Though it is not normal in Masonic circles to laud and celebrate an individual, we can fully justify an exception to this rule in the case of W. Bro. Vin Walton. He was the first initiate into Willows and This section is dedicated to him, his life and times, thanks to Vin and W. Bro. Jim Welsby Birchwood Lodge No8861
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE WILLOWS LODGE No. 5343
Compiled by W. Bro. E. A. Flint
Bro A R Kelly
Bro L R Kelly
Bro J C Burns
Freemasonry has long been associated with the township of Newton-le-Willows. The first Lodge to meet there being the Lodge of Faith. No 484 (then 711) which first met at the Horse and Jockey Inn, 2-4 Church Street, on 27th Oct 1842. The Lodge of Faith continued to meet there until April 1845 when it moved to the Gerard Arms, Ashton-in-Makerfield. The reason for the move was the distance the brethren had to travel from Ashton to Newton which was much against the officers perfecting their duties; that there were only three out of the 22 members from Newton; there was a prospect of an increase in respectable gentlemen; the difficulties of making the journey from Ashton to Newton in winter and summer and its effect on the health of the brethren; and the hour they reached home after Lodge. However, 41 years later the members from Newton had increased for they found themselves in a similar situation, and in 1886, 14 members of the Lodge of Faith, together with two other Freemasons, founded Makerfield Lodge No. 2155, which was consecrated at the Pied Bull Hotel, Newton-in-Makerfield.
In 1901, after the building of the tower at St Peter’s Church, the No. 7 bell was presented by the Freemasons of the Province of West Lancashire.
The symbols of our Order are
The Compass, Level and the Square
Which teach us to be just and fair
And that’s the drift of Masonry.
The bell was refurbished in 2001 when one hundred years old, one hundred and six years later it is still proclaiming the same message as it calls the faithful to worship.
The newly refurbished bell on its way to be No 9 bell due to the addition of two new bells; making St Peters one of the few churches with a full set. The Masonic inscription can be seen at chest height between W Bros Mottram and Waterworth, sadly it is not legible.
Formation of the Willows Lodge
On 17th December 1931 a meeting of 19 Master Masons was held at the Pied Bull Hotel, Newton-le-Willows, “for the purpose of ascertaining the views of past and present residents of Newton-in-Makerfield on the desirability of forming a new lodge, the membership of which will, as far as possible, be restricted to brethren belonging to the township”. It was decided that because of the valued services of W.Bro. C. H. Sankey and his late father to local Freemasonry that the new Lodge should be named “The James Sankey Lodge, Newton-le-Willows”. However, at a meeting with the Provincial Grand Secretary on 27th January 1932 it was pointed out that this contravened a minute of United Grand Lodge dated 3rd May 1922, and the second choice of “The Willows Lodge” was accepted.
It was also suggested that the Lodge should meet in the Club Room at the New Pied Bull Hotel, which was an ideal place for a small lodge. After being addressed by the W.M. and Secretary of Makerfield Lodge, it appeared that Makerfield would prefer the new Lodge to meet at the Town Hall, Newton-le-Willows, whereby the overall cost of catering and refreshments would be reduced and there would be no need to buy new furniture as that of Makerfield could be used.
Further, as it would most likely be unacceptable that Provincial Grand Lodge would sanction a new Lodge to meet on licensed premises, it was agreed to make application to Newton U.D.C. for the use of the Town Hall. This was subsequently granted at a fee of 12s. per meeting on the last Thursday in the months September to May inclusive, and a fee of 2s. 6d. per meeting for the Board Room for the previous Thursday. It was also decided that dress for Lodge meetings should be evening dress with white gloves, which continued until the start of the war. Today, this tradition is carried on by the wearing of dinner jackets by the officers at Lodge meetings. Altogether there were six meetings of the Founders Committee between 17th December 1931 and 31st March 1932. The Warrant of the Lodge is dated 2nd March, 1932.
The Willows Lodge was consecrated on 14th April 1932 at Newton Town Hall by W.Bro. Arthur Foster, P.G.D., Deputy Provincial Grand Master, the Installing Master being W.Bro. Herbert Harrison, P.G.D., Assistant Provincial Grand Master.
