THE FORMATIVE YEARS

 Extracts taken from a paper prepared by W.Bro. Douglas W.Ferguson PPrJGD  (Secretary of Three Counties Lodge 5726 from 2008-2014)

 The Case for a new Masonic Lodge in the Province of Sussex.

With the economic outlook in the Southern Counties in 1937 offering new socially sustainable housing and new work opportunities, East Grinstead was expanding as a vibrant and active commercial centre.

The demand for an expansion of the Masonic fraternity in the northern part of Sussex and into its interface with Surrey and Kent was identified by the Provincial Grand Master of Sussex at that time, R.W.Bro Major R.L.Thornton CBE.DC.PGD. It was soon accepted that the creation of a new Lodge would be needed to gain the attention and interest of local businessmen within this area. This could be ideally located in East Grinstead with its central position and established communication links.

As an area of renewed economic vigour and with a population of some 20,000 people, East Grinstead was well placed to attract new Masons from Tunbridge Wells in the East to Reigate and Horley in the West and Uckfield in the South.

East Grinstead already had an existing Masonic presence in the form of the Sackville Lodge No.1619, which had been warranted in 1876. It was well supported with the benefit of its own temple, built in the summer of 1898. However, it was thought that it would not be able to meet the expected demand for new membership created by the local economic expansion of the mid-1930’s.

 essed the qualities of a true English Gentleman that were respected and valued across the Province.

Received with a great ovation as he rose to reply, Major Thornton, having first thanked the Master for the generosity of his words used in his toast, congratulated him on the position to which he had been called as first Master of the new Lodge. Much discrimination had to be made in the selection of the first ruler of the Lodge. Knowing that it was already the practice adopted by the Master to organise Lectures or Discussions at Lodge meetings he endorsed the practice for it was of considerable help to foster the interest of younger members and prevent them becoming tired of hearing the same ceremonies constantly repeated.

Various other toasts were raised in similar vein stressing the value of Freemasonry and the contributions made by many to ensure its continuity and success in the broader community. The Concluding toast to the Founders and officers was given in a most witty manner by W.Bro H.W.Aldrich PAGDC, an ex-Mayor of Brighton and the Provincial Second Grand Principal in the Royal Arch.

As the first occasion, in what was to become an established practice in the Lodge over the forthcoming years, the reply to the Orations of Principal Grand Brethren was given by a junior member of the Lodge. At that time, the Junior Deacon, Bro E.R.Brown

The name to be given to the Lodge became a matter of importance at the highest level within the Province. Several names were suggested and tried, but rejected, for example ”Brambletye”, ”Whitehall” and “Greenstede”. In the mind of the Provincial Grand Master, this was a unique Lodge location. The coincidental feature of linking Three Counties in a geographical sense gave him the idea to develop this feature to serve a unity of purpose under the banner of Freemasonry.

 

Assisted by the Provincial Grand Secretary the idea was discussed with the Provincial Grand Masters of Surrey and Kent. They were enthusiastically supportive of the idea and concept. As a mark of mutual respect and support, within the spirit of friendly rivalry that had long existed, they endorsed that the Lodge should be known as the “The Three Counties”. They in return demanded participatory roles in the Ceremony of Consecration that was planned to be held in 1938.

 

Once this matter had been resolved the design to be portrayed on the Lodge Jewel was created to illustrate the image of the Three Counties merged as one map and so joined in harmony. This would become a distinctive feature to support the name as such and so to become Lodge 5726. The credit for the design was attributed to the Provincial Grand Master of Surrey R.W.Bro Canon J.C.Morris P.G.Chap. The unified efforts of all three Provincial Grand Masters brought it approval from United Grand Lodge.

The next major obstacle was to obtain a meeting place for the new Lodge that could be relied upon as a venue for the foreseeable future over a number of years. As good fortune would have it one of the Founders W.Bro F.W.Franklin was Manager of the Whitehall Theatre Centre in East Grinstead. In this capacity he was able to call upon the generosity of the Proprietor Bro W.M.Christopher who responded in a courteous manner to offer, at a nominal charge, one of the best rooms, together with a robing room and dining facilities for all Lodge meetings.


