Lodge of Fraternity  No: 5916

Lodge of Fraternity  No: 5916

In the beginning

In the Southend of the 1940s, it would usually take an Initiate around 20 years to become Worshipful Master of his mother Lodge. The Lodge of Fraternity was formed to enable its brethren to progress to the Worshipful Chair in a much shorter time.

In their resolve to maintain this goal, the Founders decreed that no Past Master of or in the Lodge should become its Master.

For more than fifty years after its Consecration, the Past Masters of the Lodge resolutely maintained this principle.

However, a new century brings new challenges and a Past Master as WM has occasionally, and only recently, been unavoidable.

The Original Six

The idea of forming a new Lodge was conceived by six brethren who became known as the "Original Six". They were Edgar Whittle, Reggie Brandreth, Ernie Smurthwaite and Reggie Winn, all members of Albert Lucking Lodge No 2717; and Jimmy Bradley and Oliver 'Olly' Jones, both of Prittlewell Lodge No 4896.

In the first week of September 1943, the six arranged to meet WBro Herbert 'Jack' Murrell and WBro Bert Allen (members of both Albert Lucking and and Prittlewell) at the Masonic Club, in the High Street, Southend-on-Sea, to discuss their great idea, and to see if their mother Lodges would sponsor a petition from them for a new Lodge.

Few Lodges were being formed during the war years (in fact, some Lodges never met at all), Bert Allen wrote to Albert Lucking Secretary Arthur Cotgrove who confirmed his Lodge’s support and said he would be prepared to be the new Lodge’s first secretary. Eventually the Provincial Grand Lodge of Essex agreed to meet a deputation in London.

Chairing the meeting was Sir Frederic Senier, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master.

The deputation, however, left the meeting feeling a little

despondent. Sir Frederic had made it quite clear that the Province would not accept a secretary who did not reside in the area.  WBro Douglas Verney, of Priory Lodge No 1000, a friend of Sir Frederic, was approached and agreed to accept the office.

Invitations then went out to other Freemasons whom the six felt would be interested in becoming founders, and eventually a Petition was created and granted.

The First Master

There were several new problems – not the least being that of WBro Charlie Wells who was named in the Petition as the first Master. He had been unwell, but now his illness had become so serious, he had to withdraw, and WBro Albert Stebbing who was to have been acting IPM. agreed to be Master.

WBro Morris Woolf, an old friend of Albert Stebbing, was approached to become the first acting IPM. The progressive offices to be held by the Original Six and other founders were decided by drawing lots.

The new Lodge’s name

As to the name of the new Lodge, this was discussed long and hard. Reggie Winn claimed the suggestion of Lodge of Fraternity was his.

The regular meetings would be on the last Saturday in September (Installation), October, November, January, February and March.

It was stated at the Consecration ceremony that the intention was that no more than one candidate be taken at each degree. This has been largely adhered to.

It was decided that the VSL be opened at Chapter Six of the First Book of Kings at all meetings, as it is there that the building of King Solomon's Temple is described.

When the first set of By-laws were approved in March 1945,

By-law IV stated that the annual subscription be: 4 guineas (£4.20) and for Country Members’ (non-dining), 1 guinea (£1.05).

The Crest

A Lodge Crest was, of course, essential. It was decided it should include a relationship with each of the three degrees by the Square and Compasses, the two Great Pillars and the Square Pavement all being incorporated in the design.

The reasoning was that the Square and Compasses, being the first things a Candidate sees, would depict the Ist Degree; the two Great Pillars, as described in its Tracing Board, would depict the 2nd Degree; and the Square Pavement, described in its respective Tracing Board, would depict the 3rd Degree.

The design consists of a view of the entrance to King Solomon's Temple, showing the two Great Pillars, complete with Chapiters adorned with spherical balls. Resting against the plinths of the pillars are the jewels of the Senior and Junior Warden. The name and number of the Lodge, together with the date of its Consecration, is shown on drapes encircling the Pillars.

In the background is a bank of cloud upon which are interposed the Square and Compasses, which together allude to Masonry universal.

Within the Porchway, on the Square Pavement, are two jambs or posts on which are hung two gates leading to the Inner Temple.

The Crest first appeared on the Summons for the Installation Meeting of 28th September 1946.

