The brethren of Merchants’ Lodge No 241 have held their annual installation meeting at Liverpool Masonic Hall, where they were honoured to receive Joe Hall as their principal guest, accompanied by the Chairman of the Liverpool Group Mark Matthews and other fellow grand officers. Also in attendance was Peter Hegarty the chairman of the Salford District of East Lancashire, accompanied by Peter Rees, both of Old Salfordians Lodge No 7968. They were in attendance to present, or more correctly, re-present a silver salver previously belonging to Merchants’ Lodge, which would be fulfilled later in the evening at the festive board.
With the conclusion of the ceremony, all present moved to the adjoining banquet room to toast the health of the master and to partake of a delightful festive board. On completion of the formal toasts, Peter Hegarty rose to present a silver salver back into the safe keeping of WM Bill Shuker and the members of Merchants’ Lodge. The accompanying photograph shows the presentation (Pic 1) and overlooking is the portrait of Thomas Golightly, the first WM of the lodge. This silver salver had first been given to the lodge in 1853 by the then Provincial Grand Secretary Joshua Walmsley, to mark the occasion of the lodge bestowing upon him honorary membership. At this period, the lodge carried the number 294, not receiving the present one of 241 until 1863, which it has held ever since. This of course was previous to the building of the present hall at 22 Hope Street. Merchants’ Lodge met at the Royal Hotel on Dale Street from 1851 until moving into the new masonic hall in 1858, then just known as the ‘old house in the garden’.
Joshua Walmsley became a towering figure in Liverpool and Lancashire Freemasonry, having being initiated into Sincerity Lodge No 368 (later 292). Recorded as a 45 year old bookseller, he was one of four candidates initiated on 11th March 1839. His fellow initiates were George Frederick Fairclough solicitor age 27, Robert Procter 29 year old corn dealer and Henry Dodd, a paper stainer age 25. All would be passed to the fellow-craft degree on 8th April and raised as master Masons on 13th May 1839.
On 22nd January 1847 Joshua was one of the petitioners and founding members of Zetland Lodge No 782 (now 537) in Birkenhead, while on 19th June 1850 he became a joining member of Lodge of Loyalty No 101 (now 86) at Prescot. He was a petitioner and founder again, this time for Downshire Lodge No 864 (now 594), which was issued on 1st July 1851. In Holy Royal Arch Masonry, Joshua was a past first principal of Chapter of Lebanon No 101 (now 86), Chapter of Liverpool No 368 (now 292) and Chapter of Harmony (now 220). He became the Provincial Grand Secretary for Lancashire Western Division and in 1854 their treasurer. Joshua was the founder of the West Lancashire Institution for the ‘Education and Advancement in Life of Children of Distressed Freemasons’, now part of the West Lancashire Freemasons Charity.
Joshua was the son of Joshua and Elizabeth Walmsley and a cousin to Sir Joshua Walmsley. He became a book binder and was shown in the 1816 trade directory as operating from Lord Street. Around 1827 he took over the established book seller and stationary business of Thomas Muncaster, which was situated on the corner of Church Street and Basnett Street. During the redevelopment of that part of Church Street in the 1840’s, due to the expansion of the neighbouring department store, Joshua moved to 50 Lord Street and his business continued there for the rest of his life, later to include publishing. Joshua’s aged mother Elizabeth, lived with him till she died in 1848. In 1839 his younger brother James had died and Joshua took on responsibility for the upbringing of three of the five children.
He himself died in bizarre circumstances at 3 o’clock on 27th September 1861, just short of his 70th birthday, when he was run over crossing the road outside his shop in Lord Street, by one of the horse-drawn Wavertree and Woolton omnibuses. According to the Liverpool Mercury, the front horse knocked him down and the wheels then passed over his lower body. Such were his injuries that he was unrecognizable, even by his friends. He died in hospital three hours later without regaining consciousness. His obituary paid tribute to him as one of the oldest and most respected tradesmen in Liverpool and an influential Freemason holding high office. As a result of this accident, pedestrian islands were instituted in Liverpool. Joshua was laid to rest on 2nd October in Toxteth Park Cemetery, Smithdown Road.
With regard to the silver salver he presented to Merchants’ Lodge it was inscribed with “PRESENTED TO MERCHANTS LODGE OF ANCIENT FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS NO 294 BY PAST MASTER BROTHER JOSHUA WALMSLEY PROVINCIAL GRAND SECRETARY OF THE WESTERN DIVISION OF LANCASHIRE THE 14TH JUNE 1853”.
Although Joshua was made an honorary member, he did have an association with the lodge previous to this, as he had installed Bro Dodd as WM of the lodge in 1848 and then in 1850 installed H W Collins. His legacy still lives on today, 165 years since he made his presentation to Merchants’ Lodge. With the presentation complete Peter Hegarty and Peter Rees were warmly congratulated and thanked by all present.