St Ambrose Lodge No 8251

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Meetings:      Handed in warrant – 2012

Lodge History:

THE HISTORY OF ST AMBROSE LODGE No 8251

St. Ambrose himself

Not every Saint is a Bishop and not every Bishop is a Saint but St Ambrose was both a Saint and a Bishop and he was born 1630 years before the birth of our Lodge.

To give you a very brief background on St Ambrose he studied law in Rome and was a governor over one of the Provinces of the Roman Empire and Bishop of Milan and was also responsible for introducing hymn singing into worship in the Western world.

He was also a great orator who could hold an audience spell bound for two hours or more.

The Consecration of St. Ambrose Lodge

The consecration of St Ambrose Lodge No 8521 took place on Friday, 14 March 1969, which marked the end of a very busy decade for what was then the Leyland, Chorley and District Group of lodges which also included West Houghton, because during this decade two other craft lodges were founded, namely the Withy Lodge No 7733 and Eccleston Lodge No 7754. In fact St Ambrose Lodge was the penultimate craft lodge to be founded in this group, the last being Runshaw Lodge No 8537 in 1973, that is of course with the exception of Phoenix Lodge No 9206 which is a Past Masters Lodge and the recently formed Red Rose of Lancashire Lodge No 9640, neither of which initiate candidates.

The seeds for the idea of a new lodge were sown in 1965 at a festive board of Leyland Lodge No 4249, when two young masons hadn’t been in masonry too long, decided that it would be a good idea to start another lodge, bearing in mind, at that time there was a six year waiting list to join the lodge and up to twenty members on the stewards list – a wait upwards of 25 years to attain the Chair.

These two young masons were and at that time Brian Taylor and his brother Ron Taylor who was the father of Peter Taylor, PAGDC who is the Provincial Assistant Grand Secretary.

The first approach was to WBro Harold Naylor who was a senior mason and a member of Leyland lodge and, after a favourable response WBro Jim Tomlinson who was a Grand Officer and a member of New Hall Lodge No 5930, was informed and both of these masons later became founders.

St_Ambrose_Emblem

However, that is as far as it went until the summer of 1968 when the wheels were put in motion with Brian Taylor generally mustering support for founders, and Gilbert Walsh and Ron Taylor looking after the administration and design of the logo to go on the summons – that very same logo can be seen in all its glory on our Banner and underneath is our lodge motto:

NON UT JUDEX SED UT EPISCOPUS – NOT AS A JUDGE BUT AS A BISHOP

This refers to the reference to St. Ambrose who was a Governor in Rome which would have required him to sit in judgement on many occasions and then Bishop of Milan hence, NOT as a judge but as a Bishop.

Of the 21 founders there were eight from Leyland lodge and this is predominantly why Leyland lodge was to become our mother lodge. The other 13 founders came from Leyland St Andrews Lodge No 7391, Carnarvon Lodge No 2376, New Hall Lodge No 5940, Longton Lodge No 6237, Old Worden Lodge No 5366, Penwortham Lodge No 5874 and Astley Lodge No 6234.

There were two main reasons why the name St. Ambrose was chosen, one was because a number of the founders were members of St Ambrose Church and the other because it represented the Farington side of Leyland (Leyland St Andrews of course representing the centre).

So, brethren we now had the name of the lodge, the logo was designed and the names of the founders finalised, all that was required now was to consecrate the lodge and at 2.45pm on Friday, 14 March 1969 the ceremony took place, at which there were 183 masons present of those there were:

The Provincial Grand Master at that time; the Right Worshipful Brother Sir Knowles Edge, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master was Very Worshipful Brother R K Leigh and the Assistant Provincial Grand Master was WBro Dr DJ Davies and the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies was WBro Alan Fletcher Ferris who later became Provincial Grand Master between 1980 and 1990, our own Bishop of Blackburn, Rev Caxton, Canon Schofield both of whom had long discussions with Brian and Ron.

Unfortunately, Alan Ferris was unable to attend and one of the Provincial Deputy Grand Directors of Ceremonies acted as the Consecrating DC and his name will be not too unfamiliar to you – WBro Kenneth Edward Moxley who of course later became Provincial Grand Master from 1990 to 1997 and a joining member of St Ambrose Lodge.

On the morning of the consecration many rehearsals were taking place and the lunchtime buffet was a banquet in itself with every type of meat available, it was a cornucopia!!

Having recovered from such a feast the hard work was about to begin and at 2.45 pm the consecration commenced.

