Ancient and Loyal are the words that appear on a stained-glass window that grace the upper hall stairway at Ashton-in-Makerfield Freemasons’ Hall at Bryn. It bears the crest of the Borough of Wigan.
Wigan was of course, incorporated as a borough in 1246 following the issue of a Charter by King Henry III. Freemasonry in Wigan has a long history with its oldest lodge, Lodge of Antiquity No 178 dating back to 1786, and has long been associated with leading citizens of the town.
The former Lindsay Lodge No 1335, consecrated in 1870 and now amalgamated with Bryn Lodge No 6553, was originally named after Lord Lindsay, the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, who held an estate in the town.
After the Great War 1914-18, Freemasonry flourished in the town, and further lodges were needed to meet the demand. Taking its name from the ancient status of the town, and adopting its crest, Borough Lodge No 3996 was consecrated in 1920.
Borough Lodge originally met at Tower Buildings, opposite the Wigan North Western railway station in the town centre, but moved to Bryn in 2004 when the buildings were sold. It was to commemorate the centenary of Borough Lodge that the window was commissioned and installed.
As a consequence of the expansion of Freemasonry in Wigan in the 1920s, Phil Gunning and his Provincial team found themselves in Wigan for the second time in a week, following the centenary of Hope Lodge No 4003 the week before.
It was a bit like waiting for a bus for the Wigan Group. You wait 100 years for a centenary, then two come along at once! Phil was joined by Barry Jameson, who stood in as Deputy PrGM.
Before opening Provincial Grand Lodge to conduct the centenary celebration ceremony, there were a few moments of silence in respect of Peter Ridehalgh, the lodge secretary, who sadly passed away just weeks before the celebration. Phil Gunning posthumously awarded him promotion to the rank of Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works.
The celebration of the centenary was a wonderful affair, with all the pomp expected of such an auspicious occasion and a further part of the history of this fine lodge. A surprise came when Andrew Ridal read out a patent of appointment to the rank of Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works for Ray Mallon, lodge DC, who was formally invested by Phil.
WM Jim Seddon had the delightful task of presenting a cheque for £3,996, to match the lodge number, in favour of the Masonic Charitable Foundation in support of the 2021 Festival, as well as a cheque for £1,000 in favour of the hall, in memory of dearly departed Peter Ridehalgh.
Following the closing of Provincial Grand Lodge, the lodge concluded its business and the Provincial team processed out. A wonderful festive banquet followed with a lively, fun filled atmosphere. Five splendid courses accompanied by fine wine and great company, were a great prelude to some heartfelt toasts, speeches and responses.
With quite a team of young light blues moving up the offices, they may not be ancient, but are certainly loyal to Borough.