No. 1887
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The first 100 years from 1881 to 1981

The record of one hundred years of Freemasonry in Wallingford to commemorate the Centenary of St. Hilda Lodge may, I hope, be of interest to its members and perhaps to others who know this old town.

As might be expected the early years of a lodge have perhaps more interest than the latter years but nevertheless I have attempted to incorporate details which are worthy of record and if I have omitted items which should have been included or there are errors then I tender my apologies as the responsibility for this history much of which has been obtained from the minute books all of which still exist is entirely mine.

I have been unable to discover why St. Hilda was selected as the name of the Lodge. It seems to have been chosen by W.Bro. Major J.G. Shanks who was the first Master and it is possible that he had connections with the North of England although at the time of the consecration of the Lodge he was living at Benson.

In the old Bylaws of the Lodge an account is given of St. Hilda who at one time was the Abbess of Hartlepool and who later established a Monastery at Whitby. The Monastery under her rule contained a house for Monks as well as Nuns and she appears to have inspired so true a love of sacred literature and so careful a study of the scriptures that this monastery ruled by a woman became a school of missionaries. Caedmon the Father of English poetry was reared under her care and among them was Hedda who became Bishop of Dorchester and was later translated to Winchester as 5th Bishop of the West Saxons in AD 674. St. Hilda we are told was a great Patroness of Freemasons of her day and employed a large number of them in building Churches and Monasteries. The 17th of November is the date on which she is commemorated.

St. Hilda Lodge was constituted and consecrated on the 14th February 1881 and formed a Lodge of what was then the United Province of Berks and Bucks, the prime mover being Major Shanks who was then a Past master of The Lodge of Sincerity at Plymouth and a P.P.G.W. of the Province of Devon. The other 10 Founders whose names appear later were with one exception all local men and it is of interest that no less than four of them were Surgeons.

The ceremony of the consecration was preceded by an assemb'1y of the Brethren at Wallingford Town Hall where a procession was formed and ,the Brethren proceeded to St. Mary's Church when a choral service took place after which the ceremony of consecration was performed at the George Hotel by V.W.Bro. the Reverend J. Studholme Browning Dep. Prov. Grand Master for Berks and Bucks, assisted by the Provincial Grand Secretary.

The first Candidates were William Frampton and Thomas Squance, the latter as a Serving Brother and attached to the minutes is the dispensation for his initiation from R. W.D. Gooch the then Provincial Grand Master of Berks and Bucks. Bro. Frampton was initiated a week after the consecration of the Lodge and was still alive when the Jubi1ee was celebrated although for many years prior to that date he had severed his connections with the Lodge.

Sadly in those days summonses were not attached to the minutes nor did they state where the meetings were held although the original by-laws stated that they were to be held monthly at no fixed date but on or before the full moon at 7 p.m. or at such time as the W.M. might appoint. It seems that meetings were held at the George Hotel but the members dined at the Lamb. The earliest summons I have been able to find is for the Installation Meeting in 1887 where the cost of the Festival Banquet including wines was 12/6d.

Promotion must have been rapid in those days as the year following his initiation Bro. Frampton was appointed Director of Ceremonies and three years later was Worshipful Master.

As early as 1882 The Lodge was actively engaged in the Cause of Masonic Charity and attached to the minutes is a letter containing grateful thanks for securing the election of a child to the Girls School.

In 1883 a Lodge of Instruction was formed and reports of its progress and activities were regularly rendered to The Lodge.

Much was done in the early years to endeavor to obtain a Masonic Hall and in 1883 a Building Committee was set up with a view to buying a chapel in the Market Place. This was later disbanded and various sites including one in Wood Street were considered and the members were asked to subscribe amounts to the value of £450 to build a Lodge Room, but it seems that subsequently caution gained the day and meetings continued at The George Hotel.

It was not until 1884 when a little refreshment was suggested after meetings in the form of a supper and I quote 'so as to stimulate a little more harmony amongst the Brethren'. One wonders what lay behind this apparently naive suggestion.

