A Short History of The Macdonald Lodge No 1216

Consecrated April 1868

In commencing a History of Macdonald Lodge, it is appropriate, perhaps, to sketch briefly the contemporary scene in 1868.

Queen Victoria was in the thirty-first year of her long reign. A General Election took place, in which Disraeli’s Tory party was heavily defeated and Gladstone became Prime Minister for the first time.

The population was then in the region of 25 Million (today's population is approx 61 Million), and Britain was leading the World in industrial expansion. Stage coaches had been superseded by the railways, which were spreading all over the Country. Lighting by gas hand come into use on the streets and in public buildings, but in the home the most general form of lighting was by oil lamps.

According to the Masonic Year Book, the outstanding event of 1868 was the Initiation of H.R.H. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales who became Grand Master in 1878 until his accession to the Throne in 1901.

Macdonald Lodge was consecrated on the 29th April 1868 by W.Bro John Savage , Past Grand Deacon of England, at the Headquarters of the First Surrey Rifle Volunteer Corps at Camberwell, which was then in the County of Surrey and is now in London.

The Lodge derives its name from Lt-Col J. H. Macdonald, the Commanding Officer of the First Surrey Rifles, at the Headquarters of which Corps the Lodge was established and to which the Founders of the Lodge belonged.

For the first 22 years of its existence the Lodge met at the headquarters of the First Surrey Rifles in the Officers’ Room, but owing to alterations the accommodation became unsatisfactory and in 1890 the Lodge decided to move to the Surrey Masonic Hall in Camberwell New Road.

In 1899 the Lodge considered it desirable to meet in Central London and for a few years meetings took place at the Queens Hotel, Leicester Square. In 1903 the Lodge transferred to the Hotel Cecil, where it remained until 1917 when the hotel was requisitioned by the Government for war purposes.
For the next three years the Lodge met at the Cafe’ Monico, but in November 1920 returned to the Hotel Cecil for a further period of 10 years. The Lodge moved from the Hotel Cecil in 1930 when it was demolished having been acquired by Shell-Mex for a new office building.

For several years after that the Lodge met at the Northumberland Rooms but in 1933 it moved to the Piccadilly Hotel where it continued to meet for a further 46 years. In 1979 the Lodge moved to the National Liberal Club where it met until 1985. In 1985 it moved to Freemasons Hall, Great Queen Street where it has continued to meet.

After the Lodge moved from the headquarters of the First Surrey Rifles in the year 1890 its close connection with the regiment began to weaken and by the turn of the century the membership of the Lodge had changed to such an extent that it could no longer be looked upon as a military Lodge. This is evidenced by the fact that in 1903 the under noted Rule became inappropriate and was deleted from the By-Laws;  “That Members or Visitors entitled to wear the uniform of the Regular, Militia or Volunteer Services are expected to attend the meetings of the Lodge in full-dress uniform without side arms”.

The last recorded Lodge members who served with the First Surrey Rifles were W.Bro W.G.Sell LGR & W.Bro S.G.Armstrong LGR, who are recorded in 1968 as holding office of Secretary and Tyler respectively.

One of the last traditions of the Lodge emanating from its military foundation was the practice wearing of all Lodge Officers to wear their Lodge Collars at the festive board to show their Masonic Rank. It must be remembered that members used to attend meetings in full dress uniform and by wearing their Masonic collars it prevented pulling military rank. This old tradition was dropped in 1982.

From 1868 to 1870 the Lodge met 12 times per year, meeting on the first or second Wednesday of each month. In 1871 the number of meetings was reduced to six, this arrangement continued until 1883 when the June meeting was eliminated. When the Lodge moved to the Hotel Cecil in 1903 the meeting were reduced further, future meetings being held on the fourth Saturday in the months of April, September, November and February. The number of meetings and the months of the meeting remain unchanged although the dates have changed to the 2nd Saturday in April, the 3rd Saturday in September, the 4th Saturday in November and the 3rd Saturday in February.

The first Master of the Lodge was Col A L Irvine, Past Master of Lodge No 171 he was elected for a second year of office.

