Because of the association and connection that Bitterne Park has with the old Priory, as it actually was a part of the Priory grounds, that the founders were anxious to associate their Lodge with this name. The petition was granted on 23rd May 1930, and the warrant was issued in August 1930.
The Consecration Ceremony, which took place on The 20th October 1930, at the Masonic Hall, Woolston, was performed by the then:
Worshipful Brother William Pegden was installed as the first Master of the Lodge, with George Henry Strevens as Senior Warden and Alfred Ernest Udall as Junior Warden.
(Left: Early Lodge Members)
The details of this meeting including the names of the first officers, and a list of all who attended, were published the next day (21st October) in the local Echo.
Those in attendance included 12 Grand Officers, 11 active Provincial Officers and 10 other members of Provincial Grand Lodge.
A total of Eighty Four Brethren attended the Ceremony. All the visitors were guests of the Founders at the celebration dinner, and the newly formed Lodge and the first Officers were heartily congratulated by the assembled company.
FOUNDER MEMBERS OF PRIORY LODGE
Pegden, William Vincent 4876 Canute Lodge
Strevens, George Henry 1990 Hampshire Lodge of Emulation
Udall, Alfred Ernest 1461 Clausentum Lodge
Thurlow, Albert 4541 Danehurst Lodge (Essex)
Whitfield, William Francis Canute
Penney, Percy Charles Absolom Canute
Allison, George Henry Clausentum
Mills, Vernon Charles Clausentum
Flood, John Arthur Collingwood 3174 Hillingdon Lodge (Middlesex)
Upton, Charles James 446 Benevolent Lodge (Somerset)
Smith, William Newton Clausentum
Cheverton, Alfred Douglas Clausentum
Powdrill, Arthur Henry Clausentum
Urquhart, James Robert Millar Clausentum
Taylor, Harold Howes 3948 St Andrews Lodge (E. Kent)
Ridgley, Charles Frederick 4222 Vespasian Lodge
Maitland, The Honourable Ian Cohn (Lord Thirlestone) later,
The Earl of Lauderdale 6 Lodge of Friendship (London)
Meggeson, Richard Ronald Hornsey 3045 Richmond Lodge (Transvaal)
Brock, Oliver Clausentum
Ponsford, Walter Clausentum
Udall, Ernest Charles Clausentum
Miell, Herbert Samuel Clausentum
Gradige, William Clement 1112 Shirley Lodge
Laverly, George 2523 Roll Call Lodge (Middlesex)
The Lodge General Purposes Committee first met on 13th October 1930, a week earlier than the date of the consecration ceremony, and it is recorded that by that date 13 applications for membership had been received. Their order of admission was decided by ballot, with the first four Initiates and one joining member being proposed at the consecration. It is apparent from the minutes of the G P Committee that the premises were not entirely satisfactory, as on the 12th February 1931 a Building sub-committee was set up to find new premises. First, a site in Cobden Avenue was considered, but in June 1931 the Rampart Hall in Rampart Road and adjoining land became available at a cost of £700.00. This building was to be the Lodge Temple for the next 28 years.
It was also agreed at this time that the Officers of the Lodge would pay 'Dues of Honour' and these are listed (as :)
Worshipful Master - 10 shillings (50p)
Wardens - 5 shillings (25p)
All other Officers 2 shillings, 6 pence (12.5 p)
These were backdated to 1931 and they remained payable until 1966.
In an effort to raise much needed funds the entertainments committee organised whist evenings, which were followed by dancing. They agreed a set of rules for the whist and there were spot prizes given for the dancing. 36 packs of cards were purchased for the whist at a cost of five (old) pence per pack (2p). The profit from one whist drive in July 1932 was £14, 5s, 6d (£14.28), and after four such evenings over £50.00 was raised. What value would that have today when compared in relative terms? Whatever the comparative value it was a large sum in difficult times and we are all now reaping the rewards of their efforts.
Rampart Hall was renamed the Priory Masonic Hall and it appears that full occupation of the building took place in early 1932. At this time there was no Lodge Banner. The Lodge members' wives raised the money to purchase one at a cost to them of £20.00 and presented it to the lodge. The Banner was dedicated by The Reverend R B Jolly, the Rural Dean, at a ceremony on the 8th February 1933. This Banner remained in use for almost 50 years, when, due to wear and tear it was replaced by the Lodge present banner, which was dedicated by Worshipful Brother, Reverend Dr Michael Morgan, Provincial Senior Grand Warden, during the Lodge 50th Anniversary celebrations in November 1980. Also at this time 6 dozen spirit glasses were purchased for use at the meal, which followed the meeting.
In 1935 the Lodge agreed to extend the building to accommodate the increasing numbers, at a cost, which was 'not to exceed £500.00'. When all the Quotations for the works were received, the lowest Tender was almost double this amount. In the minutes it refers to the extra costs as being due to, in architect's language, to alterations, additions and changes. Perhaps now we can all congratulate, but also understand and sympathise with the similar problem encountered by the Trustees of the Woolston Masonic Centre, during the alterations that took place in 2003.
The first Official visit to the Lodge took place in February 1935, with the then Provincial Grand Master, The Earl of Malmesbury, accompanied by 6 Provincial Officers, attending.
