Salopian Lodge of Charity was formed on 22nd March, 1810 with the Lodge number 153, its warrant signed by the Grand Lodge of the Antients under its Grand Master the 4th Duke of Atholl. Only the Antient Grand Lodge issued Military Warrants, and only with a warrant could the Lodge initiate new Brethren. The new Lodge 153 was to meet at Gosport - or elsewhere, being attached to the Shropshire Militia - twice in each month. Its first Worshipful Master was James Mansfield (pictured left) with John Merrington and John Cheese as his Wardens. The number 153 appears on a warrant granted to members of the 13th Light Infantry in 1768 while at Gibraltar, their Lodge being traceable back to the 1680s, but defunct Lodge numbers were often reissued, and there is no proven historical link between the 1810 Lodge and its predecessor.
The first Lodge meeting took place at the Blue Posts, Gosport, when the Worshipful Master of Spring Clock Lodge 79 of Gosport, assisted by the WM and Brethren of Twelve Brothers Lodge 138 of Portsea, installed James Mansfield as the first WM of Salopian Lodge of Charity. The jewel he wore that day has been regularly worn by every Master since, and is illustrated in the portrait of Mansfield (donated in 1839 and pictured above) that now hangs in the Lodge room.
While the link with the other Atholl Lodges is retained to this day, "153" was to see much upheaval in its early days. The war with France, which continued until 1815, saw militias stationed in many different locations; only a few months elapsed before the Shropshires were ordered to Plymouth. in 1813 the United Grand Lodge of England saw the Antients and Moderns reconciled and combined, with consequent renumbering of many Lodges. "153" became "186" under the new United Grand Lodge. In 1815, the war over, the Militia - and the Lodge - returned to Shropshire, and a brief meeting was held in the Cock Inn, Shrewsbury on March 8th.
The two Shrewsbury Lodges at that time - Salopian Lodge 262 having been warranted in 1788 - were the prime movers in the formation of a Provincial Grand Lodge in 1852, when Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, Bart became the first Provincial Grand Master. There had indeed been an attempt to combine the two Lodges in the previous year, but this amalgamation proved short-lived and unworkable - in 1852 Grand Lodge declared it illegal. Just to show how little changes over time, in the same year "153" gave one guinea in relief to those who had suffered in consequence of the floods that afflicted Shrewsbury.
1863 saw further renumbering, and Salopian Lodge of Charity became - and remains - "117". The Lodge moved around the town's hotels before settling in the Music Hall. In 1980 it moved again, this time to the newly converted St Michael's Church in Crewe Street, which after its decommissioning became the town's Masonic Hall. In 1960 the 150th anniversary was celebrated with the late Clifford Morris in the Chair - this centenarian saw in the year 2000 and was pictured in the Lodge's Millennium photograph. The Lodge now awaits its bicentenary in 2010.
Then up, lads, up! Let a toast tonight be given! Here's to those of old, the true and the bold! and God speed to old 117!