The first Master was WBro James Tomlinson PAGDC and it is interesting to note that of the officers that are known to all of the present membership Frank Cowburn was appointed DC, Brian Taylor was appointed Junior Warden, Ron Taylor was appointed Assistant Secretary, George Birkin was appointed Inner Guard and the Chaplin was WBro Reverend TG Watkins one of the co-founders.

You will recognise the surname because the Reverend Watkins was indeed the father of one of our Past Masters and Treasurer; WBro Mike Watkins who was initiated into this lodge by his father on Monday, 23 November 1970. With the exception of George Birkin he is the longest serving member of this lodge.

On a charitable note, the donations given to charity that evening and bearing in mind it was 43 years ago were as follows:

  • 200 guineas to go to a charity of the Provincial Grand Masters choice.
  • 50 guineas to the restoration fund for the west door of Blackburn Cathedral.
  • 50 guineas towards the replacement of the furnishings in St. Ambrose Church which are still there to this day and are in the form of oak panelled fronts for the members of the congregation sat on the front row and that furniture bears the brass plaque stating where they came from. They were manufactured and supplied Jim & Alf Tomlinson joiners.

After any Masonic meeting, we have the Festive Board and superlatives are not sufficient to describe the meal so I will read you the menu.

The menu:

  • Hors D ‘Oeuvres
  • Cock-a-Leekie Soup
  • Grilled Brown Trout
  • Lemon Sorbet
  • Roast Guinea Fowl
  • Banana Split
  • Cheese Board
  • Coffee
  • Dessert

St Ambrose Lodge was formed by businessmen and as such had a few different traditions were set in place all of which are still respected to this day.

  • We only take one candidate a year
  • We only have five meetings a year, in October, November, January, February (Old English Night) and March is the Installation, the logic being October, November and January are for the three ceremonies, there is no ceremony in February so the WM has time to learn the Installation for March…well that’s the theory. In December we do not have a regular lodge meeting but instead we have a Christmas Party for lodge members, their ladies and friends plus any candidates that have been proposed – Appropriately, St. Ambrose Church Choir always kindly agrees to come a sing a few carols.
  • We never square the lodge and always close down By Virtue.
  • Our dress is always Dinner Suit.
  • After labour refreshment and we always have extra courses at the Festive Board and wine is always supplied on the lodge. Committee meetings are kept to a minimum in fact an absolute minimum i.e. once a year.

If you have a job such as Secretary or DC or any other non progressive office, they trust you to make the right decisions without any interference, that’s the way it is and it works, but one always has a safety net in the wealth of experience of the Past Masters and it is something I relied on a great deal during my early years in this lodge, and to a lesser extent still do today.

There is one tradition however that is now optional and it concerns Ladies Evenings. In the early years, Ladies Evenings were more like a social and dress was informal and the function was held elsewhere other than the Masonic Hall and usually over an entire weekend, the very first being held at the Imperial Hotel at Blackpool.

So, the founders never intended this lodge to have a large membership, but a lodge where all the members know one another and that you were not simply another name on the stewards list. The good fellowship generated in St Ambrose lodge because of this philosophy is something that we all enjoy.

The fact that not all the members of St Ambrose Lodge were privileged to know all the Founders and the full complement can be read on the summons but just for the record here are the names without any Masonic rank as they would prefer:

Jim Tomlinson, New Hall Lodge, Funeral Director

Harold Naylor, Leyland Lodge, Fruit & Vegetable Supplier

Frank Lawton, New Hall Lodge, Solicitor

George Hitchen, Leyland St. Andrews Lodge, Scrap Metal Dealer

David Forsyth, Leyland Lodge, Accounts Manager

Alf Tomlinson, New Hall Lodge, Builder

Frank Cowburn, Carnarvon Lodge, Engineering Supplier

Jack Staveley, Old Worden Lodge, Chief Draughtsman

Dougie Hargreaves, Leyland St. Andrews Lodge, Insurance Broker

Jack McKittrick, Leyland St. Andrews Lodge, Fruit & Vegetable Supplier

Jim Baxendale, Astley Lodge, Hotelier

Harry Crawshaw, Carnarvon Lodge, Joiner

The Rev. Tom Watkins, Longton Lodge, Clergyman

Gilbert Walsh, Leyland Lodge, Local Government Officer

Brian Taylor, Leyland Lodge, owner and chairman of BTR Taylor Eng.

Ron Taylor, Leyland Lodge, vice chairman BTR Taylor

Jack Roocroft, Carnarvon Lodge, Butcher

Peter Khilchi, Leyland Lodge, Engineering Worker

George Birkin, Leyland Lodge, Sales Manager

Tom Williams, Leyland St. Andrews Lodge, Sand & Gravel

Bill Godsell, New Hall Lodge, Solicitor