Petersfield in the 19th Century

In the early 1800’s Petersfield was a small market town with a population of little more than 2000. It had a flourishing market and most inhabitants obtained their livelihood from either agriculture or associated trades and businesses.

It was by no means a prosperous town, but was an important stopping-off point on the Portsmouth to London stagecoach route. By 1830 at least 20 stagecoaches were passing through Petersfield each day and the Red Lion, which became the early home of Freemasonry, was the main Coaching Inn.

Communications improved considerably when the railway reached Petersfield in 1859, connecting it to London and Portsmouth. This heralded a new dawn and the Town’s importance and population grew more rapidly reaching almost 4000 by 1900.

Introduction

There is some doubt as to when the first Masonic Lodge was established in Petersfield. The Lodge of Friendship still has in its possession the Charter of the St Georges Lodge of Unanimity and Fidelity No 731. This Charter was granted by HRH Prince Augustus Frederick of Brunswick Lunenburgh, the Grand Master at the time, and is dated 23rd July 1821. This Petersfield Lodge ceased in 1838 and was erased in September of that year for reasons unknown.

Freemasonry in Petersfield came to life again in 1862 with the formation of the Lodge of Friendship No 1230 (now No 928) and this was sponsored by the Lodge of Economy No 90 (now 76) which petitioned Grand Lodge for the authority to restore the ‘Lodge of Friendship’ at Petersfield. The Lodge therefore owes its birth to the activities of Masons from Winchester and Basingstoke.

The Founders

The actual number of Founders is unknown but records show that many senior Members of the Lodge of Economy were instrumental in establishing Freemasonry in Petersfield. Amongst these were Henry C. Levander, who was the Founding Master, Charles Sherry (Senior Warden) and John Naish (Junior Warden). Both Brothers Sherry and Naish had served as Masters of the Lodge of Economy and Mayors of Winchester and they brought considerable experience to the newly formed Lodge.

Also among the Founders was Rt Hon W Bramston Beach, who resided at Oakley Hall, Basingstoke. He was appointed Provincial Grand Master in 1869 when the Isle of Wight was combined with the Province of Hampshire, an Office he held until succeeded by Sir Augustus R. Webster in 1901.

The First 100 Years

The Lodge of Friendship No 1230 was granted its Warrant by Thomas Dundas, Earl of Zetland and is dated 28th August 1862 and the Lodge was duly consecrated on 17th September 1862. W Bro Henry Levander, a Schoolmaster, was Installed as the Primus Master. W Bro Charles Sherry, an Innkeeper and Wine Merchant in Petersfield was appointed as Senior Warden and W Bro John Naish was appointed Junior Warden. Neither W Bros Sherry or Naish went on to become Master of the Lodge.

The Lodge of Friendship was renumbered 928 by Grand Lodge in 1863 and a Ceremony of Constitution was held on 27th January 1863 with RW Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis, the Provincial Grand Master at the time, in attendance.

For several years the Lodge changed its home frequently and was often in poor circumstances despite the brilliance of its birth. The records show that the Lodge had its home at the Red Lion Hotel in 1870 and a banquet was held to inaugurate the event. However, the Lodge experienced mixed fortunes at this time and the Brethren were invited to pay dues one year in advance to meet liabilities. It was in November 1873 that an Emergency Meeting was held to pass a resolution “that considering the small number of Members and the present deficit of funds, the Warrant be returned to Grand Lodge”.

Fortunately, the Lodge was ‘saved’ by the zeal of two Brethren, Edgeler and Cole, who carried it through this difficult period which lasted until June 1875 when the Honourable Captain Jolliffe, a member of a well known local aristocratic landowning family became a Joining Member and with his influence the Membership increased.

One of the most notable events during the period 1875 to 1900 occurred in August 1883 when the Provincial Grand Lodge was held at the Red Lion, Petersfield. This was followed in 1884 when the First Lodge Banner, donated by Bro J. Woodhouse, was duly Dedicated.

