Ardingly College Lodge No 4410


This brief history was prepared by Mike Byford-Bates from a manuscript of Stanford Letts, a considerable figure in the history of Ardingly College in the twentieth century.

The original was written in 1985. It remains for some kind person to bring it up to date!

Some Notes on the History of Ardingly College Lodge No. 4410

 Steps were in progress for the formation of an Ardingly Lodge before the outbreak of the Great War but it is not thought that they had by then reached an advanced stage. They were recommenced after the war and with casual discussions and exchanges of correspondence a meeting was held at the Holborn Restaurant on 18 June 1921 to formulate the plan and decide some details. It was attended by the Headmaster, T.E. Wilson, six Old Ardinians (Brothers Hopkins, Symonds, Hildesley, Egles, Alexander and Tyrie) and 4 members of the Ardingly staff (Brothers Ince, Nicholson, Cavill and Francis).

Arrangements were made for the preparation of a Petition to Grand Lodge and RH Symonds, a Past Master of the Anglo-Colonial Lodge, offered to secure the support of that Lodge in the sub mission of the Petition.

There was discussion on the constitution of the By-laws and it was agreed that the Headquarters of the Lodge would be at the Holborn Restaurant. It was also decided that the Provost, who was already much concerned in the project, should be invited to accept appointment as the Lodge’s first W. Master.

Due to the necessity for postal circulation the Petition took time to complete but it then included not only the Provost and Headmaster and Brothers Hopkins, Symonds, Hildersley and Egles but also Brothers Price, Scott, Richards, Hemmings, Powell, Whitehouse, Hillings, Tasker, Froude and Cox Meech.

It is of interest to note that Scott and Richards were old boys of the Shoreham period. Scott died after the Petition but before the Consecration, but most of the remainder were honoured as Founders. It is not known why Froude was omitted because he was one of the Joining Members at the first Meeting of the Lodge.
All signatures to the Petition were secured in time for it to be approved at a meeting of the Anglo-Colonial Lodge on 19 December, 1921 and it was submitted to Grand Lodge on 2 January, 1922. It was confirmed by Grand Lodge on 6th February and the Consecration was fixed for the 5 May at the Holborn Restaurant.

The Consecration Ceremony was conducted by the Grand Secretary, VW Bro. P. Colville Smith, in the presence of the Founders and many distinguished Brethren. Unfortunately it was impossible to install the Provost as W. Master because he had to suffer an emergency operation but the remaining officers were invested.

As the nominated IPM. Bro Symonds then had to act as the Master in charge. Proposals for the Initiation of six candidates and for the election of six Joining Members were read.

The first regular Meeting of the Lodge was held on 13 June and the Grand Secretary attended to Install the Provost as Master. The By-laws were adopted, the six Joining Members were elected and with the Grand Master’s dispensation four of the six candidates were Initiated.

The By-laws provided for meetings in May, June, July and September but inconvenience caused many emergency Meetings to be held in different months in the first few years. There were several By-law changes and it was not until 1931 that the present dates were formally adopted. The original decision to use the Holborn Restaurant as the Lodge’s Headquarters may surprise some members but it is perhaps not appreciated that Freemasons Hall, as we now know it, did not then exist and most London Lodges met at Hotels or Restaurants or at City Halls.

After the 1914-18 war Grand Lodge instituted a Memorial Fund, which would build a comprehensive headquarters for the Craft. Support was secured by the award of a Hall Stone Jewel to those Lodges which achieved substantial donations from their members. In order to qualify every member of a Lodge had to donate £10.10.0 or more to the Fund. This was a substantial figure for in terms of the modern value of money it required every member to pay more than £100.

As soon as the Lodge was formed, Ardingly decided to qualify, and it was helped in this by the recency of its formation for probably less than 30 members were involved in funding their contributions. Thirty Lodges qualified to be the first to receive their Hall Stone Jewels at a meeting of Grand Lodge in October 1922 and they included Ardingly, Rugby and Malvern. Felstead, Haileybury, St. Paul’s Dulwich and Uppingham had also signified their intention of qualifying but had not by then achieved it.