The most distinguished member of the Lodge was Bro Polydore de Keyser, who was one of the Founders of the Lodge and the first Junior Warden. He did not attain the Chair of Macdonald Lodge, probably owing to the pressure of his Civic interests, as he was a member of the City Corporation, and in the year 1887 he became Lord Mayor of London. In business Bro de Keyser was proprietor of the de Keyser Hotel which was on the Embankment facing Blackfriars Bridge on the site now occupied by Unilever House.
Several members of the Lodge had long records of service, Col G.H.N. Bridges who died in 1918, had been Director of Ceremonies for 37 consecutive years. He was succeeded by W.Bro H.C. Weeks who was DC for 25 years and Preceptor of the Lodge of Instruction for 32 years. Bro Whiteman was first elected Tyler in April 1892 and he served in that office until his death in 1925, a period of 33 years. In 1968 it was recorded that W.Bro F Duke who was at that time a member had been so for 66 years and the Secretary W.Bro W.G. Sell had held that office for 28 years.

Other members who have long and distinguished service with the Lodge include W.Bro Douglas Nunn 43 years,  W.Bro Derek McCabe 40 years, W.Bro Reg Wilkinson 30 years,  W.Bro Arthur Wade 33 years & W.Bro Ken Male 36 years to name but a few.

The first Minute Book of the Lodge records that in October 1868 the Lodge gave permission for a Lodge of Improvement to be established. History does not record what happened to that Lodge of Improvement, but in April 1904 the Lodge sanctioned the holding of a Lodge of Instruction to be known as the Macdonald Lodge of Instruction, and agreed to an annual grant of 3 guineas for rent. The Lodge of Instruction took firm root and although it has passed through some lean times is vibrant today meeting at the Duke of Sussex Public House in Waterloo where it is a useful and flourishing institution.

Fortunately the Lodge possesses all of its Minute Books, but they are models of brevity, and it is rather a pity that they are not as interesting as they might have been if secretaries had realised that prosperity would have liked to know more details of the affairs of the Lodge. For instance in April 1875 it was proposed by W.Bro A.L.Irvine and seconded by Bro S.H.Wagstaff,P.M. and carried unanimously that a petition be sent to Supreme Grand Chapter asking for permission to form a Royal Arch Chapter. We know that the petition was granted and that Macdonald Chapter was consecrated in 1875, but it is not recorded in the Macdonald Lodge Minute Book.

For the first 23 years the annual subscription was 2 guineas, which included the cost of the banquet which was held following the Installation of the new Masters. In 1891 the subscription was raised to 2½ guineas and in 1900 it went up to 3 guineas, since which time there have been quite a number of increases.

When the Lodge was formed it acquired its own furniture and tools, mostly presented by the Founders and their Masonic friends. In 1968 it was recorded “What has become of the furniture the Minutes do not reveal, and sad to relate that the Lodge is now reduced to two chests of books and tools”  In 1979 whilst moving the Lodge from the Piccadilly Hotel to the National Liberal Club some of the brethren were sorting out the large chest of furniture and found a bible presented to the Lodge by the first Master in 1868 and a set of three Gavels  made from wood from the HMS Ferret which was wrecked on 29th March 1969 and presented by Bro Larlham one of the Founders. All these items are now in regular use at all of our Lodge meetings

In September 1870 the Lodge presented the First Surrey Rifle Volunteer Corps with a shooting trophy, inscribed “Macdonald Lodge Challenge Cup”. In the early 1900s the old Volunteers were superseded by the Territorial Army, which in turn was re organised in 1966. The outcome of these changes was that the Macdonald Lodge Challenge Cup came into the possession of the R (Surrey) Battery 265th Light Air Defence Regiment, Royal Artillery  (T.A.). As artillery have no use for a shooting trophy, it was decided by R (Surrey) Battery in 1966 to return the Cup to the Lodge. The former shooting trophy is now used as a Loving Cup by the Lodge and is passed around the table on Installation nights 7 and is displayed at our Ladies Nights. When the cup, which is of solid silver, was bought in 1870 it cost the Lodge 5 guineas. The last valuation of it was in 1995 where it was valued at £17,200.00 Due to the high value and history of the Cup it was decided to place it on permanent loan to the Museum at Freemasons Hall where it now resides with the exception of its two annual outings.

Apparently it was not until the Lodge moved to Central London that any Stewards were appointed. Soon after the Lodge was consecrated two Regimental Instructors of the First Surrey Rifles were Initiated and appointed “Serving Brethren”.

A peculiar situation arose at the Lodge meeting in December 1869. After the Initiation ceremony it was pointed out that the candidate was not elected as the ballot had been overlooked. After a lengthy discussion, in which distinguished visiting brethren joined, it was decided to take the ballot forthwith. This was done and proved unanimous. It was further decided that the Master should report the irregularity to Grand Lodge. Subsequent Minutes do not record what action if any Grand Lodge took.

