Lodge History

PRESTON GUILD LODGE No 4408

Preston’s Hall Stone Lodge

Consecrated 20th June 1922

A LODGE HISTORY

FOREWORD

This history has been written in honour of the lodge’s Centenary Celebration in 2022. It is drawn from the Lodge Minutes, other Lodge Documents and previous histories from the 25th, 50th and 70th Anniversary Celebrations.

ORIGINS

Freemasonry has deep roots in Lancashire. The earliest record of a ceremony is that of Elias Ashmole (of Ashmolean Museum fame) who was initiated at Warrington in 1646. In 1779 the Lodge of Amity No 341 began to meet in Preston. It is believed this Lodge had relocated from London. It remained active until 1794. In 1797, the Lodge of Peace and Unity No 314 was founded in Preston and it remains active to this day.

Our Mother Lodge, Lodge of Unanimity No 113, was founded within the 3rd Royal Lancashire Militia in 1812 and at its consecration was based in Dover. The Lodge arrived “home” in Preston in 1814 where it has stayed ever since.

The genesis of Preston Guild Lodge lies firmly in the Great War of 1914 to 1918. There were a significant number of men wishing to become Freemasons at the end of that war. Many lodges had met or been formed in the trenches during that terrible conflict. Before the war there were only seven Masonic Lodges in the Preston Group and one of those met in Leyland. Remarkably, only two Preston Group Masons made the supreme sacrifice during that war.

At the end of the First World War, and to celebrate the ensuing peace, Prince Albert, His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn KG, PC, KT, KP, GCMG etc., the MW Grand Master at that time launched the Masonic Million Memorial Fund and all lodges achieving the qualifying contributions would be awarded a Hall Stone Jewel. More of this can be found about the Hall Stone Jewel page on the lodge website.

None of the existing Preston Group Lodges determined to become a Hall Stone Lodge. However, 17 members of the Lodge of Unanimity had a different idea. Those 17 Brothers had either served in the war or suffered losses of either family members and friends during the conflict. This was the motivation for Lodge of Unanimity to sponsor a daughter lodge and the seeds of Preston Guild Lodge were sown. As this new lodge was to be warranted and consecrated in 1922, Guild Year, it was decided to name it after Preston’s most famous and historic occasion – The Guild Merchant. The right to hold a Guild Merchant was conferred upon the Burgesses of Preston by King Henry II by Charter in 1179. In the modern era, the Guild Merchant is a civic celebration held every 20 years. Preston is the only city to still celebrate the Guild and is thus unique. We are very proud of our lodge name.

The Lodge Banner, featuring the Town Hall at its heart, was dedicated in 1927

The Warrant for Preston Guild Lodge was issued by Grand Lodge on the 1st February 1922 and sealed by the Grand Master, the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn.  

Our Banner, Founder Members Jewel, Past Masters Jewel and Summonses feature an image of the old Preston Town and Guild Hall. The Foundation Stone for this remarkable building was laid, with great ceremony, by 800 Freemasons in full regalia under the direction of the Mayor Robert Townley Parker, who was a Freemason, to celebrate the Guild Merchant of 1862. Sadly, that building was destroyed by fire in 1947, but its memory lives on in this lodge. 

In fact, the Warrant we display is not actually the original one that was issued. One of the seven petitioners’ names was recorded incorrectly. This meant the Warrant had to be returned to Grand Lodge and a corrected replacement issued.

The Lodge Warrant

The Consecration Ceremony of the Lodge was delayed until the 20th June 1922 to be part of the Guild Celebration. That Consecration took place at the Bull Hotel Assembly Rooms in Preston, later to become the Bull and Royal Hotel. The hotel would remain the lodges home for over 20 years. 

The Consecration was presided over by the Provincial Grand Master Designate, Right Worshipful John Burell PGD and was witnessed by 136 visiting brethren.

The first Master for the consecration was William Edward Ord who at the time was a Junior Grand Deacon of the United Grand Lodge of England and a recently appointed Assistant Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Western Lancashire. 

