Borough and Ashlar Lodge
Number 4858

Nelson House, Nelson Square, Burnley
Telephone 01282 421344




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The Lodge has a library of books.
Contact WBro Tom Kinsman for more information.


Music written by Brother John Stafford Smith (1750-1836) of Inverness Lodge #4 in London was, at one time, used by an Irish Masonic Orphans' Home as their song.  Later it became a popular drinking song for many years known as To Anacreon in Heaven.  Then, some years later, the music was adopted by Francis Scott Key to which he wrote the words to the American National Anthem,  The Star Spangled Banner.  









At that time Burnley was an important spinning town but the transition to a weaving base had started. It is perhaps not surprising that of the eleven founders five were described as “Cotton spinners and manufacturers” Many new factories and houses for the increased population had been built. The factories, almost in the heart of the town, became centres round which were built congested back to back houses with dirty narrow streets, little sanitation and nuisances of every description being prevalent. Disease was common and 1866 saw an outbreak of Cholera affecting 1200 persons.


The influence of the Towneley and Shuttleworth families was declining, being replaced by the Thursbys, the Hargreaves, the Dugdales and the Ormerods.  It was a period of intense municipal activity with the granting of a Royal Charter in 1861 giving the town the right to elect a Town Council with a Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors.


Internationally, the American Civil War was being fought. This conflict was between the Union states of the North against the eleven Confederate states of the South who supported slavery. The Union navy blockaded the South to prevent the export of their cotton and this resulted in a cotton famine in Lancashire with severe economic hardship both to the owners and to the employees. It provided a unique excuse for one of the Founders to be absent from Masonic business. George Slater was a cotton manufacturer owning a number of mills adjacent to Nelson House and Sandygate. He was absent because he had chartered ships to evade the Union blockade in order to bring back cotton to Burnley. He was an unpopular man in the town due to the strict discipline he imposed on his workers and he also fell foul of the Judiciary when he was fined the not inconsiderable sum of £100 for “running his mill fifteen minutes overtime”. His defence that the employees were on piecework and so benefited from the longer hours did not carry favour.


It was against this background that a meeting was held at the Bull Hotel on the 19th April 1865 to suggest the formation of a new Lodge. The eight attendees were all from Silent Temple and the principal reason for the new Lodge was “that the members of ST are too numerous to be conveniently accommodated in the Cross Keys Hotel and its situation too inconvenient for members and others desirous of joining”.  Events moved speedily because a petition supported by a Commendation or Supplementary petition was sent to the Grand Master. A total of 41 masons, of whom 25 were members of Perserverance Lodge 345 in Blackburn, signed the Commendation. An unusual feature is that there is no record in Silent Temple’s minutes of the resolution seeking the approval of Grand Lodge.


The Warrant was signed by the Deputy Grand Master on the 12th May 1865.  Despite the advances in communications we would not today be able to have a warrant signed in such a short period. The Lodge was consecrated on the 6th July 1865.


The first Master was John Sharples Veevers, a Past Master of Silent Temple Lodge (1861-1863). Of the eleven Founders, eight were members of Silent Temple. At the first meeting of the Lodge, five candidates were initiated. We have a photograph showing a group of Burnley Freemasons, including the founders of the Lodge and its first Initiates, which unfortunately is not dated nor carries any label of a particular event.


The choice of name was appropriate as many of the founders were actively involved in civic life. Anthony Buck Creeke was the first Town Clerk, Richard Parker an Alderman, whilst Henry Milnes, George Slater and Miles Veevers were all Councillors. This relationship explains why, in 1866, the Lodge was invited to lay, in Masonic form, the corner stone of the New Market Hall. The invitation was accepted though it was only by a majority decision.


Accordingly, on the 25th October 1866, the newspapers of the day recorded how a number of mills stopped working, the streets were thronged with spectators, flags hoisted, shops were closed, the bells of St Peters were rung and cavalry from the barracks lined the streets for the ceremony. The stone was laid and proved in Masonic form and the maul used is now on display in the anteroom.


The election of the first Member of Parliament for Burnley took place on the 16th November 1868. Members of the Lodge were actively involved in that the Liberal candidate was one Richard Shaw whose son of the same name was initiated at the first Lodge meeting. The Tory candidate was one General Scarlett who was regarded as a war hero for his exploits in the Crimean war. He had successfully commanded the charge of the Heavy Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava against the Russian cavalry in contrast to the failure of the Light Brigade at the same engagement. He was supported by George Slater. The proceedings were chaotic to say the least. One is tempted to wonder whether anything has changed. Just over 5,500 men were eligible to vote yet an estimated crowd of 12,000 assembled at the Cattle Market to decide the issue by a show of hands. The Mayor “amid much confusion and insulting language from the crowd” heard the nominations proposed and seconded and then called for a show of hands. This proved to be inconclusive and so a poll was conducted the next day but as voting was not secret and employers could watch how their employees voted there was a great deal of intimidation. Shaw was successful.


