A blue heritage plaque was fitted to the side of the Goddard Arms Hotel by Swindon Heritage to mark 200 years of Freemasonry in the town
Swindon’s first Freemasons met at the High Street pub in May 1818. The Royal Sussex Lodge of Emulation No. 355, which initially consisted of just 10 members, continued to meet at the Goddard Arms until 1875.
Noel Beauchamp of Swindon Heritage said: ‘This blue plaque is important because it marks something that happened in Swindon pre-railway. People know Swindon as a railway town, whereas in fact people have been living up here on the hill for a thousand years, if not longer. It brings into context how old Swindon is.
The Provincial Grand Master for Wiltshire Philip Bullock said: ‘This lodge has been associated with Swindon for 200 years and Freemasonry is as strong now as it was then.’
Philip was helped in unveiling the blue plaque by another long-standing Freemason, Past Provincial Grandmaster for Worcestershire Richard Goddard, who is also a relative of the family that owned the nearby Lawns estate for hundreds of years. ‘It was a great honour to unveil the plaque,” he said. ‘Freemasonry has always been about three great principles: brotherly love, relief and truth. That could be translated as friendship, generosity and integrity.
Newly appointed Assistant Provincial Grand Master Simon Leighfield added: ‘Just as this plaque is in the heart of Swindon's Old Town, Freemasonry is at the heart of the community.’
The heritage plaque is the seventh to be installed around Swindon. Others mark the birthplaces or homes of actress Diana Dors, whose father was a Freemason, Votes for Women campaigner Edith New and Swindon Town Football Club hero Sam Allen. The eighth plaque will commemorate local poet Richard Jefferies.