After rejection of alternative sites the planning and completion of the new Hall was delayed for years by the need to acquire property in Great Queen Street west of the old Freemasons Hall and it was not until 1934 that the Lodge could transfer its headquarters there.

Standards of work were much more seriously maintained in the early days. Evening dress was required for the Consecration, for Installation Meetings and for some regular Meetings until the war. In those days, Evening Dress did not mean dinner jackets. For a number of meetings in the nineteen-thirties Masonic Evening Dress was required and dinner jackets may then have been acceptable.

Two early emergency Meetings at Ardingly are of interest. They were held in the Library on the top floor of School House which had originally been G dormitory and were required through congestion of work which the Regular Meetings could not clear. At the first, in a three and a quarter hour meeting in October 1922, two members were initiated, one was passed to 2nd Degree and two more were raised to M.M.s. At the second in July 1926 one member was passed to 2nd Degree and two more raised to M.M.s.

The holding of our Regular Summer Meeting at School started in June 1933 and was a special occasion with many important guests. It included the Initiation of AC Bryant. His father who was one of the guests was invited to deliver the Charge to his son. Charles Bryant whose three boys all joined the Lodge must be the greatest non OA parent-supporter of the school in the pre-war days. He founded the Ardingly College Scholarship Fund and was involved in many other projects.

Until the war the School provided dinner at negligible cost after all the Ardingly Meetings.

Support from the School staff continued for many years. GJ Ince, the School Chaplain, was appointed our Chaplain at the Consecration and served in that office until 1944 with the exception of 1929 when he was appointed W Master. GHG Nicholson, a 1922 Joining Member, served for a time as Assistant Secretary but died in 1928 while in office as J. Warden. E. Adams served in the junior offices but after retiring from School he remained a member of the Lodge until 1965. GC Miller and AHT Smith qualified as members of the Lodge as Old Ardinians but they were also Masters at School. Actually, E Adams, AHT Smith and AW Woolley were Initiated in the Lodge while they were Masters at School. Although, they were not members of the Lodge, WV Cavill, GT Francis, CA Rust, JFB Atkins and A Cree were frequent visitors. In particular Cree, a Grand Officer, continued his support long after the war when most of the other Masters were seldom seen.

There has been a long build-up of the financial strength of the Lodge both on General Account and also in support for the Charities. Until 1951 the annual accounts were produced on a simple basis of Receipts and Payments which ignored fluctuations in assets and liabilities. From 1951 SA Letts assisted the Treasurer by keeping the Lodge records and producing the accounts on a standard Income and Expenditure Account and Balance Sheet basis.

The original subscription for Full Members was £3.3.0. p.a. and this included the cost of four Dinners. Non-dining members could pay £1.1.0 p.a. but this was not a popular alternative because they could not hold office. The difference of £2.2.0. was appropriate because the actual cost of a dinner was then not more than 10/-. The Initiation Fee was £7.7.0, the Joining Fee £2.2.0. and the Visitors Fee started at 10/6d. but was increased to 12/6d. in 1934. The remarkable value of money in those days is indicated by the cost of the Officer’s Collar and silver-plated Jewels which were presented by the first Officers. The cost was £1.9.3d. each to which was added 7/9d. for the average cost of engraving so each Officer contributed £2 to cover expenditure of £1.17.0d.

The full annual subscription, which had been increased to £4.4.0. in 1932 remained at that until 1959 and the slow rise in Dinner costs appear to have been accommodated by several factors. Of the increasing number of Full Members a higher proportion appear not to have been regular attendee’s and the low charge made for the Dinners at the Ardingly Meetings was paid by those attending so that only three Dinner costs were chargeable against the subscription income.

Wartime obligations and precautions prevented normal social activities and in any event it was not until after the war that dinner costs reached £1.

Subsequent small post-war increases in subscription were helped by supplements which were contributed by attendees towards the cost of dinners but from 1974 when the subscription was £7 those who attended were charged their full dinner cost and the Lodge only bore the cost of official guests. The rises in costs of running the Lodge were also a factor. Until the end of the war they had been around £50 per annum but during the years upto 178/79 (when the subscription was raised to £10) they had risen to £506.

