The Ormskirk and Bootle Group of Lodges & Chapters – Province of West Lancashire
Records show that Freemasonry in Ormskirk dates back to 1781 with the Lodge of Harmony No 580 meeting at the Golden Lion Inn. Harmony is one of the three oldest lodges in the county. From this early beginning, the Lodge of Harmony initiated the spread of Freemasonry in the district and in 1853 four members of Harmony Lodge, meeting with five other petitioners from various other lodges, founded the Lodge of Unity No 613 in Southport, and thus Freemasonry spread to that town.
In 1863 the Lodge of Harmony, spreading outwards, sponsored Hesketh Lodge at Croston which, in turn led to the forming of Freemasonry in Leyland. Further sponsoring by Harmony Lodge took Freemasonry into Skelmersdale with the founding of Stanley of Bickerstaffe Lodge in 1911.
Just as today, in the early days of Freemasonry in Ormskirk brethren came from all walks of life; professional and commercial men, craftsmen from various trades, farm-workers and gentry or eminent county people. Indeed, the owners of the estates surrounding the township of Ormskirk have figured prominently in establishing Freemasonry in the area. For example the Heskeths of Rufford, in particular Sir Thomas George Fermor Hesketh and, similarly, the Right Honourable Edward Bootle-Wilbraham, first Earl of Lathom and their successors, have all continued to exercise their Masonic enthusiasm and leadership, locally and nationally.
From those first meetings held in the Golden Lion Inn, a succession of meeting places were used throughout the years, notably the Ship Inn, the Talbot Inn, the Swan Inn and finally the Wheatsheaf Inn. Town development brought about the closure of the Wheatsheaf and so the present premises in Park Road were purchased, adapted and furnished as our Masonic Hall. O’Briens Tea Room serves wonderful lunches, light snacks and afternoon tea and a selection of cakes. O’Briens also offers catering for partys, weddins and funerals.
The lodges and chapters meeting at Ormskirk Masonic Hall and Park Hall Hotel Charnock Richard are managed by the group chairman and his officers. Ten lodges and three chapters meet at the Ormskirk Masonic Hall, whilst four lodges and one chapter meet at Park Hall Hotel, Charnock Richard.
Whilst lodges work to raise funds for charities of their choice, support is also given to the fund-raising efforts of the group social committee which is responsible for organising events within the group, such as the annual group ball, regular dinner dances, golf and bowling tournaments, sportsman’s dinner, quiz nights etc.
The highlights of the year’s social events are the children’s Christmas party and the Group Carol Service. All these events are designed to promote interaction between lodges and lodge members as well as to raise funds for charitable disbursement.
Ormskirk Masonic Hall also hosts the Ladies’ Group which, in addition to providing support for all the group and individual lodge social activities also has as its main objective the friendship and support of widows of former Masons together with wives and partners of Freemasons meeting in Ormskirk and Charnock Richard. It meets monthly catering for wide-ranging interests and has a full programme of visits and activities.
The newly formed group has nine lodges and three chapters meeting at the Litherland Masonic Hall, Sefton Road, Litherland. It is well situated for transport and has its own secure car park.
The hall has two lodge rooms. One will seat approximately 110 and the other approximately 55. There are two anti rooms adjacent to the lodge rooms together with ladies and gents toilets with separate facilities for the disabled. There is also a cosy bar next to the dining rooms.
There is a central kitchen which will serve both dining rooms, one will seat approximately 85 and the other approximately 40. There is a removable sound resistant screen which divides the two rooms and when opened up the one room will seat about 115 people.
All the facilities are at ground level with the two rooms at first floor level for use as offices/committee rooms.
The hall employs local staff for catering, cleaning and car park security. Many of the lodges have local names such as Bootle, Litherland, Crosby, Linacre and Aintree. The oldest lodge is Fermor Hesketh which was formed in 1871. Many members of the lodges have given loyal service in the local community and in work for local charities.
Lodges and chapters are administered by the group chairman and his officers, in addition to a hall committee on which all lodges and chapters have representation. This is a very active hall management committee.
The lodges meeting at the hall have a very strong social scene. The ladies have their own club and the related Widows’ Fellowship. They have regular meetings with a dinner and a guest speaker as well as days out to places of interest. Additionally, Freemasons interested in bowls, fishing, golf and clay pigeon shooting are well catered for.
To help with hall refurbishment and development, FROTH (the Friends of the Hall Committee) is very active and the regular Sunday lunches and the annual ball are enjoyed by all who attend.
In addition to the above one lodge (Old Crosbeian) meets in Merchant Taylors School. It is a caring group with members and their ladies helping to generate funds to assist local Scouts, Sea Cadets, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, Children’s Holiday Fund, Women and Children’s Aid and hospices both for children and adults. It also actively supports the Provincial charities of the Province of West Lancashire and the national and international charitable work undertaken by the Grand Lodge of England.