At the same time Will Ord was Chairman of the Preston Group of Lodges and Chapters. Will served twice the Mayor of Preston in 1906 and 1907. 

James Edward Adkins was a Past Provincial Grand Organist and a Professor of Music. He played the organ at the Consecration Ceremony. We had captains of industry, bakers and clerks under our banner. Henry Alty, Chris Miller and Gilbert Starkie were local businessmen whose family-owned companies live on to this day. John Hunt was a respected Jeweller and Silversmith who became Mayor of Preston in 1926. John designed the Founders Members and Past Masters Jewels.

PRESTON’S HALL STONE LODGE

The very first item of business at the first Regular Lodge Meeting on the 20th September 1922 reads:

The WM proposed and W Bro Hunt seconded, ‘That information be conveyed to the Grand Lodge that this Lodge desires to become a Hall Stone Lodge in connection with the Masonic Million Memorial Fund’ It was carried unanimously!

As a result, the reason for founding the lodge, the desire to honour the fallen of the Great War was fulfilled. The qualifying contribution was met and, on the 2nd December 1925, the Worshipful Master, Samuel Oliver, attended Grand Lodge where the Hall Stone Jewel was conferred on him. That Jewel has been worn by all Masters ever since.

GROWING FROM THE BEGINNING

Preston Guild Lodge certainly hit the ground running. At the Consecration Meeting, two candidates, Richard Metcalfe and Walter Pomfret, were proposed for membership. At the first Regular Lodge meeting in September of 1922 both were initiated. 

Walter Pomfret, a Chartered Accountant, remained a member of the lodge for 40 years serving as Master in 1934 and was the first Chairman of the Preston Guild Lodge Benevolent Fund in 1952. 

In 1944 he served as Provincial Senior Grand Deacon and was promoted to Past Provincial Grand Warden in 1948.  Walter donated a full set of Working Tools to the lodge in a mahogany case when he became Master in 1934 which is used to this day.

Dick Metcalfe was 44 years of age at the time of his initiation. His profession was that of a Heating Engineer. He became a Steward in 1925. 

Sadly, Dick’s time with us was short as he passed away in 1927. 

In the first 12 months, the lodge initiated 17 new members. Often these new brothers were initiated in pairs. Additional meetings were held by dispensation to manage the demand. On many occasions the lodge met at 5.30pm, conducted a ceremony for two members, called off and on and then preformed Passings or Raisings for two more brothers on the same evening.

Preston Guild Lodge proved to be a magnet for joining members too.  In the first year, ten members joined from other lodges. The most notable of these being on the 22nd November 1922. An Emergency Meeting was held by dispensation to ballot for a Joining Member.  James Tranter Worsley, a Sergeant in the Army Ordnance Corps, was previously a member of Lord Kitchener Lodge No 3402 in Cairo.

The lodge continued to attract new and joining members over the next 20 years. Membership grew to well over 80 members. By the mid-1930s, it was not unusual to wait 18 months from an original application for an interview!

On the 8th October 1926, James Sidney Howarth, an Auctioneer, Valuer and Estate Agent was initiated. James Howarth was destined to be a major figure in Preston and Preston Freemasonry.

He was known as the busiest man in Preston. In 1941 he became both the Mayor of Preston and Master of Preston Guild Lodge. When installed as Master in November 1941, a banquet for 160 brethren was held in the Guild Hall. 

His son Leslie became a mason in his own right but as a member of Priory Lodge at the recommendation of his father when it was being created. Leslie later donated a magnificent 1922 Guild Merchant Medallion to the Lodge in honour of his father that is displayed with pride. More of James later!

