HISTORY OF ST JOHN’S MASONIC LODGE NO. 827
The following History,
researched and compiled by
W Bro Slater and W Bro Brown, was originally produced in booklet form and presented to the Brethren at the Sesquicentenary [150th anniversary]
St John’s Lodge No 827.
The decision to form another Lodge in Dewsbury was taken on 11 June 1860, and, as stated in the records, for the convenience of the brethren in terms of its proximity to their respective dwellings, it was to be held at the Saw Inn, Batley Carr. Accordingly, with the necessary formalities out of the way, Worshipful Brother Richard Reed Nelson, at that time the Provincial Grand Secretary for the Province of Yorkshire West Riding, was invited to be the first Worshipful Master of St John’s Lodge.
The Lodge was consecrated on Monday 1 October 1860, by the Deputy Grand Master, Dr George Fearnley, who, incidentally, was also the first Mayor of Dewsbury and the only Mayor of the town to have his portrait in the Town Hall showing his Masonic clothing. Provincial Grand Lodge held its Meeting on 1 January 1861 in the National School Room at Batley Carr.
At the Consecration of the Lodge, various Brethren made presentations or donations to furnish and equip the Lodge. Worshipful Brother Richard Reed Nelson presented the Volume of the Sacred Law, The religious writings of whichever Faiths were in attendance, and one of the tracing boards. Worshipful Brother Abraham Wilson gave five guineas and the Terrestial and Celestial Globes. Worshipful Brother John Bailey Newsome likewise donated five guineas and the sword for the Tyler. Brother John Armitage gave the Minute and Cash Books. Brother John Wilson donated five guineas, the ballot boxes and the lamp for the East. Brother John Firth gave two guineas and the Sword for the Inner Guard. Brother John Lobley presented three cushions and two suits of clothing. Brother Edward Chadwick Donated the Pedestals, the stands for the chairs and three Gavels. Brother Jonathan Day gave a Tracing Board and Brother Edward Chadwick gave the third degree Tracing Board and Working Tools.
In due time, the accommodation offered at the Saw Inn by then being deemed insufficient, it was decided, in June 1864, to purchase land and build a new Masonic Temple.
Work proceeded and on 28 December 1865, the foundation stone was laid, beneath which was a cavity where was deposited a bottle, hermetically sealed, containing copies of newspapers, list of directors, and the names of the members of the Masonic Order in Dewsbury. This was a great occasion and was fully reported in the Dewsbury Reporter in its issue of 30 December that year. Brother John Kirk was the Architect of the present building and the Reporter tells us that on the occasion of the stone-laying, a considerable number of brethren, belonging to various Lodges in the District, assembled at the Lodge of the Three Grand Principles No 208, and walked in procession, wearing masonic regalia, through the Market Place to the site. It tells us to that the procession was preceded by a brass band attached to the works of Messrs Mark Oldroyd and Son.
The Lodge was opened in the present Masonic Temple on 1 October 1866. Additions were made to the existing premises in 1870 and again in 1899, giving us the accommodation in this building that is ours today.
Worshipful Brother Edward Blackburn was the longest serving Director of Ceremonies undertaking the role for 23 years between 1958 and 1981. In 1973 Worshipful Brother Arthur Askam completed 15 years as Organist.
Presentations have been made throughout the history of the Lodge to brethren who have served the lodge for a period of fifty years or more. Worshipful Brother H Appleyard, Worshipful Brother Lewis Lee, Worshipful Brother J.T. Auty, Worshipful Brother Tom Bairstow, Worshipful Brother P Fogg, Worshipful Brother W Armitage, Worshipful Brother H Squires and most recently Worshipful Brother J Kilburn.
The Lodge had to wait almost one hundred years before our first member (Worshipful Brother H Squires) received an appointment as a Grand Lodge Officer. Since then a further five members have become Grand Lodge Officers (including W Bro P Fogg, W Bro A Askam, and W Bro E Blackburn). Currently the Lodge does not have any Grand Lodge Officers.
The Lodge had its first Lewis when R S Shires was Initiated by his Father, the Worshipful Master. This was In 1964. The Ancient Charge was given by his Father-in-law. The next followed in 1965 when J A Smith was Initiated by his Father the Worshipful Master.
