23rd March 1908-
16th May 2006
There are two histories of St.Elphin Lodge. The first was compiled to be read at the initial meeting of the amalgamated lodge-
The second was compiled for a presentation at a Commemoration Dinner held to remember St.Elphin Lodge No.3287 in its Centenary Year held on Tuesday 11th March 2008, an evening designated as the “nearly 100 meeting”.
Both are very similar but as the second was presented to a wider audience it needed some additions. It is this history which appears below and was presented on the day by W.Bro.John McIntyre, so appears in spoken format and is punctuated by other brethren contributing and various toasts.
“There are jokes concerning how many people it takes to change a light bulb. I am sure you have heard many of them the one about how many Freemasons it takes to change a light bulb is answered in total disbelief “Freemasons CHANGE??” Implying that little ever changes in Freemasonry.
Well that is not always the case and at the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th there was a great deal of change in Warrington Freemasonry and in somewhat of an irony, there has been a similar considerable change at the beginning of the 21st Century although for very different reasons.
This is the story of one lodge during that period and the changes which affected it.
The St.Elphin Lodge No.3287 came into existence on January 16th 1908 (W.Bro.Charles Holland in the Chair) and nine Hundred and twenty four meetings later, held it’s last meeting on 16th May 2006 (W.Bro.P.Jepson P.Pr.S.G.D. in the Chair) prior to the amalgamation which was signed and sealed on June 14th 2006. 418 Brethren had been entered in the Lodge record book.
Prior to 1908 the lodges in Warrington were:-
Lodge of Lights No.148 has been in Warrington since 1765.
Gilbert Greenall Lodge No.1250 was founded in 1869.
Lodge of Charity No.2651 in 1897
and Friendship Lodge No.2963 in 1903.
These lodges met at various places in Warrington, usually of course in what we would know today as a pub. Many of the pubs at this time had Assembly rooms or even Masonic Rooms.
Gilbert Greenall Lodge was consecrated on 12th April 1869 meeting at the Nag’s Head in Sankey St. and by 1907 had initiated/joined 266 members. Even if half of these members were dead or resigned by this date, Gilbert Greenall lodge was a very large lodge and a group of members decided it was time to start a new one and so:
On 15th November 1907 at a meeting of Gilbert Greenall Lodge No.1250 a petition was signed to form a new lodge. After almost a year of planning The St.Elphin Lodge No.3287 came into existence on 16th January 1908 and was consecrated on 23rd March 1908 at the Lion Hotel Warrington. It is that consecration we celebrate tonight.
Twenty members of Gilbert Greenall Lodge were the founders. I think it is pertinent tonight to remember who they were and I would ask those of you to read their names and a little about them:-
Founders of St.Elphin Lodge.
Arthur Flaxman Godfrey Potter of Wilson Patten St., A Cashier, Initiated 14th May 1878
Charles Holland of Arpley St., A Commercial Traveller, Initiated 12th April 1881
Thomas Hill of Winwick Road, A Pork Butcher, Initiated 9th November 1886
William Hodgkinson of Bridge St., A Draper, Initiated 11th April 1893
Charles Greive McDowell of Barbauld St., A Coach Builder, Initiated 9th January 1894
James Waldron of Arpley St.,A Company Secretary, initiated 9th January 1894
William Price of Paddington, An Excise Officer, initiated 12 May 1896
William Houghton Owen of Sankey St., A Grocer, Initiated 9th November 1897
John William Bowen of Market St., Licensed Victualler (VineTavern)
Thomas Stringer of Wlderspool Road, A Contractor, Initiated 14th October 1902
James Henry Heywood of Wilderspool Crossings, A Wheelwright, Initiated 13th January 1903
James Thomas Barton of Lovely Lane, An Insurance agent, Initiated 4th July 1903
John Finlayson of Horsemarket St., .A Jeweller., Initiated 14th July 1907
Thomas Samuel Steel of King St. A Solicitor in Mill St.Chambers, Initiated 8th September 1903
James Parkinson of Appleton, A Gardener, Initiated 8th March 1904
Issac Broady of Appleton. A Post Office Clerk. Initiated 12th July 1904
Franklin Garside of King’s St., A Master Printer, initiated 11th October 1904
Thomas Emmanuel Sangster of Bridge Street. A Licensed Victualler. Initiated 23rd January 1906
George Newburn of St.Mary Street. A Schoolmaster. Initiated 13th February 1906
William Barton of Knutsford Rd., Grappenhall.An Accounts Clerk. Initiated 13th December 1906
Founders are essential for change in Masonry so I think we should take our second toast of the evening here:
W.M. Ladies & Brethren. It would be nonsense to toast the Health of The founders of St.Elphin Lodge; however, I give you the Toast of gratitude to All Founders of Lodges throughout the years.
