Beacon Lodge was born out of the success of Freemasonry in general between the First and Second World Wars. It was a spin-off (daughter lodge) of the Howe and Charnwood Lodge No 1007, which had outgrown its ability to cope with demand for membership and still flourishes today as the oldest lodge in Loughborough.

But this was not the first Masonic lodge in the town. That honour went to the Rancliffe Lodge No.608, which had been consecrated on March 13th 1835 at a Provincial Grand Lodge held for that purpose at the King’s Head Hotel (now the Ramada in the High Street). However this first lodge was singularly unsuccessful, becoming essentially defunct in 1839 and its name was finally erased from the Roll of United Grand Lodge in 1853.

Only a few years later there was a revival of Freemasonry in Loughborough and by 1864 there was enough interest to form Howe & Charnwood Lodge, which was consecrated at the Bull’s Head, also in the High Street. The lodge continued to meet there, paying 25 shillings for each meeting, until 1900 when mutual dissatisfaction between the landlady, Mrs.Widnall, and the brethren, which had been causing problems, finally came to a head. The lodge sought a Dispensation to hold their Installation meeting on November 27th at the Town Hall. This arrangement was regularised at a subsequent meeting and thus began a long association with the Town Hall that continued into the early years of the Beacon Lodge.



By 1930, Howe and Charnwood had 135 members - with an extra six to eight being added annually. Because of this, nearly all ceremonies were “doubles” and the lodge was expanding at such a rate that it was decided to form the Beacon Lodge. A month before the consecration, which took place on October 15th 1930, a Beacon Permanent Committee meeting recorded that there were six potential candidates for initiation into the new Beacon Lodge and four joining members.

There were 26 founding members, 17 of them members of Howe & Charnwood. Their occupations read like a list of the Chamber of Trade. There were four hosiery manufacturers, two builders, a decorator, saddler, boot maker, draper, master baker, jeweller & silversmith, as well as a bank manager, solicitor, head postmaster, dental surgeon, optician, six engineers of various kinds, an accountant and a secretary. The first Worshipful Master was the railway district agent. The widow of one of Beacon’s Masters in the 1960s recorded later her childhood memories of this first Master, in particular his impressive finely-pointed waxed moustache.

Within the first years of its existence, Beacon took part with its mother lodge in a special joint meeting to celebrate 100 years of Freemasonry in Loughborough. The impressive occasion was presided over by the Provincial Grand Master, both in lodge and at the festive board, during which a history of masonry in the town was given by Beacon’s first Master. This survives today in the form of a printed booklet, produced for members on that occasion, and recently discovered.



Fees and charges for dinner have been discussed and argued over throughout the Lodge’s history. This began at the very beginning! At a meeting on 20th March 1930 the Founders’ fee was set at £10. But by the following November it had to be increased to £12 since the Consecration had shown a deficit of £33.15.4. At the same Committee meeting the Initiation Fee was set at 25 guineas, plus £1.4.0, plus 5 shillings for the Fund, making a total of £27.14.0. The Minutes don’t record what the £1.4.0 was for! The Annual subscription was 2 guineas. The Consecration dinner cost 15 shillings (75p) and it was the same in 1931 with the addition of half a guinea i.e.10 shillings and 6 pence (52.5p) for abstainers! It was agreed that the charge for dinner after ordinary lodge meetings would be 3 shillings and 6pence (17.5p). On 6th March 1931 the Minutes record “that the question of an inclusive charge for supper and also the charges to be borne by the WM be dealt with by a Sub-Committee”.

In August.1931 it was agreed that the WM’s expenses should be met by a “fee of honour” of one guinea i.e. 21 shillings a year to be levied on officers of the Lodge namely: Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Senior Deacon, Junior Deacon, Asst. Director of Ceremonies, Organist, Asst. Secretary, Inner Guard. We don’t know how successful this levy was since it isn’t mentioned again.



The day on which the Lodge should be held proved a very contentious item in the early days. It was agreed at the very first Committee meeting on 20th March 1930 that the Lodge should meet on the second Saturday in September to April inclusive. However at the second Committee meeting only a fortnight later it was decided to change to the second Thursday. Interestingly, the Minutes for 19th February 1932 record that an informal meeting of the Lodge was to be called to discuss changing the Lodge night from Tuesday to Saturday. Since it met on Thursdays the Secretary must have been asleep! The subject was again discussed at length in Committee on 1st.April 1932. It was unanimously agreed to recommend that the Lodge should meet on the third Saturday. However the Brethren demonstrated their power, because in a ballot on 13th April 1933 the proposition was thrown out. The following November there was no choice since the Town Hall was required for the Loughborough Mayor-Making ceremony and so the meeting was held on Saturday. The same thing happened in 1934, 1935 and 1939. A rather different reason for changing the date occurred in 1953. Namely that 12th November was “Fair Thursday” and so the Lodge was held the previous Tuesday. This pattern was followed until 1964 by which time the present Masonic Hall in Ashby Square had come into use and the problem no longer arose.