By 1886 Major Shanks had left the district taking with him the Lodge's first Bible. From the minutes it was apparent that many attempts were made to get it back without success and so anxious did the members become they referred the matter to Grand Lodge but the Grand Secretary decided not to intervene and eventually Bro. Frampton replaced it.

In the meantime efforts continued to find a home and from 1887 until 1891 the Lodge used a room in The Old Temperance Hall in St. Mary's Street a building which for many years past has been a shop. After 1891 there was a further move to the Lamb Hotel after provision of a room set aside for the purpose of Lodge Meetings.

In 1897 there appears the first record of a Masonic Ball and dispensation was obtained to enable the Brethren to appear in Masonic Clothing, the prime mover being W. Bro. J.J. Gale who seemingly ran it as an annual event for many years.

It was not until 1906 that the lodge first started an organised method of raising money for the Masonic Charities and this was established by forming syndicates where each member subscribed his quota to a common pool of his syndicate and thus obtaining in due course a life vote for the Charity at which he elected to be represented on being drawn for that purpose.

In those early years Provincial Grand Lodge was twice held in Wallingford in 1894 and 1909, once at the Corn Exchange and once in the Bullcroft when heavy rain made it almost impossible to get to the temporary Lodge Room.

Very little of interest seems to have taken place until 1923, when a further step in Freemasonry was taken by the Lodge, in that W. Bro. E.O. Payne proposed that the Lodge recommended the formation of a Royal Arch Chapter, which was subsequently formed under the guidance of such eminent Masons as the late Canon F. Gillmor and W. Chambers Leete.

In the following year the first really serious attempt to obtain permanent Lodge accommodation was undertaken and efforts were made to secure a building in Wood Street which had been purchased by the late W. Bro. F.A. Wilder. Plans were prepared and estimates were obtained, but the cost proved to be prohibitive. It may be of interest that this property was short1y afterwards acquired by the Comrades Club of which many of the Brethren are members.

Then, in 1929 the Lodge members finally took their courage in their hands and bought property of which our present Hall forms part and with the assistance of the late Bro. T. T. Cumming who was a member of the Lodge produced the present Masonic Hall of which we are all justifiably proud.

The Hall was finally opened on the 13th Apri11931 to commemorate the Jubilee of The Lodge. The opening was officially declared by H.R.H. The Duke of Connaught the then Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire and at which over 100 members and visitors were present including the late R.W. Bro. Charles Nicholl, at that time Grand Director of Ceremonies and late to become Provincial Grand Master of The Province. It is worthy of note that two of our present members, namely W. Bro. C. W. Tayler and W. Bro. A.G. Walter were members at that time. Dinner on that occasion was at The Beau Regard Hotel but soon afterwards dining regularly took place at The Masonic Hall.

In 1933 W.Bro. W. G .Curtis was made an Honorary Member of The Lodge. No reason is given but so far as can be ascertained he was the first member of The Lodge to be accorded that honour and probably to commemorate his having been a member of the Lodge for 50 years.

Later that year Bro. Cumming was presented with three tankards in appreciation of his services in the building of the Hall. At one time these were used by The Masters and Wardens at The Festive Board and at the wish of Bro. Cumming an annual golf match known as 'The Cumming Cup' was held when the winner had his name engraved on the one used by The Master.

In 1933, the Lodge subscribed to a Berkshire Ward at The Royal Masonic Hospital the total cost of which was £3,000 and in 1936 the Lodge made a further donation to the rebuilding of the Masonic Temple at Quetta, which had been destroyed by an earthquake.

In 1937, W. Bro. C. W. Tayler now the Senior Member of the Lodge was installed as Worshipful Master and two years later he presented to The Lodge a pair of Deacons Wands.

In 1938, W. Bro. P.C.A. Slade the then Secretary of the Lodge was honoured by being made a Grand Officer following the footsteps of his Father the late W .Bro. G :F. Slade who except for a period of 3 years when he acted once as Warden and twice as Master had been Secretary of the Lodge from 1886 to 1927.

In 1939 with the outbreak of the second World War the Hall was soon requisitioned and throughout the war years The Lodge returned to its old home of The Lamb, there to remain until it could move back in 1946. In that same year, the late Rt. W. Bro. R.H. Ingham Clark became a joining member of the Lodge and remained a subscribing member, despite his appointment as Provincial Grand Master, until his death.

