St.Martin’s Lodge History
St Martin’s Lodge No 2812 – Address for its first 100 years
Centenary Meeting 8th May 2000
RW Prov Grand Master, Brethren
1900, one hundred years ago – what did Fenny Stratford seem like then? Well I can’t cram 100 years and the minutes of 600 or more Lodge meetings into a brief talk, but perhaps I can evoke for the evening, a feel for the flavour of events leading up to and around our Lodge Consecration.
Fenny had been a regular staging post along the important Watling Street since Roman times, and now it was a market town. It was also typical of small towns then, a muddy, smelly, unsavoury and insanitary conglomeration with a high mortality rate.
The horse was still very much the predominant form of local transport and motor vehicles were hardly heard of let alone seen. You were still prosecuted for speeding at anything over 12 mph, although Mr Walter Carlile MP and a Founder, may have been thinking about buying one! In 1904, he was the first MP to arrive at the Houses of Parliament by car.
The main topic of the day, in the local and national newspapers, was the increasing seriousness of events and casualties of the war in South Africa. Walter, (later Sir Walter) Carlile, our car driving MP for North Bucks, was reported in first week of January 1900, to have been prominent and instrumental in the selection of volunteers for the Boer War. Everyone was talking about it, and at our local Parish Church, St Martin’s, the Rev Henry Oliver, had raised a collection of £42 for the ‘Soldiers and Families Fund’.
At the end of January that same year, the funeral of the most notable freemason in North Bucks was reported – the VW Bro. Thomas Taylor from Newport Pagnell. Among the huge number of mourners including townsfolk, fellow JP’s, etc, were freemasons and Lodge representatives, including two of our founders, Walter Carlile again, and Maj Levi.
Only days after this notable occasion, a very enthusiastic meeting was held in the High Street Schools, Fenny Stratford, to take on the formation of a Volunteer Force for the town. A large gathering of men filled the room – Lieutenant-Colonel Broome-Giles presided, and Messrs D.C. Edwards, W.R. Rowland, Thomas Best, Major John Chadwick and Drs. Deynes, Buxton and Bradbrook supported him.
They appointed Messrs Best, Chadwick and Edwards as recruiting sergeants, and also formed a committee consisting of all above and including the Rev Henry Oliver. All names of future members of St Martin’s Lodge, many of them now on that (pointing) Board of Past Masters.
So now I have connected 5 of our 10 Grand Originals – Sir Walter Carlile, Col Levi, Maj Chadwick, Col Broome-Giles and the Rev. Oliver. The first three of these were Past Masters of Saints Peter & Paul, Lodge Newport Pagnell.
Three more Past Masters from SS Peter and Paul make our Founder numbers up to 8, and they were Henry Pope, Col. Findlay and Col. Burney. Col. Findlay was also a member of Walter Carlile’s mother Lodge, St. George’s & Cornerstone Lodge No 5.
My predecessor historian Hedley Clarke reported that WBro Findlay, our first Worshipful Master, ‘undoubtedly added the additional conclave of Founders’ to himself and the Rev Oliver’s contacts – Messrs Hughes and Hook.
Reginald Hughes was the Rev Oliver’s London stockbroker, and the Rev Frederick Hook was Oliver’s curate at St Martin’s Church.
Most of these distinguished forbears, lived in exceptionally large houses in and around the North Bucks district. During the early 1980’s, I also remember Katherine Lady Carlile, Sir Walter’s second wife then widowed, reminisce to me how it was a frequent practice for all these estate owners to regularly meet in each others’ houses for dinner or events – shooting parties etc. I remember, she actually mentioned the tiny villages of Wavendon and Woughton, and Col. Burney lived at Wavendon Towers, Col. Levi at Woughton House.
The next occasion this group of names appeared together was on a petition for the formation of St Martin’s Lodge at Fenny, dates 21st March 1900. The petition was duly granted and St. Martin’s Lodge was consecrated on 21st July that same year.
The Bucks Standard quietly reported the event noting, “the Rev. Bro.V. P. Wyatt delivered a touching and interesting address”. It went on to reveal that, “after the ceremony, with the Lodge business concluded, the brethren adjourned to the Town Hall, where a banquet was partaken of, the Toast List including ‘The Queen and the Craft’; the GM, HRH the Prince of Wales etc, etc. Between the speeches, an excellent musical programme was rendered by a glee party, under Bro. Herbert Schartau.”