Such was the increased demand for entry into the lodge it was common practice at many of the lodge meetings for double ceremonies to take place. and at some meetings there would even be different degrees. This meant that progress in Office was slow, and entrance into Freemasonry was delayed due to the number of applicants. This growth continued, and enthusiasm for membership resulted in Priory Lodge sponsoring, on 1st February 1938, 5739 Bittern Lodge. Priory Lodge (still) continued to grow in numbers (after the War) which resulted in the sponsorship in 1955 of 7383 St Denys; its second daughter Lodge. The Bond between the Mother and Daughter Lodges has always remained strong with the exchange of Official visits taking place annually. From 2016 this has also included our 'Mother' (sponsoring) Lodge Canute 4876.
The outbreak of war in 1939 meant that the September meeting was, due to the existing war conditions, abandoned. This resulted in the business of the Lodge being transferred to the October meeting, where the election of the Master Elect took place, which was immediately followed by the Installation of Brother Vincent Bernard Brown as Master, after which he appointed and invested his officers. Meetings continued to take place throughout the war years, but those normally held in November, January and February were instead held in June, July and August. It is also interesting to note that during the war years, the Lodge summons contained a note indicating the location of the nearest air raid shelter.
In the late 1940's and early 1950's some of the Lodges using the Masonic Centre felt there was a growing need for the facilities to be improved. It was agreed that, although the Committee were doing their best to maintain the hall in good condition, time and shortages of labour and materials meant it was beginning to become rather 'run down and shabby'. It was resolved that, space permitting, the Lodges should move to the Masonic Hall, Manor Road South, Woolston. This motion was proposed and carried on the 10th September 1958.
In May 1954 the minutes record that the sum of £1051 4s 1d (£1051.20) was donated by the Lodge to the Royal Masonic Charity for Boys Festival, which was a considerable amount of money in difficult times. Once again we have to ask the question, what by comparison would the value of this Lodge donation to the 2016 Charity Festival (starting in 2010) be? It is £26,910.72 which is in fact slightly less than than what we had donated when the Festival donations for 2014 were counted. Our past Brethren were most generous.
The Lodge continued to attract candidates and joining members (new members) until 2017 and, apart from one year, records show it taking on members up to, and including, 2017; keeping an average of just over 40 Brethren. Sadly for the first time in several years it had no candidate for the new WM's usual initiation in November 2017 and in fact no one on the radar for his year up to October 2018 with the number falling to 36 subscribing Brethren from 1 January 2018.
But our IT usage increased, starting in 2009 when we made a 'step forward 'into the world of the 21st Century' by launching this web site with both public and members' pages and later Facebook and Twitter accounts. These proved very successful especially keeping up with Bulletins, at members' convenience from Province and elsewhere on this website under News. Additionally the bulk of summons with minutes are e-mailed to the extent that in 2017 only four Brethren needed them posted. We wonder what our founders would think of this when, in their days, most correspondence was handwritten; especially the Minutes which were then read in full at each meeting. The mind boggles at future developments which at present may be seen to a certain extent with Facebook, Twitter and other Social Networking Media. Almost certainly within the next twenty years all dues will be paid online to the Lodge's account cutting out the need for money and cheques. Even the need for charity collection in lodge will be done by use of a member taking out his phone and then and there making a direct transfer to the charity account or a Festival fund such as the Grand Lodge's Grand Charity.
With all, in the Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Priory was well into the 2016 Festival for the Royal Middle Trust for Girls and Boys and yet, in the midst of a global financial crisis, could raise by 2014 nearly £30,000. Eventually by the Festival's close in the Autumn of 2016 Priory obtained a Gold honorific for the first time in its history albeit until the last Festival of 2005 there were no such things as Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze honorifics. See Figure for whole Province below unveiled at the BIC Festival Dinner in October 2016 (Figure now with additions about £8.0M):
On the social front the traditional Ladies Festival in April continued to be a 'sell-out' event being held in the wardroom - with 'cabin' usage for overnight stays - in H.M.S. Collingwood, near Fareham. Sadly this is at present no longer available to civilians and we hold the event instead on this same date at Botley Masonic Centre.
Next as a premier fund raising event was (up to 2015) the Christmas meeting date with a shortened agenda after which members and guests join their ladies, partners and friends for a 'white table' with Christmas dinner and carol singing. From 2016 this has been solely a Social Committee event following a revision in Lodge By Laws. Widows of former members attend as guests of the lodge and the mind boggles at the stories they could tell of long ago social functions at Woolston Masonic Hall. Take a walk in the hall and meeting room areas when others are in the the dining room and thoughts of past members and meetings in past times fill the mind. The writer for this part for the history also remembers well his time as a young man way back in the 1970's. All he hoped is that he was not regarded by youngsters and new members as a 'grey haired martinet' like Director of Ceremonies and Secretaries (incorrectly) had appeared to him in those distant years!
Now as the new century is moving to show likely future moves Priory will have a better idea of adapting these for the modern era. It will accept that meeting times and overall organisation will have to recognize new patterns of work when more and more men will make a start at 7.00 pm the average time rather than past late afternoon's 'close tyles' plus an ever more increased use of IT. But above all Priory will still be 'the friendly lodge' where there is a combination of strict working to those Masonic precepts, long cherished by Masons, together with an easy and pleasing atmosphere of fraternal affection, epitomised perhaps by the writer's acceptance of some members and their guests good-natured joking at the last Secretary's 'extended workings' when giving the traditional news and business parts of every meeting! Long may Priory keep these traditions!
Copyright © 2005-2017, A.C. Holmes and P.A.W. Greenland, MA - permission sought to reproduce in part some original text.
(Source: a booklet written by A.C. Holmes for the Lodge's 75th Anniversary Celebrations in November 2005)