This is a short history of our Lodge

 

A Short History of the Sir Walter St. John Lodge

Written by W. Bro. E.C.B. Doe, 1994 Updated by W. Bro J Stutchbury, SLGR,SLGCR 2012

ORIGINS OF THE LODGE

The Lodge had it's origins in an organization called the Battersea Club which was composed of former students from St. John's Training College, Battersea.

This club had, for many years, enabled students to keeping touch with their contemporaries and to develop new friendships with those who had preceded or followed them at the College.

The College was a Teacher Training College so it was not surprising, in the late 1800s, to find a number of Freemasons amongst its former students. Thus it was perhaps inevitable that some of these should from time to time discuss the possibility of extending the principles of friendship of the Battersea Club by adding a Masonic dimension and forming a Lodge from, and for, former students of St. John's Training College.

THE NAME OF THE LODGE

Following the decision to form the Lodge, the next step was to find a suitable name. St. John's might have appeared the obvious choice given the name of the College and it's Masonic significance but was rejected because of the number of Lodges already bearing that name. The next choice, Battersea, from the Club was also rejected as it was not felt to adequately reflect the concept of an ex-students Lodge. Eventually it was decided to adopt the name of the school where the College students carried out their teaching practice as it was felt that this would best identify the Lodge and its membership. That school was itself named after the person who had originally endowed it, one Sir Walter St. John. Hence the name of the Lodge not only reflects its origins but might also be said to reflect an individual who practiced the principles of charity and benevolence.

EARLY DAYS

Nine brethren, whose names appear later in this article, became the founders of the Lodge with W.Bro. Vincent T. Murch as the Worshipful Master Designate. It is of interest to note that they had attended the College over a long period; one as long ago as 1852 (Bro. J. Moore-Smith) and one as recently as 1885 (Bro. F. W. Westaway). The Lodge was consecrated on Thursday 28 June 1894 at the Surrey Masonic Hall, Camberwell, S.E. by the Grand Secretary, V. W. Bro. E. Letchworth, P.G.D., assisted by four Grand Officers and a Past Master.

These Consecrating Officers had been chosen with some care as V. W. Bro. Letchworth had connections with the college, while the consecrating S.W. W. Bro. Sir Perceval A. Nairne was solicitor to the National Union of Teachers , the consecrating Chaplain V. W. Bro J. Studhome Brownrigg  was a member of the College Council and the Consecrating I.G. W. Bro. Robert J. Voisey was a teacher. The year following the Consecration was an extremely busy one. At the first meeting eight candidates were initiated, a task which would challenge a well-established Lodge let alone a new Lodge where only the Worshipful Master and Senior Warden were Past Masters. There was also a joining member so that that the membership, after this one meeting, had doubled. When one considers that the Lodge started with barely enough members to fill the regular offices of Master, Wardens, Deacons and Inner Guard plus, of course Secretary and Treasurer, it must be acknowledged that they were totally committed to this new venture. They were certainly not afraid of the hard work necessary to give the Lodge a firm foundation.

MEMBERSHIP

The Lodge was originally formed as a closed Lodge with it's membership restricted to former students of St. John's Training College. As long as the College existed this was no real problem. Indeed even the idea that sons of former students be admitted, suggested in 1903 by the then Master, was withdrawn after some discussion. However the College closed in 1923 and it soon became clear that some change would be needed if the Lodge was to have a viable future. Thus in 1931, it was decided to admit sons and sons-in-law of members and also former students of the College of St. Mark and St. John, Chelsea. This latter qualification arose because the Chelsea College had been formed by the amalgamation of the St. Mark's and St. John's Training Colleges. This did not resolve the problem because there was and still is  the St. Mark's College Lodge No. 2157 connected with the combined college and the flow of candidates was not really sufficient to support two lodges.

Finally in 1934 the decision was taken to open the Lodge to all those regularly proposed and approved by the Brethren. This was a decision for which subsequent members were, and are, grateful. However, it must have been extremely difficult to make, given that the brethren must have felt some conflict between their loyalties to their origins and to Freemasonry.

NEAR COLLAPSE AND RECOVERY

Despite the now open nature of the Lodge, membership remained a problem. Indeed, by the early 1940's there was the possibility that the Lodge would have to surrender its Warrant. That it did not is due to a somewhat bizarre set of circumstances. At the time there was a young teacher at Broxbourne C of E School. The Head of the school and another master were active Freemasons and appeared to spend some time in the Head's study as he prepared himself for his installation into the Chair of the Culham College Lodge (No. 2951).