Early Days

1944 was a short masonic year for WBro. Albert Stebbing, as there were only two meetings under his Mastership. At the first, on 26th February, he Initiated his son, Bernard (see below).

WBro.Stebbing was strongly urged to occupy the chair during the following year, so as to have a complete year as Master, but true to his belief in the advancement of younger Freemasons, he declined the offer and Installed the SW, Bro Jimmy Bradley, on 30th September 1944.

The first meeting place of the Lodge was the Masonic Hall, in Southend High Street, home to quite a few Lodges. Meetings had to close around 6.30pm to allow time for tables and chairs to be arranged for the weekly whist drive, which started in the hall at 7pm. It was a difficult space to heat.

During the exceptionally bad winter of 1946-47, when power cuts were the 'norm', it was not unusual for brethren to wear overcoats during a meeting.

The Masonic Club was above the hall, with rooms for Lodges of Instruction. There was a billiards room, card room, a large area in front of the bar with armchairs and tables and a huge fireplace where a cosy blaze was kept going in winter, even in the days of fuel rationing.

A permanent staff was led by chief steward Ben.

During the war, the fare at the festive boards was sparse. Founder Bro Len Jaquest, a caterer, helped out on occasions by supplying fish and chips.

The Festive Board was held either at Garons Banqueting Hall (next door to the Masonic Hall) or at Garons Centre House, further down the High Street, between the railway bridge and Pier Hill.

At social functions where meals were to be served, seating

accommodation was limited by government order to 100. This meant that on a Ladies Night, two or more sittings for dinner had to be arranged, with the WM and his lady presiding at each.

Meanwhile, guests not dining were dancing, and even in those days of scarcity, the ladies received their traditional gift.

Festive Boards

It was the custom then for most Lodges to be entertained after the meal at the Festive Board. Songs from local amateurs was the usual form.

This meant late finishing and, coupled with the rising expense of engaging the artistes, the GP Committee decided to abandon the custom after the 1964-65 session.

But entertainment was revived in 1991, when WBro Colin Innes (being Scottish) requested that the January meeting of his year be a Burns Night Candle-lit Supper, complete with haggis and pipe major, and followed by a cabaret by local entertainers The Sophisticats.

This became an annual event and proved so popular with members and their guests that following one year when 160 attended, the cabaret had to be moved from the dining area into the Temple itself to enable everyone to see.

The Banner

The first Banner to depict the Crest of the Lodge Of Fraternity was donated by WBro Dick Clarke at the Installation Meeting of 29th September 1951. It was formally presented by the Provincial Grand Secretary, WBro Simmonds, and Consecrated and Dedicated by Canon Stafford Morris, a Past Provincial Grand Chaplain and an APGM.

The crest was painted onto a canvas background. By 1976, the paintwork had begun to crack and the canvas to split, and before long it had deteriorated beyond repair.

Several manufacturers in the London area were contacted to ascertain the cost of replacing the banner. Quotations ranged from £500 to £600 – equivalent to several thousands today, a sum the Lodge could not afford.

PM WBro Reg Platt learned of WBro Stanley Harris of Nore Lodge, who created embroidered banners as a hobby. WBro Harris implied that it would be two or three years before he would be able to start work, but in fact the Banner was not completed until January 1987.

The then Secretary, Worshipful Brother Bernard Stebbing suggested that as the Lodge’s first Initiate, he would like to donate the cost of the banner in memory of the Founders.

WBro. Bernard Stebbing

First Initiate of the Lodge

26th February 1944

Served the lodge as

Asst Secretary, Chaplain,

ADC, DC and Secretary

PPGSupWks – 1960

PPJGW – 1976

W.Bro Patrick Wilkins

First Initiate to attain Grand Rank

Prov.GrandSteward – 1989

PPSGD – 1992

PGStB –1992

PAGDC – 2003

Prov.JuniorGrandWarden – 2007

1st Prov.GOrator, Essex – 2008

W.Bro Alan Garner

First Initiate to be appointed APGM

Prov.Assistant Grand DC – 1989

Prov.Deputy Grand DC – 1993-95

Assistant Grand DC – 1999

Asst.Prov.Grand Master 2000-05

PSGD – 2001

Award for Distinguished Service to Essex Masonry – 2005

Three Firsts...

The Lodge History