Royal Forest History
Being formed in 1829 in the Court Room at the Hark to Bounty Inn in Slaidburn it has over 185 years of history and having survived the second World War the Assembly Rooms in Waddington were purchased in 1946 where the Lodge has held its meetings ever since.
Blackburn Gazette, Saturday, 22nd August 1829 (Original in the Lodge Archives)
New Masonic Lodge at Slaidburn - Monday last being the day fixed for the establishment of a Masonic Lodge at Slaidburn, to be called the "Royal Forest Lodge", about 8 o'clock in the morning, the inhabitants of that village and neighbourhood from 8-10 miles round, were seen approaching from various directions to the scene. On the usual ceremonies being gone through, by the members of the Lodge, they descended from their apartments, and marshalled in order, and accompanied by an excellent band of music, proceeded to the Rectory, where they were handsomely received by the venerable Gentleman and his Lady. The procession then went to the church, accompanied by the Rector and his Lady, when the Rev. Mr. James read prayers; a young gentleman from Haslingden, officiated as clerk, and the Rev. R. Milner of Whalley, described in a most able and eloquent discourse the object in establishing the Lodge. He observed, "men ignorant of the real objects of masonry, and accustomed to speak slightly of it, might from occurrences like these, be induced to entertain a more unfavourable opinion of an institution, which folly may misrepresent, or malevolence calumniate; but while, in conformity with its precepts, we continue to be peaceable subjects, and kings and princes are enrolled under its banners, we may defy the darts of slander, and claim the respect and confidence of the community; for the principles of freemasonry invariably lead its members to fear God, love their neighbour, and honour the king." The procession then moved from Church to the Lodge, where, after all the necessary forms had been gone through, dinner was announced by the directors of ceremonies, when they took their seats in the court-room, according to previous arrangement, that they might receive the ladies and gentlemen who honoured them with their company. The cloth being removed, the following toasts were given - The King - The Duke of Sussex and the Royal Family - The Lord Bollington - John Crossland, Esq.- The Rector of Slaidburn - The Ladies of Slaidburn – The memory of Burns - The Gentlemen of Slaidburn - The health of the Rev. Mr. James, was also given, who returned thanks in a handsome manner - and, on the health of the Rev. R. Milner, and thanks to him for his able discourse on the occasion, being drank, that Gent rose and returned thanks with much energy and feeling which was received with enthusiastic applause. Between each toast, the party were much delighted with some most beautiful songs and glees, which were sung by the professional Gentlemen present, with infinite taste and science. About four o'clock the ladies took leave of the company, amid peals of applause. The day was spent with the greatest harmony; and the band of music which accompanied them had a very imposing effect, and brought forth an immense crowd of spectators, for so small a village.
When it was decided to rearrange the county boundaries in 1974 the United Grand Lodge of England decided that masonry would retain the old boundaries and county titles and as Waddington was within the old Yorkshire boundary the Lodge remained a member of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Yorkshire West Riding.
Stone Tracing Board
There is much speculation regarding the origins of the stone tablet in the Lodge room of 401. Some claim that it came from a Lodge at Stonyhurst College and was thrown into the River Hodder at Whitewells following a Papal Bull banning on Freemasonry. However, research has revealed that there never was a Freemasons Lodge at Stonyhurst and close examination gives serious doubts as to whether the stone could have survived immersion in the riverbed.
Another theory is that it was one of the items purchased from the Lodge Amity in 1829 when our Founders were preparing to form Royal Forest Lodge in 1829, this does bear some credence however it does not appear in the list of items that were purchased.
The best clue as to its origins comes from the Lodge Minutes for 29th October 1952 when a notebook kept by the principle founder and first Master of the Lodge (William Blackmore) was returned to us by his great Grandson. An entrance in this notebook reveals that a tablet was purchased in 1830 for the sum of £1-6s-6d, the extract reading "to the Stone Tablet £1-6-6" but no particulars as to where it came from. It is known that similar tablets were kept by Irish Traveling Lodges and the most likely conclusion is that this is where it originated.
The Tyler's coat is always at the heart of conversation for visitors of the Lodge. Originally commissioned to be made in 1829 the coat sill hangs in the Lodge and is used only on very special occasions. In 1989 a replica coat was made to preserve the condition of the original.