FIVE decades after the Freemasons first attempted to move into Didcot, a group is hoping the town's expansion means it's finally time to open a lodge.

Masons in the town are on the look-out for others who are interested in setting up the lodge, which would join eleven existing branches in nearby Abingdon, Wantage and Wallingford.

It comes as the organisation's Grand Lodge launched an openness drive and took out adverts entitled 'enough is enough' in an attempt to dispel the 'ongoing gross misrepresentation' of the organisation.

Freemasons first attempted to set up a lodge in Didcot in the 1960s but found no suitable building and instead attached themselves to other lodges.

Maurice Dixon, the chair of the lodge steering group, said the group, which hopes to open in June, would be a chance for masons to meet and contribute to the town.

Charities and good causes will be supported with funding and by masons offering to volunteer.

Mr Dixon said: "There is so much going on in Didcot and we want to support that.

"Being a Freemason encourages good men to become better and we are just a group of people trying to make an impact on where we live.

"I'm the sort of person who wants to make a contribution and improve the local area and this is my way of doing that.

"Through the ceremonies we reflect on moral issues such as supporting those in need and acting with integrity.

"We also provide an opportunity to improve self-esteem and confidence so that we can make a worthwhile contribution to society."

The lodge will initially be for existing masons with new people invited to join at a later date.

But Mr Dixon said the majority of interest so far was from people who wanted to become masons and he needs more existing masons to volunteer as founders before setting up the lodge.

Mr Dixon said, once established, the group would be open to new members from all walks of life, regardless of faith or ethnicity, with each application carefully considered.

He said many of the myths around the organisation's supposedly shady operations come from the fact that details of its initiation ceremonies are kept a closely-guarded secret.

He added: "It means it has a lasting impact when you go through it yourself.

"It is part of your journey to becoming a better person and if you ask anyone they will tell you what a transformative experience it is.

"We are not some kind of secretive organisation that is trying to take over the world as people who have read Dan Brown novels might believe.

"This image some people have of us is wrong and we are always happy to explain what we do."

The new lodge will hold an open day later in the summer.