The first officers of the Lodge, were: Worshipful .Master, Bro. C. H. Sankey; Immediate Past Master., W.Bro. H. A. Gandy; Senior Warden, W.Bro. E. Bullough; Junior Warden., Bro. T. Howarth; Treasurer, Bro. L. J. Shields; Secretary, Bro. H. Houghton; Director of Ceremonies., W.Bro. H. A. Gandy; Senior Deacon., Bro. J. H. Latham; Junior Deacon., Bro. W. G. Slinn; Inner Guard., Bro. L. E. Thompson; Stewards, Bro. D. S. Callie, Bro. R. Latham, Bro. T. Cunliffe, Bro. H. Wilson, Bro. R. Unsworth, Bro. P. Hardman and Bro. H. Birkhead. The Tyler was Bro. Walter Devereux, who also acted in this capacity for Makerfield Lodge.
According to Peter Merrill-Cooke of UGL the position of IPM should have been more correctly specified as acting IPM, since there was no previous position as WM in the Lodge. Though commonly as in this case it was listed as IPM
Under Minute U.G.L. dated 3rd May 1922 Bros. J. Kynaston, H. Horridge and W. G. Baskerville, who had worked so hard in the formation of the new Lodge, were unable to qualify as Founders as they had not been Master Masons for a period of three years prior to the consecration, and they were admitted as the first joining Members on 28th April 1931.
At the consecration meeting a proposition that the Willows Lodge become a Hall Stone Lodge was unanimously carried. The Hall Stone collar and jewel was presented to the W.M., Bro. C. H. Sankey, at Grand Lodge on 7th September 1932, since when every W.M. of the Lodge has had the honour of wearing this jewel on all Masonic occasions during his year of office. This provides visible evidence that the Lodge has faithfully and conscientiously discharged its obligations to the Fraternity, and secondly it should ever provide an inspiration to every Brother to put service before self. Throughout the early meetings the help and support received from Makerfield Lodge was most generous and unstinting, and for many years afterwards it was the custom for each lodge periodically to invite all the lodge officers to each other’s meetings.
The Early Years
In the first year, with W.Bro. C. H. Sankey in the chair, there were six regular and three Emergency Meetings, with six first degree, four second-degree and two third degree ceremonies; including two double firsts, one double second, and one first and one second on the same evening. The first initiates were R. V. Walton, E. Overend, E. B. Bowes, J. Appleton, W. J. Whitehead and W. C. Jones. In the next five years, 1933 to 1938, 13 new initiates were admitted.
From its consecration, the Lodge met regularly at the Town Hall, but in September 1939 the hall was requistioned for civil defence purposes, and the September and October meetings were cancelled. Arrangements were therefore made to resume meetings in November at the Newton Cricket & Bowling Club. From 25th April 1940 to 27th February 1941 no ceremonies, except the Installation in January 1941, were performed. The Lodge returned to the Town Hall on 26th November 1942, and meetings were held there Until the end of 1957.
The Lodge was honoured in June 1936 by the appointment of W.Bro. C. H. Sankey to the rank of P.Pr.G.D.C., and again in June 1938 when W.Bro. E. Bullough was appointed Prov.G.Reg. (Acting).
Of the 75 Past Masters of the Lodge, 44 have received Provincial Honours, and one, W.Bro. T. Howarth, received Grand Honours. W.Bro. S. B. Rathbone, an initiate into The Willows Lodge and P.M. of Newton Lodge, was accorded Grand Honours in 1977-
Special mention must be made of the 334th Regular Meeting of the Lodge held on 25th September 1969, at which meeting, to mark his _5o years as a Mason, W.Bro. L. E. Thompson was promoted to P.Pr.G.W. and invested in open lodge by the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, W.Bro. Arthur Foxton, P.G.D., acting on the instructions of the R.W.Provincial Grand Master.
Newton Lodge No. 6288
At the 120th Regular Meeting held on 29th November 1945 it was reported that a communication had been received regarding the formation of a new Lodge in Newton-le-Willows, and a desire of the proposed Founders (who were all members of the Willows Lodge) that this Lodge should sponsor the application. It was decided that a special meeting of the Lodge should be held to consider the application.
