First 100 years of the lodge

As the Middlesex Imperial Yeomanry Lodge celebrates its Centenary, as well as looking forward to what will be, it is hoped, a vibrant and rich future, it is a useful exercise to reflect for a while on what has gone before. It is hoped that the facts related herein concerning our Lodge will help the current members and those yet to join to learn something of our origins and that the story of our past will be equally interesting to those associated with it.

In writing this history the writer has had cause to refer to the documentary records of the past and immediately one is struck by the parallels between the Lodge and its aims all those years ago and the Lodge as it is today. Obviously there have been changes with the Lodge just as there has been enormous changes within the world at large and even within the body of Freemasonry. However, certain fundamentals still apply.

When writing the history of the first 50 years of the Lodge, that writer wrote ’changes will certainly occur in the next fifty years, but who can doubt that when in the year 2004 some worthy Brother sets out to chronicle the story of the Lodge from the present time to then, he will be able to declare that Freemasonry still flourishes and that the Brethren of the Middlesex Imperial Yeomanry Lodge are still zealous in inculcating the grand principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth’.
To that unknown brother, this writer is more than happy to make that declaration, to acknowledge and thank him, his predecessors and indeed his successors for creating and maintaining the Middlesex Imperial Yeomanry Lodge together with the standards and the criteria by which it operates today.

The history of this Lodge cannot be changed. What has passed has passed and no amount of doctoring with the story can actually change that history. Therefore, unashamedly, without apology but with plenty of gratitude for those who recorded our past, this author readily makes admission that he has openly made considerable use of the narrative of the chroniclers of our history written both at fifty years and at seventy-five years of the Lodge’s lifetime. He can do no better.
There can be no doubt that the Middlesex Imperial Yeomanry Lodge owes its inception in large measure to Major William Duncan, who had served with the Regiment for fifteen years when the Lodge was Consecrated.

Duncan had by this time been a Freemason for eight years, and although he had not then attained the Master’s Chair of his Mother Lodge, Aesculapius No. 2410, he was a Past Master of the Middlesex Hospital Lodge No. 2843, of which he was a Founder. In both Lodges he had first hand experience of the closer bonds which are forged amongst the Brethren when a Masonic Lodge is allied to an already existing loyalty, and it is reasonable to suppose that this experience led him to explore the possibility of founding a Lodge for his Regiment.

Duncan found enthusiastic support for the proposed new Lodge among members of the Regiment, including a number of senior non-commissioned officers, so that after the usual preliminary negotiations with Grand Lodge, sponsored by the Middlesex Lodge No. 143, the Consecration Ceremony was held at the Freemasons’ Hall on Monday 18th April, 1904, and the first Yeomanry Lodge came into being.

The Consecration of the Lodge was conducted by the V. W. Bro. Sir Edward Letchworth, the then Grand Secretary, assisted by:-

Senior Warden W. Bro. Major Clement Goodson, M.D., P.G.D.
Junior Warden W. Bro. Lt-Col. Sir Alfred Cooper, F.R.C.S., P.G.D.
Chaplain V. W. Bro. The Rev. Sir Borradaile Savoury, P.G.Chaplain
Director of Ceremonies V. W. Bro. Frank Richardson, P.D.G.Registrar.
Inner Guard W. Bro. Lt-Col. H. W. Kallimark, P.G.D.

An Oration was given by V. W. Bro. The Rev. Sir Borradaile Savoury.
The Consecration of a Masonic Lodge is always a moving and beautiful ceremony, and on this occasion the full dress uniforms of the founders and of many visitors, mingled with the light and dark blue of the Masonic regalia, gave the ceremony a colourful setting.

