Cornhill 1803 Lodge History

A Brief 125 Year History 1879 to 2004

Inception of the Lodge

On Wednesday 20th November 1878 W.Bro. Edwin March presented a Petition (under rule 94 BoC) to the Grand Stewards Lodge (of which he was a Past Master) to form a new Lodge under its sponsorship. The membership was originally confined to members of the New City Club, George Yard, Lombard Street,London, EC, and it was at this club where the consecration took place. The Lodge’s subsequent regular meetings were held there until the club’s liquidation in 1880. Later venues are listed below, along with other interesting facts.

The Petition being granted on Wednesday 18th March 1879, and under the Grand Mastership of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) the Lodge was constituted. The Founders were:

  • Edwin March, Merchant, 1 Anerley Park, London SE, Lodges No. 99 & 410
  • Alfred James Thomas, Solicitor of Cheapside & Regent Street, Lodge No. 277
  • Henry Charles Jepps, an Average Adjuster, 33 Cornhill, Lodge no. 19
  • John Sunley, Merchant of Brunswick Square, Camberwell, Lodges No. 18 & 165
  • Alfred Lamb, Wine & Spirit broker, 43 Mark lane & 41 Belsize Square, Lodge No. 410
  • Robert Pledge Notely, Architect, 57 Gracechurch Street, London, Lodge No. 256
  • Frances James Hartridge, profession unknown, Lodge No. 1
  • William Richard Stephens, Statione, 33 Throgmorton Street, Lodge No. 90
  • Christopher Matthew Shaw-West, Gentleman, Elm Grove, Hanwell & The Mansion House, Lodge No. 1364
  • Thomas James Steel, merchant, 44 King William Street, London, EC, Lodge No. 206
  • Richard W H Giddy, Colonial Civil Servant, Magistrate in South Africa, Treasurer of Griqualand etc Quondam District GM of Griqualand West (now extinct), Lodges No. 608 & 1409

After the Consecration Ceremony, the first Master, W.Bro. Edwin March MP, Grand Stewards Lodge No. 99, PM the Grove Lodge No. 470 and Provincial Grand Warden ofSurrey, was installed in the Chair of King Solomon by the Consecrating Officer, W.Bro. Lt Col Shadwell H Clerke, Senior Grand Deacon, who a year later was to be appointed Grand Secretary.

He was assisted by:

  • W,Bro. W Ambrose Hull PP Grand Chaplain (Surrey)
  • RW.Bro R W H Giddy, District Grand Master Central Division West Africa (now extinct)
  • RW.Bro. H P Sandeman, PDGM (Bengal)
  • W.Bro. Capt N G Phillips, PGD

After the Installation of W.Bro. March, the following Officers were invested for the ensuing year:

  • Bro. A J Thomas Senior Warden
  • Bro. A C Jepps Junior Warden
  • Bro. T Dowling Treasurer
  • Bro. F A Ford Secretary
  • No name given Senior Deacon
  • Bro. W Hanson-Dodwell Junior Deacon
  • Bro. R P Notley Inner Guard
  • Bro. T J Steel Steward
  • W.Bro. J Sunley Immediate Past Master
  • W.Bro. Rogers Tyler

Colonel Henry Shadwell Clerke

Born in 1836, the son of General St.John Clerke. After a distinguished military career in the Crimea, Mediterranean and theWest Indieshe retired in 1872 and was appointed one of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms, or Royal bodyguard and served until his death.

He was Initiated in Zetland Lodge No. 575, Malta, on 27th April 1856 and over the next 36 years he was to become a full or Honorary Member of innumerable Lodges in London and Devonshire. He became deacon of England in 1878. He was very active in all the degrees and Orders of Freemasonry and was appointed Grand-Secretary-General of the Supreme Council 33o of the Ancient and Accepted Rite in 1874. He relinquished that appointment in 1880 when he was invested as Grand Secretary of the Craft by the MWGM HRH The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). He was Grand Secretary and Grand Scribe E until his death on 25th December 1891.

The History of Cornhill Lodge

The name of the Lodge was undoubtedly selected by the founders (who were members of the New City Club, Lombard Street, EC), as being readily identified with the City of London, where most of them were in business.

Research into the history of Cornhill Lodge has been hampered by the disappearance of two or maybe three of the earliest minute books and one or two signature or attendance books. A Membership book of the entire period is in existence, but examination shows signs of it having been rewritten up to the year 1928 or so (i.e. round about the 50th year). This rewriting appears to be in the hand of one Bro. Frank Fox. This Membership book contains the full names, dates of Initiation, Passing and Raising and two final columns; one showing the dates they died, resigned or were excluded and the other their Certificate Number. It is unclear why this rewriting took place.

