A Brief History Of The Formation Of The Masonic Province Of Middlesex

A Brief History Of The Formation Of The Masonic Province Of Middlesex
Given at the 150th Anniversary Meeting of Burdett Lodge, No. 1293
on Wednesday 22nd January, 2020
by
RW Bro. Peter R. A. Baker, Pro Provincial Grand Master

History of the Kingdom or County of Middlesex –

In considering the formation of the Masonic Province of Middlesex, I believe that it is appropriate to consider some historical facts about Middlesex.

The Kingdom or County of Middlesex was founded during the Anglo-Saxon era circa 866 A.D. and took its original name, Middleseaxe, from the fact that it lay between the Kingdoms of Essex, of which it was formerly a part, and Wessex. Mention of the Forest of Middlesex is made in the Doomsday Book, commissioned by William the Conqueror shortly after he invaded England in 1066, and the Kingdom of is recorded as being divided into the six ‘Hundreds’ of Edmonton, Elthorne, Gore, Hounslow (referred to as Isleworth in later records), Ossulstone and Spelthorne. The word ‘Hundred’ referred to an area of about 100 or possibly 120 acres, which was conceptually the amount of land required to support a family or, alternatively, an army of militiamen. So, for example, we have, or have had, Lodges in the Province named Hundred of Elthorne Lodge No. 7596 which relates to areas of West Middlesex (Cranford, Harlington, West Drayton, Harmondsworth, Greenford, Harlington and Hayes) and Hundred of Gore Lodge No.8314, which relates to areas of North Middlesex (Edgware, Harrow, Hendon, Kingsbury and Great and Little Stanmore).

The County of Middlesex continued to grow through the ages until the Local Government Act of 1888, under which 50 square miles were transferred to the County of London. But its fate was finally sealed by the Local Government Act of 1963, when the whole of the County was incorporated into Greater London, except for some towns on the western perimeter of the County, which were transferred to Surrey.  

Introduction to the Provincial Grand Lodge System –

There are records of the first appointment of a Provincial Grand Master in Chester in 1725 with further Provincial Grand Masters being appointed between 1726 and 1813, but the Provincial Grand Lodge structure as we know it today, which includes the appointment of Provincial Grand Officers; the requirement to hold an Annual Meeting; and the wearing of Provincial Regalia etc; did not come about until 1815, two years after the Union of the Antient (or Atholl) Grand Lodge with the Moderns Grand Lodge in 1813.

When the Masonic Province of Middlesex was formed in 1870 it did not include considerable parts of the old County of Middlesex, the reason being that, from 1815, Lodges meeting within a 10-mile radius of Freemasons Hall, London were designated as London Lodges and directly controlled by Grand Lodge.

However, that changed in 1971, when Rule 128 of the Book of Constitutions came into effect, which provided that all Lodges held within a 5-mile radius of (the current) Freemasons Hall are London Lodges. Further, Rule 129 provided that all Lodges held at a greater distance than a 5-mile radius from Freemasons Hall were designated as Provincial (or District) Grand Lodges except that, with the consent of the Grand Master, a Lodge held between a 5 and 10-mile radius of Freemasons Hall could be designated as a London Lodge.

From what I have just described to you, you will appreciate that originally the Masonic Province of Middlesex only consisted of that portion of the former County of Middlesex of Middlesex outside of a radius of 10 miles from Freemasons Hall, London, which was the case when the Province was formed in 1870, but since 1971 it now consists of a larger portion of the former County of Middlesex outside of the 5-mile radius from Freemasons Hall, albeit joint jurisdiction now exists geographically with London, since Lodges meeting within the 5 to 10-mile radius may either be Middlesex or London Lodges, subject to the consent of the Grand Master. So, for example, there are London lodges (and chapters) that currently meet at our Harrow and Southgate Centres, as they fall within this 5 to 10-mile radius.

The Formation of the Masonic Province of Middlesex –

So now we come to the formation of the Masonic Province of Middlesex itself, and what I am about to describe to you is largely based on the considerable amount of research carried out by the late Brother Professor Allan Beaver, which is set out in his book entitled ‘Middlesex Matters’, in which he describes the history of the first 125 years of Middlesex Freemasonry from 1870 to 1995.

From at least 1825, and most likely much earlier than that, there were individual Lodges working in Middlesex, that is outside the 10 mile radius from Freemasons Hall, London, and we know from the records of Crescent Lodge, which was consecrated in 1859, that a memorial was submitted to the Grand Master in 1861 praying for the establishment of a Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex, which already had the support of Royal Union Lodge and Carnarvon Lodge. However, this Petition was turned down. A further Petition was submitted to the Grand Master 2 years later in 1863 again praying either for the establishment of a Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex, or that Middlesex be annexed to a combined Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex and Surrey, but this Petition was also turned down.