The following list of Officers of the Lodge appointed and invested after the Consecration is reproduced from the original programme:-

W. Bro. Major William Duncan W.M.
Bro. Sergeant-Major James Charles Wolfe S.W.
 Bro. Sergeant William Stanley Greves J.W.
Bro. The Rev. Philip J. T. Blakeway Chaplain
Bro. Trooper Arthur R. Godrich Secretary
Bro. Sergeant Ernest J. Burrough S.D
Bro. Sergeant F. J. Bourne J.D.
Bro. Staff-Sergeant-Major N. C. Harvey I.G.
Bro. Trooper R. W. A. J. Cosway Steward
Bro. Joseph Taylor Tyler

The Annual Subscription (inclusive of banquets) was £3. 3. 0. (£3.15), Country membership (upon written request) for those living 50 miles or more from the Lodge £1. 1. 0. (£1.05). Country members were to be charged the Visitors Dining Fee 10/- (50p) if they dined at a meeting.
On Installation nights this Dining Fee was increased to 15/- (75p).
The Initiation Fee was £5. 5. 0. (£5.25) and the Joining Fee £3. 3. 0.

The Second regular meeting of the Lodge was held on 20th May, 1904 and W. Bro. Duncan began a busy year of office. Six meetings were held and by the end of the session twenty-one Candidates had been Initiated and Passed, and of these, thirteen Raised. The Worshipful Master conducted all the ceremonies himself, and at the end of the first year the Lodge was firmly established with forty-seven members.

Following the first influx of Initiates into the Lodge, the number of Candidates declined, but there was a steady succession of Candidates for Initiation, and the work of the Lodge continued smoothly until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

A number of brethren were then, of course, called for service with the Regiment and were unable to attend the meetings of the Lodge. There was difficulty in appointing a new Master at the end of the 1914-15 session and W. Bro. A. E. Robinson continued in office for a second year.

Mention should here be made of the two Joining Members of 1912 who were both to sacrifice their lives in the service of their country in the Great War.
Bro. Lt-Col. Oliver Cyril Spencer Watson was killed in action on the 28th March, 1918 having been awarded both the Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Service Order. It is indeed proud for the Lodge to know that it had such a brave man amongst their number albeit for such a short time.

Also killed in action, on the 24th September, 1918, was Bro. Captain Richard Pelham Bullivant another gallant man who was awarded the Military Cross.
With no indication of the end of hostilities and in the continued absence of the Regiment on active service, the meetings of the Lodge were sparsely attended and after due discussion the following resolution was passed at the October meeting of the Lodge in 1916.

‘That the Lodge be open to members or past members of His Majesty’s Services (Naval or Military), with the following restrictions: –

  1. That not more than five such Candidates shall be introduced in any
    one year.
  2. That there shall never be more than twenty such members of the Lodge
    at any one time.’

This new regulation gave fresh life to the Lodge as Initiates were immediately forthcoming but with the end of the War in November 1918 members of the Regiment once more became available. By 1920 it was necessary to hold three emergency meetings to deal with the entry of numerous Initiates.

By 1923 the Lodge had once again settled down on a more even keel and attendance was maintained at a steady level, although Initiates were not very plentiful between the years 1933 to 1939.

The Lodge answered the call to contribute towards the construction of the Freemasons’ Hall of today, sited in Great Queen Street, that great memorial building erected by Freemasons in tribute to the Brethren who gave their lives in the Great War. The contribution was marked by the presentation of a Hall Stone Jewel which still today and, hopefully, ever will adorn the Worshipful Master’s regalia and serve as a tangible reminder of the history of the Lodge and Freemasonry, and above all the sacrifice of so many members of the fraternity made during the conflict.

With the outbreak of the Second World War in September, 1939, an order was issued by Grand Lodge suspending all Masonic meetings, but this was soon replaced by new instructions whereby considerable freedom was allowed to Lodges in varying both date and place of meetings, in order to deal with any difficulties that might arise owing to the state of war.

For a time it was not necessary to make use of this freedom and the Lodge continued to meet on the normal dates and at the usual times, but with the onset of air raids on London it was decided to hold the Meetings on Saturday afternoons. In May, 1940 further alteration was made and the Lodge decided to meet in the Summer months. These arrangements continued until December, 1944 when pre-war dates and times were resumed. The effect of the war upon attendance at Lodge was considerable since some of the Brethren were on active service with the Forces and others had been evacuated from London with their employers.