The Whitehall was a beautiful Art-Deco Building with the largest ballroom and dining facilities available in the South of England. Regretfully it suffered severe Bomb damage in 1943, due to a German aerial attack, with the death of 108 occupants who had been watching a film in the cinema at the time. After restoration of the building the Lodge returned to use it until 1960 when it was sold. Subsequent meetings were held at Ye Olde Felbridge Hotel with facilities similar to those occupied at the Whitehall, but on a smaller scale.

April 11th 1938.

This Ceremony was attended by some Three-Hundred and Fifty (350) Freemasons of all Ranks and Degrees, of whom some One Hundred and Forty five (145) remained to dine at the Festive Board. These numbers give an indication of the importance given to the Lodge at this time, where top ranking R.W. Provincial Grand Masters and Officers from all three Provinces had participant duties.

 The Provincial Grand Master of Sussex conducted the Ceremony.

The Oration, delivered by the Chaplain (Rev Preb.H Godfrey Bell PAGC PPGC.), carried a relevant message;-

“(Being a Freemason) did much to direct thought to its many implications and a reminder that all assembled should bring for the Consecration a new view within oneself of the Spiritual ideals which were so greatly needed for the uplift of mankind. As to Freemasonry itself, that had so important a contribution to make in their personal attainments, the opinion of the popular world depended mainly on the conduct of its members and by these means could its mission be widened and succeed.”

The Provincial Grand Organist W.Bro H.V.Hollis was in charge of musical arrangements which comprised in this instance of a number of Hymns in which all joined with full voice instead of the customary accompaniment of anthems sung by a quartet of singers.

At the conclusion of the Ceremony the Masters Chair was occupied by The Deputy Provincial Grand Master W.Bro Colonel Godman who directed the Installation of the Master-Designate W.Bro A.”Harry” Edwards PPrDep.G.D.C.

W.Bro Edwards was a well known and most active member of the Province, in which he had achieved a large measure of popularity among the many Lodges and Chapters of which he was a member. The post of Acting I.P.M. saw the appointment of the Provincial Grand Secretary W.Bro Cushman PGD followed by the investiture of the Wardens- designate W.Bro C.J.Armstrong PM and W.Bro J.H.H.Flower PPrAGDC.

The Address to the Master was given by W.Bro Sir George Boughey, Bart. APGM. The Wardens were addressed in an appreciated spirit of fraternal cordiality by the PGM for Surrey, R.W.Bro Canon J.C.Morris. The address to the Brethren was given by the PGM himself who thus brought to a brilliant conclusion his duties that had been finely performed.

The Worshipful Master voiced in grateful terms the appreciation of the Founders to the Provincial Grand Master and to the Consecrating Officers who had each made a notable contribution to a valued Ceremony to create Lodge 5726. Each received a memento donated on behalf of the Founders. The Provincial Grand Master received a Founders Jewel for his collection that would be retained in the Provincial Grand Lodge Museum.

At the completion of the Consecration Ceremony the first meeting of the lodge was held.

 The business was brief, but of importance :-

1) A proposal that Mr Dennis Alan Edwards (Aged 24yrs) the son of the Master, should become the first Initiate at the next meeting. This was duly seconded.

2) That a committee be formed to draft the Lodge by-laws for consideration at the next meeting.

3) Appointment of W.Bro Flower as Charity Steward.

 The next regular meeting would be held on 21st October 1938 at the Whitehall venue.

A large number (145) of those that had attended the ceremony stayed to dine in the same premises after a swift re-arrangement of the room. The Master presided, supported by the Provincial Grand Master and the other consecrating officers. At the close the Master raised the initial toasts that were loyally honoured.

The health of the Grand Officers was proposed by the Assistant Grand Secretary W.Bro Pigott DC. He made special mention of the Representatives of the neighbouring Provinces on the doorstep of which East Grinstead stood. He welcomed this as a sign of the further cementation of the harmonious relations that had so long existed between them.