The Lodge is a Hall Stone Lodge and, in addition to finding the money for the Masonic Million Memorial Fund at the end of the First World War, the then brethren had their own Peace Celebration Fund when a of £1513 16s 0d was raised and was used to pay off the mortgage which at that time existed on the building. The names of what are known as the Hall Stone Lodges are to be found within Freemasons’ Hall [originally named The Masonic Peace Memorial] in London’s Great Queen Street, just off Southampton Row, WC – very near Holborn Underground Station on the Piccadilly Line.
The Brethren of the Lodge were inevitably involved in sacrifice during each of the the two World Wars, either through the loss of the lives of some of the Brethren or their families. Worshipful Brother H Townend was installed as Master on 11 December 1916, but was then unable to take the Chair until 3rd December 1917, owing to his being abroad on active service. He was never able to take the Chair again during his year as Worshipful Master and a full note of the unusual circumstances is fully recorded.
During our history the Lodge has been well served by its Secretaries, one of whom, Worshipful Brother Charles Phillips Pickersgill, occupied the office for twenty years, but in addition, Brother Henry Brooke, Worshipful Brother Percy Fogg and Worshipful Brother Alan Worley each held the office for more than a dozen years whilst W Brother J Alan Winder has, at the time when this historical account was being compiled, been in office for eighteen years.
The Lodge has also been well served by successive Tylers, two of whom covered fifty years between them, though currently the office is held for one year at a time by a Past Master.
Worshipful Brother Edward Blackburn was the longest serving Director of Ceremonies undertaking the role for twenty-three years between 1958 and 1981. In 1973 Worshipful Brother Arthur Askam completed fifteen years as Organist.
Presentations have been made throughout the history of the Lodge to Brethren who have served the lodge for a period of fifty years or more. Worshipful Brother H Appleyard, Worshipful Brother Lewis Lee, Worshipful Brother J T Auty, Worshipful Brother Tom Bairstow, Worshipful Brother P Fogg, Worshipful Brother W Armitage, Worshipful Brother H Squires and, most recently, Worshipful Brother J Kilburn.
The Lodge had to wait almost one hundred years before our first member (Worshipful Brother H Squires) received an appointment as a Grand Lodge Officer. Since then, a further five members have become Grand Lodge Officers (including Worshipful Brothers P Fogg, A Askam, and E Blackburn). Currently the Lodge does not have any Grand Lodge Officers.
The Lodge had its first Lewis [the ancient term for the son of a Freemason] when Brother R S Shires was Initiated by his Father, the Worshipful Master. This was In 1964. The Ancient Charge was given by his Father-in-law. The next followed in 1965 when Brother J A Smith was initiated by his Father, the Worshipful Master.
Since then there have been a number of other Lewis’s within the Lodge including the Current Worshipful Master, Worshipful Brother S A Brown who was initiated by his father Worshipful Brother H Brown, who also took part in his Installation Ceremony. There have also been other family connections between members of the lodge over the years with brothers, cousins and son-in-laws initiated.
In 1969 there was a very sad occasion in the Lodge when Brother R Spivey, the Senior Warden and Master Elect, died of a heart attack in the Master’s Chair. This eventually led to the incumbent Worshipful Master (Worshipful Brother E Worley) staying in the chair for a second year.
No reference or history of this lodge would be complete without reference to the Wilman family. When Worshipful Brother A B Wilman,, who was later to become Master of the Lodge, was initiated, four of his uncles took part in the Ceremony. Worshipful Brother Charles Wilman initiated him; Brother T J Wilman was Senior Warden; Brother J N Wilman was Senior Deacon and Brother Joe Wilman was Assistant Director of Ceremonies. All of them occupied the office of Master in turn.
In common with many other Lodges, the 150 years seems to have been a period of great anxiety regarding finance and, with amazing regularity, the Minute Book shows us that subscriptions have had to be increased many times. There is a great difference between the 2/6d levy for the support of the Lodge in 1864 and the present day subscriptions.
There have been moves related to other lodges sharing the building with St John’s Lodge.
In 1964 there were discussions with Nelson of the Nile Lodge regarding them sharing the building but these did not come to fruition.
During the early 1970s, similar discussions took place with the Lodge of the Three Grand Principles regarding the possibility of the two lodges sharing our building but they eventually moved to Savile House in Thornhill Lees where they still currently reside.
