The Lodge in the New Millennium

The new Millennium dawned on Horsham and the Richard Collyer Lodge. Whilst membership had now fallen to 36,what the Lodge lacked in quantity it made up for in quality as there was a loyal group of some 20 members who could be relied upon to turn out for each meeting, all eager and willing to be fully involved in the Lodge's continued success and progress. To mark the new era it was decided to launch an appeal to purchase for Lodge use its own Volume of The Sacred Law and a set of Square and Compasses for use at the Master's pedestal (hitherto the Lodge had borrowed from March & Darnley for these items). All of the Lodge members readily contributed to the appeal and these items were subsequently purchased (VSL cost £60 + Square & Compasses £61), suitably embossed and engraved, and presented to the Lodge in September 2000. There was a surplus left on the Appeal account which was put towards replacing the Officers' Collars which by this time were in a very poor condition. Thanks to the generosity of W.Bro. G.M.Seldon new Gauntlets were obtained for the Master and Wardens and together with 16 new Officers' collars (purchased at a cost of £256 from the Millennium Appeal surplus) they were presented to the Lodge at the March 2002 meeting.

One significant consequence of the Millennium was the start of an annual "Horsham Lodges' Festival" (the idea had been proposed in 1999 by March & Darnley) which would be hosted by each of the Horsham lodges in turn (based on seniority of lodge number) and would consist of a ceremony for the host lodge's own candidate conducted by a team which included a representative from each lodge that wished to participate. March & Darnley hosted the first festival in 2000, followed by Stane Street Lodge in 2001 (whilst not in numerical sequence of seniority, Stane Street had asked to host the second festival as it coincided with its 50th anniversary), both events being well supported by Richard Collyer members.

In October 2000 the Secretary organised a display of the Lodge's collection of Founders', Past Masters' and other notable Masonic jewels which could be exhibited at each meeting. The Lodge Archives were also organised on a more formal basis.

Honorary membership was accorded in March 2000 to W.Bro. W.H. ("Bill") Saunders who had been a very loyal supporter of the Lodge as well as having seemed to belong to every Masonic order imaginable (and even some not imaginable!). Sadly this honour was to be short-lived as W.Bro.Saunders died in the autumn of 2001. Apart from his well-known enthusiasm and support for the Lodge and Freemasonry in general he had also made a name for himself in his sustained protests against the inclusion of cheese and biscuits at the Festive Board although curiously enough he often seemed to partake when confronted by a passing cheeseboard! 

In September 2001 the Lodge was delighted to initiate a "Lewis" when Bro. A.P.Simpson, son of W.Bro. P.G.Simpson, joined the Lodge, becoming the third generation of that family to join the Craft.

Discussions started in 2000 for ideas to mark the Lodge's 75th Anniversary which would occur in April 2002. In view of the current level of membership and the state of the Lodge's finances, it was agreed that the celebrations should be kept to a modest level and so it was decided to combine this celebration with the hosting of the Third Horsham Lodges' Festival in March 2002 (a month short of the actual anniversary). The ceremony was to be the Third Degree for Bro. A.P.Simpson and the Lodge was honoured by the presence of the Provincial Grand Master and one of his Assistants. A commemorative programme was produced incorporating a short-form history of the Lodge.

Charitable giving during the period 2000 - 2005 has included sizeable annual donations raised from the annual Ladies' Festivals augmented by donations raised from within the Lodge. Of these a donation of £1035 was made in 2001 to (Sir Malcolm) Sargent Cancer Care for Children. In 2002 £1000 was presented to Help The Aged. In 2003 £1000 was shared between 4 local charities including The League of Friends of Horsham Hospital and The West Sussex County Times' Children's' Christmas Appeal and in 2004 £800 was shared between the George Mill Trust (a Steyning based charity) and St. Dunstan's. The Lodge has also continued with regular annual support for The Association of Friends of Barford Court (becoming a patron in 2000) and for St. Catherine's Hospice, Crawley. The main focus for the Lodge's general charitable giving during this period has been towards The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution's 2004 Sussex Festival, for which the Lodge had to achieve a target over 7 years of £ 14,534.The Lodge members felt they could reasonably achieve a reasonable target by May 2000 which would entitle them to a Bronze award from Province but in the event in May 2003 the Lodge, to everyone's delight, succeeded in qualifying for Gold donor status signifying achievement of 150% of its target.