For reasons unclear, from a certain page headed “Revised List”, we find the still existing Members of the former lists re-entered with full details of addresses and their Masonic careers up to resignation, exclusion or death. This full entry continues to the present day.

As existing records we have four Minute books in our possession, and Attendance books going back to 7th April 1924 and Initiation and Declaration books going back to 7th October 1929.

Two of the Minute books and several of the Attendance and Declaration books had to be carefully dried out and freed from mildew after being damaged by water at a fire at the Throgmorton Restaurant in 1966, which incidentally ruined much of the contents of our storage boxes. However, many items have been replaced or refurbished by the Lodge. The two earliest Minute books now in our possession cover the following dates:

  • Book 1: 3rd April 1933 to February 1946. the last few pages are badly damaged.
  • Book 2: 25th March 1947 to 4th October 1944.

This means that apart from our Membership volume we can only go back in actual documentation to 7th April 1924. The search for the missing books goes on for the intimate records of Private Lodges must be culled mainly from its Minute books and correspondence. Grand Lodge records being concerned only with the Registration of Masters, Wardens and members, as returned each year under the Regulations.

But in spite of being somewhat hampered by the lack of these earlier books and documents, diligent research has uncovered quite a lot of interesting facts. There is also a “Commemoration” pamphlet issued at the Installation of our 51st Master, Bro. Major G C J Brady DSO, on 15th April 1929, which has been useful in the compiling of this account.

We have unashamedly followed the example of certain other Lodge histories which decided not to confer any special accolade on any one Brother, except to particularise certain events and happenings. Many of our forebears must be unknown personally at this distance and surely all Brothers are equal, each having their own part to play. Appendices to this history will give lists of Officers and Brethren over the years and certain other relevant details.

It appears that in the first 30 years, until 1909, the Membership was comparatively small, varying between 25 and 30 Brethren. In 1910 numbers began to increase and in spite of the 1914-18 War, had reached 61 strong at the time of the Jubilee Year in 1929. There is strong evidence that the guidance and influence of the Secretary from 1910 to 1925, W.Bro. Chenery PAGStB, was largely responsible for this expansion and consolidation of the Lodge.

To quote the Jubilee Records:

“During the 1914-18 War many of the Brethren of the Lodge answered the call; several being rewarded by His Majesty for their loyal services. Of them all the Lodge is justly proud, and thankful that of the many who went overseas, none were taken.”

In the Second World War, again many of the Brethren were absent on duty and it is interesting to see the strenuous efforts to keep the Lodge going at this awkward period; with the use of typewritten Summonses, together with such plaintive as this, called from the Minutes of the period and the Summonses appended therein: “It will help to keep the Lodge together if the Brethren will make every endeavour to attend in these difficult times.”

Then from the Minutes of December 1939:

“Rehearsals of the Ceremonies are held every Monday at 4:30 p.m. in the Basement ARP Shelter, Northgate House, 20/24 Moorgate EC.”

And from the Minutes of 3rd October 1941:

“The Secretary announced that W.Bro. Jacobs had informed him that his son, John Jacobs, had been taken prisoner of War at Dunkirk in May 1940. Much sympathy with W.Bro. Jacobs was expressed and the Secretary was instructed to send some comforts through the Red Cross Association to Mr. John Jacobs.”

The Banquets in these World War years must have been very Spartan, due to the strict rationing in force. This is in great contrast to the gargantuan 9 and 11 course dinners in the early days and between the Wars. Oysters, cigars and drinks of every kind with Champagne at 7/6d (37 ½ pence) a bottle and a bottle of Whiskey at 17/6d (87 ½ pence)! Those inners at 8/6d (42 ½ pence) per head also contrast strongly with prices today!

Initially, during the Second World War, lunch was held at 12:30pm followed by the Meeting at 2:30pm. Meetings were also changed to the months of April, June, August and October, as a temporary measure, with the Installation held in April. But from about 1943 the Meetings were held at 4:30pm with a dinner at 6:00pm. Obviously confidence was returning or people were becoming more complacent about the bombing.