In November 1927, Preston Guild Lodge unveiled and dedicated the Lodge Banner. The Dedication Ceremony was performed by Right Worshipful Brother Arthur Foster APGM assisted by Founder Member Rev Augustine Dallman. John Hunt was involved in the design and the banner was manufactured by the famous textile house of Stephen Simpson Ltd in Preston. One of their specialities was gold thread for which they were famous. The banner cost forty-one pounds and five shillings. That cost was covered as a gift by Founder Member Chris Miller. Its design features the 1862 Preston Town and Guild Hall as its centrepiece. The banner is placed near to the right of the Master of the Lodge at every meeting.

During these early years, Preston Guild Lodge was proud of its charitable support. Whilst contributing to the West Lancashire Masonic Charities, the lodge was also committed to the local community. In the 1920s, and in a pre-NHS world, Preston Guild Lodge made donations to Preston Royal Infirmary. Donations were also made to meet specific local needs including the Longton Flood Relief Fund and the St Michaels Flood Relief Fund. This commitment to our community remains as strong today.

THE WAR YEARS AND PRESTON MASONIC TEMPLE

On the 3rd September 1939, the Most Worship Grand Master, His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent suspended all Masonic activity. This was subsequently revoked at the end of the month. 

Preston Guild Lodge continued to meet at the Bull and Royal Hotel, along with the other 13 Preston Group Masonic lodges, throughout the Second World War. Lodge memberships averaged over 80 members each. This period became very interesting and ultimately a defining for Preston Masonry.

The rations allocated to the Bull and Royal Hotel were based on the Masonic Dining prior to the war. Unfortunately, many lodge meetings were held and members were unable to have a Festive Board as “their food” has been sold in the hotel restaurant instead. 

Step forward James Sidney Howarth! At the Regular Lodge Meeting of September 1940, James made the following proposition that set a chain of events in motion that would have a profound effect on Preston Masonry:

“That the Officers and Brethren of Preston Guild Lodge No 4408 start a fund to be called “Masonic Temple Building Fund,” and further, that the sum of £50 be taken out of Lodge Funds and allocated to such Masonic Temple Building Fund” 

At the same time the lodge determined that no further Festive Boards would be held at the Bull and Royal. Instead, the brethren took their meal at the Knowsley Arms (now the Stanley Arms).

James then set up the Preston Masonic Temple Committee with representation from all Preston Group Lodges. This led to the identification of Saul Street Primitive Methodist Chapel as a suitable location. As the committee had not set up a company at that time, James Howarth purchased the premises personally to secure ownership for Freemasons. 

Preston Masonic Temple was dedicated and opened in September 1944 and Preston Guild Lodge held the first lodge meeting there on the 11th of that month. James was the Hall Charman at its dedication but had to retire in 1945 due to ill health. Sadly, he passed away in 1948. His legacy is our home.

On the 4th November 1942, James initiated a new member, John Lund. John was another member of the lodge destined to become Mayor of Preston. He served the borough in 1963.

John was also the founding First Principle of the Preston Guild Chapter No 4408 of the Holy Royal Arch in 1972.

During the war, Preston Guild Lodge, amongst many others in the Province of West Lancashire, welcomed Masons from the American Expeditionary Force. All lodges who had hosted American Masons received a beautiful commemoration listing all the Masons and their Lodges who had attended. Those who attended Preston Guild Lodge signed the reverse of the certificate.

POST 1945

Once again, the aftermath of a World War became a stimulus for interest in becoming a Freemason. Large numbers of men applied to be made masons.

Such was the demand that in May 1951 a decision was made to suspend the receipt of new applications to join the lodge as the waiting list had grown so long. This situation endured until October 1953.

In the early 1950’s, 19 lodges were meeting at Preston Masonic Temple. Lodge meeting dates were allocated by the Temple Management. It was clear the Temple needed to grow as capacity had been reached. Once again, Preston Guild Lodge was at the vanguard of that work. Preston Masonic Temple introduced a Debentures Scheme to raise funds for the purpose of extending Preston Masonic Temple on Saul Street in 1955. The Temple worked with the West Lancashire Masonic Charities to enable lodges to donate through the debenture scheme. Preston Guild Lodge entered into the debenture process with charitable donations as well as direct contributions and loans from Lodge Funds. The latter loans were later converted to gifts. The new Lodge Rooms were consecrated in October 1961.

