Chapter 4: The Move To New Premises
Midland Bank Chambers had been the venue for Meetings of Craven Lodge and Craven Chapter since 1926. The accommodation consisting of rooms on the ground, the first and second floors of the building were serviced by flights of stairs which were inconvenient especially to Brethren of advancing years. This apart, there was often a problem on Lodge nights when extra chairs had to be brought from the Bar and the Dining Room to provide extra seating in the Lodge Room. These chairs had then to be returned to the Dining Room on the top floor to ensure seating was available for those staying to the Festive Board.
The Masonic Rooms in High Street were leased by the Midland Bank to Craven Lodge for the princely sum of £90 per annum, free of rates! Moreover, the heating of the Rooms was part and parcel of the Bank’s central heating system and no extra charge was made for this service. Originally the rooms were integrated with the Bank Premises for in those days, the Local Bank Manager lived ‘on the job’. Craven Chapter was allowed to use the Rooms as tenants of Craven Lodge at an Annual Rental of £25. In addition to the accommodation used by the Lodge and the Chapter, there was a cottage at the rear of the premises which was occupied by Mr. Sr Mrs. A. Ripley who were employed by the Lodge as Caretakers. They were allowed to live rent-free in the house, and paid a small retainer for their services which included the preparation of meals on Lodge or Chapter nights. Mrs. Ripley was a wonderful cook, and Craven Lodge has reason to be very grateful to her and her husband Alf for their dedicated service over some 25 years.
Although Craven Lodge has over the years had many Brethren of rank and opulence, it is a sad reflection that the Lodge finances had always been in a precarious state. The only legacy bequeathed to the Lodge was for £1000 by W. Bro. Harry Adams in 1977. He was one of our illustrious former D. C’s who gave active support to the proposal that premises be purchased in Skipton for Masonic purposes. There were however a number of other factors which gave added impetus to the search for new premises. W. Bro. F. S. Whitaker was the Local Manager of the Midland Bank from 1942 to 1960. His successor from 1960 to 1968 was W. Bro. P. D. Wilson who was a Member of Wenning Lodge and Craven Chapter. Subsequently the Manager of the local
Branch of the Bank was not a member of the Craft and thereafter the Lodge’s relationship with it’s Landlord seemed to undergo a subtle change.
The Lodge was reminded of its obligations under the Lease for internal decorations which had been sadly neglected over the years partly on account of damp penetration through lack of outside pointing. When the Bank was re-organising it’s central heating system, the gratuitous heating facilities which the Lodge had previously enjoyed, were discontinued. The Bank also finally realised that the Rates they were paying for our Rooms was in excess of the Rent we were paying. There is no doubt the Lodge had been on too good a wicket for far too long. The final coup-de-grace came with pressure from the Bank for the execution of a new Lease at a greatly increased rental. Alas our days as a favoured tenant were fast drawing to a close. Apart from the need to find suitable accommodation for Craven Lodge and thus free ourselves from the spectre of recurrent rent reviews, we had a duty to provide a “home” for a thriving Craven Chapter and a newly established Craven Preceptory which had been formed in 1964. Some members of Craven Lodge were also members of the other two Degrees and were equally concerned for their welfare. If premises became available and could be acquired in Skipton, it was unlikely they they would be situated as centrally as the Midland Bank Chambers which were in a prime position with ample parking facilities on the High Street setts. The financial implications of such a move were also of grave concern but we knew we had to face an increased rent even if we stayed in the existing premises. From time to time, the “wise old owls” as the ruling body of Past Masters of Craven Lodge were affectionately known, had on a number of occasions considered the purchase of premises in or near Skipton, but their deliberations had always ended with a decision to “stay where we are”. Nevertheless a number of Brethren remained convinced that sooner or later a move would have to be made. Consequently steps were taken in 1964 to establish a Building Fund to which there would be annual increments in preparation for securing the purchase of a property if an opportunity arose.
When Mr. & Mrs. Ripley reached retirement age, they left the Bank House and went to reside in Ermysted Street, Skipton. The Lodge was thus deprived of the services of resident Caretakers. One or two new Caretakers were appointed but their tenure was short lived and we were usually happy to see them depart, or do a moonlight flit. Occasions arose when no preparations had been made for a Festive Board and members of the Lodge or Chapter had to roll up their sleeves and concoct a meal at very short notice. It was never the same in the Old Rooms after the Ripleys left as their contribution to the smooth running of the rooms was never fully appreciated until after they had retired.
Few people nowadays are prepared to undertake domestic work of this kind and even if suitable Applicants could be found, they would certainly expect to be more adequately remunerated than the Ripleys had ever been. With the House empty, and the Rooms unoccupied except on Meeting nights, we suffered two break-ins and also had a burst water pipe in the toilets which gave the Landlords further cause for concern. The Bank had previously been pressing the Lodge to enter into a new Lease and the matter could not be delayed much longer. A letter from them dated 30th April, 1971 suggested a new 7 years Lease at an annual rental of £350. exclusive of Rates. In a further letter dated 28th May 1971, the Bank indicated that they did not wish to commit themselves to a definite renewal in case they found that over the term of the new Lease, they may require space for expansion.