A large part of the increase arose on the printing and postage of the Summons but Grand Lodge dues had in that period risen from £20 p.a. to £209. The accumulation of small surpluses over many years had previously built up a substantial carry forward on General Fund but the development of deficiencies had by 1982/3 reduced the balance to a dangerous level. Remedial measures and an increase in the annual subscription to £17.50 p.a. restored a balancing situation.

The asset position of the Lodge should not be disregarded. In 1952 a bequest was received from Bro Powell of £175 on General Account. Out of this £39 was spent on a Collar for the Worshipful Master and the balance of £136 was invested. With conscientious management this had by 1984 become £521 and the income from it is a contribution towards the Lodge expenses.

A further and material factor arose in 1984 when a distinguished Past Master, Bro Daeppen bequeathed his Estate to the School who then allocated £2000 to the Lodge.

For the first 15 years the Charity balances and donations were included as part of the Lodge’s General Accounts and many payments were made other than to Masonic Charities. After that a more traditional separate Benevolent Fund has been maintained. From 1927 and until 1957 the receipts from the Collection of Alms were augmented by a yearly allocation of 5% of subscription income. Until the war the grants made and donations to Charity had been comparable with the income so no material balance was carried forward. During and since the war, bequests received, uncommitted income and capital appreciation have so, built up that the Fund now has investments of £860. Subject to any other demand on the Benevolent Fund the yearly income is now used in making grants to the Masters list.

Some of the payments from the Charity Fund were to the Ardingly College Mission, which started at the end of 1922. The Curate in the Poplar area who first proposed the founding of the Mission was an old Ardinian and a Mason so the Lodge became involved in it and individual Lodge members gave personal service to it.

Also associated with the Charity Fund was the Scholarship Fund, which was instituted in 1928. After some delay it built up funds to enable boys to receive assistance of £10 per term (approximately ⅓) towards their fees. The last payment under the scheme was made in 1943.

Proposals for the building of a Masonic Hospital had been under consideration for some time and in 1923 the Lodge decided to qualify as a Founding Lodge. Arrangements were made for Members to provide the necessary funds by a system of yearly installments and the Lodge received its Founders Certificate in 1927. When extensions to the Hospital were built after the war, the Lodge again helped with the costs and qualified as a Double Founding Lodge in 1959.

In 1927 Ardingly acted as the sponsoring Lodge for the foundation of the Old Hurstjohnian Lodge by approving and presenting the Petition for consideration by the Grand Master. In 1960 Ardingly similarly sponsored the foundation of the Old Aluredian Lodge.

It was proposed in the Lodge in 1928 to form a Royal Arch Chapter which, would admit members of all the Woodard School Lodges. It was not finally achieved until 1932 with Ardingly taking the lead in the preparatory work and providing seven of the Chapter Founders.

During the first year of the war the Lodge suffered the death in action of Pilot Officer E. Burgoyne. He was 25 and had only been Initiated in 1939. His father who had been a member of the Lodge for many years presented a Loving Cup to the Lodge in his memory and expressed a wish that it should be circulated at Installation Meetings not in a solemn mood but in thankfulness to those who gave their lives for their country. He also provided an endowment for the filling of the Cup.

In 1950 the By-laws were revised-and brought upto date. At the same time the preamble was shortened so that the Lodge is said to comprise members of the Old Ardinian Society omitting the original addition which included others who had rendered special service to Ardingly.

After a long period of negotiation the Lodge was in 1957 accepted for membership of the Public Schools Lodges Council, which is restricted to about 30 Lodges of the leading Public Schools. This enabled Ardingly to qualify as hosts for the holding of one of the Annual Festivals to which representatives of all. The Member Lodges are invited. Ardingly was given the opportunity for holding the Festivals in 1963 and 1984 which were organised with considerable success and brought credit to both Lodge and School.

