Letchworth Lodge a Hall Stone Jewel Lodge

 

 

            Letchworth Lodge traces back its origins to the early part of the 20th Century when Gibraltar was re-establishing itself as a strategic military naval base when Britain entered into a massive arms race with the new emerging super power, Germany. The virtual decimation of the military presence in the latter part of the 19th Century was replaced by a considerable increase in military personnel stationed on the Rock. By this time the tradition of ‘military’ or ‘travelling’ lodges had almost disappeared and local lodges were hard pressed to accommodate so many potential and joining brethren into their ever growing ranks. The Inhabitants Lodge had already divided to form Robert Freke Gould Lodge in 1901, Connaught and Coronation Lodge were both consecrated in 1902 and by 1910 preparations were being made for establishing yet another Masonic Lodge in Gibraltar, the Letchworth Lodge.

 

A meeting of Masonic Brethren interested in the formation of a new Lodge in Gibraltar was held in the Mediterranean Club on the 7th January 1911. Lt. Col. F.G. Edyvean having been voted to the Chair gave a brief account of the reasons for convening the meeting.[1] He proposed that a petition be prepared for a new Lodge to include:-

i.                     Commissioned Officers of the Navy and Army.

ii.                   Principal and Superior Officers, only, of the Directing Staff of Naval Establishments at Gibraltar.

iii.                  Members of the E.T.C Staff Mess.

iv.                 Others, where social status is that of Officers who have entered the Services by direct Commission.[2]

 

Clearly the founders of this new Lodge strove for such a selective membership that they proposed that each candidate for initiation was to be balloted separately and only one black ball was required to exclude[3], rather than two as was and still is common in other Lodges under the English Constitution.

 

The District Grand Master of Gibraltar Major T. F. Cooper consecrated Letchworth Lodge No. 3503 on Wednesday 6th March 1911. The Lodge derived its name in honour of Bro. Letchworth who had been Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England for many years prior to his death in 1910.[4]

 

Letchworth Lodge became very popular with employees of the Eastern Telegraph Company based on Mount Pleasant. The early Lodge Minutes reveal a steady stream of initiates and joining members from the Eastern Telegraph Company[5] who provided a permanent backbone of members to an otherwise fluid Military Lodge, especially during the period featuring World War I. It was the Great War that would eventually make Letchworth Lodge into a recognised Hall Stone Jewel Lodge.

 

At the outbreak of the Great War there were 3,181 Lodges on the Roll of Grand Lodge, and of these no less than 1,360 suffered loss through War deaths, the total number of deaths recorded in return of Lodges being 3,089.[6] The names of those brethren who fell in the service of their King and Country during the Great War are listed in the Roll of Honour in Grand Lodge. The following Brethren from Lodges at Gibraltar are inscribed in that Roll:[7]

 

 

 

 

No.      Lodge.                         Name and Rank                                  Service Rank

 

115      St. John’s                     Reavely, Edward                                Ensign U.S.N

 

153      Inhabitants                    Baker, Richard                                    Sergeant-Major

                                                Cooper, William                                   2nd Lieut.

                                                Delebecque, F.                                   Sergeant-Major

                                                Dennington, E. W.                              E. R. Artificer

                                                Duffield, Arthur Edward                      Lieutenant

                                                Edwards, Frederick William                 Art.-Engineer

                                                Johnston, John                                    Chief E.R. Engineer

                                                Moore, Walter William                        Tel. R.N

                                                Semmence, Albert Davey                    Sergeant-Major

                                                Stead, Charles Henry                           2nd Lieut.

                                                White, Albert Edmund             Ship’s Steward

 

278      Royal Lodge                 Place, J.S.                                           Fleet-Paymaster

            of Friendship

 

2915    Connaught                    Challinor, Charles                               Warrant Officer, R.N.

                                                Macdonald, Donald                            Warrant Officer, R.N.

                                                Moore, Richard Henry Hamilton          Lieutenant

 

3503    Letchworth                   Bibby, John Richard                             Flight-Lieut. R.N.

                                                Farquhar, Alaister Charles Nicol          Lieut. R.N.

