Retrospect

 [This “Retrospect” was written by W.Bro E.J.Abercromby for the Centenary brochure, and has been brought up-to-date]

This account of the Strand Lodge in retrospect must commence with a quotation from the oration of W.Bro Rev J.S.Brownrigg, MA, PGC, at the consecration on Wednesday 14th February 1883:

 

“I do not think it is asking too much if I endeavour to enlist that
sympathy and co-operation which you may show by keeping
your eyes open throughout life and watching for any records
of the Masonic past in order that you may bring them under
the examination of our Masonic experts. I believe that for want
of interest among the rank and file of the Craft many an old
book has gone for waste paper, many an old jewel has been
broken up, many an old piece of oak or china has gone to the
dust heap, which might have been rescued and which would
have been priceless records of the past”.

 

In repeating this advice it is hoped that we may trace the whereabouts of our first Minute Book and of any other records or recollections which may throw light on the past history of the Strand Lodge for the enlightenment of future generations.

Secondly, it would be less than fair to procede without paying generous tribute to W.Bro S.J.Meadows, LR, and his efforts in compiling the first account of the history of the Lodge spanning the fifty years up to 1933. Copies are still available, and it is interesting to record, as a link with 1933, that the Jubilee Master was W.Bro F.W.Goring, MBE, PAGDC, LGR, who is held in fond esteem by many of the present Brethren of the Lodge.

The account of the Consecration of the Lodge in the ‘Freemason’ dated 17th February 1883, contains a full description of the ceremony and records a number of points which have had a telling effect on future events. These include the advice that “every Lodge should do something towards raising the Craft in the eyes of the world”, and also that “no raising of fees will keep out unworthy men; indeed, some of our best members are those who have had great difficulty in scraping together the few pounds required for their Initiation”. By contrast, it is recorded that at that time 117 Lodges had been consecrated in two and a half years, and elsewhere are passing references to Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Iolanthe” drawing immense audiences to the Savoy Theatre, and to the return of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, accompanied by Princess Beatrice, to Osborne from Windsor Castle.

The first Master of Strand Lodge,
W.Bro James Willing, Junior, PAGDC, LR

Against this background of rapid Masonic expansion, the subsequent growth of the Strand Lodge is scarcely surprising with 59 Initiates and 23 Joining Members in the first two years, mainly as a result of the efforts of our first Master, W.Bro James Willing, Junior, PAGDC, LR, who at that time was an advertisement contractor at 353 The Strand. Indeed, many of the original petitioners had a definite local connection. W.Bro E.Swanborough, our first Senior Warden was treasurer of the Royal Strand Theatre, and W.Bro J.R.Sracey, our first Junior Warden and second Master, was a newspaper manager at 127 Fleet Street, as was the then Bro W.T.Madge, our Master in 1888, at 367 The Strand.

The petition was written from Ashley’s Hotel in Henrietta Street, only some four hundred yards away from our present home at Shuttleworth’s, 1 Aldwych, on 25th January 1882. The reasons advanced in its support included the absence of a Lodge at Covent Garden, which poses an unanswered question as at that time Covent Garden Lodge No: 1614 met at Maiden Lane, only a few yards distant from Henrietta Street, In this connection it is interesting to note that, W.Bro D.V Thorpe, Bro J.R.Leach and Bro H.F.Wilkinson had a direct operative connections with the Covent Garden Market.

Our first meeting took place at Ashley’s Hotel, which was the birthplace in 1775 of the famous painter Joseph Mallord William Turner, RA. It was subsequently converted to offices and is still in use today. In 1884 we moved to the Criterion at Piccadilly Circus, and on again to the Hotel Cecil in 1897, which was to be our home for many years. The Hotel Cecil was situated close to the Embankment, between the Strand and the site of Cleopatra’s Needle. W. Bro J.E.W.Hanscomb, LGR, recalled that it had two fine spacious Temples, one Indian and one Chinese, and that even one perambulation in either was quite a walk. In those days it was the custom to wear dinner jackets as well as many jewels and the resulting display of rank and opulence must have been impressive. W.Bro James Shannon, who was in the Chair at the time of Bro Hanscomb’s Initiation, was a member of the Magic Circle and performed many tricks at the Festive Board. In those days, dinner consisted of up to eight courses, and Bro Hanscomb recalled being warned by the Chief Steward that the delicious fruit-cup served in glass jugs at 5/- each, as an alternative to wine, was considered expensive. Viewed by comparison with the annual subscription of 15/- perhaps this was fair comment.

The magnificence of the dinners was not unusual at that time and could be regarded as a fair reward for the formidable number of ceremonies recorded in our Minutes at each meeting. In the early days the Brethren were allowed to cross-toast each other at will at the Festive Board and there was a great deal of noise until the practice was discontinued.