Also, because the Criterion Restaurant was unable to cater for Masonic dinners, meals were taken at the Constitutional Club after the Meeting at the former venue.

In May, 1943, it was decided to move the Lodge from the Criterion Restaurant (where meetings had been held for the previous 39 years) to the Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street where, subject to a short absence, it has remained ever since.

It is certain that Lodge meetings during the War were a great help spiritually to those who were able to attend, while the social occasions afterwards were a pleasant relaxation in days of stress and uncertainty. Neither is there any doubt that the Lodge emerged from the days of the War more deeply established in the hearts and lives of the Brethren.

A resolution unanimously carried at the December Meeting in 1945, while maintaining that the Lodge must primarily be for the convenience of Members or Ex-Members of the Regiment, removed the limit formerly placed on the number of candidates from other branches of the Services and also opened the Lodge to Sons of Members of the Lodge.

The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Lodge Consecration was celebrated in
1954 by a Meeting to mark the Jubilee. A Commemorative Master’s Collar which bears the Lodge Badge in Silver and Enamel was presented by W.
Bro. Captain John H. Lay M.B.E., M.C., L.G.R, a former Regimental Sergeant Major of the Middlesex Yeomanry. It is still worn by Masters today, having been refurbished for the Centenary. An Oration followed, given by Bro. The Rev. Hugh W. Reindorp, P.A.G.Chaplain.

On the 19th March, 1961, the last surviving Founder, W. Bro. Joseph Plunkett Bowley L.G.R., died. W. Bro. Bowley bequeathed a sum of money to the Lodge from which it was decided to purchase a magnificent Lodge Banner, a fine set of Working Tools and to perpetuate his memory with a toast to be honoured at every Installation Meeting. This is now known as the Bowley Memorial Toast. The residue of this bequest was invested for charitable purposes.

The May, 1965, meeting of the Lodge saw the Consecretion of the Lodge Banner by W. Bro. A. B. Carver, T.D., M.A., Deputy Grand Chaplain, in a most impressive ceremony especially the Address by Bro. Carver, the tone of which epitomised absolutely the traditions that have sustained and inspired the members of the Lodge throughout the whole of its existence.
The late 1960s and early following decade saw a reduction in the Armed Services both regular and reserve. Indeed, the Middlesex Yeomanry, heretofore a Territorial Army Signals Regiment was, in 1967, reduced in size to a Signal Squadron. Qualified suitable candidates became harder to find and there was concern for the future of the Lodge.

On 15th October, 1975, the Lodge discussed the situation and facing the inevitable, passed a resolution which in effect offered membership to any Candidate considered suitable by the Lodge Committee. Nevertheless the hope was expressed that the service qualification would be encouraged whenever the opportunity offered.

The cost of Dining has always been emotive. In the light of escalating costs a very unsuccessful attempt was made to dine at a local hostelry.
Deemed a disaster, the Lodge quickly returned to the Connaught Rooms despite qualms about the cost involved.

The Lodge’s 75th Anniversary was celebrated in 1979 at Freemasons’ Hall and afterwards at the Connaught Rooms in the presence of W. Bro.
Commander Michael B. S. Higham, R.N., then Deputy Grand Secretary.
Meanwhile, enquiries were proceeding as to the possibility of moving to the new Central London Masonic Centre which was to emerge from the redevelopment of the Old Sessions House at Clerkenwell Green. After many exhaustive investigations and considerable heart-searching in the knowledge that the Lodge had met at Freemasons’ Hall for 36 years it was decided to move to the new Centre and the first meeting in the new location was held there on 15th February, 1980.
It must be emphasised that the financial obligations involved would have been quite beyond the Lodge had it not been for the magnificent generosity of W. Bro. J. B. Perret, P.A.G.D.C. in so willingly providing the cash requirement. This gesture, so typical of the man, yet again gave ample evidence of his love for and interest in the Lodge and his many services to it.