                                                Burnester, Charles                              Capt.

                                                Dold, Cedric                                        Capt. R.A.M.C

                                                Hackell, John                                      S.L. R.N

                                                Sewell, Henry                                      Capt. R.G.A

                                                Thomas, Arthur                                   Capt. R.G.A

                                                Watkins, Geoffrey                               L.R.N

 

In 1919 a special Grand Lodge was held to celebrate Peace, and was attended by a vast number of Brethren. The M.W. Grand Master the Duke of Connaught made his first appeal to the Craft. He asked for funds to provide a Masonic Peace Memorial worthy of the Craft; and the Masonic Million Memorial Fund was thus inaugurated.[8]

It was agreed that this memorial should be a building of a central home for Freemasonry on a site to be selected in London. The Masonic Million Memorial Fund was then launched in September that year and brethren both at home and overseas were invited to contribute to raise the one million pounds needed to finance the work. The contributions from individuals and Lodges were to be recognised by the award of a commemorative jewel.   For the jewel design it was decided to hold an open competition with a £75 prize for the winner, and at the Grand Lodge meeting in June 1921 it was announced that the design selected was that submitted by Bro. Cyril Saunders Spackman who was an architect by profession as well as a commissioned artist.

 

Contributions to this Fund were to be entirely voluntary and were to be recognised by special commemorative jewels. These were of three types for the three categories of subscribers, of the same basic design but of different sizes and precious metals (the sizes given below are the diameter of the encircling wreath). Examples of all three types are on display in the Grand Lodge Museum:

 

A medal (350mm) called the Masonic Million Memorial Fund Commemorative Jewel on a dark blue ribbon, to be worn as a personal breast jewel by any member of a lodge under the English Constitution subscribing to the Fund: ten guineas or more, a silver medal; one hundred guineas or more, a gold medal.

 

A medal (420mm) in gold on a light blue collarette to be worn by successive Masters of lodges contributing an average of ten guineas per member, such lodges to be known as Hall Stone Lodges (thus giving the jewel its name) and their names and numbers to be inscribed on commemorative marble panels in the main ceremonial entrance vestibule of Freemasons' Hall;

 

A medal (480mm) in gold and coloured enamels, on a dark blue collarette, to be worn by successive Provincial and District Grand Masters of Provinces or Districts contributing an average of five hundred guineas per lodge. Two Districts, Japan (now defunct) and Burma, and one Province, Buckinghamshire, qualified as Hall Stone Districts/Province. Certain lodge rooms in Freemasons' Hall were therefore named after them in recognition of their achievement, this being commemorated on a bronze plaque therein. Lodge Rooms 11, 12 and 17 were thus denominated respectively the Japan, the Burma and the Buckinghamshire Rooms. They are the only lodge rooms in Freemasons' Hall distinguished in this way by a name.

 

The Masonic Million Memorial Fund Commemorative Jewel, issued to individual subscribers was described at the time as follows:

“The jewel is in the form of a cross, symbolising Sacrifice, with a perfect square at the four ends, on the left and right squares being the dates 1914-1918, the years in which the supreme sacrifice was made. Between these is a winged figure of Peace presenting the representation of a Temple with special Masonic allusion in the Pillars, Porch and Steps. The medal is suspended by the Square and Compasses, attached to a ribband, the whole thus symbolising the Craft’s gift of a Temple in memory of those brethren who gave all for King and Country, Peace and Victory, Liberty and Brotherhood.”

