Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons celebrated the 300th Anniversary of the formation of the first Grand Lodge of England, by unveiling commemorative blue plaques to mark the first activity of Freemasonry in the area at Masonic Halls across the Province
On 24th June 1717, four lodges, which had existed for some time in London, formed the Grand Lodge of England which has since continued to administer lodges across the country including the 76 lodges and it's 3,000 members in Leicestershire and Rutland.
The earliest known lodge in Leicester was established in 1739 and met at the Wheat Sheaf Inn on Humberstone Gate. Other lodges followed including St John’s Lodge in 1790 which is the oldest surviving lodge in Leicester still in existence. In 1859, the two lodges meeting in Leicester, St John’s Lodge, then meeting at the Bell Hotel, and John of Gaunt Lodge, raised funds to build a permanent home in Halford Street. The Masonic Hall in Halford Street continued to be the principal place of meeting for 50 years until it was deemed no longer adequate.
A freehold Georgian house and its grounds on London Road were purchased in 1909 and the new headquarters were in use a year later in 1910. Freemasons’ Hall has been extended on a number of occasions, particularly in the 1930s and 1960s, and continues as the headquarters for the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland and has 43 lodges meeting there. The building has some of the finest Masonic Lodge Rooms in the country and has a large Masonic Museum with artefacts dating back to the 17th Century.
The first Masonic Lodge in Syston was formed in 1901, East Goscote Lodge, and was granted a Warrant to meet in the village hall. The Master of the Lodge, who owned an old school in Broad Street, built a new single storey Masonic Hall which continues to be in use after several extensions over the years. A total of 7 lodges meet at the hall today which makes it one of the largest halls outside of Leicester.
The first Masonic Lodge in Loughborough was formed in 1835 and met at the King’s Head but unfortunately closed in 1853. A new lodge, Howe & Charnwood Lodge, was formed in 1864 which also met at the King’s Head before moving to the Town Hall, after a disagreement with the landlady over the charge of 25 shillings per meeting. In 1956, the Masonic Lodges in the town purchased the Old Adult School in Ashby Square which has continued to serve as their meeting place.
The first Masonic Lodge to meet in Ashby-de-la-Zouch was Ivanhoe Lodge which met at the Royal Hotel from 1836 until the Lodge closed in 1841. Another lodge, Ferrers and Ivanhoe, which continues to meet today, was subsequently formed in 1859 and originally met at the Town Hall. In 1981, the old Lyric Picture Palace was purchased for £7,000 and refurbished at a total costs of £94,500. The Lyric Rooms continues to host the two Ashby lodges and serving the local community.
The first Masonic Lodge in Coalville, Grace Dieu Lodge, was formed in 1892 which met at the Masonic rooms situated next to the Railway Hotel. In 1926, a Committee was formed to raise money to pay for the building of the present Masonic Hall in Park Road which was subsequently opened in 1928. This Hall continues to be used by the two Masonic Lodges that meet in Coalville.
The first Lodge to meet in Hinckley, the Knights of Malta Lodge, was brought to Hinckley from Macclesfield in 1803. The Lodge met at various inns in Hinckley over a number of years. As the popularity of Freemasonry rose it was necessary to find a permanent home and land was bought in St Mary’s Road to build a Masonic Hall. The Hall was opened in 1928 and continues to host the lodges that meet in Hinckley along with serving the local community.
The first Masonic Lodge in Melton Mowbray, Rutland Lodge, was formed in 1866 which met at the George Hotel. Subsequently, the stabling at the Wicklow Hunting Lodge on Burton Road was purchased for conversion into the present Masonic Hall. This was opened in 1951 and continues to serve the three Masonic Lodges that meet there.
Vale of Catmos Lodge was formed in 1869 and met at the Agriculture Hall in Oakham. In 1877, the Lodge decided to meet in licenced premises and moved to the George Hotel. After 10 years, the Lodge moved back to the Agriculture Hall which was subsequently renamed Victoria Hall to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. An opportunity rose to utilise the accumulated funds of a member’s legacy to secure long term accommodation at the Old Hall at Oakham School. Two lodges have met there for the last nine years.
The Uppingham in Rutland Lodge was consecrated in 1984 and meets at the Upper Cricket Pavillion in Uppingham. After each meeting, members dine at the Falcon Hotel which has provided the Lodge with a venuefor over 30 years.
St Peter’s Lodge was granted a Warrant in 1870 to meet at the Three Swans Hotel in Market Harborough. As Freemasonry began to expand its popularity, a building fund was established in 1967 to build a permanent home. Land was purchased in Kings Road and the current Masonic Hall was built and opened in 1968 where currently two lodges continue to meet today.
Wiclif Lodge was grant a Warrant in 1904 to meet in the Upper Room of the Town Hall in Lutterworth. The Lodge continued to meet at the Town Hall until 1963 when they moved to their permanent residence at the former Ritz Cinema. More recently further refurbishment and an extension has been undertaken. The Wycliffe Rooms now acts as both a Masonic Hall for the two lodges and also a Community Centre for a wide range of activities.
The plaques were unveiled by the Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, David Hagger who was supported by the Mayors of Charnwood, Oakham, Lutterworth and a large number of members, family and friends. The plaques were designed by W Bro Andy Green, Provincial Junior Grand Warden and made by local firm The Metal Foundry based in South Wigston, Leicestershire.
RW Bro David Hagger, said: 'We are celebrating 300 years of Freemasonry and the foresight and courage of our forebears to perceive and enhance our society over the centuries. If we continue to pursue our ideals of integrity, fairness and honesty, Freemasonry will continue to flourish in Leicestershire and Rutland.
'We'll also be holding several public events throughout 2017 including opening the doors to our Masonic Halls during the Heritage Open Days for everyone to see inside and an exhibition at Newarke Houses Museum in Leicester on Freemasonry, highlighting the contribution of Freemasons to our local communities. We hope this will lead to further interest and a better understanding of our historic fraternity.'