Widnes Group Chairman Derek Williams, welcomed everyone to Widnes Masonic Hall, especially the Provincial team, this being their first day of the 2016 Provincial Tour.
The Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison was accompanied by Deputy Provincial Grand Master Phillip Gunning, Kevin Poynton (Widnes Group), Anthony Bent (St Helens Group) both Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Keith Kemp, Provincial Senior Grand Warden John Lee, Provincial Junior Grand Warden Jonathon Heaton, Malcolm Bell, Barry Fitzgerald and Mark Barton, Provincial Deputy Grand Directors Ceremonies
The afternoon commenced with Derek explaining that our group tercentenary committee had agreed to commission a commemorative plaque. The design was drafted by Les Williams and incorporates elements from all the current lodges and chapters in the Widnes Group. Barry Horabin’s brother-in-law Jeffery Bailey, who was in attendance, skilfully carved and constructed the plaque with reclaimed oak timbers from St Luke’s parish church.
The plaque will be mounted in the entrance hall at the start of the tercentenary celebrations in 2017. Derek then invited the Tony Harrison to come forward to unveil the plaque. After which, all those present at the unveiling were in awe at the skill and complexity employed by Jeffery in constructing the plaque.
It was decided by the group that Tony’s visit should be marked in some way. Jeffery again worked his magic by producing a commemorative gift in the form of a gavel and sounding block, which was made from the same reclaimed timber. Tony thanked the group for the presentation of his hand-crafted gift.
Derek had one more important presentation to make, which was to Jeffery, who refused to quote for his efforts in producing the plaque. The group committee and Masonic hall committee collectively decided to make a donation to a charity of his choice. He was then present with a cheque for £200 and was also thanked for all his time and effort in producing the magnificent piece of art work. The brethren where then treated to a light lunch consisting of a very tasty finger buffet.
Once refreshed, the team resumed their tour with a visit St Luke’s Church, formerly known as St Wilfrid’s on the Hill, in Farnworth. On arrival the team were given a conducted tour by Barry Horabin and Alan Lock. They gave a brief history of the church which dates its origin circa 1180. The main benefactors were the Bold family.
Walking around the church Barry and Alan pointed out many historical artefacts including original highly carved oak pew ends discovered buried in the church during restoration work in the late 1800’s. They then entered the Bold chapel which displayed several monuments of the Bold family and effigies of Richard Bold and Anna Legh dated 1635.
They then moved on to the Cuerdly Chapel, which was built 1500. Cuerdly being a neighbouring township, had its own path and entrance to the church to prevent the spread of plague to the people of Farnworth, which was present in Lancashire at this time.
Barry and Alan then gave a presentation relating to the prominent people connected with the church, two of which were Bishop Smyth and Sir Richard Sutton who in 1508 founded Brasenose College, Oxford. They also gave a brief history of the surrounding village.
At the end of the visit Tony thanked Barry and Alan for a very interesting and informative history of the church and wished that they could have stayed longer.
The team then moved on to the Catalyst Museum for a presentation about the new Mersey Gateway Bridge crossing. The presentation was given by one of the Mersey Gateway volunteers in the Museums theatre. The new bridge is a cable-stayed structure with three pylons ranging in height from 80 to 125m. It will carry six lanes of traffic with a 60 mph limit. The bridge will have an open road tolling system, using smart technology to keep the traffic flowing.
The project is estimated to bring huge benefits to the people and businesses of Halton and across the northwest region. On completion in 2017 the Silver Jubilee Bridge will be closed for refurbishment and is scheduled to re-open mid 2018 using the same tolling system.
The presentation was followed by a visit to the rooftop observatory where a full panoramic view of Halton and the bridge construction was viewed. Tony again commented that he and the team had had a very interesting and memorable visit to Widnes. The team returned to their accommodation in time to prepare for the evening meeting of Goodwill Lodge No 3896.