In 1896 the question of holding a Ladies Night was raised and a sub-committee was appointed to report to the Lodge. It appears that the Brethren were not at all keen on a Ladies Night as when the sub-committee presented its report the Lodge decided to take no further action. It took a long time for the Lodge to change its mind, as it was not until 1922 that the first Macdonald Ladies Night was held. It took place on the same day as the Regular Lodge meeting in February. It must have been an awkward arrangement as the Ladies had to make their own way to the Hotel Cecil unaccompanied. The tradition of holding a Ladies Night, although now somewhat extended to encompass a weekend, is still a regular annual event and well supported by our Ladies, families and friends.

It is interesting to note that in 1902 a letter was received from Grand Lodge pointing out that the introduction of wine into a Lodge is contrary to that feeling of propriety which holds the Lodge to be a scared place. The letter added that the appropriate occasion for drinking the health of a newly installed Master is at the subsequent banquet.

In the year 1907 a circular letter was received from an unofficial committee raising the question of dividing the 600 London Lodges into 12 Metropolitan Grand Lodges. The reaction of the Lodge was very cautious and it was resolved that he Secretary be requested to inform the unofficial committee that Macdonald Lodge did not desire to express any opinion upon the matter. It was a very different story on 1st October 2003 when Macdonald Lodge expressed its support by becoming a Founder Member of Metropolitan Grand Lodge.

During the 1914/18 war the fees of all Brethren serving in the Forces were cancelled until such members returned to civil life.

In June 1919 at a special meeting of Grand Lodge, the then Grand Master, the Duke of Connaught, announced that he wished to establish a memorial to commemorate those brethren who had made the ultimate Sacrifice and  had passed to the Grand Lodge above in the 1914-1918 war. The memorial would be Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street, London. (Where we meet today). The Masonic Million Memorial Fund was launched in September that year and brethren both at home and overseas, on an individual and Lodge basis were invited to contribute to raise the £1m needed to finance the work. These contributions were to be recognised by the award of a commemorative jewel. A prize of £75 for the best design was offered and Bro Cyril Saunders Spackman was the winner. Bro Cyril Saunders Spackman was a member of Macdonald’s Mother Lodge, Panmure Lodge No 720, having been Initiated on 21st January 1918.
At the time the jewel was described as being "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 ribbon, 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.”
In 1925 the Lodge became a Founding Lodge of the Freemasons Hospital and in 1927 it subscribed its quota to the Masonic Million memorial Fund, thereby becoming a Hall Stone Lodge.

To qualify for a Lodge Hall Stone jewel, a Lodge had to pledge to donate an average of ten guineas per member, an equivalent of approximately £350 in 2009 prices. Macdonald Lodge is one of only 1,321 "Hall Stone" Lodges in the world, with our name inscribed on the wall near to the Memorial at Freemasons’ Hall in London.

An interesting change in procedure occurred at the Installation Meeting in 1924. For the first time, the addresses to the Master, Wardens and Brethren were given by three different Brethren. Up to that time (56 years) it had been customary for all three addresses to be given by the Installing Master.

In the 1939/45 war the regular meetings of the Lodge took place at the Piccadilly Hotel, despite enemy bombing, but owing to the food shortages the hotel had to close the banqueting department. Consequently, the Lodge had to find dining accommodation elsewhere, the Lodge dinned more often than not at Gows in St. Martins Lane and sometimes to the accompaniment of wailing air-raid sirens. The Lodge of Instruction was less fortunate than Mother Lodge, as it had to meet in a cellar in the “Cranbourne” near Leicester Square Station. Because of air-raids the attendance at Lodge of Instruction gradually fell off, as wives did not want their husbands to be away from home after dark. The Lodge of Instruction suspended meetings in September 1940, but resumed in March 1942.

On the 18th May 1968 the Lodge celebrated its Centenary with a meeting at Freemasons Hall, Great Queen Street. The Worshipful Master W.Bro CA Hocker presided; there were three Officiating Grand Officers and 108 Brethren, who afterwards dined at the Connaught Rooms. The three Grand Officers were later elected Honorary members of the Lodge. The 125th Anniversary of the founding of the Lodge was marked with a dinner and dance held in Canterbury on 24th April 1993. 
Written by W.Bro. D.Harbud.