Freemasonry has flourished in Fleetwood for over 152 years and can trace its roots on the local scene back to 1863 when its oldest lodge, Hesketh Lodge No. 950, named after the town’s founder, was formed.
Bob Boal, who has been a Fleetwood mason for over 23 years, recently gave an account of the organisation’s history and its firm place in Fleetwood to the Fleetwood Weekly News:
Freemasons believe in an ethical approach to life. Our values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness.
Members are urged to regard family as paramount. However, Freemasonry also teaches and practices concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need.
Fleetwood masons are proud of our reputation for helping others particularly in the communities where we live and work.
Fleetwood and Cleveleys masons belong to the North Fylde Group of Freemasons, one of 22 groups which form the masonic Province of West Lancashire and meet in 25 lodges, seven of which are at Fleetwood.
Last year local MP Eric Ollerenshaw and the Mayor and Mayoress of Wyre John and Linda Hodgkinson joined with North Fylde Group Masons to meet the representatives of 40 local charities to hear how these organisations in turn gave assistance to the community across a very broad spectrum of needy and worthwhile causes.
They saw donations totalling £29,273 handed over to Fylde and Wyre good causes during the group’s ‘giving day’ at which the Mayor said he was astounded on hearing about the amounts given to and received by charities working in the community by local Freemasons.
Funding of worthy causes by Fleetwood masons comes from the members themselves through a variety of fund raising events and not as a result of ‘tin rattling’.
Organisations such Trinity Hospice and its junior wing Brian House, Rosemere Cancer Trust, Blue Skies Hospital Fund, Red Marsh School, Scouts and Guides, Fleetwood Sea Cadets, the RNLI, the Air Ambulance, Coastwatch, Fleetwood Carnival, Fleetwood Parkinson’s Support Group, Hug in a Bag, Streetlife, Donna’s Dream House, Blesma, the RSPCA and Fleetwood Christmas Lights are just some of the local good causes which have received donations ranging from £50 to £5,000.
Fleetwood Masonic Hall on the Esplanade, where Fleetwood masons meet, as a building has had a chequered history since the original property was first built c1847. Then it was a private house known as ‘The Towers’ (one tower still remains).
In 1945 it became Fleetwood Orphanage and Children’s Home and remained as such until the orphanage closed in 1954 having given scores of Fleetwood children an especially fine start in life.
Local masons – up until 1955 when the building was acquired – formerly met in local hotels and public houses but as a result of unsatisfactory service and terms were on the lookout for a building which could be adapted as a masonic hall, as in those post war years there was a long membership waiting list and it was anticipated that there would have to be an increase in the number of lodges meeting in Fleetwood.
Hesketh Lodge received approval to pay a deposit of £240 for the purchase of the building, and fortunately and co-incidentally had received a legacy of £300 from the estate of a former member.
Massive structural alterations took place under the guidance of local architect James Rawlinson who was a member of Hesketh and though the premises were initially quite spartan without floor covering – or even a bar – the work went ahead and the hall was opened on Thursday March 1956 with all due ceremony, though the celebratory banquet was held at the Marine Hall later that same day.
No time was lost in founding another lodge to join the then existing lodges of Hesketh, Fleetwood and Mount to accommodate members who had been on the waiting list and Pharos Lodge No. 7421 was founded on April 10 1956 followed by Wyre Lodge on November 10 1960. Almost 22 years elapsed before Broadwater Lodge was founded on September 23 1982.
Over the intervening years many improvements have been made to the hall to make it a comfortable and enjoyable environment for members to meet. These improvements are ongoing and it is the aim of the Hall Committee to continue the development of the hall for many years to come and extend its use as a venue for private functions for others to enjoy.
Fleetwood masons gladly join in many of the community activities in the town and recently were represented at the Remembrance Sunday parade, laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in memory of members who have fallen in conflict. Over the summer months they joined in the Scarecrow Festival and Fleetwood in Bloom with displays at their Esplanade base.
Fleetwood Masonic Hall has opened its doors for the past five years during Heritage Open Week giving visitors and local people the opportunity to take a tour of the building.
Visitors who have been especially welcome have been many Fleetwood children, now adults, who spent a happy childhood at the orphanage and who have returned and given ringing endorsements, music to the ears of the hall committee, on the care which has been taken of their former home.
Members of Hesketh Lodge, No. 950, Province of West Lancashire, called in on John Funk, 105, at his home in St Annes, to celebrate his remarkable 80 years in Freemasonry.
John applied to join a Fleetwood lodge at 21, but such was the popularity of Freemasonry at that time, and with only two lodges in the town, he had to wait for five years to join, otherwise his years in the Craft would have been greater. He is the last remaining founder of Lathom Lodge, No. 6286, in Ormskirk and, together with other prominent masons, purchased the building that is now the masonic hall.