Much of the original Lodge furniture is still in use today. The Tracing Boards, Gavels, Working Tools and Collar Jewels were donated by Members in 1899, along with the brass Almoner’s Box Square which was presented in 1895 and is used to this day during the Initiation Ceremony.

In 1900 the Lodge numbered 40 Members many of whom were non-resident in the area and consequently the attendance was very small. The Lodge was able to survive through difficult times, including the First World War, through the devotion, loyalty and long service of a few Brethren. Amongst these were W Bro W.H. Kneller who was Secretary of the Lodge for 25 years relinquishing the Office in 1934 due to ill health and W Bro W.P. Jacobs who was Lodge Treasurer from 1916 to 1953 – a period of 37 years. W Bro Jacobs died at the age of 92 having been a Member for 58 years.

The present Lodge Banner was donated by Bro F.B. De Carte who was the licensee of the Sun Inn, Petersfield who joined the Lodge in 1914 and died in October 1945. There is no record that this Banner was ever Dedicated.

Despite the onset of the Second World War the Lodge continued to operate and attract new Members from 1939 through to 1945. Records show that only two Lodge Members were lost in action, Bros Ixer and Locke. Many of the well known Petersfield businessmen were Members of the Lodge and with their support it prospered. Most notable amongst these Brethren were W Bros Jacobs, Gammon, Canterbury, Creedon, Ball, Caplen, Dimond and Schofield. They were responsible for introducing numerous new Members and were instrumental in endeavouring to find a new home for the Lodge as the tenancy at the Red Lion was proving costly and fraught with problems.

Centenary Meeting – 17th September 1962

The Centenary Meeting of the Lodge was held at Churcher’s College in Petersfield on Monday, 17th September 1962, attended by over 100 Brethren. The Provincial Grand Master, R W Bro Dr Wilfrid Attenborough was in attendance and he was supported by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master and VW Bro Rev G W Page, Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Past Grand Chaplain, who conducted the Centenary Service and gave the Address. The Centenary Warrant was read by the Provincial Secretary, W Bro A.L.E. Ormond and this was then presented to the Worshipful Master, W Bro W.H. Rees by the Provincial Grand Master.

The Next 50 Years

There have been many developments and changes within the Lodge during the last 50 years, most notably the acquisition and dedication of the premises which were converted into a Masonic Centre in Petersfield.

The Lodge had met in an upper room in the Hall behind the Red Lion Hotel in College Street, Petersfield for over 100 years prior to 1965, and as the Lodge expanded this building became less attractive. Woolmer Forest Lodge also met at the Red Lion from 1954 to 1964 prior to moving to Bordon. The semi-derelict, Primitive Methodist Chapel and Wartime School in Windsor Road first became available in 1958, but it was not considered suitable to house a Lodge and the owners rented it to the Red Cross for a number of years until it eventually became available to purchase. A feasibility study was carried out by Bros Creedon, Ellis, Jacobs and Thomas and it was decided to purchase the Chapel for the sum of £6,000 from Raglen Developments. In May 1965, under Dispensation, an Emergency Meeting was held for the Execution of a Declaration of Trust in connection with the purchase of Windsor Road, and Bros Ellis, Vince and Hounsome were appointed the first Trustees. The lease at the Red Lion was surrendered in June 1966 and the first Lodge Meeting at the new premises took place on 4th October 1966.

This heralded a “new era” for the Lodge and the membership increased considerably, but moving to new premises put considerable strain on the Lodge finances. Subscriptions had to be increased from 3 to 5 guineas and a mortgage and loans had to be arranged in order for essential building and maintenance work to be carried out to make the building fit for purpose.

The Dedication of the Masonic Hall in Windsor Road took place on Tuesday, 3rd October 1978 by the Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro The Rev. Bishop John Phillips with the Deputy Provincial Grand Master in the Chair and the Provincial Grand Wardens in attendance.