Before we leave them, one or two observations about these worthy Masons:-
How locally they lived. Many within the town, very different from today.
The varied occupation of the Brethren does explode the myth that Freemasons were of only one class. Wheelwright, Grocer, Solicitor, Printer, Post Office employees and Landlords (Mind you the Gardener mentioned was the Head Gardener at Appleton Hall Gardens). The oldest was Charles Holland at 62 and the youngest George Newburn at 27 and the average age was 40, once again exploding the myth that Freemasonry is for old men.
William Hodgkinson went on to be a founder of St.Oswald Lodge in 1930. Alexander Finlayson, son of John (above) will also be a founding member of St.Oswald Lodge.
Only five of the Founders were Past Master’s of Gilbert Greenall Lodge although most went on to be Master following the formation of St.Elphin Lodge.
Their names appeared on every summons between 1908 and 2006, written on the pillars.
The Consecration ceremony took place at the Assembly Rooms at The Lion Hotel and was followed by the First installation at which W.Bro. Charles Holland, (PM of Gilbert Greenall Lodge 1893) was installed as the first master of the newly formed Lodge. Among the officers appointed that day is W.Bro.Thomas Samuel Steel, a local Solicitor, who will serve as Secretary of the Lodge between 1908 and 1913. It so happens that I have his Founders medal here this evening. It was returned to the lodge in October 2005.
The Minutes of the Lodge meeting held on 18th October 2005 record a visit to the lodge by W.Bro.David Casdagli a Past Master of the Earl of Chester Lodge No.1565. He was representing Thomas’ Granddaughter who wished to return his founders jewel. She wrote in a letter to me as the then Secretary “I wish it to return to its rightful home”. Thomas’ Granddaughter is Dame Heather Steel, currently a high court judge.
Following what would have been a very long ceremony a banquet was held.
I cannot resist detailing this in wonder and awe that anyone could do justice to it:-
Fish: Turbot with Lobster sauce/ curried prawns
Joint: Sirloin of Beef,
Remove: Roast Turkey & sausage,
Sweets St.Elphin Pudding/ jellies & creams followed by Desserts
We did consider having the same meal this evening but …..
The total cost of this feast for the 78 Brethren who attended was £23.0.06. If everyone paid, I calculate that this cost 5s 10d each. If the average weekly wage was somewhere around £2.0.0d, (40 s), this was not cheap!
So that was it, a lodge of twenty members only, well not actually twenty, – only nineteen, as Bro.William Price resigned on the day of the Consecration meeting. He was subsequently Master of Gilbert Greenall Lodge in 1911, so there may have been a conflict of timing. His name appears on the summons.
The Brethren of St.Elphin Lodge were on their own and had to build a lodge from their founders.
Well they succeeded, as shown by these books, (the Books of Declaration) which each Bro. on joining the lodge signed. One page = One member and each of these books contains 93 entrants into the lodge.
The first was full by 1920.
The second by 1934 and so on…
To put this into the context of modern times, the latest Book of Declarations was begun in 1967 and is still only two thirds full in 2006.
Obviously as members came into the lodge, others resigned or died. My calculations show that by 1920, the lodge numbered some 85 members rising to 124 during the 1920’s, continuing over 100 during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Lodge meetings were well attended and at anytime there may be sixty or seventy Brethren attending a lodge meeting (half of them were Bros.) and quite often double that number at an Installation meeting in March.
