Except for the church, Freemasonry is almost certainly the
oldest institution in Barton, which may be deemed to have started
in 1786 when Matthew Barnett, a young man of 24, arrived in the
town to become the master of the school in St Mary's Church. He
was already an enthusiastic freemason and immediately set about
to establish a freemason's lodge which he accomplished when the
first St. Matthew Lodge was formally consecrated on St. Matthews
Day the 21st September 1787. The ceremony was conducted by an
experienced freemason from the Minerva Lodge of Hull and Matthew
Barnett was, of course, installed as Master, with the then
Curate, the Reverand Thomas Robinson as Senior Warden. After the
proceedings, which included an oration by Matthew Barnett, there
was a procession to St. Peter's Church for a service during which
the Senior Warden, in his capacity as Curate, preached the
sermon. The lodge held its meetings in The George Hotel and was
at that time the only Masonic lodge in Lincolnshire.
In the following year Matthew Barnett succeeded Thomas Robinson as Curate-in-Charge of Barton on Humber with its two churches and all that that entailed, including, it is believed, continuing as master of the church school. Nevertheless, he continued with his Masonic pursuits including helping to form further lodges in the country and subsequently playing a prominent part in establishing the Provincial Grand Lodge of Lincolnshire, which thereby became the authoratative Lodge for all Masonic activity in the County. Following the inauguration of he Provincial Grand Lodge its next meeting was held in the George Hotel in Barton in August 1793 under the presidency of Matthew Barnett and on the second day of the meeting the large gathering went in procession to St. Peter's Church for a service at which he preached the sermon in his capacity of Curate-in-Charge. These events established a pattern for the future, showing the close relationship which then existed between the Church and Freemasonry and which has continued in varying degrees to recent times.
Although Matthew Barnett left Barton in 1812 to become Curate-in-Charge of Market Rasen, the lodge that he had founded continued to flourish for some years before going in decline in the 1830's and eventually being formally closed in 1851.
The second and present St. Matthew Lodge in Barton was founded in 1873 and was consecrated in the Volunteers Hall (now part of the Constitutional Club) on 20th October 1873 where it continued to hold its meetings until in early 1875 the members took a bold decision to build the present Masonic Hall on Brigg Road. The ceremony of laying the foundation stone for the new Masonic Hall on 19 May 1875 attracted a large gathering, consisting of both freemasons and the general public as confirmed in the following report in the Hull and Lincolnshire Times of 22nd May 1875:
' The novelty of the spectacle of so many members of the Craft in full Masonic attire attracted a considerable amount of attention and curiosity of the outside public, and the procession was accompanied to the side of the building by a large crowd of persons'
Again a large number of local lodges were represented when the
new building was dedicated on 27th October 1875 since when over a
thousand normal meetings have been held without a break except
for the months of September and October 1939 when, due to the
outbreak of war, such assemblies of people were prohibited for a
while. Contrary to much popular misunderstanding Freemasonry is
not a secret society but its meetings are held in private with
the proceedings based on a traditional ritual associated with the
meetings in the lodges of operative stonemasons many centuries
Shortly after foundation the present lodge set up a special fund for charitable purposes and henceforth began and continued that principal tenet of Freemasonry, which it has always actively persued but never vaunted.
The Lodge celebrated its 50th anniversary on the 23rd October 1923 at a ceremony in the presence on the Earl of Yarborough the Provincial Grand Master to whose charity fund the Lodge made a substantial donation.
The next milestone in its history was the centenary meeting held in Bereton School on the 20th October 1973 in which the Provincial Grand Master complimented the Lodge on its record and appealed to the younger generation to persue the well established Masonic principals of University Charity, Brotherhood, Beneficience and everything which benefits humanity.
In the subsequent quarter-century to the present time the Lodge has continued its efforts to maintain the high moral and social tenets of the Craft and is still supported by a level of membership commensurate with the best in its history.
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