The Lodge of Friendship has two “Daughter Lodges”, Clanfield Lodge No 8203 and St Peter’s Lodge No 9182. In October 1967 the Lodge of Friendship submitted a Petition to Grand Lodge to form Clanfield Lodge and this was Consecrated on the 31st January 1968 in Petersfield, where it met for a number of years.

St Peter’s Lodge received its Warrant in December 1985 and was Consecrated at Cosham on 10th May 1986. A number of the Members of the Lodge of Friendship were Founders of the Lodge which celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2011.

Further Developments

As there were no dining facilities at Windsor Road the Festive Boards were held at a number of local venues including The Welcome Inn, The Toby Jug, The Concorde Hotel and the Half Moon public house in Sheet.

The garden surrounding the Temple was purchased by ‘wise’ Masons who acquired the land themselves. This land was eventually transferred to the Lodge and Freemasonry in Petersfield as a free gift. However, the proposed development of this area was prevented by a “Garden Only” Covenant and local opposition. The Covenant was ultimately lifted in February 1985 and a plan was subsequently agreed with opponents which then allowed the land to built upon. In September 1987 the Windsor Road Masonic Hall Association was formed and the Lodge handed over the administration and development of the Hall to the Association with effect from 1st January 1988.

Planning Permission was granted in March 1989 to build a dining hall and kitchen/bar facilities. The estimated cost of building the extension was £75,000 and as funds were limited a number of fund-raising initiatives were invoked. This major project was commenced in 1989 under the direction and management of W Bro Henry Willis4 who committed to “build the extension by instalments as money, goods and labour are donated so that neither debt nor interest charges will be incurred”. This commitment was duly honoured and the building was completed at half the estimated cost.

The majority of the building work was undertaken by a small band of Brothers over a period of ten years, and was funded principally through the generosity of the various Lodges/Orders that met at Windsor Road. Without the vision, commitment and resourcefulness of W Bro Henry Willis4 this formidable project would have floundered, and it was in his honour that on completion the building was named ‘The Henry Willis4 Hall’. The First Festive Board was held in the new facilities in March 1998.

The Membership of the Lodge in 2000 was 53 and since then there has been a slow decrease with the passing of a number of senior Members and a shortage of Initiates. A number of the present Members have been in the Lodge for over 50 Years. Certificates have recently been presented to W Bro Vic Walker, Neville Wright and John Creedon, who were all Initiated into the Lodge, and to W Bro David Stevenson, a Joining Member.

The Lodge’s 150th Year will be celebrated at the Anniversary Meeting to be held at Bordon Masonic Centre on the 17th September 2012 at which Geoffrey Creedon, the son of W Bro John Creedon,‘the Father of the Lodge’, and the fourth generation of the family to become a Member of the Lodge, will be Initiated. The Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro Michael J. Wilks will be in attendance and he will be accompanied by Officers of Provincial Grand Lodge. A set of new Officers’ Collars and Cuffs have been acquired and the Lodge Banner has been refurbished to mark the occasion.

The Way Ahead

The Lodge has now completed 150 years of uninterrupted existence and the aims of the Founders have been carried out faithfully. The Lodge is proud of its achievements and the role it has played in the community. Over many years the Lodge has made significant contributions to assist local charities, organisations and deserving causes through the generosity of the Members and by donations from requests made to the Provincial Grand Charity.

During the past ten years the Lodge has experienced a decline in Membership but it is hoped that the “Freemasonry in the Community” programme and other initiatives already underway will be successful in introducing new and younger Members to the Fraternity.
Lodge Connections
During the 150 Years that the Lodge has been in existence there are a number of significant and memorable links that are worthy of note. Not least of these are those involving families and connections, and which have played a major part in the life and progress of the Lodge during this time.

Generations of four families have featured strongly in the history of the Lodge and their individual and collective contribution and commitment is well known and recorded.