The most prominent member of the Lodge was Sir John Ormerod Scarlett Thursby. Sir John is described as “a gentleman” in the Lodge records and lived at Bank Hall.  As his Christian names show his family was related by marriage to the Ormerod family and also to the Scarlett family. The family fortunes had been acquired through these marriages which had given ownership of the Burnley collieries and other valuable land.


Masonic progress was rapid. Initiated in April 1886 but by the time of the Installation in 1888 he was being installed in the chair of King Solomon. In September 1889 he was promoted to Provincial Senior Grand Warden and then in Grand Lodge to Past Grand Deacon.


He and his family were substantial benefactors to the town and particularly to the churches which explains why, as Prov. S.G.W., he presided over the laying of the memorial stone at St John the Baptist Church Gannow “with due Masonic rite and ceremony”. The dispensation from the Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro Le Gendre Starkie, refers to him laying the stone “assisted by as many Provincial Officers Past and Present as can make it convenient to be with you” and warns the Brethren “to take especial care to conduct themselves with strict sobriety and decorum that the credit of our ancient craft may be maintained.” The account of the ceremony refers to Thursby wearing “a handsome collar and silver chain with the Borough arms of Burnley enamelled on a gold coat” This Masters Collar had been presented by him when he installed his successor. The Collar was worn until the closure of the Lodge and continuity has been preserved as it is worn by the IPM in the new amalgamated Lodge. The Lodge is also in possession of the Past Masters jewel which was presented to Sir John by the Lodge as a wedding present. It is of exceptional quality in its original case made by Kenning, Goldsmith of London. The Lodge is pleased that this significant item is to be loaned to the Hall Company. It will be displayed and be a permanent reminder to a man who was a prominent member of The Borough Lodge and who subsequently, became the first Master of the third Lodge to be founded in Burnley, namely, Thursby 3855.




The main event in 1926 was the General Strike. Coal Mines had been returned into private ownership following the end of the war and the mine owners had attempted to reduce wages. The introduction of the Gold Standard by Winston Churchill had led to a strong pound so that exports were damaged and interest rates were raised. This led to a Coal Strike which in turn led to sympathy strikes in other industries including transport. The government was prepared and, though the strikers had initial success such as derailing the Flying Scotsman near Newcastle, the use of troops meant that essential services were maintained and the General Strike only lasted ten days.

The miners however stayed out for much longer but, by October 1926, many were forced to return to work. Others were unemployed for many years. Those that did return were forced to work longer hours for less pay and felt they had achieved nothing. At the conclusion of the strike the industry had lost about one third of its workforce.


The years following the end of the First World War proved to be very fertile in the initiation of new Candidates. Between 1919 and 1926, Borough Lodge initiated 50 new members. It is not surprising that the possibility of forming a new Lodge was discussed.


A meeting was held on the 8th March 1926 when the members of Borough Lodge resolved to propose the formation of a new Lodge and, at an Emergency Meeting of the Lodge held on the 26th March, it was resolved to Petition the Grand Master accordingly.


The Supplementary petition stated, inter alia, “That Burnley then had a population of 103,000 and there were only three Craft lodges in the town. That prior to 1923, these Lodges held their meetings in a hotel, but that in 1923 they had combined to purchase a property (the present Hall in Nelson Square). That the number of members of Borough Lodge was then 90 of whom half were below Chair Rank and that there were many suitable people desirous of joining the new Lodge…”


At a meeting of the Founders, in May 1926, a number of possible names were put forward but the first choice was that of “Ashlar.” The Lodge Warrant is dated the 18th June 1926 and names the Lodge as “The Ashlar Lodge” and gives the number as 4858. It was not until the 15th December 1926 that the Lodge was consecrated at Nelson House.


Nelson House was not as we know it today. The Masonic part of the premises ended more or less at the foot of the steps leading to the present Lodge Room. From there, a passage connecting the building with the Assembly Rooms and these were still used for non-Masonic receptions and dances. The new lounge area did not exist.


The 29 founders were all members of Borough Lodge as were the first four Joining members. The Lodge was consecrated by the Assistant Provincial Grand Master in the presence of the Founders and 157 visitors. How were they all accommodated in the Lodge Room? It is interesting to note the Masonic Ranks of the attendees namely 3 Grand Officers, 39 Provincial Officers, 12 Past Masters, 1 Installed Master and 131 Master Masons.

The Lodge flourished and continued to attract new members. It is believed that the Lodge was the first one to use the new Lodge Room when, on the 1st September 1937, the then Chief Constable of Burnley, Alfred Edward Edwards, was initiated in the presence of 48 members and 81 visitors. History repeated itself in that the end of the Second World War saw a large increase in Masonic membership and, in 1949, the Lodge had its highest membership of 92. Not surprisingly, discussions took place on the formation of a new Lodge and Ashlar Lodge sponsored the formation of its daughter Lodge, namely, Hurstwood Lodge number 6768.


It is impossible to mention by name all the many dedicated Masons who have been members of Ashlar Lodge but one or two do come to mind. WBro Alec Clegg has written the most comprehensive Lodge history I have ever seen with countless schedules analysing all aspects of the lodge. It must have taken hundreds of hours. This history ends in 1966 with the initiation of our Honorary Member, W. Bro. Harold Bradshaw, PPGSW, who presided over the 50th anniversary celebrations and includes the initiation of WBro Kenneth Tomlinson, PPJGW, who has recently celebrated his 50 Years in Masonry.