Preston Guild Lodge maintained its commitment to masonic and non-masonic charities. Every National Masonic Festival was honoured with Patronage as well as the West Lancashire Charities. 

Following significant legacies left by sadly departed members and their widows, the Preston Guild Lodge No 4408 Benevolent Fund was created as a Registered Charity. The initial funds came from the estate of Robert Henry (Harry) Turner who passed away whilst serving as Senior Warden. These funds were augmented by further bequests over time. Most notably were very significant bequests by William Bellamy and Mrs Annie Whipp, the widow of the late long serving member Thomas Whipp – one of William’s contemporaries.  It was determined in 1952 to formalise this fund as a registered charity with four Trustees. Those appointed were the four longest serving members of the lodge, chaired by the lodge’s first initiate, Walter Pomfret. This fund has provided a means of supporting Masons and their relatives in Preston as well as the wider Preston Community ever since.

August 1957 was a poignant landmark for Preston Guild Lodge. Our last and longest serving Founder Member, Eli Calvert, passed to The Grand Lodge above at the age of 84 years. 

The Master at the time is recorded as saying, “W Bro Calvert was one who never seemed to grow old, for he always displayed the spirit of youth and cheerfulness.”

April 1960 saw the very first Grand Lodge Appointment for Preston Guild Lodge. Rev Thomas Gould Beer was appointed to be Past Assistant Grand Chaplain of the United Grand Lodge of England. 

Thomas was a native of Swansea. He served as Curate at St James’s and Vicar of St Jude’s as well as Chaplain for Bushell’s Hospital and the Territorial Army. Thomas had a distinguished war record being Mentioned in Dispatches.

A very sad passing occurred in September 1962 when the lodge’s first initiate, Walter Pomfret died. He had served the lodge for 40 years. 

Also in September 1962, William Seddon initiated his son, William Richard Seddon. Bill Seddon Junior was to become a major figure in the Province of West Lancashire. He became Master of the Lodge in 1974. Bill was the lodges second Grand Officer when appointed as Past Assistant Grand Registrar in 1989. Five years later he was appointed as an Assistant to the Grand Superintendent of the Holy Royal Arch and then in 1997 as an Assistant Provincial Grand Master in the Province of West Lancashire.

Joseph Cray had a very interesting initiation in April 1964. We enter our masonic journey poor and penniless. Joe was wearing a ring that the united endeavours of the Tyler, Inner Guard, Director and Assistant Director of Ceremonies could not remove. It was necessary for the Master to declare that all proper precautions had been made and the ceremony could continue. That wasn’t Joe’s last ceremonial hiccup. On his Installation to the Chair in 1975, his nerves got the better of him at the Banquet when he mistakenly toasted the Grand Master as the Duke of York. With brilliant comic timing, the Director of Ceremonies, George Hudson, announced that the next toast would be “to his ten thousand men!”

By 1967, the wonderful Lodge Banner was showing signs of wear and tear. The lodge had the banner restored after 40 years of service. As Founder Member Chris Miller had funded the original purchase, his two sons John and Arthur, who Chris had initiated into the lodge, paid for the work in tribute to their father. Chris was a great benefactor to the lodge. He presented a magnificent carved casket to the Lodge in 1931 to house the Masters Portrait Book.

!967 marked the 250th Anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England. The Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Appeal Fund called on lodges to donate the equivalent of £1 per member. Each lodge meeting the appeal target was awarded a jewel for the Masters Collar. A jewel adorns both the Masters and the Past Masters Collars.

Mirroring growth in the Craft, there was a demand for more Holy Royal Arch Chapters. In 1971, a new Chapter was mooted and as it would be Consecrated in 1972, the year of the Guild Merchant, representations were made to name this new Chapter Preston Guild Chapter No 4408. John Lund, an Initiate of Preston Guild Lodge and Rupert Ord, the nephew of Founder Member Will Ord were two of the new Chapter’s Founding Members. The lodge donated a Bible to their namesake at Consecration.

