Date of Warrant 16th August 1764
Meets Second Tuesday (Except June, July and August)
The Foreward of The Lodge of Unity No.132 64 Years of History 1950-2014 by W.Bro. Ken Warren.
Early Historic years 1764 to 1950
The years 1764 to 1950 are adequately recorded in our 366 page book “History of the Lodge of Unity No 132 by W.Bro. HR Homewood PM”. It is not my intention to expound on any of his history, but simply to fashion some of it into this text involving the earlier years.
Homeless for 131 Years 1764 to 1895
In Lymington, Hampshire a dozen or so men trading mainly in salt were inspired by other traders in England. These traders had some forty years earlier formed themselves into Lodges under the banner of a Grand Lodge. They had a code of conduct and standards based on operative Masons. They had also designated themselves Freemasons and would meet convivially, enjoying and caring for each other as Brothers. Not far from Lymington, a Freemasons Lodge was formed in 1761 at Winchester and another relatively locally on the Isle of Wight was formed in 1733. In 1764 the Lymington contingency formed themselves into a Freemason’s Lodge. They became known as the Lodge at Lymington No 318. For 12 years they met at several Inns in Lymington. In 1776 due to a majority of the members living in Ringwood. The Lodge moved to rented accommodation at The White Hart Inn Ringwood. They remained there until 1895. With each move and amalgamation of Ancient and Modem Grand Lodges, the Lodge of Unity’s registered number went through the following changes i.e. 318 (1764), 258 (1770), 206 (1781), 175 (1792), 214 (1814), 154 (1832) and finally 132 in 1863.
In 1895 A member of the lodge was the Landlord of the Crown Hotel in Ringwood and he decided to build a function room at his hotel. The lower room would be known as the “Squires Room” and an upper floor could be a Masonic temple to accommodate the Lodge of Unity.
A Home with a Future 1895 to 2004
In 1895 the lodge agreed a rental of eight guineas per year and so relocated to the Crown Hotel. The Crown estate was later taken over by Eldridge Pope Brewery who in 1899 gave the lodge a 100 year, annually reviewed lease, of the upper floor temple. This gave the lodge a considered permanent home for the first time in its history. During the subsequent years several other lodges and side degrees became sub-tenants of the Lodge of Unity. This substantially assisted in off-setting rent which by 1990 had increased year by year to around £6,000 per year.
In 1991 Eldridge Pope advised that in 1999 they would not be renewing the lease and application had been made for redeveloping the Crown estate. This resulted in our sub-tenants leaving for new locations elsewhere.
In 1992 Unity unable to sustain the high rent had to relocate to the Masonic premises at Knole Road Bournemouth.
In 1996 Eldridge Pope advised that they were unable to get planning permission for redevelopment and offered the lodge a return to the Ringwood temple at half the original rent on a 3 year lease.
In 1997 the offer was accepted and the lodge returned to its temple on the first floor, above the now derelict ground floor `Squires Room’ which would have to serve as a dining facility. In 1999 the premises were sold onto an asset stripping developer who offered a 999 year Lease Purchase of the upper floor temple. To raise the necessary funds the lodge agreed to sell off some of its antiques and raise funds by selling the members 10 year Loan-Shares. Their aim to use the 10 years grace to raise funds and reimburse members so that the premises would become wholly Lease-Owned by the members. The derelict ground floor, however, remained under threat of redevelopment and in the developer’s domain.
Unity Hall – 2004
In 2004 I was saddened by the untimely death of my brother W.Bro. Dr. Len Warren PPJGW, who was a staunch mason in the Province of East Lancashire. In his memory I used some of my inheritance from W.Bro. Len to buy the ground floor Squires Room and upper temple lease as a Freehold Package from the developer. I then donated it to the lodge on the understanding that the members would self help the refurbishment of the ground floor.
The members set too with admirable expertise and concerted effort to create the lovely functional premises we now have. Once under way it was necessary to find additional funding for the works by extending the Private Loan-Share scheme to cover the work in progress and ultimately the overall value of the property.
A Unity Hall and Management Social Committee (UIIMSC) was formed to manage funding and social events. All proceeds from use of the hall would be used to repay debts, private Loan-Share holdings and to establish a Building Fund. Once sufficient and all debts and loans having been repaid, any excess proceeds would be given to the Grand Charity No 281942, thus establishing a non profit making establishment. These covenants were included as part of the `Deed of Trustees’ required by the Land Registry. They required Trustees to become the representatives of the members of the Lodge of Unity and into their charge the transfer of ownership could be made and registered as Unity Hall.
Five Golden Jubilees is an achievement few would have thought possible, covering so many troubled years of wars and worldwide disasters. Determination and devotion have won through by an admirable achievement of predecessors, in particular W.Bro. William Farrance PPJGW who was Secretary from 1894 until his death in 1923 i.e. 29 years. During his tenure of office he actively engaged in creating a Registered Lodge of Instruction and the 150th Anniversary proceedings in 1914, including presenting the lodge with a new banner. During this time he was instrumental in establishing the lodge at the Crown Hotel in 1895 after its 131years at the White Hart.
In 1992 to 1997 the lodge suffered drastically due to the necessity of being relocated to Knole Road. Bournemouth. There was a loss of membership down to the fifties i.e. similar to the 1914 Great War years which Bro. Farrance and officers had to cope with.
Before leaving the Ringwood temple, W.Bro. D Farthing our DC and I had taken photographs of how it was furnished so that we could simulate it at Knole Road annex room. Later these photographs helped us to re-establish the temple at the Crown hotel in 1997.
As Secretary in 1998 and with W.Bro. Farrance in mind, I often sat for hours in the temple reflecting on what could be done to prosper the lodge as he had in the past I continued as Secress: for the next 12 years, with similar circumstances arising, where I would think to myself `what would Bro. Farrance have done’.
By the end of my term as Secretary in 2010 and with a very willing membership much has been achieved. As my predecessor had done for the Third Jubilee, I have donated a new banner for our Fifth Jubilee. This will be located on the wall space in the east of the temple to the right of our original banner. Our original banner was presented in 1848 by W.Bro W Critchell on the occasion of laying the Foundation Stone of the Ringwood National Schools and is now very faded and fragile.
I am now concentrating on producing this pocket history and actively partaking in the arrangement for 2014 celebrations. It is hoped that this pocket history 1950 to 2014 will be expanded into a full blown volume, a kin to that of our recognised history by HR Homewood 1764 to 1950.