Eventually this young teacher approached these two worthy masons and expressed his interest. One was a Scottish mason and the other was, presumably, a member of a closed Lodge because they were unable to help him directly. However, the Head sad that he was soon to attend a meeting of the Union of College Lodges and that he would see what he could do. In the event, he mentioned the interest to members of the Sir Walter St. John Lodge and it was arranged that the Secretary and Treasurer should meet this young teacher (outside the ABC Tearooms at Liverpool Street Station wearing white carnations as a symbol of recognition).

By a strange co-incidence the Secretary at that time was W. Bro. Pat Regan then the Head of Willesden Central School at which the young teacher had, some five years before, carried out his two years of teaching practice! The recognition was mutual and the outcome was that the young teacher became, in 1943, the first Initiate for something like 5 years. The arrival of a candidate at this time was undoubtedly crucial in terms of the Lodge's immediate survival. The caliber of that individual also had along term effect, because he introduced further candidates who in turn introduced their friends and relatives and so the Lodge continued to exist. That young teacher is now W. Bro. Lionel Fiddaman, MBE, who, some fifty years on, is our longest serving member, the much loved Father of the Lodge. W. Bro. Lionel has contributed much to the Lodge over the years but his greatest contribution was to be in the right place at the right time back in 1943 when this Lodge was near to extinction.

THE UNION OF COLLEGE LODGES

Given that the original membership of the Lodge, it is not surprising that early brethren came into contact with members of other college lodges. Eventually, mutual visiting led to the idea that some form of closer co-operation might be advantageous. Accordingly in 1914 the Union of Training College Lodges was established.

The objects of the Union as framed by the first committee were to: 1. Promote social intercourse among Brethren in Lodges affiliated to the Union; 2. Assist in providing funds for Masonic charities; 3. Promote the study of all matters relating to Freemasonry, e.g. the usages and customs of the craft.

The Union held an annual festival at Freemasons Hall with each of the affiliated Lodges acting as host in rotation. The programme for the festival usually comprised an exhibition of work by the host Lodge or a lecture on some aspect of Freemasonry followed by a Masonic dinner with speeches and entertainment. There was also a special appeal at each Festival for one of the Masonic Charities. This Lodge was host at the second Festival in 1915 and subsequently in 1928, 1935, 1949, and 1957.

As the membership of the Union varied from six to eight Lodges, the different time periods might appear rather odd but this is explained by the fact that the Festival was suspended during the war years. At the second Festival in 1915, a candidate was initiated and the Grand Secretary who with the other Consecrating Officers had been elected Honorary Membership at the Consecration Meeting delivered the Charge.

Some 42 years later, when the Lodge was host to the 1957 Festival, that candidate had become W. Bro. Ray Gilbert and was the Lodge Secretary. At the 1957 Festival, the Lodge again performed an Initiation ceremony; a slightly unusual one on this case because it was a double initiation and the two candidates were father and son, Henry and David Wallis.

Rather appropriately the Master at that time was W. Bro. Lionel Fiddaman who, as mentioned earlier, had come into this Lodge through it's involvement with the Union. His memories of that occasion, many years later in 1993, are perhaps worthy of note. It took place in the Indian Temple at Freemasons Hall, where he recalls there was sufficient space between the Master's Chair and the Pedestal for at least two people to stand comfortably. We were in strange surroundings, working through microphones. It was October and as I had only been installed in September it was the first work that I had done in our present offices. I shall never forget that Indian Temple! He finished by saying that 'somehow we muddled through' , a phrase that perhaps sums up the feelings of many, if not all, Past Masters.

The 1957 Festival was the last occasion that the Lodge hosted the Union Festival. We had been an open Lodge since 1934 and by now had only a few teachers in our ranks. Consequently, interest in the Union diminished and around 1960 it was decided that we should terminate our membership.

CHARITY

At the seventh meeting of the Lodge in 1895 it was decided to form a Lodge Charitable Association. This was followed in 1901 by the Lodge Benevolent Fund. Our early brethren were therefore quick to put in practice one of the fundamental principles in Freemasonry and this has been followed by their successors as both the Charitable Association and the Benevolent Fund are still in existence. These institutions have, over the years provided the channels through which the brethren both individually and collectively as a Lodge have given and continue to give support to the various Masonic Charities as well as to other worthy causes. They also provide the channels which enable us to provide support to our own brethren and their families in time of need.

