On Tuesday, February 27, 2024, Salford Masonic Hall played host to a momentous gathering of Freemasons from various backgrounds. Members, young and old, both local and from distant places, converged to witness a rare occurrence: a quadruple initiation ceremony hosted by the University of Manchester Lodge in the presence of a Provincial Deputation and the Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Rooted in tradition and perpetuating continuity, the relationship between Freemasonry and universities has endured for over two centuries. Dating back to 1818, when the first university Lodge, Apollo University Lodge, was established at Oxford, this bond laid the groundwork for the United Grand Lodge of England to introduce the Universities Scheme in 2005. This initiative aimed to instil Freemasonry’s timeless values into a new generation, a mission now embraced by 87 Lodges and seven Chapters across England and Wales, where towns and cities boast universities.

Among these institutions is the University of Manchester Lodge 5683, which joined the Universities Scheme in March 2023. Formerly meeting at the University of Manchester, the Lodge transitioned to Salford Masonic Hall over two decades ago.

Dr Simon Archer took the chair for the evening and opened the Lodge in due form. Following a report, John Lees, Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, entered the Lodge and announced that Robert Frankl, the Provincial Grand Master for East Lancashire, was outside the Lodge and that he demanded admission.

Once the provincial delegation was seated, the Worshipful Master offered the Provincial Grand Master the gavel, which he thanked the Worshipful Master but declined on this occasion. The lodge then gave honours to the Provincial Grand Master before the evening continued.

There was another report where Jeremy Roberts, the Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies, entered the Lodge and announced that Sir David Wootton, Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, was outside and demanded admission.

The Grand deputation processed into the lodge, and the worshipful Master offered the gavel to the Deputy Grand Master, who declined, saying he was looking forward to the worshipful master conducting the ceremony as he had on many occasions while he was a Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in United Grand Lodge.

The subsequent ceremony stood as a testament to the diligent efforts invested by the Lodge, exemplifying a flawless execution of the initiation process. It served as a shining example of adeptly managing multiple candidates, likely leaving a lasting impression on observers, who undoubtedly took note of its adaptability.

Upon the conclusion of the ceremony, the Deputy Grand Master took the opportunity to extend a warm welcome to the newly initiated members, emphasising the hierarchical structure that underpins Freemasonry. He explained how Lodges connect to broader areas, then to Provinces, ultimately leading to the United Grand Lodge. As he spoke, each level of this intricate structure was represented within the Lodge: from the Principal Officers presiding over the Lodge to the dedicated Area team, the Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, the Provincial Grand Master, distinguished Grand officers, and finally, himself, the Deputy Grand Master. This demonstration of unity and organisation underscored the significance of their induction into Freemasonry.

With the business of the evening concluded, members gathered for a vibrant social board filled with tributes to the initiates and heartfelt toasts. It was a lively affair, with many of the recipients of the toasts being present, marked by camaraderie and celebration, embodying the spirit of Freemasonry’s timeless traditions.