Costs of membership have continued to rise throughout the period. From 2000 annual subscriptions continued to increase, full subscriptions rising from £95 in 2000 to £106 in 2003 and Country membership rising from £ 80 to£94(all increases well above published rates of inflation) following regular increases in Grand and Provincial Grand Lodge dues (assessed on each member) and a further £5 per capita surcharge levied in 2002 by Horsham Masonic Hall Co. Ltd which had been necessitated to fund urgent works at The Normandy Centre. Dining at ordinary meetings has increased from £12 to £14. Further increases seem inevitable for all fees.

In June 2003 The United Grand Lodge of England staged a public awareness week entitled "Freemasonry in the Community" to enable members of the public to gain an idea of what Freemasonry was and what contribution it made to Society. A wide range of events was staged by masons throughout the Country and in Horsham the event was marked by an open day at the Masonic Hall hosted by Horsham masons. Whilst sadly not resulting in any increase in membership it was generally felt that the concept had been extremely worthwhile in raising the profile of Freemasonry. One very positive local outcome was to bring the members of the six Horsham Lodges closer together with an action committee being set up to look at promoting further joint events and fostering closer ties. A newsletter for Horsham masons called"The Horsham Square"was launched as a result in January 2003. 

During the period lectures have been employed on occasions to make up for lack of ceremonies but also some new items of ritual such as The Taylor's Joining Member's Ceremony and "The Walking Charge"have been undertaken to provide variety to the traditional pattern of ritual. The Lodge has maintained steady progress during this period with membership staying relatively constant in the high 30's. Lodge succession was temporarily upset as a result of the untimely death of the Junior Warden in 2002 and the move to Spain of the Master for 2002/3 halfway during his year in Office but Lodge members rallied round and any difficulties were successfully overcome. The 2003 Installation was very capably carried out by a team of Past Masters, a move repeated in 2004. Unfortunately the Lodge has only managed to attract three new candidates for Initiation (plus 2 Joining members) during this period so recruitment continues to be a challenge. The key to its continuing success has been, and is, the continuing dedication and willingness of its regular members to help out. That the Lodge is held in high regard within the Province of Sussex can be best evidenced by the numbers of its members who have been honoured with Provincial appointments and promotions.

Two members of the Lodge completed 50 years membership of Freemasonry and the Lodge during this period and were presented with Golden Jubilee certificates from the Provincial Grand Master of Sussex: W.Bro. A.A.Gorringe in March 2000 and Bro. R.F Batchelor in October 2003. A photograph of the six brethren who had been similarly honoured in the 1990's was unveiled in the foyer of The Normandy Centre in May 2000 by W.Bro. K.E.Thomas, then one of the Assistant Provincial Grand Masters of Sussex. In March 2004 Honorary membership was accorded to W.Bro. F.N.Cox who, although only a very regular visiting brother of Carfax Lodge, was considered to have made an outstanding contribution to the Lodge through his efforts for fund raising for charity.

Socially the Lodge continued to hold an annual Ladies' Festival weekend. In 2001 new ground was broken when the Lodge travelled to The Novotel Sud inBrugesfor its festival which proved a successful experiment and proved that the Lodge was not insular (and curiously no Euros have ever ended up in charity collections!). The festivals for 2000, 2002 and 2003 were all held at The Anglo Swiss Hotel in Bournemouth which has become something of a tradition, to the chagrin of some members, but a bold Master took the Lodge to The Frances Hotel, Bath for the 2004 Festival. The 2005 festival will be held once again in Bournemouth. It operates to a successful formula in comfortable surroundings and continues to be well-supported so pressure for change has been countered by the adage "if it aint broke - don't fix it". The Lodge has also continued to hold the popular "white table" dinner after its October meetings at which partners and non-masonic guests are welcomed. These events coupled with informal social gatherings instigated by individual members have all helped to ensure an active social side to the life of the Lodge.