The original rebels, Gage in particular, were still held in
high regard, seen as the founding fathers of the Wigan Grand
Lodge, and Robert Bolton’s reply to Gage’s resignation,
though tinted with expectation and hinting at Gage’s lack
of interest, effectively left the door open for his return.
Gage, however, never came back, and increasing the
isolation, Thomas Page and John Robert Goepel, two of
the last remaining original rebels from Liverpool, returned
to the UGLE in 1858.
The minute book for the Wigan Grand Lodge ends in
1866, though James Miller, who wrote his memories of the
Lodge of Sincerity in the 1950s, stated that the Grand Lodge
of Wigan survived, supervising the Lodge of Sincerity, its last
Grand Master being John Mort, who served from 1886 until
the Lodge returned to the UGLE in 1913.
James Miller was a young man when he was initiated
into the Lodge of Sincerity in 1908. He followed his father,
grandfather and great-grandfather in becoming a Freemason
under the Wigan Grand Lodge, and would become
instrumental in the survival of its memory.
Miller discusses in his ‘memoirs’ the Festival of St. John,
which was celebrated by all Lodges before the Union,
and mentions the practice of the Royal Arch, the apron
of that Order being worn by the Grand Master, John Mort,
at all times.
The Knights Templar was also practised, and Miller
mentions a sickness and burial society within the Lodge,
which may be a continuation of the ‘funeral fund’ which was
mentioned in the minutes of the Wigan Grand Lodge in 1839.
John Mort seems to have held the Grand Lodge of Wigan
together during its final years, and he appears in its minutes for
the first time in 1866, when Peter Seddon was Grand Master.
Mort, like Miller, passed on his memories of the Wigan Grand
Lodge, enabling Eustace Beesley to write his history in 1920.
According to Miller, Mort was initiated in 1864, and
became the last Grand Master of the Wigan Grand Lodge in
1886, serving in the position until its end in 1913. Mort was
a member of Sincerity Lodge, and Miller paints a cosy picture
of an isolated Lodge filled with friends and family members.
Mort’s son, also called John, was a member, and Miller’s
uncle, Richard Warburton, was initiated on the same day
as Miller. Miller recited the merriment of the Lodge festive
board, where each member was allowed one drink from the
When the drinks had been consumed, the Master would
call out ‘mortar’, and a steward would take the trowel around
so each Brother could give his contribution to the next round
of drinks. After these funds had been exhausted, a cry for
‘more mortar’ would ensure further drinks, accompanied
by the fine tenor voice of John Mort junior, who was also
a member of the Wigan Parish Church Choir.
These eccentricities reflect the Lodge as an apparent time
capsule, surviving in isolation, having an independent and
inward-looking attitude. The drinking and socialising seemed
to have created a deep bond between the brethren, keeping
the last remaining Lodge alive.
The Grand Lodge had met at numerous inns and taverns
around Wigan, some meetings taking place in the centre of
the town, such as the infamous Dog Inn at Wigan Market
Place, where it met on a number of occasions in 1839.
The Queen’s Head, Wigan Market
Place, supposedly the original
meeting place for the Lodge of
Sincerity in 1786
Web site created by Mark Griffin