Some 8 years later in 1869, a lengthy Memorial signed by the Worshipful Masters of 8 Lodges at that time existing in the County of Middlesex, i.e. beyond the 10-mile radius, be constituted into the Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex. This specific reference about the 10-mile radius, would appear to have done the trick, as this Petition was finally approved by the Grand Master, and a warrant was granted and issued.

The 8 Petitioning Lodges were listed in the memorial in the following sequence: –
1. Gooch Lodge No. 1238 meeting at Southall, Middlesex
2. Enfield Lodge No. 1237 meeting at Enfield, Middlesex
3. Dalhousie Lodge No. 865 meeting at Hounslow, Middlesex
4. Villiers Lodge No. 1194 meeting at Isleworth, Middlesex
5. Strawberry Hill Lodge No. 946 meeting at Twickenham, Middlesex
6. Crescent Lodge No. 788, meeting at Twickenham, Middlesex
7. Carnarvon Lodge No. 708 meeting at Hampton Court, Middlesex
8. Royal Union Lodge No.380 meeting at Uxbridge, Middlesex

As we have already heard, they were joined on the morning of Saturday 22 January 1870 after the consecration of Burdett Lodge No. 1293, which enabled the Provincial Grand Master Designate, RW Bro Colonel Francis Burdett, to qualify for his appointment as Provincial Grand Master, after which they were constituted into the Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex that same afternoon.

Quite why the 8 Petitioning Lodges were listed and signed the Memorial in reverse numerical order is open to speculation, but we do know that in the early stages of discussion about the formation of the Province, certain members of Royal Union Lodge, the oldest and most senior of the 8 Petitioning Lodges, were opposed to forming a Provincial Grand Lodge. Their membership largely consisted of retired London masons who were living in Middlesex and they had basic objections to the principle of the formation of Provincial Grand Lodges and they also appeared to have been annoyed that so little recognition had been given to the oldest Lodge in Middlesex during the discussions about the formation of the Province.

Crescent Lodge was also composed entirely of London masons and operated as ‘a summer lodge’, originally meeting between May and September at the Ait Tavern on Eel Pie Island, in the River Thames off Twickenham and later at the Mitre Hotel, Hampton. They strongly objected to the formation of Strawberry Hill Lodge, complaining that there was no room for another lodge in Twickenham to meet at the Popes Grotto in Cross Deep. This was a prime example of ‘Masonic bickering’ and is why it took so long (almost a decade) to reach a consensus between the 8 Petitioning Lodges and obtain a warrant for the formation of the Province of Middlesex.

Nevertheless, these hurdles eventually being overcome, on the afternoon of Saturday 22 January 1870, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex was inaugurated and finally came into being at the Clarence Hotel in Park Road, Teddington Middlesex, when the then Grand Secretary, VW Bro. John Hervey, Past Grand Deacon, constituted the Province and installed RW Bro. Colonel Francis Burdett as the first Provincial Grand Master, having previously consecrated Burdett Lodge No. 1293 in the morning and installed Burdett as the Primus Master of that Lodge in order to qualify him for the Office of Provincial Grand Master.

Conclusion –

When considering the arrangements for this celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the formation of the Province and the consecration of Burdett Lodge, the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and I went to visit the Clarence Hotel, which is still extant, to see if it might be possible to hold this meeting of Burdett Lodge there today, the actual day of the 150th Anniversary, and thereafter to dine there. It is a building of considerable architectural and historical interest and was built in 1863, in the neo-classical French style of architecture, just 7 years prior to the formation of the Province. The building was listed in 1983 by Historic England with Grade II status.

It is now known as the Park Hotel, due to its proximity to Bushey Park, and has recently been acquired by Youngs Brewery of Wandsworth and extensively refurbished as a ‘gastropub’, but unfortunately the interior layout of the building has been extensively altered and internal walls removed ‘making it open plan’ and what would have been the room where the both consecrations took place no longer exists, so I am afraid this aim proved impossible to achieve, hence we have had to meet held here at what was formerly the Cole Court Hotel, Twickenham, which was opened as a Masonic Centre on 9 March 1951, 81 years after the formation of the Province, at a special meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge, presided over by the then Deputy Provincial Grand Master, W Bro. Norman Moore, who was the leading light in the purchase of Cole Court in 1950 and its establishment as the Twickenham District Masonic Centre. He later became the Province’s seventh Provincial Grand Master in 1960.

Download a copy of the Presentation HERE

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