Preston Guild Lodge had adopted the Ritual used by Unanimity Lodge since Consecration but this Ritual had “evolved” over the years. 1988 saw the introduction of a new Ritual Book which was elaborately decorated by Bill Davies. This book is passed from Director of Ceremonies to Director of Ceremonies. 

Today that is very much a symbolic transfer as the Ritual was further amended at Amalgamation and additions have been made since then.

From the mid-1980s, membership began to decline. As with many other organisations, time became more precious and stressed. This was further compounded by a mixture of age leading to the passing of long-term members and of mobility in the workplace as Masons moved away for work.

Preston Guild Lodge provided the Group with a Chairman for the second time in 1980. Sidney Canning Matthews, who had been a Joining Member of the Lodge in 1945, served the Group until 1984.

The lodge’s longest serving active member was George Cottam. Initiated into the Lodge in 1943, George enjoyed both his 50th and 60th years as a Mason with special celebrations in 1993 and 2003. At the time of his 60th Celebration, George was still faithfully serving and working in the lodge as Junior Warden. He passed away in 2006 after being a Mason for 63 years.

AMALGAMATION

In response to the declining numbers in Freemasonry from the mid-1980s, Preston Guild Lodge once more stepped up and was at the vanguard of the consolidation movement in Freemasonry. In March 2004, under the direction of the Provincial Grand Master, Colin Penty-Wright, the lodge amalgamated with Commercial Travellers Lodge No 3493 and Forest of Fulwood Lodge No 6388. Bill Davies carried the lodges through the process as Master.

Almost immediately after the Amalgamation Ceremony, Preston Guild Lodge provided the Preston Group with a third Group Chairman. Ian William Greenwood had migrated from East Lancashire to Preston Guild Lodge in 1989.

He served as Master in 1992. Ian was active in the Group for 16 years and was Chairman from 2004 to 2010. He has been a Grand Officer in Chapter since 1997 and in the Craft since 1998.  Ian celebrated his 50 years as a Mason in October 2019. 

The amalgamation brought some interesting members into the Preston Guild fold.

An Operative Mason joined our ranks. Ernie Cocker, a Past Master of Commercial Travellers Lodge, was an active Stone Mason running a Monumental Mason business in Preston. To celebrate the 80 years of Commercial Travellers he used his professional skills to craft ceremonial rough and smooth ashlars for the Lodge Room. These are used by Preston Guild Lodge at all meetings to this day.

Joe Hood, a Past Master of Forest of Fulwood Lodge had served as the Mayor of Preston during the Queens Silver Jubilee in 1977 and had the great honour of escorting Her Majesty when she visited the town. 

Joe became only the third councillor (and second Preston Guild Member) to serve as Mayor of Preston twice when he was elected again in 2000.

The lodge had its second 60-year celebrant in 2014 when Roy Rawlinson reached that milestone. He had become a joining member from Commercial Travellers Lodge through Amalgamation. Roy had ceased to be an active member at the time due to his health so the presentation of his 60 Year Certificate was made by the Master and close friends from CT days in the comfort of his home.

2008 saw the lodge initiate its youngest member to date. At that time, the criteria for becoming a mason was to be 21 years and above. However, dispensations were allowed for the sons on Masons to join at 18 years of age: they are called a Lewis. David James Christian Parker was initiated at the age of 19 by his father, who was Master at that time. Junior has gone on the sit in the Masters Chair twice since then. In our Centenary year he was appointed to Past Provincial Deputy Grand Superintendent of Works by the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master.

Following Amalgamation, the Warrants of Commercial Travellers and Forest of Fulwood Lodges Warrants were returned to Preston Guild. It seemed totally appropriate to celebrate the Centenary of Commercial Travellers in 2011. The longest serving CT member, Bill Hawkins returned as Master for that year.