Sadly, it has to be reported that the new home did not find favour with the Lodge due largely to teething troubles at the Centre and by the October of 1981 the Lodge was back in Great Queen Street where happily it remains.
The Dining venue, however, was no longer the Connaught Rooms. After a sojourn at The Prince of Wales public house in Drury Lane, the Lodge moved its Festive Boards to the Trattoria Verdi in Southampton Row.
Unfortunately during this period the Lodge was smitten by the untimely death of many of its Past Masters soon after they had completed their year of office as Master. This, coupled with the fact that there are so many pressures on the young men of working age in these modern times that have precluded or delayed their natural progression to the Master’s Chair has led to the ‘re-cycling’ of several Past Masters for a second, and in the case of W. Bro. Ronald F. Leach, S.L.G.R., a third year of office as Worshipful Master.
Assistance, too, came readily from the Visiting Grand Officer originally allocated to the Lodge by Grand Lodge, W. Bro. Victor J.
Shirman, P.G.J.D., who for 14 years supported the Lodge to such an extent that upon his relinquishing his appointment after so long there was no hesitation by the Brethren in extending Honorary Membership to him.
Finally and most recently, we have with effect from the 1st October, 2003, the momentous changes to Freemasonry in London. In the hope that they will materially benefit London Lodges and with a determination to make it work, this Lodge has readily become a Founding Lodge of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London.

And so to today. We are able to report to our successors that the Lodge is in good heart, and vibrant. It has a generous number of young, recently Initiated members drawn from not only the ranks of the friends and relatives of existing members but also from the ranks of the Middlesex Yeomanry Squadron and associated signals units. They, and those who are to follow are the lifeblood and future of the Lodge.
The Lodge that we have enjoyed is at the close of its first century. It now goes forward to the next still actively proceeding with its work for Freemasonry, and although the constitution has been altered to meet changing circumstances, it is actively engaged in upholding the true tenets of Freemasonry to the benefit of the whole Craft and, we trust, the satisfaction of its members.
It is hoped that W. Bro. Duncan and his fellow Founders would approve of the progress the Lodge has made.

Administrative Officers

Below are given the names of the Brethren who have been privileged to carry on the executive work of the Lodge

Treasurers Secretaries
William H Mullen 1904-1905 Arthur R. Godrich 1904-1907
William Duncan 1906-1912 James C. Wolfe 1908-1909
William S Greves 1913-1919 Arthur R Godrich 1910-1919
R Field Evans 1920-1922 Leonard B. Shepherd 1920-1934
Frederick S Edmands 1923-1945 Richard J Kear 1935-1957
Frank Overed 1946-1958 John J Ray 1957-1962
Harold W Mason 1958-1973 (Died in office)
Ronald F Leach 1973-1981 George H Barker 1962-1963
John W Coomber 1981-1991 T Leonard Middlemiss 1963-1978
Thomas T McDermott 1991-1992 (Died in office) John M R Shannon M.A. 1978-1984
David R Holmes 1992-1998
(Died in office)
Andrew P D Bridges 1984-2004
John W Coomber 1998-2000 Robert W Porter 2004 – Still in office
Richard H Long 2000-2003
Robert W Gardner 2003-Still in office


Directors of Ceremonies

James C Wolfe 1907-1908
William S Greves 1908-1912
William Duncan 1913-1917
Frederick S Edmands 1920-1922
Lionel J Bailey 1923-1939
Percy R Canfor l940-1951
J Bernard Perret 1952-1959
Ronald S Robinson 1959-1963
J Bernard Perret 1963-1967
H Robert V Laming 1967-1980 (Died in office)
John F F French 1980-1982
John S Howe 1982-1989
James Ganley 1989-1990
David J Missons 1990-1996
Richard H Long 1996-2000
David J Missons 2000-Still in office

The Past Masters of the Lodge

The names of the Past Masters of the Lodge are recorded with the list of their Initiates at the end of this record, but it is thought some tribute should be paid to the steadfast loyalty to the Lodge which these Brethren have shown. It has not been possible for all of them to take a prominent part in the work of the Lodge after their term of office in the Chair, but in almost every case they have continued to support the work of the Lodge whenever possible and have always been most willing to undertake any task laid upon them.
The Lodge has had 90 Masters. Of these only 12 have resigned their membership and 14 still maintain their membership The remaining 64 all retained their Association with the Lodge to the end of their days.