In 1945, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Lodge we became a Patron Lodge of the Royal Masonic Hospital of which we had, some years earlier, become a Founding Lodge. Since then, we have gone on to become a Double Patron Lodge of the Hospital. This year to celebrate and commemorate our Centenary we will become a Patron of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution.

MEETING PLACES

For the few years following its Consecration, the Lodge continued to meet at the Surrey Masonic Hall, Camberwell. However the members soon felt that a more central location might be advantageous. In 1898, therefore, the Lodge moves to the Holborn Restaurant, Holborn, which was to become our home for more than 50 years.

In fact it was not until 1955 that we moved again when the impending closure of the restaurant coupled with a desire to move out of the centre took the Lodge to Wingfield House, Stockwell. The proprietors were Bro. and Mrs. Horace Evans whose hospitality was legendary and the Lodge quickly settled into it's new home. Our stay here was not so long, a mere 25 years or so lapsed before another move was thought to be necessary. At that time the new Central London Masonic Centre, Clerkenwell, was being established and we became a founder Lodge of that centre. When the Central London Masonic Centre was sold, we were fortunate to be able to secure meeting dates at the wonderful Freemasons Hall, Great Queen Street.There we still meet, not too far removed from where we started and after fewer moves than might have been expected in 100 years.

THE LODGE BANNER

We have by now become accustomed to having the Lodge Banner on display at our meetings, depicting as it does the Lodge Crest which is derived from the Arms of Sir Walter St. John who had so many years before founded the establishment that gave us our name. It is hard to realize, therefore, that it is a relatively recent addition to the Lodge. It was in 1973 that the then Worshipful Master, W. Bro. Sidney Webber, proposed that we should have a banner. Further, and one hopes with prior consent, he volunteered the services of his wife Mrs. Nellie Webber to make it.

The brethren accepted this kind offer and gladly donated the cost of the materials. The banner was formally dedicated on November 2nd 1974 by W. Bro. F. W. Ross, P.A.G. Chaplain. Our Banner is, therefore, only twenty years old. Not that these have been uneventful years, it has been lost once and, more recently, it survived the fire at the Central London Masonic Centre.

THE SIR WALTER ST. JOHN CHAPTER

Attached to the Lodge is the Sir Walter St. John Chapter which was consecrated on September 30th 1944. It will thus be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary as the Lodge is celebrating its Centenary. Many individuals who have served the Lodge have gone on to equally serve the Chapter.

Unfortunately in January 2018 the Sir Walter St John Chapter had to surrender its Charter due to a declining number of members.

FOUNDERS

W. Bro. Vincent T. Murch, P.M., M.E.Z. W.M. DesignateW. Bro. John J. White, P.M. S.W. Designate Bro. J Moore-Smith J.W. Designate Bro. Robert F. MacDonald Treasurer Designate Bro. Rev. St. Clare Hill Secretary Designate Bro. George Collar S.D. Designate Bro Thomas E. Dexter J.D. Designate Bro. Arther C. Rogers I.G. Designate Bro F.W. Westaway

CONSECRATING OFFICERS

V. W. Bro. E. Letchworth, P.G.D, Grand Secretary Consecrating Officer W. Bro. Perceval A. Nairne, P.G.D. S.W. W. Bro. Frederick Hilton, Asst G Purst J.W V. W. Bro. Rev. J. Studholme Brownrigg, P.G.Chap. Chaplain W. Bro. Frank Richardson, P.G.D. D.C W. Bro. Robert J. Voisey I. G.

