In 2010 the Wyggeston Lodge No.3348, which meets in Leicester, celebrated its Centenary; one hundred years of continuous Freemasonry enjoyed by countless members during that time. However, one startling figure at the time of the celebrations was the fact that the number of active members at 22 was actually lower than the number of Founders back in 1910.
Over a number of years we had seen a gradual decline in membership with little or no new members forthcoming, similar to many other lodges across the English Constitution. Many Lodge meetings in recent memory were either demonstrations, lectures or visiting other lodges due to the lack of candidates. Several discussions were held at whether we should lower the number of meetings per year to accommodate the changing demand for Freemasonry. It was also certainly mooted as to whether the lodge could survive long term or would eventually be forced to hand in its Warrant, something that none of its members obviously wanted to see.
At our Installation in November 2010 just four months after our Centenary celebrations a cord or lifeline was given to lodge when the Assistant Provincial Grand Master and Universities Scheme Representative for the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland, V.W.Bro Peter Kinder, posed the question as to whether Wyggeston could be the Universities Scheme Lodge in Leicester.
Past Master and academic, W.Bro. Andy Green, saw huge potential in this offer and immediately put the wheels into motion in finding out what being a Scheme Lodge entailed and whether there was an appetite for the Wyggeston Lodge to join the Universities Scheme.
Following discussions with the lodge it was unanimously agreed that the lodge should put forward an application to join the Scheme and by April 2011, the lodge received notice from the President R.W.Bro. David Williamson, Assistant Grand Master, that it had been accepted onto the Universities Scheme as the Scheme Lodge for Leicester.
And so our incredible journey started…
Without any previous association with the University of Leicester, its staff or students, a sub-committee was formed consisting of W.Bro. Andy Green, W.Bro. Kelvin Johnson and Bro. Jamie Mollart on putting a plan together on how to make it a success. These initially included launching a new website, adopting social media, including Facebook and Twitter, attending Freshers’ Fair and holding tours of Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester for student societies. Each of these has presented the lodge with candidates.
By December 2011, the lodge had initiated its first Scheme Initiate, Bro. Alex Pohl who was a 20 year old undergraduate law student at the University of Leicester. After graduating in 2014 and moving to Birmingham he continues to be a lodge member and is currently our Senior Deacon and looks set to become the first Scheme Initiate to be Master in a few years time.
The Lodge continued to attract new members who were studying at the University and soon after the lodge was challenged with the idea of conducting multiple ceremonies to enable timely initiation and progression of Scheme Initiates within the time frame of their university courses. In 2012, for the first time in over 50 years, a double ceremony was performed in the lodge which has since become a standard fixture having built up experience and confidence in conducting large multiple ceremonies.
It also became quickly apparent through the unexpected demand that the lodge encountered that it should perhaps concentrate on being the Universities Scheme Lodge specifically for the University of Leicester and give another lodge the opportunity to be the Scheme Lodge for De Montfort University, subsequently to be Castle of Leicester Lodge No.7767.
In 2013, our Scheme Initiates made the front cover of Freemasonry Today along with a feature in the magazine about Wyggeston Lodge and why students were joining Freemasonry. In the same year, the Lodge was honoured to welcome the Scheme President, R.W. Bro. David Williamson and Scheme Chairman, W.Bro. Edward Lord to a double Initiation of Scheme Initiates. The lodge also joined the Association for Medical, University and Legal Lodges (AMULL) which has since very generously financially assisted one of our members to continue his postgraduate studies.
During 2014, the Lodge continued very much in the same vein with multiple Initiations, Passings and Raisings building on the previous years success. Our Lodge Secretary, W.Bro. Andy Green, was also invited to serve on the United Grand Lodge of England Universities Scheme Committee, a position which he continues to hold and was promoted to Vice-Chairman in 2015.
In 2015, the first joint meeting between the three Scheme Lodges in the Province was held where all three ceremonies were conducted with multiple candidates which was deemed a great success. The Lodge has also been able to ask other lodges in the Province to assist in progressing our members including Temperantia Lodge No.4088, St John’s Lodge No.279, Gartree Lodge No.7778, Derek Buswell Lodge of Provincial Grand Stewards No.9705, Saint Crispin Lodge No.7832, Granite Lodge No.2028, Wyvern Lodge No.6167, Lodge of Gratitude No.6514, and Enderby Lodge No.5061. Another Scheme Lodge, the University Lodge of Liverpool No.4274 have also kindly assisted in Raising one of our members and we sincerely thank them all for their help.
We were also proud to be the inaugural holders of the DKW Loving Cup, the Scheme’s Travelling Loving Cup which was based originally from an idea by W.Bro. Andy Green and donated to the Scheme by the outgoing President, R.W.Bro. David Williamson at the Scheme Conference held in Leicester in 2015. Since joining we have additionally welcomed many visitors from sister Scheme Lodges as well as members from other lodges who are currently students at the University of Leicester.
In 2016, we’ve had a relatively quieter year in terms of Scheme Initiates than the previous one which has given us time to consolidate the progression of our existing members. However, we are excited that a Masonic Society at the University of Leicester Students Union was formed by Scheme Initiates as it is seen as a primary source of engagement between the Lodge and students. One of our early Scheme Initiates, Bro. Peter Clarke was also invested as Secretary of the Lodge. We were also proud to make the Past President of the Scheme, R.W.Bro. David Williamson an Honorary member of the Lodge, along with the Provincial Liaison Officer for the Scheme, V.W.Bro. Peter Kinder both of whom have helped and assisted the lodge become a success.
In just over five years, we have initiated 32 University of Leicester students, staff and alumni. Our membership now stands at over 50 and which we have seen a dramatic drop in the average age of our members from 60 to 45. Retention of Scheme Initiates within the lodge is currently at 69%. Of the 10 Scheme Initiates who have moved on after graduation and have resigned from the Lodge, seven still remain active members of other Masonic lodges in Suffolk, Yorkshire and even Canada. Therefore overall retention of our Scheme Initiates in Freemasonry is 94%.
To date, being a Universities Scheme Lodge has required a great deal of hard work from all members of the lodge in making it a success. Not only has the Universities Scheme brought new enthusiastic young men into the Craft, it has reinvigorated our membership and posed many exciting challenges including multiple ceremonies and an opportunity to extend our Masonic network far and wide. We very much look forward to the next 5 years with eager anticipation of further success.