It was with great sadness and poignancy that the brethren of Wilderswood Lodge No 5932 held their final meeting at Horwich Masonic Hall before surrendering their warrant.
For this final meeting, the lodge was honoured by the presence Assistant Provincial Grand Master Stewart Seddon whose sad duty it was to accept the surrendered lodge warrant and return it to the United Grand Lodge of England. This final meeting came only one month after the lodge had marked the occasion of its 75th anniversary of being formed.
The lodge was opened by the WM Paul Mullineaux and the usual business conducted as it had been for the previous 670 or so meetings since the lodge was consecrated.
As a final ceremonial item on the agenda, a ‘brief presentation’ on the history of the lodge was given by David Harrison, who at that time was the longest serving member of the lodge with 42 years since being initiated into Wilderswood Lodge. David started his oration with the words: “I don’t understand why the summons said this would a ‘brief’ presentation as there is a lot to cover over 75 years.” David then went on to explain the beginnings of Wilderswood Lodge and how it came in to being following the large growth of Freemasonry in Horwich Lodge No 2324, which at that time had 139 members during and after the Second World War.
Such a large membership meant that anyone joining at an average age would probably have reached 65 by the time they were installed into the chair of the lodge, which perhaps also meant that Grand Lodge honours were no more than a dream. After much discussion and correspondence with the Province regarding the formation of a new lodge in Horwich and what it was going to be called, Wilderswood Lodge was consecrated on 14 March 1944 at Leyland Masonic Hall. This was in order to accommodate the 26 founders, 17 consecrating officers, 36 visitors from Horwich Lodge and 56 visitors from elsewhere, including one from the USA.
As Freemasonry continued to thrive in Horwich, Wilderswood itself created a further lodge known as Rockhaven Lodge No 7649 which in 2012 amalgamated with Horwich Lodge, it’s grandmother lodge (Wilderswood Lodge’s mother lodge), all remaining and meeting at Horwich Masonic Hall. Over the years since that time, lodge numbers started to decline, and in 2010 Wilderswood were fortunate to have a significant number of joining members from Turton Lodge No 6232 (an East Lancashire lodge) who brought with them a lot of experience and lot energy and was a new lease of life for the lodge. Although the new members had little effect on the average age of the lodge, they at least gave the lodge new members and new friends, and extended the life of the lodge by some 10 years. Sadly, the sudden resignation of a number of newer, younger brethren had a devastating effect on the lodge and it was decided that it was the end of the line.
Following this oration by David, more of the usual business was conducted and the lodge was closed as it has been so many times before with one difference this evening. After the final words in the lodge, Paul Mullineaux presented Stewart Seddon with the warrant of the lodge in an extremely dignified act with the emotions of the evening being felt by all present. The brethren and visitors then retired to the festive board, where the fayre was excellent, the fellowship and fraternity amongst the brethren very special.
During his address, Stewart Seddon gave a heartfelt and factual account of why so many lodges in England are struggling with today’s way of life and assured the brethren that it is for these reasons that Wilderswood Lodge took the tough decisions they had to and finished. He went on the say that he was also very encouraged that the brethren of Wilderswood Lodge are carrying on with their Freemasonry and have joined other lodges in both Horwich and Westhoughton.
The final toast of the evening went to Wilderswood Lodge with David Harrison stating: “And so we find ourselves here this evening, our final meeting. But let us not spend too much time mourning the passing of Wilderswood Lodge. Rather let us celebrate its 75 years of existence. During its lifetime the lodge has seen a total of over 250 founders, initiates and joining members and has enjoyed the very best of times. Let us rejoice in the pleasure we have derived from it and, most importantly, the friendships we have made.”