition of the interesting event the lounge hall was decorated with choice palms and greenhouse plants by Mr.H.W.Smith of the Reedyford Nurseries, Nelson.

There was a large attendance of brethren, amongst those present, being a considerable number of present and past officers of The Provincial Grand Lodge of East Lancashire, West Lancashire, and the West Riding.  Officers and brethren were also in attendance from the Queens Jubilee Lodge Nelson. Borough Lodge Burnley, Thursby Lodge Burnley, Red Rose of Lancaster Lodge Padiham, Faith Hope and Charity Lodge Barnoldswick, Craven Lodge Skipton, The Three Graces Lodge Hawarth, Royal Yorkshire Lodge Keighley, Keighley Lodge Keighley, Royal Forrest Lodge Slaidburn, Coronation Lodge Accrington, Equality Lodge Accrington,  Remembrance Lodge Accrington, Clifton Lodge St Annes,  and other Masonic lodges in England  Cairo and the United States of America.

The Lodge was opened in the usual manner, under the presidency of W.Bro. James Mills W.M., who was supported by W.Bro.W.H.Chapman I.P.M. W.Bro.H.Elliott  Chaplain, W.Bro. S.Thornton Secretary,  W.Bro.W.E.Halliwell  P.P.G.A.D.C. Treasurer, W.Bro. A.R.Kenyon P.M. director of ceremonies, W.Bro.Hy, Holden  P.M. Charity representative.  Bro.Sagar Holden Senior Warden, Bro. H.J.Caddy Junior Warden, and a full complement of officers. Latter the lodge was visited by the Worshipful Deputy Provincial Grand Master of East Lancashire W.Bro  Lient-Col. Sir Alan J.Sykes M.P. P.G.D. who was accompanied by W.Bro. H.Verney Clayton past ass. Grand registrar Prov., Grand Secretary, W.Bro.Lieut-Col. A.England  C.M.G.D.S.O.,  Provincial Senior Grand Warden W.Bro.J.M.Southurn.  Provincial  Junior Grand Warden; W.Bro.G.J.Critchley.   Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies; W.Bro. Jno.E.Freeman P Prov G.Warden and W.Bro.the Rev James Dodd P.Prov. Grand Chaplain.

The Deputy Provincial Grand Master then accepted the direction of the proceedings and called on the secretary W.Bro. S.Thornton  P.P.G.D. to read the approved amendment to the By-Laws of the lodge relating to the removal to the new premises. W.Bro. W.E.Halliwell P.P.G.A.D.C. then gave a most interesting resume of the circumstances leading to the removal to the lodge. In the course of his remarks, he said. Two centuries ago George  1st  reigned over this realm of England he was a German incapable of speaking the language and utterly unable to appreciate the English man’s love of freedom, integrity and square dealing. Today we live under another George one who embodies those qualities most typical of an English gentleman. One whose name will appear on the roll of Kings who have ruled wisely and well; one who because of his temperance, his self-denial, his hard and unceasing labour during a time of unexampled difficulty, will be acclaimed by posterity a hero as well as a king.  This lodge met in the days of George the 1st wearing substantially the same Masonic Clothing, engaged in the same ceremonies, using with but slight verbal alteration the same ritual that we use today. Outside the lodge, we are struck with the multitude and magnitude of changes that have taken place. Today, in attending the lodge some brethren walk, some cycle, others use the electric tramcar, the motor car, the train, and doubtless will shortly be flying.  The walkers are the only ones who copy the methods of our early members. In other respects, the differences are just as marked. Long before Cartwright invented the power loom, long before Crompton invented the spinning mule, long before Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny, long before Watt took out his first patent for a Steam engine, before Captain Cook first sailed around the world, before New South Wales was discovered, before the “Times” was first published,  before John Wesley and Whitfield started the great religious revival,  while Sir Isaac Newton perhaps the greatest investigator of natural philosophy who ever lived, saw the apple fall and first involved the law of gravitation, this lodge was initiating, raising and passing in the three degrees of Freemasonry as it does today. Taking a wider outlook, Scotland had been recently united, but the union with Ireland had not taken place. The great empire of India was not a British possession, The United States of America did not exist but England had thirteen flourishing colonies in  America expanding from New Brunswick to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Alleghany mountains.  As you know, the colonists broke into rebellion, France smarting under the reverses of the seven-year war, acknowledged the United States, and entered into a treaty with them, and a state of war with England, Spain followed the lead of France; Russia, Sweden, and Denmark formed an alliance antagonistic to England, joined later by Prussia, and Holland and Britain were without a friend among the nations of the world. The Royal Lancashire Lodge during these troublous times quietly “carried on” attending Church, and,  it is recorded on one occasion heard a very bad sermon and took of a very substantial and satisfying dinner. When Napoleon went like a firebrand through Europe upsetting thrones and powers, sowing war and pestilence and famine, the work of the lodge was contained, and indigent brothers were assisted. Travelling brethren in need were provided with means to continue, and it is interesting to note how small a sum seemed quite adequate to provide necessities; while the lodge paid 1s. For the postage of a letter from London and 6d from Manchester, The accounts of the lodge were kept with care but not apparently, with exactitude, for after one audit is written;” Audited and made correct “  these brethren are a few of the “dry bones “ of the history of the lodge. For many years we have sought a suitable habitation to enclose these” dry bones” During its existence, this lodge has been accommodated in various houses, but an English man would rather be king of his own house, be it mere a hovel than a mere lodger in a palace.  After many suggestions and tentative agreements, afterwards discarded for various reasons, our worthy Secretary W. Bro. S. Thornton secured an option on this building, and after due deliberations, we decided to purchase these premises and alter them to suit our purpose. We have a habitation of which we are exceedingly proud. Having mentioned the “Dry Bones” and the covering may I take the parable a step further, and say that without the breath of life these “ Dry Bones” cannot live to perform any elevating purpose. I assure you that the members of Royal Lancashire Lodge are not insensible of the moral and spiritual side of Freemasonry, and although this house will minister to the material and social needs of the brethren, they will pray that the Great  Architect of the Universe will accept it, A temple to the great honour and glory of God.