The Cole Family – four generations of this family have been Members from W Bro W.A.B. Cole, who saved the Lodge from being disbanded in 1873, his Father W Bro J. Cole, Grandson W Bro S.J. Cole who was Master in 1930 and his Son W Bro L.H.B. Cole who was Master in 1960.

The Kneller Family – W Bro W.H. Kneller was Master in 1905 and then Secretary for 25 years, and his Son W Bro E.J. Kneller who was Master in 1942 and then Director of Ceremonies for 20 Plus years.

The Jacobs Family – another Father and Son connection with W Bro W.P. Jacobs who was Master in 1906 and then Treasurer for 38 years and his Son W Bro H. Jacobs who was Master in 1944 and then became Preceptor of the Lodge of Instruction and Assistant Director of Ceremonies.

The Creedon Family – the most notable family connection involves four generations of Creedons from W Bro M.P. Creedon, who was Master in 1879, to his Son W Bro Harold H. Creedon who was Master in the War Years 1940 and 1941. W Bro Harold was Lodge Secretary for over 20 years and Initiated his Son, W Bro John P. Creedon in March 1957 who went on to be Master in 1969. He celebrated his 50 Years in Freemasonry in 2007 and continues to be a dedicated supporter of both the Lodge of Friendship and Stoneleigh Coronation Lodge No 5699, his adopted Lodge in Surrey.

This remarkable family relationship is set to continue with the Initiation of Geoffrey Creedon, W Bro John’s Son at the 150th Anniversary Meeting on Monday 17th September 2012 to be held at Bordon Masonic Centre. W Bro Michael Creedon, the Cousin of W Bro John, was Master of the Lodge in 1987 and became a Founding Member of St Peter’s Lodge.

Churcher’s College Connection – W Bro G.H.O. Piggott who was the Master of the Lodge in 1928 and then Secretary from 1941 to 1951 did much to strengthen the link between the College and the Lodge. The Rev G. Andrew became the first Headmaster of the College to be made Master of the Lodge in 1892. W Bro G.T. Schofield, who was Headmaster at the time of the Lodge Centenary became Master in 1961 and was a very active Member of the Lodge for many years. The Churcher’s link was maintained through W Bro Edgar (Bill) Brewer and Bro Leslie Vine, who both taught at the College on retiring from the Royal Navy. W Bro Brewer was Master of the Lodge in 1986 and Bro Vine was Secretary for 10 years from 1989 to 1999.

Grand Officers

During the past 50 years four Members have received Grand Rank and their contribution to both the Lodge and the Province has been outstanding.

W Bro Vic Walker – was made a Grand Officer in 1987 with the Rank of Past Assistant Grand Superintendent of Works. He was Master of the Lodge in 1972 and completed 50 Years in Masonry in 2010.

W Bro Raymond Durgan – was a very active Member of the Lodge and highly regarded in the local community. He was Provincial Junior Grand Warden in 1977 and awarded Grand Rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1979 and then promoted to Past Junior Grand Deacon in 1992. He was Master of the Lodge in 1973, and sadly passed to the Grand Lodge above in December 2000.

W Bro Eddie Crockford – was Initiated into the Lodge in 1972 and invested as Master in 1985. He has been Master of the Provincial Stewards’ Lodge and was promoted to Past Provincial Grand Sword Bearer in 1995 before obtaining Grand Rank of Past Grand Standard Bearer in 2000. In recognition of his invaluable service to the Lodge and the Centre in Petersfield it was the Members’ wish that he take the Chair for the Anniversary Year.

W Bro Noel Voice – was a Joining Member of the Lodge in 1985 and became Master in 1994. He was appointed a Provincial Steward in 1996 and then Provincial Senior Grand Deacon in 1999. He received the Grand Rank of Past Assistant Grand Superintendent of Works in 2006. He is the Winchester Group Representative and has been Secretary of the Provincial Grand Charity (The Tom Langton Fund) for the past nine years.