The Lodge met temporarily at the Café Monico in 1917, returning to the Hotel Cecil in 1920. When the latter was sold to Shell Mex Liminted, the Lodge moved to the Hotel Metropole in Northumberland Avenue in 1930. Here the Jubillee Master, W.Bro F.W.Goring, MBE, PAGDC, LGR, was installed. The “Freemasons" Chronicle of 18th February 1933 records that, in responding to the toast of the Strand Lodge on that occasion, W.Bro H.S.Foster recalled that he represented the remnants of an army – the only one present of the members of fifty years before, and that, when he decided to apply for membership of the Lodge, he stated that it had taken his fancy as he had lived in the neighbourhood of the Strand from the age of two and had been educated at Kings College in The Strand. Bro Foster was the first Initiate and was installed as Worshipful Master in 1891; he asked the Lodge to accept the gift of a small gavel, which his son had brought back from the Holy Land and which was made from the same stone as used in the building of the Temple at Jerusalem.

In October 1936 the Lodge moved on to the Piccadilly Hotel, were it remained until moving once again, this time to Shuttleworth’s, 1 Aldwych, in October 1968. In contrast to 1914-1918, when the war had an immediate and obvious impact, the Second World War passed quietly at first, the 1940 Ladies’ Festival being held in familiar style. However, the Piccadilly Hotel was requisitioned and the Lodge had to move temporarily to Freemasons’ Hall in 1942, returning to the Piccadilly Hotel in 1946. Many members of the Lodge served in the armed forces and with the auxiliary forces, but we have no record of their exploits other than a sad tribute to Pilot Officer D.F.Read, RAF, who was killed on active service in 1944. We should recall that Bro Speedy was also killed in action with The Queen’s Westminsters in France in 1916.

Ladies’ Festivals have been held regularly for many years and those before 1940 were occasions of great splendour, although it is perhaps comforting to note from our records that even in those days Treasurers had difficulty in securing support. As an example of the average standard of the cuisine, the menu for the Ladies’ Festival in 1932 is reproduced below – this is typical of the period, and very similar to the menus provided for dinners at Installation Meetings:

Selected Whitstables

Hors d’Oeuvres Riche

Consommé des Viveurs

Crème Palestine

Filet de Sole Mariniere

Poularde de Surrey Poches au Riz Sauce Supreme

Pommes Coquelin. Choux Bruxelles au Beurre

Bombe Aboukir

Petit Fours

Café

 

Entertainment was a feature of these functions, and of Lodge dinners, and Bro Hanscomb recalled the late Arthur Askey performing at the Ladies’ Festival in 1937 – our records show that he was paid three guineas for his services. Brother Webster Booth appeared at the Festival in 1932 with W.Bro F.W.Goring, MBE, PAGDC, LGR, in the Chair. Bro H.E.Baden, the organist from 1922 until 1949 was often in attendance as accompanist and, as there is no trace of a tribute to a lifetime of service to the Lodge in our records, it would be appropriate to express this now. Sadly, since Bro Baden’s death, only one Lodge member, Bro G.C.Champness, has actually been appointed organist, an office which he filled from 1950 to 1955, although W.Bro C.H.Austin, LGR, and, on occasion W.Bro A.R.Small. LGR, have played their part. It is interesting to note that Bro Champness’ application for membership was read out at the last meeting attended by Bro Baden.

It would be appropriate at this point to mention three small relics of the past, two of which are in regular use. Our Charity Box was presented by W.Bro C.E.B.Kibblewhite, LR, in November 1901; this is made of oak from the staircase of 332 The Strand, where Charles Dickens worked on the staff of the ‘Morning Chronicle’, a fitting reminder of our place of origin and of the connection with newspapers in those early days. The Loving Cup, originally used and now on display at the Festive Board, was presented by the Brethren in 1940 in memory of the late W.Bro C.S.Grellier, who was the uncle of our Centenary Master, W.Bro J.F.Weir, LGR, who remembers him as a very warm hearted and friendly person. Finally, there is a gavel presented by W.Bro J.R.W Soper, in 1894, and which was made from the timbers of HMS Resolute, a ship which formed part of Admiral Sir Edward Belcher’s Expedition, sent in search of Sir John Franklin in 1852, and which was abandoned in 1854 in the Arctic.

In view of the changes which are taking place with regard to the traditional Masonic Charities, it should be noted that the Lodge is a Patron of the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys and of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, a Vice-Patron of the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls and a Grand Vice-Patron of the Royal Masonic Hospital. Clearly the example set at the Consecration Meeting has been maintained, when it was recorded that the Worshipful Master’s List in favour of the RM Benevolent Institution totalled 100 guineas, an unheard of collection for a Consecration Meeting at that time. The Strand Lodge Charities Association was founded in 1906 and was initially managed by W.Bro C.E.B.Kibblewhite and by W.Bro C. Pastorelli, PGStB, LGR, then by W.Bro R.A.Miles. LGR and Bro H.E.Hall. In recent years it has been in the capable hands of W.Bro C.H.Austin, LGR, followed by W.Bro C.J.Collis, who was our first appointed Charity Steward.