Masonic Honours

Appointed as Officers of Grand Lodge:-

  • William Duncan P.G.D. 1907
  • Leonard B Shepherd P.G.St.B. 1937
  • Maurice K Matthews P.A.G.D.C 1944
  • Ernest E Anderson P.G.St.B. 1944
  • Richard F Tate P.G.St.B. 1947
  • Richard J Kear P.A.G.St.B. 1950
  • George La Niece P.G.St.B. 1959
  • J Bernard Perret A.G.D.C. 1965
  • Frank Overed D.C.M. P.G.St.B. 1966
  • Ronald S Robinson P.A.G.D.C. 1973
  • Andrew P D Bridges P.G.St.B. 1997
  • W. Bro. J. Bernard Perret is the only member of the Lodge appointed with active Grand Rank.

Appointed to London Grand Rank:-

  • James C. Wolfe 1908 Thomas N. Edwards 1958
  • William S. Greves 1911 Ronald S. Robinson 1960
  • Arthur R. Goodrich 1913 Harold W. Mason 1963
  • R. Field Evans 1915 Leslie F. Anderson 1963
  • Frederick S. Edmands 1923 George H. Barke 1964
  • Leonard B. Shepherd 1926 T. Leonard Middlemiss 1967
  • Lionel J. Bailey 1929 John W. Le Comber 1969
  • Andrew Strang 1933 Harold R. V. Laming 1972
  • John F. Pugh 1935 John R. Coltman 1974
  • Maurice K. Matthews 1936 John F F French 1977
  • Richard J. Kear 1937 Ronald F. Leach 1980
  • David F. Bogie 1941 John M. R. Shannon M.A 1982
  • Percy R. Canfor 1945 John S. Howe 1983
  • Charles E. Furneaux 1948 Arthur A. L. Tarbox 1988
  • Douglas Browne 1949 John W. Coomber (PPGStB(West Kent)) 1989
  • Eardley W. Curran 1951 Desmond J. Hall M.B.E. 1990
  • Frank Overed D.C.M. 1952 Andrew P. D. Bridges 1991
  • John H. Lay M.B.E., M.C. 1953 Donald D. Connor 1994
  • John J. M. Ray 1955 David J. Missons 1995
  • J. Bernard Perret 1956 Richard H. Long 1996
  • Percy A. Malyon 1958

Appointed to Senior London Grand Rank:-

  • Harold W. Mason 1979 Ronald F. Leach 1985
  • John R. Coltman 1983 John M. R. Shannon 1999

Lodge of Instruction

As a first essential to the maintenance of a high standard in conducting Lodge ceremonies, the Lodge of Instruction was founded in October, 1905. The first meeting was held at the Regimental Headquarters at Rutland Yard, Knightsbridge and with a break for a year, remained there until 1916. Occasional meetings were then held at various hostelries until 1919, when a move was made to the Coach and Horses, Whitefriars Street where the Lodge remained for twelve years.
Short periods at the Devereux Hotel and the Freemasons Club were followed by a stay at the Bedford Hotel , a stay which ended with the War Years.

In 1946 the Lodge of Instruction returned to the Regimental Headquarters, now at the Duke of York’s Headquarters in Chelsea where it remained until it followed the Middlesex Yeomanry in leaving the Duke of York’s Headquarters. The Regiment had become a Squadron of 31st (Greater London) Signal Regiment and the new venue was the Sergeant’s Mess of the regiment at the Territorial Army Centre at Hammersmith Road. Whilst the Lodge of Instruction survived the bombing of that Drill Hall by the I.R.A. it could not cope with the vastly increased insurance premiums imposed by London TAVRA upon civilian users of their accommodation. Thus followed the most recent relocation of the Lodge of Instruction to The White Ferry House in Sutherland Street, Victoria.