The Past Masters of Craven Lodge had been reminded of the need to reorganise their finances as long ago as 20th September 1968. However no positive steps had been taken in this direction and some senior members of the Lodge expressed grave reservations regarding the purchase of premises suggesting that such a move would not be a financially viable proposition and was likely to lead to a number of resignations. This was not a view shared by a majority of the Brethren who gave unqualified support to the search for new premises.
Early in 1970, it came to the notice of Matthew Pallister that the Temperance Hall in Sackville Street was being placed on the market by a firm of Estate Agents who were offering the Hall along with a nearby tenanted dwellinghouse for sale. After discussing the matter with Clifford Wilson and Harry Taylforth, it was decided to put in a bid. If this had been accepted, the Lodge would then have been given the option of proceeding with the transaction, and if they had declined, the purchasers took the risk of having to unload the property elsewhere. Time was of the essence, and the Past Masters were not renowned for making urgent decisions of this kind. Some months later, it transpired that the dwellinghouse had been
sold separately, and only Temperance Hall was on the market through a different firm of Estate Agents (James Pye & Son) whose proprietor, W. Bro. K. L. Schofield was a member of Craven Lodge. Obviously he was obliged to disclose his personal interest to his Vendor but after delicate negotiations, it was finally agreed that the property be purchased by Craven Lodge for the sum of £7500. A small sub-committee was entrusted with the task of organising not only the purchase, but also arranging for such structural alterations as were necessary. The move from the old premises and the financial implications of the whole venture was also left in their hands.
In November 1971 all members of the Lodge, Chapter and Preceptory were approached in the hope that outright gifts or interest-free loans would be forthcoming towards defraying the financial commitments which were in process of being undertaken. Plans for the alterations were prepared by Malcolm Riley, a qualified Architect who was, at that time a member of Craven Lodge. The Building Contract was undertaken by W. Patrick & Sons. Wilfred Patrick being at that time, also a Member of Craven Lodge. A Declaration of Trust was prepared under which Matthew Pallister, Harry Taylforth, Fred Hurd Hodgson & Brian Walker were appointed as Trustees., and they continue to serve in this capacity at the present time. The structural alterations were sadly retarded through Union action during the course of the Builder’s Strike when flying pickets visited the premises on more than one occasion, threatening violence unless the workmen downed tools and left the site.
We had at this stage, already served Notice on our Landlords determining the tenancy of the old Rooms by the end of June 1972 when it was assumed the new premises would be ready for occupation. Work was however well behind schedule and the new premises were unfortunately far from complete when the tenancy of the old Rooms expired. We felt obliged however to vacate the old premises at the appointed time, and whilst some of the Lodge furniture was removed to Sackville Street by the end of June, a large trailer load of our precious possessions survived the risk of vandals as it stood insured but unguarded for weeks on end in the Town Hall Car Park.
Originally Provincial Grand Lodge had entertained grave reservations about the viability of our proposals and it was not until 4th November, 1971 that we finally succeeded in obtaining their qualified blessing. Arrangements for the Dedication were made well in advance, and a date had been fixed for Thursday 19th September, 1972. This deadline placed great pressure on all concerned to ensure that the new Rooms were ready for the offical opening, although at one juncture, it appeared likely we should be obliged to seek a postponement of the Dedication. • After a valiant effort by all Craftsmen, (both operative and speculative) the premises were largely completed apart from odd bits of decoration and we were then able to rescue our trailer from the Town Hall Car Park. A team of volunteer Brethren worked diligently on Sunday 17th September, 1972 in order to place our furnishings and effects in position, and see that the Lodge Room in particular was properly appointed.
The Dedication Ceremony of Craven Masonic Hall on Tuesday 19th September, 1972 was conducted by the then Provincial Grand Master. R. W. Bro. The Ven. Charles 0. Ellison, assisted by V. W. Bro. Fred Crosland, P. G. Sw. Br., Deputy Provincial Grand Master, W. Bro. Frank Harrison P. J. G. D., W. Bro. Albert B. Nutt P. J. G. D., W. Bro. Richard Taylor P. J. G. D., and W. Bro. Douglas Hartley P. J. G. D., It was a very memorable occasion attended by some 85 W. Brethren and Brethren, who joined in harmony to sing the Closing Hymn:
Almighty Architect we pray
For blessings on our work today,
And may this Temple ever prove A Home of Unity and Love.
Unfortunately during the course of the removal, the cherished Banner of Craven Lodge which used to hang behind Senior Warden’s Pedestal, suffered irreparable damage. However we are grateful to W. Bro. F. H. Hodgson for offering to provide the Lodge with a new banner which happily now hangs in its rightful place to watch over us for the next hundred years. It is worthy of recording that with two exceptions, all the interest free loans have been converted to gifts and the mortgage debt outstanding has now been repaid. The new Rooms, though not perfect, are a vast improvement on the former accommodation and I think everyone now agrees that the move was well worthwhile. When Mawsis Lodge were experiencing difficulties with their Bank Landlords in regard to their tenancy of rooms in Cross Hills, they approached the Craven Masonic Club in 1975 with a view to sharing our premises in
Skipton. We were happy to grant them the facilities they required and with the support of 2 Lodges, 1 Chapter and 1 Preceptory we may well now claim to be one of the finest Jewels in the Crown of the Province of Yorkshire West Riding.