At the 123rd Regular Meeting held on 28th February 1946 it was reported that a communication had been received regarding the formation of a new Lodge in Newton le Willows, and a desire of he proposed Founders (who were all members of the Willows Lodge) that this Lodge should sponsor the application It was decided that a special meeting of the Lodge should be held to consider the application.
At the 123rd Regular Meeting held on 28th February 1946 it was announced that the special meeting had been held with a favourable recommendation. Bro. Dr. J. S. Lyle proposed that the Lodge recommend the Petition for the formation of the new lodge. This was seconded by Bro. F. Mittelberger and carried. The Petition was signed in open lodge by the W.M. and Wardens.
Accordingly, on 26th March 1947, Newton Lodge was consecrated and since that time there has been full co-operation between the two lodges.
The 21st Anniversary of the consecration the 188th Regular Meeting was held on 30th April 1953. W. Bro. H. Harrison, P.G.D., Asst.Pr.G.M, who had installed the first W.M. of the Lodge attended and was requested by the W.M., Bro. Rev. J. J. Broadhurst, to present the gavel to W. Bro. C. H. Sankey, who opened the Lodge.
On the Move
The 19th Emergency Meeting was held on 8th October 1957 (following notification from Newton U.D.C. that the charges for the hall would be increased by 50 per cent), to discuss the proposal that The Willows Lodge be temporarily removed to the Fleece Hotel, Ashton-in-Makerfield. The proposal was moved by W. Bro. J. Appleton, seconded by W.Bro. W. G. Baskerville, and carried by 26 votes to 10. However, the resolution was not acceptable to Provincial Grand Lodge because of the inclusion of the word “temporarily”. The proposal was rescinded at the 229th Regular Meeting on 30th December 1957, and the proposal was again presented with the offending word deleted, which was carried by 24 votes to 3 but unfortunately, at the same meeting, letters of resignation were received from four members.
The three local lodges had all agreed to the move and the first meeting of The Willows Lodge at the Fleece Hotel was on 30th January 1959 and the three lodges continued to meet there until May 1975.
Although numerous attempts had been made by the three lodges to obtain their own premises for meetings none had been successful, and in September 1975 The Willows and Newton Lodges moved to the Masonic Hall, Warrington, and Makerfield Lodge moved to the Masonic Hall, Leigh.
It was not a successful move for The Willows Lodge, and in January 1977 a proposition that the Lodge meet at the Masonic Hall, Bryn, was carried by 29 to nine with two abstentions. The first meeting held at Bryn was the 403rd Regular Meeting on 31st March 1977 The move from Warrington to Bryn also severed links with the Warrington Group of Lodges, but the warmth of the welcome by the Wigan Group helped to offset the regret of many members who felt sad at the parting. As the Lodge had now accepted an invitation from the Ashton Masonic Hall committee to become a full member it appeared that the Lodge has found a permanent home.
In retrospect, it seems a pity that none of the three lodges now meets in the township of Newton-le-Willows where Freemasonry has flourished for so long. However, the craft was represented in “the Club Room” at the Pied Bull Hotel, until their move in the late 1980s to Warrington by the True Light Lodge No. 7323. They met in the room where the preliminary meetings had been held prior to the consecration of The Willows Lodge, and which was also the venue of the consecration of Makerfield Lodge.