 

The added incentive for Lodges subscribing not less than ten guineas per member and therefore be entitled to become Hall Stone Lodges appealed to the Officers and members of Letchworth. Being at the time such an exclusive Masonic Lodge with membership restricted to that of the Officer Class, the financial implications to achieve the required sum was not unfeasible. At the regular meeting of the Letchworth Lodge held on the 26th January 1921 the opinion of the Committee on the Masonic Million Memorial was read, and their recommendations as follows adopted:

 

‘The Standing Committee recommend that Brethren be asked to subscribe over a period of one year, and remind the Brethren that a subscription of 10 guineas entitles the subscriber to a Silver Medal. A subscription of 10 guineas spread over a year is equivalent to 23/6 per Meeting or 2 ½ guineas per quarter. (1 guinea = 21 shillings)

 

Brethren of Letchworth Lodge who desire to subscribe to this Fund should inform the Treasurer whether the charges are to be debited monthly or quarterly.’[9]

 

Letchworth Lodge thus became the only Lodge in our District to fully subscribe to the Masonic Million Fund. In total 1,321 Lodges qualified in this way (London 794, Provinces 442, Abroad 88) and 53,224 individual jewels were issued.[10] Today, the Brethren of Letchworth Lodge take much pride in the contribution their Lodge played towards the building of the present Freemasons Hall in Great Queen Street, London. The Hall Stone Jewel worn by the Master of Letchworth Lodge on all Masonic occasions is transferred to the new Worshipful Master of the Lodge as is the right of every Hall Stone Lodge during the Lodge’s Installation meeting.

           

Although Letchworth Lodge was the only private Lodge to subscribe to the Masonic Million Fund many individual members of the English Constitution also contributed in an individual capacity and as a result the District Grand Master Lt. Col. William Francis Ellis reminded the Brethren assembled for the Annual Festival of 1933, that the District had finally fulfilled its obligation to subscribe 2,000 guineas to the Masonic Million Fund and in consequence qualified as a Recorded District.[11]

 

A few months later the District Grand Master was privileged and honoured to be the guest of Grand Lodge on the occasion of the opening of the New Masonic Temple at Freemason’s Hall. The District Grand Master was kept very busy looking after and acting as interpreter to many of the Grand Lodge Officers from overseas. Representatives of all recognized Grand Lodges were invited[12] and the District of Gibraltar was represented at the Especial Grand Lodge Meeting held at the Royal Albert Hall. The Gibraltar deputation for that momentous occasion consisted of the District Grand Master RWBro. W. Ellis, WBro. Mathews, Deputy District Grand Master, as well as WBros. Garood and Hogg, District Grand Lodge Officers.[13]

 

 

Building work on the Masonic Peace Memorial, as it was at first called - later to become known as Freemasons' Hall – had commenced in 1927 and was completed in 1933 when the Hall was dedicated. At the June 1938 Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge the Special Committee presented its final report recording that the building had been handed over to the Board of General Purposes free from debt and that well over one million pounds had been subscribed to the Fund. The Fund itself was closed on the 31st December 1938.


 

 

As far as Freemasonry in Gibraltar is concerned the Hall Stone Jewel is now synonymous in our District with Letchworth Lodge. The lodge was hardly ten years old when it embarked on such an ambitious and worthy cause and therefore it can be said that the Hall Stone Jewel has always been part of this lodge’s unique tradition and history; especially when we consider that soon you will also be entitled to apply and wear with pride a Centenary Jewel in addition to the Hall Stone Jewel now worn by the Master of your Lodge.  From the way this lodge continues to go from strength to strength, I have no doubt that this tradition will be exercised by the future Masters of your lodge for many years to come.

 

WBro. K. Sheriff PM, Inhabitants Lodge No. 153

 


 

[1] The Letchworth Lodge No. 3503 Minutes, 1911-1916, GMI

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] J.W.V Cummings, Opcit., p 5

[5] Ibid.

[6] G.W. Daynes, Opcit., p 116

[7] Masonic Roll of Honour 1914-1918, p 5, 7, 12, 89, 107,

[8] G.W. Daynes, Opcit., p 116

[9] The Letchworth Lodge No. 3503 Minutes, 1917-1923, 21st Jan 1921, GMI

[10] Grand Lodge 1717-1767, Opcit., p 170

[11] District Grand Lodge Minute Book, 1933-1986, 22nd April 1933

[12] Grand Lodge 1717-1767, Opcit., p 173

[13] Ibid. 27th October 1933