Now that phrase, a glee party, was new to me. However, I notice from the report of a Scientific Lodge meeting at Wolverton that year, a glee party at their Installation evening entertained the brethren with the following glees: “In absence”, “Nelly was a Lady”, “The Franklyn’s Dogge”, “Banks of Allan Water” and “Thurlingian Volkslied”. Several brethren contributed to the occasion.
And wouldn’t I be full of glee if the Provincial Team would ‘Sing Something Simple’ for us tonight! Only joking!!
Thus I hope you feel a taste of those times and perhaps the reasons that motivated our founding 100 years ago. It was, a momentous time and a special day for all associated with St Martin’s Lodge then and now. The Lodge has certainly gone from strength to strength, and has played the most significant part in the development of Freemasonry, particularly in North Buckinghamshire.
Just a few of the notable milestones on route to today I simply list. A full history is underway and hopefully will be made as an addendum to the fascinating document here, marvellously prepared by W.Bro. Ken Priest in my enforced absence.
1903 – Rt Hon the Earl of Orkney initiated – he went on to be a Past Master and eventually, Provincial Grand Master for this Province from 1909 to 1916. He presented this ballot box as a token of his gratitude.
1914 –1918 W.Bro. Gurney White Buxton and Bro.Herbert George Staniford made the supreme sacrifice, killed in action for the King and Country and poignantly, – for all of us here tonight.
1920 – Dedication of Present Lodge Banner – more later.
1923 – St Martins’ began to raise the collection for the Million Memorial Fund, and thereby our revered Hall Stone Jewel, St Martin’s achieving a total of £540.
1925 – A further 100gns subscribed by the Lodge for the building of the Royal Masonic Hospital.
1940 – W.Bro.Hedley Clarke the Secretary, and others resisted closure of the Lodge during wartime, due to High Street School premises being requisitioned for the Military. W.Bro. Frank Ruffle served as Master for 3 consecutive years, and we resorted to meeting in pubs, bars, shops and vicarages for the duration!
1944 – Plans introduced by W.Bro.Jim Ramsbothom,Treasurer, our Senior Warden’s late father, to consider purchase of High Street Schools for our own use after the war.
1945 – Freehold of High Street Schools secured by St Martins. Refurbishment costs were recovered from the Ministry of Works
1949 – Our Secretary Hedley Clarke again had foresight, and was instrumental in acquiring the vacant and large adjacent plot, which then linked our High Street School Temple buildings through to the adjoining Church Street. St. Martin’s Lodge purchased it from him on favourable terms, using a bank overdraft. Besides outbuildings, the premises had room for ‘garaging 100 cars’. One of our ‘Finest Hours’.
1964 – Committee combined from all 3 Bletchley Lodges and Chapter formed to seek new premises.
1966 – High Street Temple premises were refurbished by many of the younger Lodge members.
1967 – Following the deaths of several eminent brethren, St Martin’s reappointed the committee, including our own Grand Officer W.Bro.Ron Pollard, and co-opted from Brickhill Lodge, W.Br.o Bert Weatherhead, to further address the search for new premises.
1968 – Bletchley Masonic Hall Ltd., formed by an amalgamation of representatives from all the then three Bletchley Lodges and Oliver Chapter, leading to the disposal of the High Street Premises at a premium price in return for the freehold of our present Masonic complex.
1973 – Freehold of our present Queensway Masonic Hall secured by the Directors of Bletchley Masonic Hall Company Ltd., for all freemasons meeting in Bletchley, with St. Martins Lodge being the major shareholder.
Obviously this is our greatest asset, and all due to the foresight and enthusiasm of an earlier generation of St Martin’s brethren. One of these illustrious brethren, and who played a pivotal role in the acquisition and subsequent success of this marvellous Centre is W.Bro. Ron Pollard.
We are blessed to have with us this evening, W.Bro. Ron, and I think we should all stand and show how much we owe and appreciate, all that he and his fellow members have done for us. We applaud you Ron. (Applause)
Just let me thank you for listening and close with a moving link to one of our Grand Original Founders. St. Martin’s has seen so many worthy brethren these past 100 years. It has continued with undiminished endeavour and enthusiasm to what it is today, and it deservedly suits the occasion to mention how the Lodge has come to reside in what is, a natural home.
The local Council Surveyor & Inspector of Nuisances created this splendid Neo-Elizabethan design to be used as a Council Chamber. Remarkably, he was non-other than trained architect, Maj John Chadwick – our founding Senior Warden.
Thank you all.
Written & Presented By W.Bro. C.M.Brown