A brief history of freemasonry in Wigan
Freemasonry in Wigan has a long history with its oldest lodge, The Lodge of Antiquity No 178 dating back to 21 June 1786. It 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.
A local builder, Charles Butler Holmes built the market hall in Wigan, which stood for 100 years before the ‘Galleries’, a modern shopping complex, replaced it. He later became Mayor of the town and the Holmes Lodge No 2708 was founded and named after him in 1898. Over the years there has been a strong connection between the office of Mayor and Freemasonry for as well as Charles Butler Holmes between 1748 and 1952 there have been 51 other Mayors who were Freemasons.
Arrowhead Lodge No 8500 was founded in 1973 with membership being predominantly for those who have been members of uniformed youth organisations, followed in May 2003 with the latest lodge in the town and named after its motto Ancient and Loyal Lodge No 9762. As the township expanded to include smaller towns in the area, so Freemasonry expanded with lodges now meeting at three centres: Pemberton, Bryn and Hindley.
An interesting historical fact in local Freemasonry is that in 1823 several lodges in the north-west broke away from the United Grand Lodge of England and became known as the Grand Lodge of Wigan and it was only in 1913 that the last lodge finally returned its allegiance to London.
During this period of our history, the brethren remained intensely loyal to their sovereign, Queen Victoria, and on the day of her coronation, Thursday 28 June 1838, joined in the civic procession through the town wearing their regalia and carrying a large banner expressing their support and the words “God save the Queen”. This banner is still on display today at Pemberton Freemasons Hall.
The Wigan Group, which now consists of 19 Lodges, has continued in its traditions with an annual church service, currently held at St Matthew’s Church, Highfield, when the brethren wear their regalia. A Masons Fellowship club has been formed which caters for the needs of retired brethren and their wives and also for the widows of deceased brethren. Monthly meetings are held with a variety of speakers attending. Day trips and visits to the theatre have been arranged and every Christmas, a carol service has been held, again in Wigan parish church.
The brethren of the group have supported the Wigan Hospice since it first opened and donations towards the daily running costs are made regularly. Many other charitable organisations have received support from individual lodges and continue to do so. The Freemasons of Wigan are proud of their association with the town and are pleased to continue to give their support to so many worthy causes.