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A Brief History of Featherstone Lodge

December 2012 saw Featherstone Lodge celebrate our 50th anniversary. A special summons was produced to commemorate the event which included the following history of our lodge.

The conception of Featherstone Lodge is likely to have occurred about ten years before the Consecration when the formation of a Lodge having a connection with Featherstone School, was in the minds of W. Bro. Capt. West, a previous Headmaster of the school, and others with an attachment and fond affection for the School.

However in 1959 W. Bro. Dr. Fred Shepherd, whilst in attendance in his professional capacity at a schoolboy’s Boxing Tournament at Featherstone School was observed studying his Book of Ritual by the Headmaster. W. Bro. Maurice Down. Subsequently on the 18th May 1961 a meeting was convened in the Library of Featherstone School of those interested in the formation of a Lodge.

At this meeting it was unanimously agreed that all the ingredients were available to found Featherstone Lodge, which would meet at the Masonic Hall, Uxbridge, on the second Saturday in February, April, June, September and December. At a subsequent meeting, Jersey Lodge was asked to sponsor the Featherstone Lodge. A design for the badge was submitted which appropriately included the School emblem and motto, “We seek – We find”. It was agreed that the “Emulation” ritual would be adopted, the membership of the Lodge should not be restricted to Old Boys and Officials of the School; and that the annual subscription would be 6 guineas – which in today’s terms would be approximately £263 using average earnings.

The Consecration was held at Freemason’s Hall, Greet Queen Street, on Saturday 29th September, 1962 at 4pm. The Consecration was carried out by the R. W. The Provincial Grand Master, R. W. Bro. Norman Moore, who then vacated the Chair in favour of W. Bro. Arthur S. Hollins, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, who installed W. Bro. R.G.I. Jenkinson as the first Worshipful Master of the Featherstone Lodge. In addition to the Consecrating Officers present, there were 18 Founders, together with 143 Visitors representing 85 Lodges.

A quarter of a Century later, for the Silver Jubilee year in 1987/88 the Lodge members insisted that one of its stalwart members and Founders, W. Bro. Fred Shepherd occupy the chair. At his Installation meeting the Lodge of Instruction preceptors presented a WM’s collar bearing the name of the previous Masters of the Lodge, which created a tradition which has been followed.

During the 1993/4 year W. Bro. Rob Davies initiated our 100th candidate, Bro. Terry Woolmer. Then in early 1996 the Lodge relocated to the New Masonic Centre in Hercies Road, Hillingdon. In June 1997 the Lodge filled the temple with over 100 Masons when it had the William Cobbett Lodge’s demonstration of “The making of a Mason circa 1790”. Hence our Lodge was one of the first to fill the temple and dining room to capacity.

W. Bro. Bill Fuell our first initiate and a Featherstone old boy proposed W. Bro. Greg Hayes who took the Chair in 1999. W. Bro. Greg was also an Old Boy and had spent virtually all of his teaching career as a Master at the school. He was the first “Man and Boy” to become Master of the Lodge. His connection with the school led him to bring others into the Lodge. He proposed W. Bro. Steve Hammond, a fellow Master at the school, Bro. Keith Dickens and most recently Bro. Michael Blake and introduced his own brother Bro. Chris Hayes, all old “Feathers”.

A Difficult Period

W. Bro. Leo Cahill took the WM’s chair in the year 2000. He was an excellent Master, but unfortunately the Lodge’s fortunes declined. Due to poor health his Senior Warden Bro. Terry Woolmer was unable to attend any of the meetings after his investiture and it became clear he would be unlikely to succeed W. Bro. Leo; furthermore the Junior Warden did not feel able to jump a year.

W. Bro. Leo willingly agreed to stay in the Chair for a second year in 2001 as we did not have a successor. Declining attendances and differences of opinion between members meant that the Lodge was in a period of strain. In spite of these problems W. Bro. Leo remained at the tiller and steered us through some difficult water.

W. Bro. Larry Parsons was installed for the second time in 2002, however the fortunes of the Lodge went down dramatically and the thought of closure loomed in some minds. A very eager ritualist who could perform almost any part of the ceremony, W. Bro. Larry Parsons was one of the old school of Masons who firmly believed that the Worshipful Master should do all of the work himself. This was when UGLE was actively encouraging the sharing of the work to ease the load and maintain the interest of members. The Lodge of Instruction ceased and the February 2003 meeting had only eighteen Masons present including visitors. In spring 2003 an informal meeting was convened to discuss the Lodge’s situation. Sadly views of no confidence in the Master were expressed. Therefore he decided to resign forthwith. Hence the June 2003 saw W. Bro. Leo Cahill, the IPM, occupy the chair as acting Master and at this meeting a demonstration of a 1759 Initiation by Loyalty United Lodge of Instruction No. 4391 created new interest and enthusiasm.

