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Unlocking Tradition: Discover Freemasonry in Colne

by Colne Life magazine

Discover freemasonry with the Royal Lancashire Lodge

Are you searching for more than just a social club? Step into a world where timeless tradition meets modern camaraderie at the Royal Lancashire Freemasonry Lodge, one of the oldest lodges in the country, with a history dating back to 1732.

To discover more about life as a freemason at this historic lodge, we talked to Worshipful Master Malcolm Pate, Archivist Bob Heap, and Immediate Past Master Duncan Walsh.

Why Freemasonry?

In an era of fleeting connections, Freemasonry stands as a beacon of enduring brotherhood. Imagine a community where ancient rituals are intertwined with contemporary ideals of personal growth and mutual support. It’s more than a tradition; it’s a journey of self-discovery and shared values. Freemasonry in Colne has a rich history of contributing to both national and local charities, including the founding of Victoria Hospital in Burnley in the late 19th century. Today, the lodge sponsors Pendleside Hospice and other worthy local causes.

“We base ourselves on friendship, fellowship, equality, and charity,” explains Duncan, Immediate Past Master of the Royal Lancashire Lodge. “Masonic charities are the largest donors to various charitable bodies, like the British Red Cross. If there’s a disaster, we’ll do everything through them. After the Manchester Arena attack, by 9 am the next morning, our province had already donated £30,000. We raised half a million nationwide after Russia invaded Ukraine.”

It’s not just charities that benefit; it’s the Masons themselves. “We started in Colne looking after the poor,” Duncan continues. In the mid-eighteenth century, Colne had more than its share of poverty. Men began meeting at The Hole in the Wall pub in the town centre, paying an entrance fee of around 10/6d, which was then regularly disbursed to members and ‘travelling brethren’ needing assistance.

This form of charity still exists in the community today. “I know that any Mason with a financial problem, or if one of our members became very ill or faced a tragedy, we would be there to help,” Duncan says.

The Masons provide more than just financial aid; they offer a sense of community. “When I lost my wife, I’d only just joined the Royal Lancashire lodge,” Duncan explains. The meetings became a place where he could find companionship after his loss. “It’s been a godsend to me. It’s somewhere I know I can go.”

The Brotherhood Beyond Lancashire

Freemasonry’s brotherhood extends beyond Lancashire, fostering camaraderie wherever you find yourself. “I was heading to Ireland,” Duncan recounts. “I had my Masonic pin in my lapel, and a fellow came up to me on the ferry, shook my hand, and gave me his lodge number. That’s our connection. I’ve visited lodges across the world, in India and the Caribbean, and everywhere I go, they are thrilled to see you. You feel most welcome.”

Why the Royal Lancashire Lodge?

“Freemasonry is the oldest fraternal society in the world, and Royal Lancashire Lodge is almost certainly the oldest continually operating lodge in Freemasonry,” archivist Robert Heap explains.

The lodge endured through the Chartist riots and the tragic murder of one of its own, Joseph Halstead, a special constable and Worshipful Master of the Royal Lancashire Lodge, who was killed in August 1840. He was the first special constable in Lancashire to die in the line of duty.

The lodge’s long history means that the well-known and respected families of Colne have been involved throughout the centuries.

Joining the Royal Lancashire Lodge means becoming part of a community steeped in history where tradition is very much alive today.

A Modern Perspective

“We’re not a secret society; we’re a society with secrets,” Malcolm Pate smiles. In the room where meetings are held, the door has a peephole to ensure only Masons can enter during ceremonies. What happens in those ceremonies? “Once you’re a Mason, you’re a Mason for life. You take the vow, swear the oath, and promise to uphold the lodge’s traditions and not divulge what we do to anyone other than a Mason.” So, if you want to uncover their secrets, the only way is to join.

“Freemasonry is a dynamic institution that adapts to its members’ needs.”

The society originated from stonemasons who, in the Middle Ages, used their craft to build cathedrals, castles, and other structures. They developed secret signs, symbols, and handshakes to identify themselves and ensure the quality and integrity of their work. These symbols, along with the stonemasons’ tools, became the foundation of Freemasonry’s rich tapestry of symbolism. The square and compasses, for example, are more than just tools; they represent the principles of morality and virtue that guide Freemasons in their daily lives.

This secrecy is not merely for the sake of exclusivity; it fosters a deep sense of fellowship among members. Knowing that you share secret symbols, rituals, and oaths with fellow Masons around the world creates an immediate bond of trust and respect. It’s a shared heritage that transcends cultural and geographical boundaries, making every Mason feel like they are part of a global family.

Malcolm explains, “It’s fellowship. Basically, that’s what it is all about.” The intimate knowledge of rituals and symbols is a unifying force, providing a sense of belonging and continuity. It helps Masons recognise and support one another, whether they meet in Colne or anywhere else in the world.

Contrary to popular belief, Freemasonry isn’t bound by rigid tradition alone. It’s a dynamic institution that adapts to its members’ needs. From philanthropic endeavours to personal development, the lodge in Colne offers a place for young men to forge friendships and make a real difference by raising funds for charities in their community.


All masonic lodges East Lancashire are raising funds through various functions to hopefully raise a total of £2.6 million ending in 2026. Money raised will be distributed to charities, both local and national.

Your Invitation

Curious about what Freemasonry entails? Join the Royal Lancashire Lodge for an open afternoon on the 10th and 11th of August at the Colne Masonic Lodge, 91 Albert Road, Colne BB8 0BS. Discover firsthand the values that have guided generations of men towards a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in society. Whether you’re seeking camaraderie, personal growth, or a chance to contribute positively to your community, Freemasonry welcomes you.

Step into a legacy of tradition, charity, and brotherhood. Unlock the secrets of Freemasonry and become part of a fraternity that spans the globe, offering a lifetime of support, friendship, and growth. The Royal Lancashire Lodge awaits you.

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ColneLife July/Aug 24