Since the consecration, there have been 10 secretaries:
Bro. H. Houghton 1932, W.Bros. T. Howarth 1939 S. B Rathbone 1959 F N. Coates 1968, S. Hope 1969,J Hutchinson 1978, Howard Lunam 2002, Roy Bennett 2004 , Brian Honey (2014).and David Edwards (Present)
The 13 treasurers have been Bros. L. J. Shields 1932, E. Overend 1937 W. C. Murray 1939 R. Unsworth 1944, W.Br–os. H. Houghton 1946, P. Hardman1949, J. ,Appleton 1956, G. B. I . Walton 1967 W. Ellison 1974, H.E. Rimmer 2004, N Baskerville 2004 . J E Browning (2014) and Lucas Kelly(Present)
The first of the eleven D C.s was W.Bro. H. A. Gandy. He was followed by W.Bro. C. H. Sankey in 1933, ; who served until 1951 when W.Bro. W. G. Baskerville was appointed, then W.Bros. T. Graham 1967, R. V. Walton 1968, H. Warde 1976, W. C. Morris1978, N Baskerville, C Marsden, I D Nairn and A Robinson
There have been eight Honorary Members: W.Bros. Herbert Harrison, P.G.D., H. L. Taylor, P.A.G.D.C., H. A. Gandy, P.Pr.G.W.,
- E. Thompson, P.Pr.G.W., W. G. Slinn, L. J. Shields, P.Pr.A.G.D.C., T. Howarth, P.A.G.D.C., and W. G. Baskerville, P.Pr.G.W.
At fifty years old the Lodge had 148 initiates with their occupations and many and diverse. For the first fifty years as would be expected in an industrial area, engineering (all branches) predominated, followed by accountancy, managers, schoolmasters, commercial travellers and bank officials
The youngest initiate was 21 years old and the oldest 65. The average age was just Under 41.
At seventy five years the Lodge had a total of 205 initiates since opening, building and associated trades predominates the last twenty five years, closely followed by the ranks of the retired, engineering, local government , Insurance and computing are also represented. The diversity is still very wide and the average age of initiates is dominated by the 41-45 year band.
Since its foundation the Lodge has supported many charities including Alpass Benevolent Institution, Harrier Benevolent Institution Royal Masonic Institution for Boys , Royal Masonic Institution for Girls, Hannay Masonic Residential Trust
Royal Masonic Hospital, other charities , but the main efforts have always been directed towards the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution. The donation to the 1937 Festival was £288.80 and culminated in a magnificent £10,374.12 for the 1981 Festival. When looking at the figures it has to he remembered that inflation distorts their true value and it is impossible to give the present-day equivalents.
In more recent times Willows was among the first in the Province to become a Grand Patron of the 2010 Festival in 2006. What cannot he doubted is the amount of effort that has been required over the years, and which undoubtedly will continue in the future.
While compiling this short history of the Willows Lodge, the debt owed to three distinguished brethren became very evident. W.Bro. C. H. Sankey, I P.M. of Makerfield Lodge, was the chairman at all the preliminary meetings and it was to him that the members of the formation committee turned to for advice and support He was installed as the first W.M. and at the Seventh Regular Meeting on 26 January 1933 he was appointed Director of Ceremonies, continuing; in that office until 1950 He was held in high regard by all the brethren and those who had the privilege of being under his direction, remember him as a strict disciplinarian in the work of the Lodge. It is due to his efforts that The Willows Lodge gained the proud tradition and high standard of work which exists today
Much of the early history of The Willows Lodge is, unfortunately, lost by
the passage of time and few of the surviving brethren are aware that the Willows Lodge was, without doubt, the inspiration of W.Bro. Harold Houghton, who carried out the arduous duties of Foundation Secretary, and subsequently served the Lodge as secretary for the first seven years. The Lodge owes much to his foresight, planning and industry.
W.Bro. T. Howarth was W.M. in 1935 and became secretary of the Lodge in 1939, succeeding W.Bro. H. Houghton, and he held the office with distinction for 20 years. He received his first Provincial Honours as P.Pr.G.D. in June 1942, and was promoted to P.Pr.G.W. in 1953. In 1959 he received Grand Honours as P.G.Std.B., and was promoted to P.A.G.D.C. in 1967. He was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Warrington Group of Lodges in 1958, and Chairman in 1967 until ill health caused him to resign in 1973.
In compiling this short History I acknowledge with gratitude the assistance given by W.Bro. R. V. Walton, P.Pr.G.W., and W.Bro. S.B Rathbone, P.A.G.D.C., and to the Lodge of Faith No. 484 for permission, so graciously given, to quote from it own lodge history.
For the revision the help given by W. Bro. Waterworth and Mr Robin Spencer was indispensable.