Heritage Open Days is an annual event, national event that sees groups, organisations and buildings open their heritage treasures to for the public to attend for free. This year in Halton the event was hosted by the Widnes Group of Freemasons to mark the 300th anniversary since the formation of the first Grand Lodge in London.
The doors of Widnes Masonic Hall on Kingsway, Widnes opened to the public at 5pm on Wednesday 6 September for a one-night only, pop-up museum full of heritage exhibits curated by the Halton Heritage Partnership and friends. The pop-up museum focused on the theme of ‘bridges and crossings’ in Halton’s development with members of the Partnership on-hand to give talks on their collections as well as having leaflets for the public to take away.
Following an introduction and welcome by the Widnes Group Chairman Neil Pedder, Neil introduced Frank Lawless Chairman of Halton Heritage who formally launched Halton’s Heritage Open Days. Frank gave a brief explanation about the exhibits on show and thanked the Heritage Lottery Fund for providing the funds for events like this to be put on. He mentioned that Halton has three museums; Norton Priory, the Catalyst and a virtual museum that can be found at, www.haltonheritage.co.uk The public were then free to walk around the main hall and see the many exhibits on display.
These included the Driffield display, Vero Charles Driffield along with Ferdinand Hurter being prominent and avid Widnes photographic pioneers. Halton Play Council, Aaron Photo Archive providing a collection of local history photographs by Billy Hyland, a diving display by Brian Boothroyd who is doing 300 sponsored dives for charity, Sankey Canal Restoration Society, Widnes Historical Society, Daresbury District Heritage Society, Halton Brough Council, Widnes RUFC and Widnes Family History Group.
Also as part of the 300th anniversary celebrations Widnes Freemasons gave guided tours around the Masonic hall lodge rooms, explanations of Masonic regalia and at 6pm a talk was given by Assistant Provincial Grand Master Kevin Poynton in the main lodge room on the history and heritage of Masonry. In his talk Kevin gave a lot of facts and details about Freemasonry and its charity work, explored the myths and corrected some of the misconceptions.
Friday 8 September saw the doors of Widnes Masonic Hall once again open to the public at 2pm with some new exhibits on display along with a few exhibits from the event on Wednesday. New exhibits included Widnes Partnership in Photography and Halton Library Service. There was also a talk from Kevin Poynton about how a Freemason’s lodge operates with members of the Widnes Group putting on their regalia and taking the various positions of office in the lodge room.
The final day of the event at Widnes Masonic Hall, Saturday 9 September, was a Giving Day at which some of the non-Masonic charities that has received donations for Widnes Freemasons from 2015 to 2017 inclusive came to acknowledge the value of the donations from the Widnes Group of Freemasons and receive a certificate. After a welcome introduction from Widnes Group Chairman Neil Pedder, Assistant Provincial Grand Master Kevin Poynton gave the audience a lot of information about the donations that Freemasons have given to non-Masonic charities over the years. Total donations to non-Masonic charities during the period 2015 to 2017 is £9,533.22, total donations to Masonic causes being £12,938.50. The total charity donations from the Widnes Group for the period is £22,891.72.
Kevin then called upon Widnes Group Vice Chairman John Gibbon to present the first certificate to Mal Hampson on behalf of Ella Performance Group who had received £860 from Widnes masonic Group. Next Neil Pedder presented Chris Parlane with a certificate on behalf of Halton Haven Hospice who had received in total £750 from St Pauls Lodge No 5459, Lodge of Equity and Appleton No 1384 and Kingsway Lodge No 7870. Widnes Group Charity Steward Ian Lynch then presented Chris Eyres with a certificate on behalf of CANtreat who had received £1,650 from the Widnes Group and Lodge of Equity and Appleton.
Other recipients to receive certificates on the day were Joyce Reilly on behalf of Halton Play Council who had received £1,900 from the Widnes Masonic Group and Lodge of Equity and Appleton, Alan Locke on behalf of St Luke’s 1 PCC who had received £200 from Goodwill Lodge No 3896 and Keith Roberts on behalf of Cheshire Fire Cadets Nepal Project who had received £800 from Widnes Masonic Group. The final presentation of a cheque for £250 was given by Neil Pedder to the Mayor of Halton, Councillor Alan Lowe and the Mayoress Councillor Joan Lowe for the mayor’s charities HEARTS Theatre Group and Halton Speak Out.
Linda Redhead then gave a short talk about FLOW, Friends and Ladies of Widnes. She said that they meet on the 3rd Wednesday of every other month the first meeting is in January each year. They have a different guest speaker at each meeting and cover a very wide range of topics ranging from belly dancers to rocking horse making. As well as the social aspect of their meeting their main aim is to raise money for charity and over the 10 years that they have been meeting they have donated to many local and national charities including Halton Haven Hospice, Halton Hospital Radio, Alder Hay Family Bereavement, Macmillan. RNLI, Scouts and Air Ambulance.
In his closing remarks, Widnes Group Vice Chairman John Gibbon thanked everyone for their attendance and support and said that there is a lot to see around the hall and in the building, and at 12 o’clock there would be another talk from Kevin Poynton about how a Freemason’s lodge operates with members of the Widnes Group putting on their regalia and taking the various positions of office in the lodge room.
Article and pictures by F J Parle.