To get the number of members into the lodge we are talking about in the first few years of St.Elphin lodge required certain procedures:
A diversion: –
When a member joins he goes through three ceremonies (we call them the 1st, (Apprentice) 2nd, (Fellowcraft) 3rd, degrees, (Master Mason.) Many Masonic expressions have entered normal language and the third degree is one of them. I am sure you have heard of the common expression of giving someone the third degree. The usual practice is that one ceremony is performed at a lodge meeting. Tonight we have performed a second degree ceremony. If each candidate requires three meetings to qualify as a Master Mason, then it is going to take a long time for those who joined in the early years of the lodge to become “fully” qualified as a Master Mason.
The way in which they managed to grow so quickly was:-
It was common to ballot for and initiate on the same night.
The lodge met every month of the year from 1908 until 1923 when the summer recess was introduced, by which time the lodge had met on 185 occasions, including five emergency meetings.
Multiple ceremonies were the norm for example: –
I have a summons here, and this is just one of many throughout the first four or five years of the lodge 21st July 1908: –
(And the start time was 7.00pm).
We may well envy the situation that the Lodge was in at this time. A plentiful supply of members who wished to join. However, the riches of so many entrants did have some disadvantages. We all enjoy the ceremonies of Initiation, Passing and Raising and they are normally performed to an individual. I am not so sure the same effect would have been so if you were one of three others.
Also, once the Brethren had gone through the third degree, there was then a long wait to get anywhere near what we call the ladder, the offices in the lodge which lead to the Master’s Chair and as for the Chair, those raised in 1908 were installed in the early 1920’s. It is noticeable that there were many Brethren who did not advance from that of Master mason. This persisted into later times and there will be some Brethren here this evening who will have waited many years to become Worshipful Master, but to put this into context of today;
I joined St.Elphin Lodge in 1985 and was Master in 1991.
Such was the success of St.Elphin Lodge that after only 22 years, which must be a relatively short time in the life of any lodge, St, Elphin gave rise to St.Oswald Lodge in 1930. Seventeen members from St.Elphin Lodge were founders of St.Oswald lodge and many were early Masters of it.
Such was the success of Masonry during this time that along with St.Oswald, three other lodges Rectitude, Travellers and Ashmole were formed between 1912 and 1930. The next surge in lodge formation in Warrington was to be in the forties when the third lodge of this amalgamation, Red Rose was formed in 1944 (along with Warrington Temple, Winmarleigh).
In such a long History, I cannot possibly recount a year-
It appears that they had a type of Standing order for subscriptions at this time. (Half in March, half in September). This connects with another discovery. It was a tradition to have in September a Half yearly dinner. Not forgetting that they met all the Year around and the St.Elphin Year began in March each year when the Installation of the New Worshipful Master took place. The cost of the half yearly dinner was Members free, Visitors 4/-
I have mentioned earlier that the Lodges met in pubs within Warrington. St.Elphin Lodge moved into this building we are in now in March 1938. The building was not constructed without controversy and obviously took some effort to complete. A letter from the Building of Masonic Hall Committee in April 1928 states that there has been no consensus and the Committee will be disbanded, fortunately for us, it was reconvened and the building eventually was completed in 1933.
Here are a few more anecdotes about events and the people in the lodge:-
Uncollected Grand Lodge Certificates:
I have mentioned the multiple ceremonies and the explosion of members but it did not work for everyone. Spare a thought for Brother Edward James Pinkham, whose Grand Lodge certificate is still awaiting collection. He had difficulty in getting into the lodge and did not much like what he saw when he arrived. He was initiated on 16th November 1926, Passed in February of 1927 and raised 20th September 1927. He resigned on 15th November 1927. Seems a lot of trouble to go through for such a short time in the lodge.
Another uncollected Grand Lodge Certificate is for a Robert Ditchfield Smith. The certificate is from the Straits of Magellan Lodge No.68 under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Chile. Unfortunately although the Certificate made it safely from Chile, it failed to get to Bro. Robert and there is no record of his ever joining St.Elphin Lodge.