The Provincial Grand Master for Surrey replied in humorous but none less serious vein. He esteemed it a high privilege to have assisted on such an auspicious occasion, although he could not rule out the sending of raiding parties over their respective borders and the institution of capitulation fees arising in the spirit of the time.

The map that the Lodge had adopted on its badge, that shows in various colours the Three Counties in outline, reminded him of a certain map that had been recently published in the press and he was in fear that peaceful penetration or aggrandisement might be in contemplation.

[the map to which he referred showed the linked borders of Germany, Austria and Sudentenland where occupation by the army of the Hitlers’ Germany had begun in March 1938 as part of the “Anschluss” harmony for German speaking central Europe.]

The Worshipful Master proposed the health of the Provincial Grand Master for the first time in the company of the Grand Master himself. In a very complimentary manner he spoke of Grand Masters’ achievements and leadership of the highest order.  The Grand Master had been a Mason for fifty-two years and at the time of his initiation the Master was but four months old. Above all The Grand Master possessed the qualities of a true English Gentleman that were respected and valued across the Province.

Received with a great ovation as he rose to reply, Major Thornton, having first thanked the Master for the generosity of his words used in his toast, congratulated him on the position to which he had been called as first Master of the new Lodge. Much discrimination had to be made in the selection of the first ruler of the Lodge. Knowing that it was already the practice adopted by the Master to organise Lectures or Discussions at Lodge meetings he endorsed the practice for it was of considerable help to foster the interest of younger members and prevent them becoming tired of hearing the same ceremonies constantly repeated.

Various other toasts were raised in similar vein stressing the value of Freemasonry and the contributions made by many to ensure its continuity and success in the broader community. The Concluding toast to the Founders and officers was given in a most witty manner by W.Bro H.W.Aldrich PAGDC, an ex-Mayor of Brighton and the Provincial Second Grand Principal in the Royal Arch.

As the first occasion, in what was to become an established practice in the Lodge over the forthcoming years, the reply to the Orations of Principal Grand Brethren was given by a junior member of the Lodge. At that time, the Junior Deacon, Bro E.R.Brown.

The new banner was dedicated at an Emergency Meeting held on 30th June 1940 with the W.M. – W.Bro R.H.Smith in the Chair. The Ceremony of Dedication was conducted by the Provincial Grand Master R.W. Major R.L.Thornton. In a short address he explained the Symbolic meaning of the Banner and stressed its importance as a rallying point.

 

“It would remain as a Symbol of Life and Noble endeavour for as long as the Lodge may exist.”

 

So saying, he, with raised hand, gave the blessing of dedication. The banner was duly placed within the Lodge where it remains to this day.

In May 2013, some 75 years after the Consecration Ceremony, the Lodge Secretary received a phone message from Provincial Office that a request had been received from a Mason in the Province of Devon that contact would be appreciated. This was duly made without delay.

The Brother in Devon had been given a Founders Jewel for the Three Counties Lodge that he would like to return to the Lodge for safe keeping. No details about the Jewel were known. After receipt and research into the old records it was believed that the jewel had been given to a Founder Deacon. Further enquiry in Devon confirmed that the Jewel had belonged to the Junior Deacon Bro E.R.Brown. As a Draper, with premises in the High Street, East Grinstead Bro Brown was well placed among fellow Masons to become a Founder of the Three Counties Lodge.

Sadly he passed to the Grand Lodge above in September 1939. This Jewel has been retained in its case and is now framed to be finally returned as a permanent exhibit and placed on show in the Lodge. A picture of the Jewel in its frame has now been included in the “Photos” section of this website.

Thus have the Masons’ compasses drawn the Circle of Continuity to see the return of this jewel at such an appropriate time in the history of the Lodge.

Our sincere and fraternal thanks have been passed to W.Bro David Leggott PPrGSwdB, a member of the Torbay Masters Lodge No.8227 in Paignton Devon, who returned this jewel to its birthplace.