S is for Secret Societies

It is perhaps inevitable that any organisation with a closed membership and secret signs and rituals would arouse suspicion and opposition. This was crystallised in the Unlawful Societies Act 1799. Essentially this defined a society as unlawful if it required members to take an oath which was not authorised by law. Its stated aim was 'the more effectual suppression of societies established for seditious and treasonable purposes'. It is a bit of a leap from taking an oath to an assumption that the purpose of the society was not compatible with good governance and the rule of law.

Masonic lodges established before the introduction of the Act were exempt so long as their meeting places and times and membership were registered with the magistrates. This requirement was eventually repealed by the Criminal Justice Act 1967. Currently masons in England are not registered, although police officers and judges are asked to make a voluntary declaration of membership if appropriate.

The largest secret society in the Springhill area is the Freemasons, with Charles Patrick being an active mason (although his lodge is unknown) and the buildings he endowed had foundation stones laid 'with full masonic ritual'. Apparently this involved a procession in full regalia to the site where the foundation stone was tapped a number of times with a silver gavel after which the assembly would retire for refreshments. More recently a one-time Rossendale MP,
Sir David Trippier, served as Provincial Grand Master for East Lancashire.

According to the
Provincial Grand Lodge of East Lancashire there are 7 lodges which meet at the Masonic Hall in Rawtenstall and a further two in Bacup. However that may have changed as several lodges are known to have closed or be closing. I have no data on how many have been active historically.