Installations: The Installation of St.Elphin Lodge was held on the third Tuesday in March i.e. (15th –
In early days the Installation was run like a military operation with detailed instructions sent out in March. In today’s world where we have instant communications with mobile phones and e-
Well this example explodes that myth:-
The summons for 1933 –
Date of initial communication: 10th March 1933. (10 days before), replies by Thursday 16th inst.(only 5 days later).
Try working to that time scale with our modern postal arrangements.
Visitors 10/6: If a visitor was unable to attend and notified the Secretary by Saturday 18th March the price of the ticket will be refunded in full.
The postal service must have been pretty good to get these letters going back and forth over such a short period of time.
The seating plan was a printed document and Brethren were seated by numbers 1-
Ladies Evenings: –
The Social Committee desire to intimate that the annual Ladies Evening has been arranged to take place at the Lion Hotel, Bridge St. Warrington on Thursday January 12th 1933. Thursday?
The committee hope that you and your wife or lady friend will be present.
Ladies Evenings are very special occasions for every lodge and so it was in St.Elphin Lodge. We were fortunate to eventually settle on the fourth Saturday in October which was the day the clocks go back one hour, so we could celebrate and still be home relatively early, certainly compared with the above 2.00 am!) It is no coincidence, ladies that previous to this evening’s you were offered Bingo. This was another St.Elphin tradition, following the banquet it occupied the ladies & Brethren between the clearing and set for dancing. Only the ladies were allowed to win.
The death of a Brother: –
I beg to inform you that the grave will on Monday next receive into its cold bosom the mortal remains of Brother Abraham Evans. Should your public and private avocations permit it you are earnestly invited to pay a last tribute of respect to departed worth.
In the early days of the lodge it was normal practice to hold a Masonic meeting, and then go to the funeral en masse.
The death of Kings: –
The lodge continued to enjoy its popularity during the forties and fifties, although there were fewer being initiated and single ceremonies were more the norm. 43 Brethren were initiated or joined during the forties and 31 in the fifties. The fewer numbers may have something to do with the war!
Let me now turn your attention to actual people who have been in the lodge over the years. Let’s name names:-
I mentioned the varied occupations of the Founding members from Gilbert Greenall Lodge. This has also been true of St.Elphin. Every occupation has been represented, not that it matters what you do in Masonry. There have been many from Crosfields, The Post office is well represented as is the License trade.
Stanley Elkington Wright was born in 1895. He was initiated in December 1934 at the age of 39. He was Master in 1956, and reached the high office in Provincial Grand lodge of P.Pr.G.W. He was Treasurer of the lodge and continued to attend throughout the decades, reaching 100 in 1995. He died on 27th November of that year. He made a speciality of giving the Address to the Wardens at the Installation meeting each year. The latest date he did so was at the Installation Meeting in 1987 when he was 92 years of age.
Another Character is Bro.Fred Cook who joined the lodge in 1929 age 38. “A mild mannered man who wore a Bowler hat to lodge”. He had a tendency at the Christmas meetings in 70’s at the age of 72; he would stand on a table and sing Molly Malone.
D.C’s are notorious in any lodge. John (Jack) Johnson, initiated in 1942, Master in 1960 (still waiting 18 years to progress to the Chair), he was D.C from 17th March 1964 until 18th March 1980 and to all reports was something of a Sgt. Major, in somewhat contrast to his wife Molly whom I am glad to say celebrated her 93rd birthday on 9th March this year. (At the time of writing in 2011 now 96). She was invited to this evening but declined. She sends you all her best wishes for this evening, and incidentally, she replied to my invitation by e-
There have been many distinguished D.C’s throughout the years of St.Elphin Lodge who have taught, inspired, shouted, and mentored us over the years adding to the tradition that St.Elphin ritual was of high quality. That was further proved this evening.