There has always been a close association of the Lodge with the Chapel at School. Apart from individual personal items the Chapel was for about 40 years given the Alms Collection made at the summer Lodge Meetings at School. To celebrate the School’s Centenary the Lodge in 1958 presented a new window in the Chancel and in 1983 on the Centenary of the Chapel £300 was given by the Lodge for the purchase of an item of equipment.

The Jubilees of the Lodge have been celebrated in appropriate style. At the Silver Jubilee in 1947 TE Wilson initiated G Snow and there were present among the Company of distinguished Brethren four members who had attended the original Consecration. It was something of a school affair with a former Headmaster initiating a new Headmaster in the presence of three members of the School Council, the Bursar and five Masters and ex-Masters. In view of the part played by a former Provost in the founding of the Lodge it was unfortunate that the contemporary Provost, Canon Browne-Wilkinson who was Prov. Grand Chaplain of Sussex, was unable to attend.

The Golden Jubilee was a formal celebration held at Butchers Hall in 1972 in the presence of the Deputy Grand Master. Bro. Alexander was the only remaining member of those who had attended the Consecration. The distinguished company included representatives of practically all the PSLC Lodges and of the Woodard School Lodges.

Throughout the history of the Lodge, the Lodge of Instruction has been a strong supporting influence and many members have given devoted service to it. Meetings were frequent and attendance regular when the offices of the majority of members were in London and they resided there or in the suburbs. With decentralisation of both work and homes into or beyond the Home Counties meetings are less frequent and attendance is more difficult. Members of the Sister School Lodges have always been very welcome when they have attended.

Over the years the Lodge has received many practical gifts. When the move was made to Freemasons Hall in 1934 many items of equipment were required. The Burgoyne family presented the Bible the Ballot Box and the Tyler’s Sword. Engraved gavels and a maul made of oak from the School buildings were presented by EH Munnion. The Working Tools, silver set square and compasses were presented by groups of members.

More recently RN Price presented a Fall to support the Bible on the Masters pedestal and in 1969 as a result of an exchange of members visits with those of the Royal Somerset Lodge arranged by Bro. Denyer that Lodge presented to us an embroidered Alms bag.

In 1949 the Lodge received the presentation by NF Heritage of a book containing interesting old Masonic prints and in 1952 the six volumes of Gough’s History of Freemasonry were presented by DH Northam.

The association of Ladies with our social activities developed strongly after the war. Commencing in 1948 traditional Ladies Nights were held every year and the Dorchester Hotel became the constant venue. These ceased ten years or so ago and have been followed by occasional events of a less formal nature.

When visiting School for the summer Meeting we are now accompanied by our Ladies and for the past 12 years they have also attended the annual Festivals of the Public School Lodges Council.

Reference has already been made to the work of RH Symonds in the foundation of the Lodge but in the subsequent years he continued to make a very substantial contribution. So too did a number of other members who joined at the start or in its early days such as TE Wilson, JR W Alexander, EB Egles, GC Miller, FJ Adams, DG Northam and HH West. FJ Adams is particularly remembered for his 30 years as Preceptor of the Lodge of Instruction.

Most of the members who have been very active in the Lodge would appear prominently in a list of Old Ardinians who have given great support to the School. SH Price, JRW Alexander, CH Russell, AW Munns and SA Letts together aggregated 115 years of service on the School Council. Other names which must be honoured are the Symonds brothers, NF Heritage, the Kenyon brothers, V Drury and G Ellingworth.

The Lodge appears so far to have had a total membership of 181 made up of 14 Founders, 49 Joining Members, 100 Initiates, 13 Honorary Members and 5 Tylers.

A number of the Joining Members have been holders of Grand Rank but the Lodge has only achieved the appointments of FJ Adams to PAGDC in 1950 and DG Northam to the same office in 1961.

For length of membership it was unfortunate that NF Heritage who was Initiated in 1935 died just before he reached his 50th Anniversary. If S.A. Letts reaches 50 years of membership in 1986 it may be something of a record for he will have been in office in the Lodge for 40 years.

Other members who have given great service to the Lodge including in particular long periods as Secretary have been RN Price and JCR Prewer. In the list of Past Masters are many other members who have also contributed to the very successful history of the Lodge.

Stanford Letts