The two members of the Lodge who have attained high rank in the Province and in Grand lodge are WBro Harold Thornton, PJGD, Second Provincial Grand Principal and our Honorary Member, WBro Norman Harrison Nash, PSGD, who was appointed an Assistant Provincial Grand Master in 1991.



The first ten years of the 21st century were challenging ones for the world at large and Freemasonry in general. The Millennium was celebrated by all but storm clouds were on the horizon. America was convinced that the Middle East dictator, Saddam Hussain, was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. This intelligence was of dubious quality but sufficient to persuade President Bush and the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to invade Iraq. Though victory was easily achieved the task of ensuring security in that country proved to be very difficult.


Both America and Britain suffered terrorist attacks from Muslim extremists which was the alleged justification for invading Afghanistan. This is a country that had been invaded on a number of occasions throughout the centuries but “the invaders” had always been expelled. History appears to be repeating itself and a conflict which is unpopular with many citizens carries on.


Economically, the world prospered during the early years but all changed in 2008 when the banking system in America and Europe came under great pressure. This was caused by reckless lending which eventually came home to roost. Large banks had to be rescued by governments and even countries such as Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain had to be assisted financially. This resulted in a squeeze on expenditure from Government levels down to individual families.


Against this background Freemasonry has faced a considerable reduction in the number of members and in the number of Lodges. Though this, initially, was more keenly felt in the cities, it eventually percolated through to all the areas of the Province. Both Borough and Ashlar Lodges were finding it difficult to attract candidates and the age profile of the members was rising. Both Lodges were at risk unless some action was taken. Amalgamation was just one possibility but everyone was cautious being aware of examples that had not been a success. There were not too many examples of two weak Lodges amalgamating to form a strong Lodge.


In 2008 it was decided that the two Lodges would form a “partnership” to assist each other. Both reduced the number of meetings so that basically they met alternate months with members attending both Lodges and standing in for any missing Officers. This had advantages in that meetings were held with larger numbers and members got to know their colleagues better. Neither Lodge had initiated any candidates since 2003 but suddenly a “green shoot appeared” in that the current Master proposed his father with rumours of interest from a sibling and “as one waits for a bus for a long time and then suddenly they all come together” there was interest from other gentlemen.


This interest came at a time when the two lodges decided to formalise matters and appointed a joint committee to investigate the possibility of a formal amalgamation. The process was examined with the procedural route being carefully scrutinised, especially the delicate features of the name and number of the new Lodge together with the fundamental decision as to which Lodge would be “the closing Lodge”. The members of both Lodges should be congratulated for putting any parochial issues aside and agreeing unanimously that the new lodge should be called “The Borough and Ashlar Lodge number 4858”.


Whilst some outsiders have expressed surprise that the Lodge with the lowest number closed it must be remembered that Ashlar Lodge was the one who were now providing the new candidates and in such numbers to ensure the new Lodge got off to a vibrant start in its combined life. Accordingly, application was made to Grand Lodge for the closure of Borough Lodge for the purpose of amalgamating with Ashlar.


The 12th May 2010 saw the final meeting of Borough Lodge, 145 years to the day of its warrant being signed. Though a sad occasion in many respects it was also a celebration both of its history and the new lodge. The APGM, WBro Martin Roche, gave the final address to the lodge which included the following appropriate words “Your forebears had the courage, the insight and the strength to seek new Masonic adventures when Borough Lodge was formed. And now, you honour their memory, their service and their dedication by taking all they worked for and ensuring that it lives on; by giving not just you, but all who have gone before you, a new opportunity: the opportunity of another  new beginning”


The 8th of December 2010 was an eventful starting point for the new Lodge: the day that Grand Lodge completed the formalities of the Amalgamation. The new Lodge was now born and Bro Jim Whittaker became its first Master. On what would have been the Installation day for Borough Lodge, the members of Ashlar Lodge invited the Past Masters of Borough to take office and conduct a Raising ceremony. Though it tested the ritual of some, the gesture was extremely well received and it is intended that this precedent will be repeated for so long as possible.


The meeting in February 2011 saw the Installation of Bro Mark Higginson who was able to appoint his new team. Seven Brethren from Borough Lodge were appointed and, on this occasion, the Worshipful Master was also able to appoint his father as Lodge Almoner.


It was appropriate that, at his first meeting, the WM received the Assistant Provincial Grand Master and a District delegation to celebrate the joint 50th birthday celebrations of a member from each of the original Lodges, namely, WBro Kenneth Tomlinson, PPJGW, and Bro Colin Sanderson.

Having had seven new candidates in a period of less than two years, the Lodge will have live ceremonies until at least November 2012 and the future looks bright. Long may this partnership continue to prosper.


WBro Keith Beeston PAGReg

24th March 2011


Join the
Borough and Ashlar VIsiTorS Team

Lodge Secretary
 Jeff Bradshaw

Tel. 01282 452561

 Jim Whittaker

Tel. 01282 455146

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