The Deputy Grand Master, after an apt quotation ( dealing with the purpose for which masons were convened to assemble)  from one of the ancient rolls of the lodge, congratulating the brethren of Royal Lancashire Lodge upon there zeal and enterprise in securing these admirable and commodious premises. It was in his opinion desirable that where possible, premises should be acquired to be used exclusively for Masonic purposes and activities. He also congratulated W.Bro.W.E. Halliwell upon his interesting resume of the history of the lodge., and expressed his ( sir Alan Sykes)  deep regret at the unavoidable absence that afternoon of the Grand Master of the Province of East Lancashire, Lord Derby, who would shortly relinquish his post as British Ambassador to Paris where he had discharged the ambassadorial duties in a manner which had met with the admiration of the French and of his own countrymen. And would then be in a position to resume his Masonic duties, in which he took such a deep interest.   On behalf of Lord Derby. He(sir Alan Sykes)  Then declared that Masonic Hall and Temple duly opened for the purpose of Freemasonry.

On the proposition of W. Bro .H.Elliott P.M. seconded by W. Bro. J. T. Harrison P.M a hearty vote of thanks was accorded the Deputy Provincial Grand Master by the brethren of Royal Lancashire Lodge. After this had been appropriately acknowledged by Sir Alan Sykes a similar compliment was paid to the Grand and Provincial Grand Officers on the motion of W. Bro .Hy. Holden P.M. seconded by W. Bro. W .H. Chapman I.P.M. This was acknowledged by  W. Bro. B. Verney Clayton, Provincial Grand Secretary, and W.Bro. J.Mills having resumed the direction of the proceedings, the Grand and Provincial Grand officers retired from the Lodge Room.  The lodge was then closed in the usual manner, and subsequently, the brethren partook of a dinner in the banqueting hall, the whole of the dinner arrangements ( which were thus subjected to a severe test for the first occasion upon which they were required). Proving most satisfactory. Subsequently under the presidency of W. Bro. James Mills a social evening was spent. W. Bro A .B. Kenyon again officiating as director of ceremonies. The several Loyal and Masonic toasts were honoured, and songs and recitations were contributed by various brethren, the interesting and enjoyable proceedings being brought to a close by the singing of the National Anthem.