A Short History of the Lodge – the 1st 100 Years
1887 – 1987
In the year 1886, there was a desire of many English and American brethren to form a Lodge, “with a view to drawing together the bonds of Masonic union existing between the two countries, and to enable Brethren of the two nationalities and of the Dominion of Canada, to meet together for all Masonic work under the Grand Lodge of England.”
The petition to the Grand Master was signed by 37 brethren and recommended by the Worshipful Master and Wardens of Percy Lodge No 198, November 16th, 1886.
The Warrant of Constitution was granted by command of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, then Grand Master, signed by Earl of Latham, Deputy Grand Master, and Shadwell H Clarke, Grand Secretary, dated December 18th, 1886.
The Consecration took place at the Criterion, Piccadilly, on Tuesday 24th March, 1887. The Consecrating Officers were:
W Bro Shadwell H Clarke, PGD, Grand Secretary as WM
W Bro Thomas Fenn, President, Board of General Purposes as SW
W Bro R Turtle Pigott, PAGDC as JW
W Bro Rev J S Browning, PGC as Chaplain
W Bro H Trueman Wood, AGDC as DC
W Bro Edgar Bowyer, PGSB as IG
The first officers of the Lodge were an interesting group of individuals:
Bro Brackstone Baker, PGD – made a Mason in Canada, member of the Colonial Guard WM
Bro Adolphus Clark – merchant, formerly of Boston, USA SW
Bro Frederick Kedge – solicitor JW
Bro Major George Lambert – Silversmith to the Queen by Special Warrant IPM
Bro George Reynolds – Government Official Secretary
Bro Thomas Waller – Consul General of USA at London SD
Bro James Woolley – commercial traveller JD
Bro George H Reynolds – manager at a brass foundry IG
Bro John Skinner – merchant of Jermyn Street Steward
Bro Charles Ralph – merchant Steward
Bro James Woodward – Gun Maker of St James Street Steward
Over 200 Brethren were present at the Consecration, including eminent representatives from many States of America, Canada & other parts of the Empire.
1888 Bros George Reynolds (Sec) & John Skinner (DC) visited Baltimore. The Grand Master of Maryland entrusted to them a silver Loving Cup to present to the Brethren of the Anglo-American Lodge as a token of appreciation of the welcome given to him on his visit to London.
1889 At the September meeting, the Lodge gave its sanction to a petition for the formation of a Royal Arch Chapter, to be called the Anglo-American Chapter.
1897 The Lodge moved from the Criterion to the Hotel Cecil, Strand.
1899 The Royal Arch Chapter surrendered its Charter.
1904 12 initiates presented a banner to the Lodge, as “an expression of the great pleasure they felt in having been initiated into Masonry, and especially in becoming Members of the Anglo-American Lodge.
1908 On Tuesday, March 24th, the first Ladies Festival was held after the 21st Anniversary Meeting of the Lodge. 120 were present.
1912 Anglo-American Lodge Masonic Charities Association formed.
1913 Installation moved to October meeting.
1917 Petition to form a new Royal Arch Chapter was signed, approved and the Chapter consecrated.
1918 Warrant for a Lodge of Instruction applied for and granted.
1919 AA Lodge approved and recommended Petition to the Grand Master for a Warrant to found New Era Lodge, No. 4057. Subsequently, two Grand Daughter Lodges were founded, Motspur No. 6106 (1945) , and Venture Ad Astra No. 8069 (1965).
1923 Anglo-American Lodge became a Hall Stone Lodge of the Masonic Million Memorial Fund.
1930 The Lodge moved to the Café Royal, and became a Patron of Freemason’s Hospital, having become a Founding Lodge in 1921.
1937 Tuesday March 16th was the 50th Jubilee Meeting of the Lodge. Over 150 brethren were present, including some 80 visitors. Although a number of Americans were present, the greater number of the brethren were associated with the fruit markets of Covent Garden, Borough and Spitalfields. A full programme included the working of all three degrees.
1942 Lodge moved to Freemason’s Hall.
1943 There followed 45 years of Freemasonry, undistinguished, but sincere and heartfelt. The records show that many brethren were initiated, promoted and subsequently passed to the Grand Lodge above. As you will see from the example years below, they kept themselves busy.
1949 6 initiations, 5 passings, 5 raisings, 1 promotion to PAGSB, 2 reported deaths, and 1 distinguished overseas visitor from Australia.
1954 9 initiations, 6 passings, 4 raisings, 1 joining member, 1 promotion to PGStB, 1 reported death and 1 distinguished overseas visitor from California.