 The Lodge of Instruction was inaugurated at “The Cheshire Cheese” in Surrey Street, The Strand, in 1900, with W.Bro W.Raply as the first Preceptor. The LOI moved to Carr’s Restaurant, 265 The Strand, in 1904 and it is probably fair to conclude that W.Bro H.Passmore-Edwards, PGD, as Preceptor dominated its affairs for many years, until W.Bro G.Cox was appointed in 1924. Records of the Lodge of Instruction are scant and it did move about a great deal – to the Hotel Cecil in 1919, the Olde Rainbow Inn, Fleet Street, until 1933, to the Edinburgh Stores, Milford Lane, The Strand, to the Woolpack Hotel, Moorfields in 1939, to the Glasshouse Stores, Brewer Street in 1942; from 1943 the meeting place was the Victoria Tavern, Buckingham Palace Road, and in 1977 the venue was once again changed to The Phoenix, Palace Street. Over this period the LOI continued to meet regularly, which says a great deal for the resolution and service of the succession of Preceptors who have strived to achieve and maintain excellence in ritual. A comprehensive list can not be given, but W.Bros F.A.Coffin, C Van Der Hoek, P.B.Cowell, F.H.Chester and H.F.Waddy, deserve our heart-felt thanks. W.Bro J.C.Clark, of the United Wards Lodge No: 2987, was a member for many years, latterly as secretary of the LOI, and will be fondly remembered by many of the present Brethren. With W.Bro A.T.Day, also of United Wards Lodge, he helped to maintain a truly Masonic interchange between our respective Lodges for many years to mutual advantage.

The Strand Lodge has always had as its Members those who represent a broad spectrum of trades and professions. Such records as remain disclose, on Initiation, J.A.Hare as a florist, F.J.Goring as a portmanteau maker in 1900, F.P.W.Soper of the North West  Mounted Police of Canada, N.P.Edwards as an electrical engineer, E.L. Schneider (later Taylor) as an architect in 1902, James Francis as a violinist in 1904 and Harry Derry as a shorthand writer in 1905. W.Bro F.W Goring appears as a relief stationmaster, Great Northern Railway, in 1917 ( he afterwards became stationmaster of Kings Cross Station) and W.Bro H.E.Frater as a bank clerk in 1920. Our membership has included accountants, engineers, a flueologist, company directors, a nuclear research chemist, executives of oil and insurance companies and publicans (with no doubt a good few sinners). In public life in the last fifty years we can not match the example of our forebears, with Sir T. Vansittart Bowater, MP (Lord Mayor of London in 1914), and Bros J.N.Hare, J.M.Bathgate, and C.J.Sabourin each thrice mayor of Arundel, Wimbledon and Finsbury respectively. However, W.Bro G.P.Naish served as mayor of Kingston-upon-Thames. The Masonic honours accorded to our Masters are recorded elsewhere.

There is no doubt that the size of our membership has declined over the years but accurate comparisons of numbers are not possible as it was the custom of secretaries at one time to record in the Minutes simply ‘and other Brethren and visitors’. However, it was startling to discover an entry in March 1923 which appeared to show the presence of 320 Brethren, ladies and gentleman – this transpired to record a short formal meeting prior to the Ladies’ Festival. Other evidence suggest that attendances of around 100 were common in our first fifty years. Nevertheless, the Lodge has maintained a high standard both in ritual and in other Masonic pursuits, and it is hoped that some reflection on the past will assist us to attain new peaks of achievement in the future.

 

That completes the “Retrospect” as prepared by W.Bro Abercromby

There are few sources to examine which will assist in bringing this Retrospect up-to-date. The Minute Books report ceremonies and the general business of the Lodge but nothing exciting happens and the Brethren are just names, except perhaps to those who are still members of the Lodge. However, occasionally, an item of interest occurs. The story of Brother Thomas Scott Baldwin is a case in point

Bro Baldwin was an American from Quincy, Illinois, and was Initiated into the Strand Lodge on 8th November 1888; regrettably he resigned on 21st May 1889. According to Compendium of Freemasonry in Illinois he, with his elder brother Samuel Yates Baldwin, achieved world-renowned fame as daring aeronauts. The great possibilities connected with balloon ascensions occurred to them and they spent time studying the subject from a scientific standpoint, which resulted in their inventing the parachute, and to them is due the credit for the first successful descent from a balloon in that manner. According to the Compendium Thomas was Passed and Raised in Bodley Lodge No: 1 under the Grand Lodge of Illinois, but there is evidence of a Grand Lodge Certificate being issued which shows that he was Passed in Barnato Lodge No: 2265 (under the Grand Lodge of England).