In 1944, the late W. Bro. P.C.A. Slade retired from the office of Secretary he and his father having together held the office for some sixty years and a presentation was made to mark the occasion. He was succeeded by W. Bro. C. Atwell who held the office until 1961, when he was succeeded by the present Secretary W. Bro. P.R. Slade thus the office has been in the family for nearly 80 years out of the 100.

In 1948 the Lodge sponsored its first Daughter Lodge namely Portcullis Lodge of which W. Bro. P.C.A. Slade was its first Master.

In the same year, Bro. H. Jakeman became The Tyler of the Lodge a position, which he held until his retirement in 1976. During that time two presentations were made, one from the Lodge to mark his 25th anniversary and the other on his retirement from the Lodge and many other Lodges and Chapters where he had served with loyalty and distinction.

In 1951, the late W. Bro. F.A. Wilder received Grand Rank. In 1956, W. Bro. P.C.A. Slade celebrated his jubilee as a member of the Lodge and to mark the occasion the members presented the clock, which is in The Temple.

In 1957, the late W. Bro. C. Atwell received Grand Rank. In 1961, Rt. W. Bro. E.W.C. Flavell D.S.O. was made an Honorary Member of the Lodge.

In 1963 contact was made with the Wallingford Lodge in Victoria Australia and to mark the occasion the Wallingford Lodge made a Gift of 3 gavels and Saint Hilda made a gift of a framed early Master Mason's Apron.

In 1964 the Lodge became a Patron of the Royal Masonic Hospital in 1965, under the guidance of the late Rt. Wor. Bro. R.H. Ingham C1ark and with the help of the members of the Lodge and Portcullis Lodge and their ladies a Bazaar was held in aid of The Masonic Building Fund and nearly £600 was raised.

In 1967, the late W. Bro. F.A. Wilder celebrated his 50 years as a member and to mark the occasion his photograph was hung in The Temple.

In 1967 The Lodge sponsored its second Daughter Lodge namely Ingham Clark Lodge No 8164 and W. Bro. R.A. Ingham Clark the son of the then Provincial Grand Master in whose honour the Lodge was named was appointed its first Master.

In 1971, V.W.Bro. J.E. Bignal, Dep. Prov. Grand Master, was made an Honorary member of the Lodge.

In 1972 W. Bro. C. Atwell celebrated his 50th Anniversary as a member and in recognition of this and his past services to the Lodge was made an Honorary Member.

1976 was the year of Administrative Change. From the time that The Hall was first opened the running of it had been the responsibility of St. Hilda Lodge and a number of its members did much to contribute to its smooth running including in those later years W. Bros. A.K. Purton and G.W. Summers. With the advent of other Lodges using the Hall and contributing towards the running of it, it was felt that the time had come for the responsibility to be shared. This change has been amply justified as is evidenced by the improvements made and thanks must be given to the hard work put in by the Committee Members of the Wallingford Centre Club.

In the same year, W.Bro. O.C. Wilkinson the present Provincial Grand Mark Master for Berks and Oxon received Grand Rank. in 1977 on the occasion of his appointment as Assistant Provincial Grand Master of The Province W. Bro. J.H.W. Wilder O.B.E. a son of the late W. Bro. R.J. Wilder who was a Past master of the Lodge was made an Honorary Member and in 1979 W.Bro. H.J.W. Fielding Assistant Provincial Grand Master and W.Bro. E.J.W. Brainoh T.D. The Provincial Grand Secretary were made Honorary Members.

The last matter worthy of record was also in 1979 when a presentation was made to W.Bro. A..G. Walter on the occasion of his 50 year membership of the Lodge. He and W.Bro. C. W. Tayler our other 50 year member still attend Lodge meetings when circumstances permit and may we still have the pleasure of their company in years to come.

What the future holds for all of us is unknown. May Brotherly love relief and truth continue and may The Lodge continue to prosper and flourish and that those that follow us will say 'They built well'.

P.R. Slade
P.P.G.W. Secretary