In 1957 on 17th September, Fenton Walton was initiated into St.Elphin Lodge followed in 1962 on 20th November by his son John Fenton Walton. A father and son in the same lodge is something to be proud of. In 1980 on 20th May John’s son, Mark Colin Walton was initiated. Three generations of the same family in the lodge. Unfortunately they did not sit together in lodge as Fenton died in 1975. In the same year John served as Master. Mark followed his father in 1988. John was Assistant Secretary and organist of the lodge between 1985-
The changing work patterns during the 90’s and 00’s have taken their toll on lodge attendance and membership, and still do today. There were a number of young Brethren who never made the chair at this time due to work pressures, Bro.Stephen Lowe, Bro.John Newham, Bro.Stephen Lawless, Bro.Alan Gerrard, All would have made excellent Masters and their loss had a considerable effect on the lodge.
Bro. Frank Beswick our second longest serving Brother, was our oldest member. His initiation, passing and raising are interesting in that they had to coincide with his periods of leave. Frank was a dredging Master and was towed to work; only work might be 100 or 1000 miles away. He managed to get home during 1973 in April (1st) December (2nd degree) and then in April 74 to complete his 3rd degree. I must add that after his retirement, he rarely missed a lodge meeting. 36 years a member and he never sought or wished for anything from masonry other than companionship.
Not all Masons wish to be Master of the lodge but can still derive enjoyment from their membership and are highly respected members of the lodge: Two such, still in the lodge today are Bros.Peter Milner, Michael Reilly. Sadly Frank Beswick died on 19th March 2007, but Moira, his much loved wife is with us tonight.
In 1972 William Leonard Shipsides was initiated into the lodge and was Master in 1981. Apparently he was the fastest ritualist ever and has the record of a third degree in 20 minutes!! It appears from the previous records that the December meeting had always enjoyed a special Social board involving plenty of beer and whisky. It was Bill who formalised this evening and as far as I can determine in December 1981 the first Half night was held when the short lodge meeting, was followed by a dinner with the ladies, with entertainment, however, the defining characteristic of a Bill Shipsides half night was the quantity and range of drinks on the table. I am informed by Dorothy his wife that he travelled far and wide to obtain an extensive variety of beers and the tables positively groaned with the results. The idea has remained even into the Lodge of Concord and was copied by most other lodges within the group and of course today, half nights are common place, but as far as we are concerned it was a St.Elphin Lodge invention.
Two other Brethren who were initiated within one month of each other in September and October of 1974 and also have the distinction of thirty + years in the lodge.
W.Bro.David Brookes and W.Bro.Derek Arstall have five Masterships between them and also have held all the major offices of the Lodge. (Secretary, D.C., Almoner, [Derek broke the mould of D.C’s. He was a nice one, lots of carrot and no stick!]. They have both been key members of the lodge having served throughout their thirty years with distinction and merit and were between them the major reason St.Elphin lodge lasted as long as it did. Their efforts have been recognised by their high office in Province. David is P.Pr.D.G.Supt.of Wks and Derek P.Pr.J.G.W.
In 1980, Don Heywood was initiated into St.Elphin Lodge and progressed to the Chair in 1987; notice the rapid rise from initiate to Master. After only three years after the Chair, he was elected Treasurer in 1990 and remained in that post until the Lodge closed in 2006. This is indeed service. His care of the finances in a time when membership was falling rapidly was nothing more than a miracle and come the amalgamation, St.Elphin could contribute well to the combined funds of the new lodge. We are delighted that he is with us this evening and richly deserves his high rank as P.Pr.G.Supt.of Wks.
Don was followed into the lodge by one James Leslie Savage in November 1981 and then me in 1985. He and I organised some good social functions between us!! but some things don’t always work out as you wish. My greatest regret is that Bro.Les did not follow me through the chair as we planned.