The purchase of a properly-dedicated Masonic Hall came about after many years of trying. In 1929, Howe and Charnwood had put a deposit down to buy a large house called “The Elms” set in its own grounds in Elms Grove off Albert Promenade. But only a month after the consecration of Beacon Lodge, the two lodges were in doubt about the suitability of the project, mainly because of the anticipated cost of upkeep. By 1937, after never having converted the building or moved in, they decided to sell “The Elms” to Leicestershire County Council for £1,350. So passed the chance to occupy a magnificent hall in its own grounds with ample parking space…

In 1945 it was reported that the Howe & Charnwood Lodge had assembled a reserve fund of £4,500, and the Beacon Lodge £550, and the two lodges again proposed to buy a Hall together. Nothing more is heard of the idea until 1954 when a Beacon Committee on 18th.March heard about a scheme to buy The Theatre Royal in Market Street. Again, concerns about upkeep cost were raised and although the idea was narrowly approved, it never came to fruition.

Eventually, two years later, an acceptable scheme was put forward. A committee of Beacon Lodge was told in February 1956 that the “Adult School” in Ashby Square was to be sold. It had been built as a Congregational Chapel in 1828 and later used by the County Council as an adjunct to the Technical College for many years. By the time of the proposed purchase, Loughborough now had another lodge to help share the costs. So the Loughborough Masonic Hall Limited Company was formed with the shares divided Howe & Charnwood 15, Beacon 8, and Thomas Burton 1. The company bought the building for £4,600. Leicestershire County Council continued as its tenants until 1963, the building was converted at a cost of £24,000 and finally dedicated by the Provincial Grand Master, R.W.Bro.C.B.S.Morley, on 25th.September 1964 under the banner of the Howe & Charnwood Lodge.


HARD TIMES (part 1)

Whilst the Lodge had always met in evening dress that idea didn’t meet with universal acceptance. In 1936 a complaint was recorded that some Brethren found it difficult to find the time to dress in order to be in time for Lodge. The situation was overtaken by the outbreak of war when not only was the dress code not adhered to nor was the holding of regular meetings. Indeed when lodges were held it was not always possible to have refreshments afterwards. Sometimes the latter took the form of sandwiches prepared by the wife of a Masonic police inspector with wines on sale-or-return from Young’s in Ashby Square. On 13th February 1947 the Minutes record that “....owing to the fuel crisis all heat had been withdrawn from the Lodge room. As it was intensely cold only a shortened form of the ceremony would be given and immediately after the Lodge hot soup would be served and the Brethren would then immediately disperse”. A pencilled note is added to the Minutes: “The temperature of the Lodge Room was below freezing point”. The exigencies of wartime also affected other aspects of the Lodge. In 1941, the state of the Lodge finances led to a decision to reduce the number of circulars and omit the multi-colour embossing until circumstances improved. There were also concerns about being able to provide past masters’ jewels.


HARD TIMES (part 2)

When the Lodge was founded it was decided not to duplicate equipment owned by the Howe & Charnwood Lodge but only to obtain such items as applied solely to the Beacon Lodge. The arrangement was that Beacon would pay rent to Howe & Charnwood for the use of the other items of furniture. Records show that in 1949 Howe & Charnwood Committee asked Beacon for an increased rent of £10 a year.. At that time the monthly meeting rental for the Town Hall had just gone up to £5.10.0 and the lodge had been asked to give £10 towards the extension of the stage in the Victoria Room. As a result of these extra expenses it was decided to offer Howe & Charnwood £8 a year., i.e. £1 per meeting. Fifteen years later the Committee Minutes for 23rd August 1965 record that the Treasurer pointed out “…. that the time had perhaps come to discontinue paying the Howe & Charnwood 8 guineas per year for use of Lodge furniture”. A further sign of financial straits is seen in the Minutes of the Committee meeting held on 21st July 1950 when it was recommended that the PM’s jewel be made from silver-gilt. At the Committee meeting on 7th February 1956 it was stated that the Town Hall keeper had been given £1 pa., in connection with the preparation of the Victoria Room for Lodges and it was agreed to increase it to £2 pa.



Whilst social events have been prominent from the earliest times they haven’t always been financially viable. Sometimes a lot of committee work failed to bear fruit. The first Ladies’ evening was held in 1931 and the second in January 1933 which cost 10s 6d exclusive of wines. The band cost 4 guineas and the hire of a piano, from Hames in Market St., 10 shillings. A successful Summer outing was arranged in 1932 and it was decided to repeat the venture in 1933. Accordingly many committee hours were spent in organizing a trip to Kenilworth and Stratford on Avon, and as a sign of the expectation that members could take time off, it was to be on a Wednesday! The cost was 15s including dinner at which there were to be toasts both to the WM and to the Ladies. In the event, insufficient brethren accepted and so the venture was abandoned. It was tried again the following year, this time successfully, possibly because it was on a Saturday. The outing was to Stratford on Avon, with a dinner being held in Warwick, and the Minutes record that Brethren and others who desired could attend a Shakespeare play at the theatre whilst others might sail on the river or spend time as they desired! The outing was judged to be a marked success and only sustained a small deficit of 11s 8d. This was allocated to the printing account and paid out of Lodge funds! The Minutes of the Ladies Evening Sub Committee for 1936 record that “friends of the Brethren may come to the dance after the dinner at a charge of 3 shillings (15p)”.