A survey of the minutes during this period show that the desperate attempts by some 8 to 12 Brethren to keep the continuity going did eventually pay off. For the Lodge gradually grew in numbers again until the years 1951 to 1963 when the Lodge was Meeting, first at the Charing Cross Hotel and then at the Throgmorton Restaurant. At both of these venues we arrived at what seemed to be the most freely attended Meetings in the whole of the history of the Lodge. On many occasions there were 70 or 80 Brethren present! The record for the heaviest Visitors List occurs between the Wars, during the period of the eminent law family, the Vicks. There was a guest list of 41 at one Installation Meeting!

It is possible to discern periods of character change in the Lodge’s personnel over the years. Definite phases do suggest themselves. Early years were “City”, but not so clearly “Banking and Shipping” as the Jubilee Booklet implies.

A period of Services flavour occurs around the Jubilee Year, with no fewer than 10 Army Officers and one Navy Commander as regular Members of the Lodge. There was also a “Law” phase, with the Vick legal family as the focal point, progressing to a period of Oil Company representatives, after which a Printing and Advertising influence was felt.

Always however, there has been a leavening of the original “Merchants” and men of the City, which persists today, with a swing to Members residing out of theLondonarea as a feature of the present time.

The Last 25 Years.

Cornhill Lodge became a Founding Lodge of the Central London Masonic (CLMC), Clerkenwell Green; formerly known as The Old Middlesex Sessions House. One of our Distinguished Members, the late W.Bro. Bob Wyatt, SLGR, was a Member of the 1977 General Purposes Committee, which consisted of 10 senior Brethren.

The Lodge held its first meeting at the newly opened Centre in late 1979. W.Bro. Raoul De Vaux, OBE, JP, LGR a senior Member of our Lodge was elected to the Board of Directors of the Centre in 1994 and became the Director responsible for Catering.

In the past 25 years we have seen our Majesty’s Golden Jubilee, the invasion of the Falkland Islands and their subsequent recapture and two Gulf Wars. Thankfully unlike previous World conflicts none of the Lodge Members were involved in those events.

N.B. W.Bro. David Meader did deploy to Iraq in 2003, as a mobilised Territorial Army soldier, but this was before he joined Freemasonry.

The costs of Masonry in London continue to rise at an ever increasing rate. However, Cornhill Lodge has remained constant in its active Membership, although actual Membership numbers have reduced by 50%. At the time of writing W.Bro. Ron Russell is currently the Lodges oldest Member at 92 years old and he regularly travelled from his home in Dorset to attend Lodge Meetings.

Finally, in the last 12 months Cornhill was proud to be one of the founding Lodges of the new Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London.

Charity Record.

The Lodge Benevolent Fund was established in 1883, and many times were devoted to assisting old or indigent Members, or the education of their dependants. Later, however, it was realised that there were other commitments to charity and the Lodge became a founder of theMasonicHospitaland also a Vice-President of the other three Institutions.

The Treasurer for many years was W.Bro. RHF Hitchens LGR, a Member of the Board of Management of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution from 1919. It is largely due to his influence and hard work that not only were the Lodge Benevolent Funds built up, but we also have the above qualifications. A family link, stemming from 1905, is still continued in the Lodge with his son, W.Bro. HCV Hitchens LGR, who at the time of writing has been a Member for 59 years, having been Initiated on 7th April 1919. “Uncle” as he was affectionately known sadly died in February 1991 aged 94.

Considerable efforts have been made in recent years to stimulate our charitable work, which had become somewhat moribund. To this end a great deal of hard, unsung work has been put in by the Charity Stewards and this still continues. For charity, as we are reminded, “is the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemasons heart”.

Since the covenant method of contributing started in 1971, it has been warmly responded to, particularly by the “younger” members. There is also the Masters List each year and the individual taking-up of Stewardships etc of the various Institutions.

Although it was recorded in the Minutes as a proposition, our forbears somehow decided against becoming a ‘Hall Stone’ lodge, and so we do not have the appropriate collarette for our Masters to wear.

However, we do have the distinction of participating in ‘The Grand Masters Fund’ to further the research in the Science of Surgery which was established to mark the 250th Anniversary of Grand Lodge 1717 to 1967, when all Lodges who subscribed the sum of £1.00 or more per member were entitled to display the appropriate medallion on the Masters Collar. The design of the Medallion follows the central motif of the original Arms granted to the ‘Hole Crafte and fellowship of Masons’ (sic) in 1472 as one of the City Companies.

In the changing financial conditions of the present period, the central Masonic charities have been under revision by eminent Brethren in Finance, education, Law and Accountancy, and we must be grateful for their special knowledge which is shaping our benevolence into a structure more financially sound for the times in which we live.