Our Lodge building is owned and used by St John’s Craft Lodge and also used by St John’s Chapter, Dewsbury Mark Lodge and Dewsbury Mark Mariners Lodge.
Various donations have been made to the lodge over the years to improve the building.
Worshipful Brother N A Cooke paid for the leaded lights at the front of the building.
Worshipful Brother L Walshaw donated new gates and railings for the front of the lodge
Mrs E Blackburn donated a clock for the Billiard Room in memory of her husband.
The building has been maintained by the members and recent major works have been:
The installation of a new Central Heating System in 1979
The replacement of the roof in 2000 at a cost of £15,000
The restoration of the front of the building in 2009.
The lodge is currently in very good heart. It has fifty members, including three country members.
We are proud of the high standard of our ritual, encourage active progression and the record of progress is sound. The progressive ladder towards the Worshipful Master’s chair contains no past Masters of the Lodge.
We like to enjoy ourselves and have an active Social Calendar with events inside and outside of the Lodge during the year.
Some of the great strengths of this Lodge, Inclusiveness, Support and Friendship to all its members are fantastic and encourage the members to participate, get involved and progress. It’s not perfect, for if it was, it would start to get boring, but it’s pretty good.
Everyone works together to try and ensure that the Lodge continues to move forward and go from strength to strength.
At the 150th Celebration the then Worshipful Master, Worshipful Brother Steven A. Brown,
gave a personal message to all the brethren.
My Personal Message
Worshipful Brother Steven A Brown – Worshipful Master
The year 2010 holds great significance for the brethren of
St John’s Masonic Lodge, for it marks another of the most important occasions in the Lodge’s history - its 150th anniversary.
This year also holds great significance for me personally, for I have had the good fortune of being elected Worshipful Master during this auspicious time. I am grateful to have the opportunity of presenting this 150th anniversary message to my fellow Brethen, for since joining the Lodge I have learned just what a privilege it is to follow in the footsteps of so many great men. So many of them have helped keep the light of freemasonry shining brightly in Dewsbury, and in so doing have brought great credit, not only to our Lodge, but to the town in general.
There are too many to mention, but I have selected three who I’m sure the Brethren will feel are worthy of special mention, namely Sir Mark Oldroyd, Tom Kilner and John Tweedale.
Sir Mark Oldroyd, who was head of the biggest textile manufacturing base in the country, was the largest employer in the town, employing some 2,500 workers. He was also MP for the town, an Alderman on the local council and Mayor of the Borough.
He donated £10,000, a mighty sum in those days, for the building of Dewsbury's first hospital in Halifax Road, now Boothroyd Buildings. He also helped build several churches in the town, paid for the clock on Dewsbury Town Hall and founded a number of charities in support of the poor and sick
Tom Kilner was the grandson of one of the founders of Messrs Kilner Brothers, glass bottle manufacturers, Thornhill Lees, a firm internationally renowned. It gave its name to the famous Kilner Jar, still used in kitchens throughout the world today for the preservation and storing of fruit and vegetables. The firm won many accolades for the quality of its work and in 1862, just two years after our Lodge was formed, Kilner Brothers, while exhibiting at the Great International Exhibition in London, obtained the only prize medal awarded to British Glass bottle makers that year.
John Tweedale, a Solicitor and Dewsbury Magistrate, lived at Moorlands Hall, Dewsbury, later to become Moorlands Maternity Home, where I’m sure many of our Members were born. John, who was Worshipful Master of the Lodge in 1897, belonged to a family whose members did great works in Dewsbury and he followed their example wherever able. His Grandfather, also named John Tweedale, helped greatly in the development of Dewsbury and was the first to champion the need for the town to have piped water. John was an honoured Member of St. John’s Lodge and also was appointed Provincial Grand Registrar. When he died at the age of fifty, the flag at the Town Hall was flown at half-mast and, according to the Dewsbury Reporter, a feeling of regret pervaded the town.
It is only while looking through the history of our Lodge that we
realise how fortunate we are to have had such men amongst us. They held Freemasonry close to their hearts and tried to live their lives by the principles it upholds. We are proud to be part of an institution like ours, that has
remained solid and true for 150 years. Let us give thanks for that and
hope, that in some small measure, we are able to follow their example.
Let us also hope that those who follow us will do the same, and then,
who knows, our lodge may still be going strong in another 150 years.