MASTERS OF THE LODGE

1894 V.T. Murche 1895 J. J. White 1896 J. Moore-Smith 1897 R.F. MacDonald 1898 Rev. St. Clare Hill 1899 G. Collar 1900 Dr. T.F.G. Dexter 1901 A.C. Rogers 1902 J. Briggs Dixon 1903 L.T. Mallinson 1904 G.O.H. Smails 1905 H. Cavill 1906 H. Madden 1907 T W. Deason 1908 A.H Hill 1909 L.J. Phillips 1910 E. Grimshaw 1911 T. Chadwick 1912 W. Woodward 1913 C.F. Frood 1914 E. Webb 1915 G.H. Neal 1916 F.S. Jago 1917 W. J. Mortimer 1918 G.D. Kemp 1919 A. Haworth 1920 J.J. Ibbertson 1921 S. Grounds 1922 P.W. Ryde 1923 F.E. Sharland 1924 W. Jacobs 1925 J. Ridge 1926 E.A. Arthurton 1927 W.R.A. Olive 1928 T. Ansell 1929 A. Regan 1930 E. Bosworth 1931 A.B. Coleman 1932 W.J. Bennett 1933 B. Armitage 1934 J. Laker 1935 J.S. Sherwood 1936 F.J. Drayton 1937 T.A. Harman 1938 G.F. Goodspeed 1939 W. Edwardson 1940 Rev. H.E. Gardner 1941 W. Hall 1942 R. Gilbert 1943 C.R. Haynes 1944 P.E. Coffin 1945 C.B. Byford 1946 A.H. James 1947 D. Smart 1948 A.T. Kings 1949 A.H. Close 1950 C.V. Johnson 1951 Rev. G.S. Mayne 1952 J.H.G. Pycraft 1953 E.H. Gilson 1954 E.G.P. Chalklen 1955 W.E. Edwards 1956 T.L. Foy 1957 L.J. Fiddaman 1958 J.F. Berends 1959 L.A.Wilton 1960 H.G. Ilett 1961 S.R. Wilton 1962 F. Ashcroft 1963 L.M. Spencer 1964 H.C. Tuck 1965 A.W.F. Blanch 1966 E.D.R. Bunce 1967 E.M. Mundy 1968 E.R. Edmonds 1969 H.J. Magenis 1970 T.B. Davies 1971 E.A. Malden 1972 R. Nixon 1973 S.J. Webber 1974 D.A.O. Wallis 1975 P.F. Dillamore 1976 C.H. Munn 1977 W.H. Levy 1978 S. Johnson 1979 G.F. Quinn 1980 D.G.S. Adams 1981 P.P. Vineall 1982 G.A. Lawrence 1983 J. Conroy 1984 D.J. Blake 1985 A.H. Richardson 1986 D.W. Gammon 1987 G.D. Savin 1988 R. Budds 1989 E.C.B. Doe 1990 N.G. Johnson 1991 T.E. Shepherd 1992 M.A. Clifton 1993 J.E. Stutchbury (C) 1994 M.G. Perry 1995 S.A. Crisp 1996 W.T Jones 1997 D.A.Hancock 1998 D.G.S.Adams 1999 D.C. Newcomb 2000 T.P Ellis 2001 R.A.Bates 2002 A.B.Aaron 2003 S.A.Crisp 2004 J.Ayettey 2005 C.G.Ogden 2006 H.N.Wade 2007 H.N.Wade 2008 J.R.Morey 2009 D.W.Ogden 2010 I.P.Ambler 2011 I.P.Ambler 2012 S. Harding 2013 T. Farrell 2014 T. Farrell 2015 D.C. Newcomb 2016 R. Darby 2017 B. Wheatley 2018 L. McKale 2019 L. McKale

SECRETARIES

1894-1896 Rev. St Clare Hill 1896-1915 J.J. White 1915-1929 G.O.H. Smails 1929-1943 P.W. Ryde 1943-1948 A. Regan 1948-1958 R. Gilbert 1958-1969 E.G.P. Chalklen 1969-1971 F Ashcroft 1971-1975 E.D.R. Bunce 1975-1976 P. Ruffles (Assistant) 1976-1986 L.J. Fiddaman 1986-1995 P.P Vineall 1995-2002 R.Budds 2002-2007 W.T.Jones 2007-2008 R.Budds 2008- 2016 J.Stutchbury 2016-2018 D. Newcomb 2018-19  B. Wheatley 

TREASURERS

1894-1895 R.F. MacDonald 1895-1899 V.T. Murch? 1899-1914 R.F. Macdonald 1914-1935 H. Madden 1935-1944 W. Woodward 1944-1949 E. Bosworth 1949-1960 P.E. Coffin 1960-1976 L.J. Fiddaman 1976-1980 D.A.O Wallis 1980-1996 P.F. Dillamore 1996-2003 M.G.Perry 2003-2006 R.A.Bates 2006-2007 C.G.Ogden 2007-2010 A.R.Leachman 2010- 2012 C.F.Hockey 2013- 2017 S.F.Harding 2017-2019 J. Stutchbury 2019 - T Shepherd

 

This short history of the Sir Walter St. John Lodge was prepared for the Centenary meeting of the Lodge by W. Bro. E.C.B. Doe, based on some earlier research by W. Bro. D.A.O. Wallis. Acknowledgements must be given to all those who, knowingly or unknowingly, have assisted in its preparation