A brief history of the Province of Middlesex
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, four London Lodges formed the Premier Grand Lodge. Their meeting places were the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse in St. Paul’s Close (now the Lodge of Antiquity No.2), the Apple Tree Tavern in St. Charles St., Covent Garden (Now Lodge of Fortitude and Old Cumberland (now No.12), the Crown Alehouse in Parker's Lane, near Drury Lane, and the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Channel Row, Westminster (now the Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No. 4). The latter three were all in the County of Middlesex. Thus, taking a looser definition than that adopted by the new Premier Grand Lodge, it can justifiably be claimed that English Freemasonry began in Middlesex
Using the same definition of Middlesex, it can also be stated that the first Grand Chapter was established in the County. This took place at the Turks Head Tavern in Gerrard Street, Soho in 1766.
Lodges existed in Scotland at the end of the sixteenth century, many researchers having delved into the origins of Edinburgh and Kilwinning Lodges. Arguably, the first non-operative Mason to be Initiated on English soil, for which there are substantiated records, was on 20th May 1641 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He was Sir Robert Moray, first President of the Royal Society. He was followed five years later by Elias Ashmole in Warrington. Were there masonic meetings being held in Middlesex during the following sixty years?
In a largely rural Middlesex, there were the county houses of many who also had London homes and it would have been strange if ardent Masons did not continue their Masonry throughout Middlesex. However, no evidence of this has come to light during extensive research at Grand Lodge library and elsewhere.
Eventually, a number of London Lodges petitioned Grand Lodge in 1869 to form a Middlesex Provincial Grand Lodge These were the Royal Union Lodge 382; Strawberry Hill Lodge 946; Carnarvon Lodge 708; Villiers Lodge 1194; Dalhousie Lodge 865; Enfield Lodge 1237; Crescent Lodge 788 and Gooch Lodge 1238. Burdett Lodge was consecrated on the morning of the Provincial consecration.
The proposal to form the Province of Middlesex did not have an easy passage. There was no love lost between Crescent Lodge and Strawberry Hill Lodge, the former complaining that there was no room in the Twickenham district for another Lodge.
But in the end, the consecration of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex took place on Saturday, 22nd January 1870, V.W. Bro John Harvey, Past Grand Deacon, the Grand Secretary, installed R.W. Bro. Colonel Francis Burdett, Past Grand Warden as the new Provincial Grand Master of Middlesex, the consecration taking place at the Clarence Hotel in Teddington.
The Lodge bearing his name only having been consecrated a few hours earlier, thus enabling his appointment to head the new Province. Even then, there were a lot of Brethren who were annoyed at not receiving Grand Honours and many Masons left Royal Unity Lodge to form Unity Lodge, as they were disgruntled at not being accorded the recognition as the oldest Lodge in Middlesex
Amongst the most famous of Middlesex Masonic meeting places were the Toy Inn and the Mitre Hotel in Hampton Court, the former dating back to 1649. Other meeting places were Harrow, Southgate, Staines, Twickenham, and Uxbridge. The Lodge of Harmony, meeting at the Toy Inn, Hampton court in 1781, is now the oldest Lodge in the Province, but appears to have been dormant until 1801. Thus Harmony was not involved in the formation of the Province, even though many of its Members lived in Middlesex.
Middlesex Lodge No. 143 could be the oldest Lodge that has met continuously. Originally founded in Middlesex in 1775, Lane’s Masonic Records show that this Lodge has moved around central London, but has never actually met in Middlesex.
In the 18th century, particularly in the second half, many Lodges undertook Royal Arch ceremonies as part of their normal meetings. This was the usual practice amongst the Antients and even in the Moderns’ Lodges. This was in the days just before the Union in 1807. At that time it was necessary for a Craft Mason to have passed the Chair before he was eligible for Exaltation into Royal Arch Masonry.
Brethren have always been encouraged from beginning of Masonry to donate their money and time for the relief of poverty and distress. The members of the Province of Middlesex have contributed generously to the various Masonic charities since its inception, having many Provincial Festivals. Originally, they were for the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls, the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and Sick, which are now combined in the Grand Charity. The Festivals continue with the next for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys in 2020
The Province of Middlesex has always deeply involved spouses in in many activities. Cole Court Ladies Group was formed in 1992, Staines Ladies was formed in 1994. HRH Princess Alexandra opened the Provincial Retirement home in 1994, giving her name to the Home.
To celebrate the 275th anniversary of the Grand Lodge, the Province held an inaugural interfaith service at the Guildford Cathedral, and it was the first time in the Cathedral’s history that one of the lessons was read by an orthodox Jew. More interfaith services were successfully held at St. Albans Abbey and they have been a regular feature ever since then.
Our 9th Provincial Grand Master, R.W. HRH Prince Michael of Kent was initiated into the Royal Abbey Lodge No.16 in 1974, was its Master in 1977 and became Middlesex Grand Master in 1989. There is a long history of family Masonic tradition as his grandfather and father were Masons. His leadership has gained the Province of Middlesex much success.
Freemasonry in London was to be considered as far as 10 miles from the City Of London, which was adopted by Grand Lodge in 1815, and it was only in 1971 that the rule 129 of the Book of Constitutions was changed to making the limit to 5 miles from Freemasons’ Hall and Lodges meeting 5 to 10 miles from London may be either London, or Provincial Lodges.
The official Heraldic designation of the Coat of Arms was granted in 1943 and is on the wall in the lobby of the entrance to Cole Court. The same organisation runs both Craft and Royal Arch.
So, the Province of Middlesex has been going for 147 years and despite two World Wars, the Great Depression of the 30’s and the present electronic age, the Province is hale and hearty, still doing what it’s Founders intended: the collection of charity for good causes, brotherly love for its Members and Companions, true to its principles true to the Craft and true to oneself.
Freddy Berdach LGR, PPSGW
W. Bro Fred Berdach PPrSGW, SLGR is a Member of Temple of Athene Lodge, No. 9541 consecrated in 1994 to study and research Freemasonry & its historical connections, provide a forum for masonic debate & discussion & to stimulate Masonic interest and education
For more information about the Lodge see: https://pglm.org.uk/resources/temple-of-athene/