In 2003 Brother Stephen Hammond was to progress to the Chair but during the summer break his family were forced to move from their home and he was unable to progress. The September meeting should have been Installation of the WM Elect Bro Stephen. This meeting was held under the guidance of W. Bro. Leo Cahill, IPM. A new Master was elected, W. Bro. Michael Long. At an emergency meeting held not less than 28 days after his election, W. Bro. Michael was installed as Master on 11th October 2003.

Better Times

The Lodge had a significant step forward in this year. We had two Initiates, one joining member, and a further application in hand for Initiation.

2004 saw the Lodge install W. Bro. Malcolm Birchall. He had already served the Lodge for many years as an untiring Charity Steward. A capacity he retained whilst he was Master when he led the Lodge to great success for the start of the Middlesex 2008 festival as he had done back in 1998. Progress continued with the Past Masters holding offices whilst the younger Brethren had time to progress. Then followed W. Bro. Peter Webb another Past Master in the Chair in 2005. He along with others had pledged his support at our lowest ebb in 2003, to guide and steer us along our history.

The support of Past Masters who had jumped into the breach both as Masters and holding other key offices cannot be forgotten as that is the reason why we look forward to a healthy future.

In 2006 W. Bro. Steve Hammond was able to take the Chair as Master for the first of two years. Under his guidance we were able to see light at the end of the tunnel. His humour and wit created an enjoyable atmosphere both in and out of the temple. At the same time junior members were attending Lodge of Instruction and a succession chain was being established.

W. Bro. Rob Davies agreed to occupy the Chair again in the first of two successive years in 2008. The ceremonies were first class and the Lodge re-defined itself under his leadership. This was when we took a new approach to how we helped candidates progress and enjoy their membership, particularly related to mid week meetings for rehearsals and friendship. A blue print for the future was defined. The Lodge was in the 21st Century with its own website well ahead of many others in the Province.

W. Bro. Roger Burke “conducted” the Lodge from 2010. His musical talents were always available to us as was when the Featherstone ensemble played at our December white table meetings. W. Bro Michael Long took the Chair again in 2011 in a very special year for his family and our Lodge.

Our second longest member of the Lodge W. Bro. Stuart Robinson took the Chair again for the first time since 1980 for our 50th Golden Jubilee Year.

Lodge of Instruction

The Lodge of Instruction first met after the Lodge was founded in 1962 at the “Swan Hotel”, Southall, and subsequently moved to the Manor House, Southall in 1971 where the privacy of its own room was a great advantage. Unfortunately it had to vacate these premises in 1983. The Lodge Instruction was then temporarily held at the “Wolf Inn”, Norwood Green and then onto the “Havelock Arms” for many years until we moved to the New Masonic Centre, Hillingdon in 1996 where we continue to meet every second Wednesday during the Masonic year.

A Family Affair

The Lodge is proud to have nine Lewis’s as members. The first two, W. Bro. Terry and W. Bro. Malcolm Birchall are the sons of W. Bro. Fred Birchall who was the second Initiate. W. Bro. Fred Birchall made the original furniture and he also made and donated the columns, gavels, and blocks which were used for many years.

Subsequently W. Bro. Adrian Hardy (Initiated by his father W. Bro. Sam Hardy), Bro. Russell Wileman, another Featherstone old boy, Bro. Graham Haigh, W. Bro. Peter Webb, (Initiated by his father W. Bro. Lesley Webb, two more old ‘feathers’), Bro. Miles Deas, all Lewis’s, became members of the Lodge. Most recently in 2011 W. Bro Michael Long initiated, passed and raised his son James with his son Bro. Christopher, who he had initiated in 2006, as the Junior Deacon.

On three occasions when the Initiate was a Lewis, to the delight of the Lodge the First Degree Tracing Board was explained by W. Bro. Stuart Robinson, who is also a Lewis.

Our Lodge proudly boasts four brothers amongst the current Brethren and a son-in-law.

(November 2012.)

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