A PLAQUE marking the first ever meeting of Swindon freemasons has been unveiled in Old Town.

The monument was fitted to the side of the Goddard Arms by Swindon Heritage.

It marks 200 years of freemasonry in the town. Swindon’s first freemasons met at the High Street pub in May 1818. The lodge, which was initially made of just 10 members, continued to meet at the Goddard Arms until 1875.

Noel Beauchamp of Swindon Heritage said: “This blue plaque is important because it marks something that happened in Swindon pre-railway. People know Swindon as a railway town, whereas in fact people have been living up here on the hill for a thousand years if not longer. It brings into context how old Swindon is.”

Freemason Philip Bullock, Provincial Grandmaster for Wiltshire, added: “This lodge has been here and associated with Swindon for 200 years. Freemasonry is as strong now as it was then.”

Mr Bullock was helped in unveiling the blue plaque by another long-standing freemason. Richard Goddard, Provincial Grandmaster for Worcestershire, is also a relative of the family that held the Lawns estate for hundreds of years.

“It was a great honour to unveil the plaque,” he said. “Freemasonry has always been about three great principles: brotherly love, relief and truth. That could be translated as friendship, generosity and integrity.

“The freemasons are one of the biggest charities in the country. We’re always looking out to do good for those people less fortunate than ourselves. That’s always given me a great kick.

“Freemasons are really at the heart of the community. Just as this plaque is in the heart of Old Town, freemasonry is at the heart of the community.”

The heritage plaque is the seventh to be installed around Swindon. Others mark the birthplaces or homes of actress Diana Dors, Votes for Women campaigner Edith New and Swindon Town Football Club hero Sam Allen.

The eighth plaque will commemorate poet Richard Jefferies. It will be placed on his home, now the Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate Water, in the spring.

“We want people to come forward with their own suggestions for historically important places or events,” said Swindon Heritage’s Noel Beauchamp. “To be recognised with a blue plaque it has to be a historically important place and, if it’s to a person, unfortunately the person has to be dead.”

For more, visit: www.swindonheritage.com.