Although the Lodge found permanent homes at the Town Hall then Ashby Square, finding a venue for committee meetings was not always easy. In the Thirties they were often held in the boardroom at hosiery company Hanford & Miller, the site now being part of Sainsbury’s car park. Other meetings were held at various public houses such as The King’s Head, The Green Man, The Loughborough Hotel, or at the home of the Worshipful Master. In the Fifties, meetings were often held at the Deaf & Dumb Mission in Ward’s End and especially at Smith’s Studios in the High St., the business premises of one Beacon Master. The custom of a summer committee meeting followed by a meal and refreshments provided by the Master was started in July 1952. These were held at the King’s Head, with the exception of 1963 when it was at the Bull’s Head in Quorn. In 1965 the meetings moved permanently to the Masonic Hall in Ashby Square. This custom was so readily followed that in 1962 it was referred to in the Minutes as “being the regular custom” and the Minutes for 29th June 1965 record that “The WM entertained his PMs and Officers to the traditional meal which was of the usual high standard and much appreciated by the brethren.” The format was changed in 1993 by an invitation being extended to the Ladies to join the Brethren for the refreshments. The custom of a summer meeting in one form or another still continues.



In the Beacon Lodge the office of Tyler is a progressive one. But this began only in 1955 when the lodge committee agreed to a suggestion that the Tyler should hold office for one year and that the position should rank next to the office of Junior Steward. This arrangement was to continue until such time as a permanent Tyler could be appointed. It soon became apparent that junior members might be put off by the difficulties of taking the office whilst inexperienced. One member (who in fact later became Master) refused to progress as Tyler, so it was decided to have no hard and fast rule and that each case be dealt with on its merits.

A further example of the gradual evolution of practices we now take for granted is in the acceptance or rejection of candidates. Today, an interviewing committee of a few senior brethren such as the WM., Treasurer, DC., Secretary, a PM and a Warden or two sees potential candidates. The findings and recommendations of that committee are reported to the Lodge Permanent Committee, which makes the decision to accept or reject the candidate before he is voted for in lodge. This simple-sounding process took years to evolve. For the first 20 years or so it appears that the system merely involved a list of applicants being examined by the Permanent Committee. References given by the proposer and seconder were usually deemed sufficient and only occasionally would further enquiries be made. Whilst these were usually satisfactory, an applicant’s name would sometimes be “left on the table”.

This seemingly casual practice continued until 1945 when the lodge was told of a general warning from Grand Lodge that special care should be taken in recommending candidates for initiation into Masonry. It seems that the original, more casual approach, might have continued after that for a least a short time, but by 1949 the lodge had moved closer towards the present system of approvals. The practice of insisting on an interview with all applicants was finally agreed in 1951 but it took until the mid-60s before the present system of interview, report and approval was settled on.



The practice of initiates being required to wear dinner jackets was started only in 1960 from a suggestion by the then Master. At the next committee meeting members agreed to the idea that all officers should wear DJs at the Installation meeting and a year later the Past Masters Committee strongly recommended that all Brethren should wear DJs at the Installation, which they do today.



The keeping of Lodge banners in specially-made cabinets in the lodge room was another idea put forward around this time (60s). The suggestion came from the secretary of the Masonic Hall Company to all Loughborough lodges. The first Beacon Lodge Master to be installed in the new premises pledged to provide such a case as a gift but it wasn’t until more than 20 years later that the Lodge finally got the splendid cabinet used today, made by a superb craftsman and present Beacon Lodge Past Master. He also made and presented a beautiful lectern for the use of the Lodge.

Other gifts over the years by masters and past masters include a complete set of Officers’ collars and jewels. Interestingly the “old” collars are still used by the Loughborough Lodge of Installed Masters. The cushion used in the Third Degree ceremony was designed on graph paper by one PM and made by his wife in less than a week. More recently the Lodge has benefited from an anonymous donation defraying of the cost of restoring the Lodge Banner, itself a gift. Several years ago two brethren presented to the Lodge an inscribed collar and jewel for the Immediate Past Master. Later, when it became apparent that the small name shields on the Worshipful Master’s collar were nearly all inscribed, it was decided to have a new chain added to the Immediate Past Master’s collar. The cost of this alteration was also defrayed by anonymous donation as was the recent cost of providing new gauntlets for the Master and Wardens.

Three elegant silver candlesticks that grace the Secretary’s table at Lodge meetings remain a visible link with Beacon’s past. These were made by the jeweller and silversmith referred to in the list of Founders and bear emblems of the Square, Level and Plumb Rule as well as the lodge’s crest.



As far as the present generation can recall, the Worshipful Master has always carried the Lodge’s Warrant into the lodge room at the start of each meeting. It survived over 60 years of folding and unfolding in this way, but to guard against deterioration and eventual decay it was recently decided to put the warrant in a lightweight frame inside a carrying case. That frame had to be made double-sided because the first few Worshipful Masters of the Lodge had quite illegally signed the warrant on its reverse and created a piece of history worth preserving!

K.G.M. (2008)