Attendances have waxed and waned throughout the history of the Lodge of Instruction both in peace and wartime, governed mainly by fluctuating conditions of travelling, business and weather but no matter how few have managed to attend, ceremonies have been rehearsed. Indeed the Lodge of Instruction has met well over 2000 times in its 99 years of existence.
That particular landmark was celebrated by a special meeting held at Freemasons Hall, when the offices of the Lodge were occupied by the Senior Past Masters of the Lodge (W Bro. John R. Coltman S.L.G.R. acting as Master) and the Lodge was fortunate enough to receive a Lecture by the then Secretary of the Quartuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, W. Bro. John Webb K.StJ., J.P., P.G.St.B., his subject being ‘Rudyard Kipling’.

W Bro. J. C. Wolfe, W Bro. W. S. Greves and W Bro. R. Field Evans took responsibility as Preceptors in the early years and W Bro. R. F. Tate held the office from 1919 to 1924. Following this, two long periods of service must be recorded. W Bro. L. J. Bailey had been an enthusiastic supporter of the Lodge of Instruction from the time of his Initiation, served as Secretary until appointed as Preceptor in 1924 and continued in office until he re-enlisted in September, 1939. The office of Preceptor passed to W Bro. Percy F. Canfor who carried on under great difficulty throughout the war and continued as such until his death in March, 1956.
W. Bro. Bernard Perret took office thereafter until W. Bro. Lt-Col.
Arthur Dibsdall assumed the post in 1967. Following his death in 1974, W Bro. Harold Laming took office. He, too, died in office and he was succeeded by W. Bro. Ronald Leach who was to hand over to W Bro. David Missons who assumed the post very shortly after his first term of office as Master in 1988 since when he and W. Bro. Richard Long have together guided the brethren through their rehearsals.

Benevolent Association

The Benevolent Association of the Lodge has been existence since its formation in the early years of the Lodge and, with the exception of a break during the years 1914 to 1919, has been the vehicle by which members of the Lodge have been able to make donations to the various Masonic and other charities with the benefit of the Income Tax relief due to its status as a registered charity.
It should be recorded here that the Lodge has had cause to be grateful to the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and during its operation, the Royal Masonic Hospital for their prompt and kindly help whenever this has been sought.
The following brethren have been Treasurers of the Benevolent Association since it was revived in 1919: – W. Bros. Maurice K.

Matthews, Richard J. Kear, Douglas Browne, Thomas N. Edwards, William S. Forbes, Ronald F. Leach, John F. F. French, Arthur A. L. Tarbox, John W. Coomber and the present incumbent W. Bro. George L Key.

The Chapter

The Middlesex Imperial Yeomanry Chapter was Consecrated on Tuesday, 11th June, 1907. Eleven of the fourteen Founders were members of the Lodge.
William Duncan was the first M.E.Z., with James C. Wolfe as H. and William S. Greves as J.

There has been, of course, a very close association between the Lodge and Chapter. Some forty Past Masters of the Lodge have occupied the M.E.Z. Chair of the Chapter.

Association with other Regimental Lodges

By a resolution passed in February, 1908, Honorary Membership of the Lodge was conferred on the Worshipful Masters of the Fitzroy Lodge No.
569, The London Rifle Brigade Lodge No. 1962, and of Yeomanry Lodges in the London District. As a result of this resolution, the Master of the Hertfordshire Imperial Yeomanry Lodge No. 3192 was added to the other Honorary Members.
In February 1978 it was resolved that the Worshipful Master of the Benvenuto Cellini Lodge No.6917 should be so honoured but, unfortunately, that Lodge was to surrender its Warrant in 1985.
In 1967 the Middlesex Yeomanry Regiment became a Squadron of 31st (Greater London) Signal Regiment. Another Regiment brought to Squadron level in order to form this unit was the Princess Louise’s Kensington Regiment and in 1986 the name of their Lodge The Kensington Battalion Lodge No. 3624 was added to the list of our Honorary Members.
Finally, in 1990, the Secretaries of both The Hertfordshire Imperial Yeomanry and The Kensington Battalion Lodges joined the list of our Honoured Guests all of whom we look forward to greeting at our Centenary and beyond.

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