I have talked about the rise and continued success of St.Elphin lodge but now as part of its history I must address its decline. Let’s be honest, if things had worked out differently for us, I would be giving this presentation as part of the Centenary celebration
During the period from 1970 to 2005, 66 Brethren joined or were initiated into the lodge. In the same period 53 died, resigned or were excluded. These figures are a bit sparse but it means that effectively for the last thirty five years of our lodge the membership has increased by only 13 Brethren, a far cry from the previous days of waiting 15-
To maintain the lodge for so long with so few has been a remarkable achievement by those members of the lodge, I have already mentioned, who worked hard to ensure yearly succession and to bring those initiates we did have through to the chair in their own time.
However, there are other Brethren who without doubt extended the life of St.Elphin Lodge. Harry Jackson initiated in 1983. (Good singer, many of you will have seen him on the stage at Crosfields) And became Master in 1989. Harry introduced W.Bro.Stan Bennett a Past Master of Warrington Lodge, into the lodge as a joining member in September 1981.
I was proud to install Stan as Master of the lodge in 1993 and he encouraged a number of Past Master’s from other lodge within the group to join St.Elphin. W.Bros. Bryan Martin, Wayne Robinson, Peter Jepson, Peter Burton, Paul Maskall, and Ken Garner, were very much our saviours. Their contribution was invaluable and there is no doubt that their considerable help in taking important offices and in particular the Chair of the Lodge further extended the life of St.Elphin.
I started with the idea that contrary to common belief, Free Masonry does change and adapt to current circumstances. In the days of steadily increasing membership, brethren made decisions which addressed the situation as it was at the time and created new lodges. The History of St.Oswald lodge states that meetings of St.Elphin Lodge in the late twenties were so well attended that it was being “like sardines in a tin”. In the early years of the 21st Century, the reverse was true and the lodge existed for a number of years, on 19/20 subscribing members, (the same number as when we started in 1908) and three Honorary members, but it did have the distinction that 90% of those members attended meetings regularly. Unfortunately as was the case in all lodges we did not have the numbers wishing to join, so it was time to once again adapt to the changing circumstances.
In May 2005: W.Bro.James Walker P.Pr.J.G.W. the amalgamating Secretary stated “Let’s face it; history can only be made by doing something new”, and following the courageous lead taken by members of Gilbert Greenall Lodge who first aired the idea of amalgamation, St.Elphin were keen to be involved in creating something new. In a time of growing membership, new lodges were formed. In a time of fewer members and no prospect of new members, it was sensible to coalesce back with that from which we came. St.Elphin, Red Rose and Gilbert Greenall lodges began discussing the idea of amalgamation in April 2005 and I am happy to say our discussions proved successful and the amalgamation was effected on June 14th 2006.
And so it came about to say good bye to The St.Elphin Lodge No.3287 as an individual entity and that happened at a meeting on 16th May 2006.
…and so to the future.
The event this evening completes the unfinished business of the “old Lodges”. We will not forget them but we now have new History to make.
I have already started the History of The Warrington Lodge of Concord No.1250. and presented it at the first meeting of the amalgamated lodge on September 12th 2006.
Every member of an amalgamated lodge is a founder and hopefully we will be inviting you to other evenings in the future which celebrate the various milestones of the History of the Warrington lodge of Concord No.1250.
Thank you Ladies & Brethren for your kind attention….
I feel the final toast coming on, over to you Worshipful Master.”
W.M. Ladies & Brethren. The toast I give is to the future.
The Warrington Lodge of Concord No.1250.
J.T.McIntyre P.Pr.G.Supt.of Wks
5th March 2008
Amalgamation June 14th 2006
The last sixteen years of the St.Elphin Lodge No. 3287
|March 1999||W.Bro.D.A.ArstallP.Pr.G.Supt.of Wks||W.Bro.D.S.Heywood||W.Bro.D.Arstall||W.Bro.J.McIntyre|
|March 2002||W.Bro.D.A.ArstallP.Pr.G.Supt.of Wks||W.Bro.D.S.Heywood||W.Bro.P.Jepson||W.Bro.J.McIntyre|
|March 2004||W.Bro.P.JepsonP.Pr.S.G.D.||W.Bro.D.S.Heywood||W.Bro. B.MartinP.Pr.S.G.D.||W.Bro.J.McIntyre|