Members of the Provincial Hall team enjoyed a memorable visit to the oldest lodge in the Furness and South Lakeland Group, Lodge of Furness No 995, whose warrant dates back to 1863 and which meets at the Masonic hall in Ulverston.
Assistant Provincial Grand Master John Hutton who leads the Provincial Masonic Hall team, hall coordinator Tony Hough and hall secretary Bob Boal met up with Ulverston hall chairman Russ Greenhow and his executive, which numbers group chairman Alan Jones and his immediate predecessor Roly Saunders on the committee.
The hall team enjoyed an Old English Night and saw for themselves the exciting plans which are developing to further extend the Kings Road Hall in Ulverston.
The King’s Road hall has previously been extended to increase dining and other facilities, but such is the strength and popularity of Freemasonry in Ulverston as well as in the rest of the Furness and South Lakeland group generally, additional developments to improve on existing facilities are in the pipeline for the benefit of Masons using the hall. These will include improved disabled access and upgrades to many of the interior rooms of the building.
The hall team was treated to a tour of the many facilities on offer at Ulverston and heard from Russ Greenhow who is a member of Lodge of Furness and from Alan Jones who, together with the treasurer David Helm, has been overseeing the development of the planned extension. The executive committee also comprises vice chairman Leslie Preston, Roly Saunders, David Jennings, and Howard Whittaker.
Ulverston was the main commercial area of the Furness peninsula in the mid-nineteenth century. Groups of like-minded men with high ideals in Ulverston and the Furness area, in common with the universal expansion of Freemasonry at that time, decided to form local lodges, the first of which was the Lodge of Furness that was founded on 22 December 1863. This was closely followed by Hartington Lodge No 1021 in 1864 and Hindpool No 1225 in 1868 both meeting in Barrow-in-Furness, and Baldwin Lodge No 1398 in 1872 meeting in Dalton in Furness.
Today 14 lodges, chapters and the whole spectrum of side degrees meet in what local Masons term the Northern Group with lodges also meeting in Grange-over-Sands, Hawkshead and Newby Bridge. Lodges have their own premises except Hawkshead which meets in the Market House, a venue they share with other members of the local community.
Membership of lodges in the Northern Group that enjoys a very close fellowship is very vibrant, varying from 40 to 75 members.
Perhaps one of the secrets of this success is the extensive inter-visiting which is one of the features of local Freemasonry. Lodge of Furness boasts an enviable membership of 63 and the Provincial hall team heard fraternal greetings being delivered to WM John Cody at the Old English Night from over a dozen different visitors. Installation meetings, the hall team heard, are regularly attended by well over 100 Masons.
Another initiative to come to light during the visit was that lodges meet later in the evening than many of their southern counterparts do with 7.00 pm and 7.30 pm start times being the norm which allows additional time for Masons with work commitments to attend lodge.
The lodge room in Ulverston is accessed through impressive twin pillars. The lodge furniture and furnishings are quite unique treasures and have been lovingly added to over the 152 years since Lodge of Furness came in to being. Members and visitors are very comfortable on seating which was acquired when a local cinema closed and, following their refurbishment by a lodge member who is an upholsterer, now grace the lodge room.
At the festive board which followed the meeting conducted in the long held traditions of the lodge by WM John Cody and his officers, APrGM John Hutton and Tony Hough told the Old English Night diners as they tucked into a sumptuous festive board that the hall team were not “spies” for the establishment but were there to offer any assistance they could from an established panel of experts which covered the many aspects required for the well running of a Masonic hall.
The visitors applauded how similar the aims of the committee at Ulverston were to the aims of the Provincial hall team, how Province recognised the need to look after Masonic halls and how impressed they were with the plans they had seen for the future extension at Ulverston.
Tony, thanking the Lodge of Furness for its much appreciated welcome and hospitality, said that the most important working tool in Freemasonry in his view was a well-cared for Masonic hall and, that if he was indeed a spy, he would be taking back a clear message of support to Province of what a great job the Masons of Ulverston were doing.