1959 Masonic regalia and £150, the proceeds from the sale of a motor car, were left to the Lodge by the late W Bro W Pitcher.
1967 The Worshipful Master Charles Hailey passed away. A special fund was organised in his memory, and £23.1.0d was distributed among the various Masonic Institutions, Anglo-American Lodge becoming a Patron Lodge of all the Institutions.
1987 Tuesday 24th March was the Centenary Meeting, attended by RW Bro Mr Registrar John Bradburn, JGW, W Bro H Cazenove, PDGDC, VW Bro Rev Neville Barker Cryer, RW Bro Cdr Michael Higham, Grand Secretary, W Bro John Yeo, AG Pursuivant.
What of the Future?
Since the Lodge Centenary in 1987, Anglo-American has, Like many lodges in London, and for that matter, across the world, been in gradual decline. There are probably many reasons, some avoidable, some not. The Lodge has an interesting history, but largely it has been an ordinary lodge, serving ordinary Freemasons for the past 117 years. The intention of the founders was to engender “ the bonds of Masonic Union existing between” GB & USA. But as we have seen, the Lodge has had little to do with the USA for many years.
True, we had a friendship with the Square & Compasses Club at the USAF base at Mildenhall some 10 years ago. A young American serviceman, Bob Tullgren, was a member for a few years in the 90’s, and we are twinned with Madison Lodge No 5, Wisconson. But by the 50th Jubilee “the greater number of the brethren were associated with the fruit markets of Covent Garden, Borough and Spitalfields”. When I joined the Lodge in 1987, just before the Centenary, the largest grouping in the Lodge was British Transport Police.
Lodges change over the years, and inevitably some Lodges will survive and grow, and some will fail. The present membership of Anglo-American has committed to ensuring that this Lodge continues, hopefully regaining some of its former glory. In doing so, the nature of the Lodge will inevitably change.
There are many things we can and will do. We will try to revive the trans-Atlantic connections, but in the first instance we need joining members, so that we can build. There are many styles of masonry, and we don’t know where we will end up. But whatever Anglo-American Lodge becomes, we will have one aim in view, to please each other and unite in the grand design of being happy and communicating happiness.
Thank you for coming and for giving us your support. Please visit us again soon, and if you want to join us in this journey, please speak to me or to Bro Secretary. You will be most welcome.
The Last Five Years
By 2003/4 the lodge was in terminal decline, or so it seemed, as we were down to about 8 active members. As a last throw of the dice, I agreed to go back into the chair in 2004 , with the full support of the existing members, and with the express purpose of doing whatever it took to save the lodge. I produced the above history and commentary on the future of the lodge for the menu cards at the festive board of my installation on 6th September 2004. I invited every Freemason I knew to that meeting and made an open plea for joining members. At that meeting W Bro Nick Carter (our current Master) decided to join the lodge and help me save it.
We followed up every avenue we could to find candidates and joining members. I had a meeting with W Bro Norman Grimes who had run the London Office before MetGL was formed, as he had much experience in helping lodges decide on their futures. He suggested I talk to W Bro Chris Connop who had been one of the brethren who had been successful in creating a success at Highgate Lodge.
I spent the next 2 years in the chair and took over as Secretary on installing my successor. W Bro Nick Carter took over as DC. Since that day in 2004 we have had 8 initiates, 2 re-joining members and 3 joining members, and the strength of the lodge currently stands at 26, all but 4 active, including 2 overseas members who come at least once a year.
On 7th December, we will welcome a joining member and initiate 2 more candidates. We then have a current pipeline of 3 further initiates, one of whom has met the committee, and 3 further joining members. When these are all in, we will have some evidence that we are restoring the links to America, for we will then have 6 American members and 4 South American members, plus a Libyan and a Russian.
Going forward, our job is far from completed. The chair can be filled until 2026, but we need to make the Lodge somewhere special to be, so that members don’t get bored or feel that they have to wait too long until they are installed in the chair. For that purpose, as well as continuing to bring new members in we will work on a number of areas:
- Doing it well
- Introducing interesting additions and alternatives
- Lectures to increase out Masonic knowledge
- Good food and wine at a reasonable price
- A convivial atmosphere
- Good speeches (and short speeches)
- Social activity – to generate regular social contact outside the Lodge
- Charity – adopt a charity and put more than money into it, e.g. time, passion & commitment.
The aim is to create a self-supporting, successful Lodge for the long term that is considered very special by its members and its visitors. And while we are doing that, we will also restore the Anglo-American Chapter to its former glory.