Freemasonry in Colne

In the mid-eighteenth century, the town of Colne in North East Lancashire had more than its share of poverty and distress, largely due to a transition from woollen hand-loom weaving to the production of cotton piece goods. Apart from the meagre provision of Parish Relief, there were no welfare services to succour the needy, yet, like most Northern communities, Colne had its Sick and Burial Societies to provide some kind of assistance for a man and his family should he fall on hard times.
Such a society was the “FREEMASONS OR FRIENDLY SOCIETY” Holden at the Hole –In –The-Wall, Colne Lancashire. The Articles of this Society, dated 1757, suggest that, in addition to its work of benevolence, some form of Freemasonry was being practised by its members, and other documentary evidence supports the view that this irregular lodge or friendly society had been working in Colne so long ago as 1732.
In 1758 the members decided to regularise the position, for in September of that year, five of their number were initiated in the Lodge of relief (now No.42) Bury, and to three of these a Warrant was issued on the 4th. Of February,1762, delayed probably because of a change in the Provincial Grand Mastership of Lancashire. The earliest minute book, in fact, provides evidence that Freemasonry was being practised by the brethren initiated in Bury from at least March,1760.
This first Minute book (1760-1775), called the “Forfitt’s Book”, contains the 1St. By-Laws, with a list of 35 names which are of course those of the founder members and the initiates down the latter years.In addition, it records the fines imposed on members for various offences, the lodge accounts, and the first brief minutes. Following the pattern of most Masonic records at that time, these minutes give merely the dates and names of the officers; the latter comprised the Master, Deputy Master, Two Wardens, Boxmaster(treasurer) and two Stewards.These accounts reveal that, after paying the combined entrance and proposal free of 10/6d, the candidate had to pay a further 4/6 for “the second step”.
In 1769 mention is made of a contribution, “paid to the Grand Charity 10/6d”. The accounts show that charity was regularly disbursed both to members and to travelling brethren.
The Old Charges
Although the “Forfiets book” is the oldest dated evidence in the possession of the lodge, there are other manuscripts of even greater Masonic interest. These are what are generally known as the “ COLNE OLD CHARGES OF MASONS” which have in the past, engaged the attention of many Masonic historians. The penmanship alone offers evidence of their great age, and it is reasonably certain that Ms. No.1 was written between 1670 and 1700, and Between 1720 and 1740, nobody knows how they came into the possession of the lodge, but it has always been assumed that they were used in the ceremonial of early days. Masonic historians agree that the “Old Charges of Masons” have been handed down from the days of Operative Masonry, and it is possible that the two “Colne” Old Charges came into the possession of the members of the Freemasons Friendly Society in some way, and were used in their ceremonies in the 18th. Century, these” Colne” Old Charges are now in the safe keeping of Grand Lodge in Great Queen Street in London.