Preston Guild Lodge enjoyed the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England in 2017. To mark the occasion David Parkers’ Senior and Junior presented the Master with the Tercentenary Jewel which now adorns the Masters Collar along with the 250th Anniversary Jewel.

The 21st Century was embraced with relish as the lodge developed its own website www.pg4408.co.uk which gives the Lodge a face to the World. Facebook and Twitter accounts augment the online presence, representing the modern and outward looking policy of Preston Guild Lodge.

THE PANDEMIC YEARS

The year 2020 saw the World plunged into the Covid 19 Pandemic. Freemasonry was suspended from March 2020 until July 2021. However, the lodge remained as active as circumstances would allow. Zoom was a facility most had never heard of in early 2020 but it became the lifeline of the lodge. Regular Zoom meetings were held to keep members in touch.

During this challenging time the lodge was determined to continue its charitable work. A policy decision was made that all our charitable donations would be to local volunteer led charities who had been most hit by falling incomes. During the two years of the Pandemic, Preston Guild Lodge distributed over £5,500 in goods and cash donations to local foodbanks and volunteer charities. In addition, lodge members served as Covid Volunteers. The work was recognised by the Mayor of Preston as the lodge received the Mayor of Preston’s Coronavirus Pandemic City Hero Award in November 2021. The lodge was honoured to receive the Mayor into Preston Masonic Hall where he presented the Certificate.

When Masonic activity resumed in July 2021, Preston Guild Lodge was quick out of the blocks and arranged an Emergency Meeting so that we could all be together again. True to our charitable aims, this was turned into a fund raiser. Four members of the lodge took part in the Motor Neurone Disease 92 Second Ice Foot Challenge. On a very warm evening, the participants found the challenge to be refreshing. £200 was raised on the night. 

During that infamous lockdown, the lodge worked hard on the new Pathway Scheme initiated by Grand Lodge. Lodge Profiles and Plans were created. The website was upgraded. Once again Preston Guild Lodge was at the vanguard of positive change. The result being three new members being brought on board. 

CENTENARY YEAR

In November 2021 the lodge installed Ian Greenwood, the lodges Grand Officer, into the Masters Chair for our forthcoming Centenary Year. He has demonstrated the supreme art of delegation ever since!

2022 got off to a flying start with the Initiation of a new member, Boniface Ogbonna with Joey Sahota, only initiated in September playing a pivotal role in the ceremony. The aim was to ensure all members were Master Masons by the time of the Official Centenary Celebration on the 3rd October. To help with that, Royal Preston Lodge No 333 and Ingol Lodge of St Margaret No 8544 assisted by performing the Passing Ceremonies for Joey and Boniface. By a quirk of fate both lodges chose the same night which meant we enjoyed a memorable three lodge combined Festive Board.

Work began on creating this history. The Lodge Website was updated to provide a tab to honour the Founder Members as well as one to note the significant events of 1922 – the World has not changed! 

During this research the lodge rediscovered Preston Guild Lodge No 29 of the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons – Freemasonry for Women. As Grand Lodge was promoting closer ties with the women masons’ contact was made. A White Table Event resulted when both lodges, and a significant number of visitors came together. The Provincial Grand Master, Angela Seed, gave a talk on HFAF. Close ties have rapidly developed and shared social events are a matter of course.

INTO OUR SECOND CENTURY

Preston Guild Lodge is now hoping to play an active role in the Universities Scheme. With a close association with Women’s Freemasonry and an active partnership, the lodge is able to overcome the diversity issues previously raised by the University of Central Lancashire. 

Preston Guild Lodge is proud of its history and of its founder members. They represented the values of Freemasonry 100 years ago in the way we aspire to do today.

Today’s members hope that those Founders look on from the Grand Lodge Above with pride as we endeavour maintain their high standards of welcoming good men from all walks of life and supporting our community as we stride out confidently into our second century.