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The History of Burgoyne Lodge No. 902

 

The History of

BURGOYNE LODGE No. 902

by

Trevor I. Harris

Most of us have at some time visited the Tower of London and seen the Yeoman Warders, or “Beefeaters”, resplendent in their uniforms. But how would you feel if, on a visit, there were none to be seen, and on enquiring why, being informed “they’ve all gone off to a lodge meeting!”

Of course, it couldn’t happen, not because our brother Warders are inactive Masonically, but due to the fact that those who are Masons belong to several lodges, which intentionally meet on different days. This is the story of one of those lodges.

In 1861, eight members of Constitutional Lodge No. 55 decided to form a new lodge. They raised £5-5-0 for the Warrant, and additionally subscribed 5/- each for the cost of setting up the lodge.

The petition was deposited with Grand Lodge on Xmas Eve 1861, and even though the next day was Xmas Day, the Warrant was signed, sealed and ready for collection on December 27th!

The lodge was called The Tower Hamlets Engineers Lodge No. 1204, and became one of the select few City Military lodges. The following year, with the closing up of numbers, the lodge became No. 902.

It was made up of volunteers from the then new Corps of Engineers, and adopted the emblem of the Tower of London from their regimental badge, which they used on both their banner and Past Masters jewels. They also retained the regimental motto Perita Potius Quam Vi, meaning “By Skill Rather Than Strength”.

In 1869 the lodge changed its name to Burgoyne Lodge, in honour of its connection with the Tower of London (Sir John Fox Burgoyne was at the time the Constable of the Tower, as well as being an engineer himself). This was apparently such an unusual occurrence that Grand Lodge could not find a precedent, and cheerfully waived any dispensation fee.

The consecration meeting was held in February 1862 at the Ship and Turtle Inn, in the City of London.

The first Master of the Lodge was W. Bro. Lieut. William Wigginton PPGDC (Worcs.), who wore the full ceremonial dress of the Rifle Corps, as did the three officers and two NCO’s who were initiated that same evening. It could not have been easy for the candidates to be initiated dressed in this manner, as the uniform included skin-tight breeches!

Others also wore the uniforms of their various regiments, and formed so imposing a sight, that a report appeared in the Masonic Record of that month, which read “The ceremony was enlivened by the handsome uniforms of the Honourable Artillery Company, the sober colours of the London Rifle Brigade, and the gay scarlet and blue of the Engineers”.

The Burgoyne Lodge Past Master’s Jewel

The meeting of May 1862 comprised five raisings and three initiations. At the same meeting, care arrangements were made for the widow and six small children of Doctor Bro. R. Richardson, one of the Founders, who had just died from typhus. In 1864 the lodge moved to the Masons Hall Tavern, London EC, but disaster was to strike. On the evening before the installation meeting of 1866, the tavern burnt down. It is recorded in the minutes that the ceremony still took place, but with “maimed rites”.

By the 1870’s the lodge was flourishing, and during the two year master-ship of W. Bro. R. Field, the lodge admitted no less than 42 new brethren, of whom 32 were initiates, and even sponsored a new lodge, Athenaeum Lodge No. 1491.

 

The Burgoyne Lodge Diamond Jubilee Jewel

In 1912 Burgoyne Lodge celebrated its 50th Anniversary, and to commemorate the event the lodge produced a special medal to mark the lodge's Diamond Jubilee.

To this day, these two lodges regularly support each other’s meetings. At the building of the new Grand Lodge in Great Queen Street in 1932, Burgoyne became a Hall Stone Lodge.

In the Queen’s Coronation year of 1953, another daughter lodge was founded, Pathfinder Lodge No. 7555. Three members of Burgoyne Lodge were founders, including the WW2 flying legend Group Captain L.G. (Johnny) Johnson OBE DFC, who had been initiated in 1935.

In 1962 Burgoyne Lodge celebrated its centenary, and to commemorate the event an application was made to Grand Lodge for permission to issue their own centenary jewel. The application was duly granted, and the lodge's centenary was celebrated with their centenary jewel in hallmarked silver-gilt.

 

Burgoyne Lodge's standard pattern Centenary Jewel

Charity is always under consideration, and since 1990 the lodge has donated, with help from ladies festivals, Burns night suppers and other events, no less than £37,000.00 to various charitable causes, not all Masonic.

The lodge practices West End ritual, and has a lodge of instruction. Today, apart from many

members who are still associated with the Tower of London, its membership includes brethren in the army and police force, as well as builders and surveyors.

Throughout the history of the lodge, members have brought in relatives. However, there is one family, the Players, of particular note. They had a father, two sons, and two sons-in-law all active in the lodge.

The wife of one of these actually gave birth to a baby boy while her husband was being initiated into the lodge. To mark this unusual occurrence, the brand new Lewis was christened Horace Burgoyne Player, and in time he himself became a Freemason.

Another family member, the late W. Bro. J.C.E. Player, wrote the following dedication-

“Hard by the Thames, as in centuries past,

The Tower of London Stands.

Created by Craftsmen, intended to last,

Raised by experienced hands.

The cradle of Burgoyne, the heritage plain,

And steadfast traditions are ours to maintain.

One of the privileges frequently offered to guests is the hospitality of the Tower, as well as being invited to witness the fascinating Ceremony of the Keys. The centenary meeting was held at the Café Royal, but for its 125th anniversary, the meeting was held at the Tower Room, with a fine five-course banquet.

It was a sumptuous feast, but nowhere near as lavish as the installation meeting of 1886, when no less than twelve separate courses were served! There were ten toasts, each with its own song given by a different (or indifferent) singer. Lodge fees for that year were £3-3-0, equivalent in today’s money to well over £500 a year.

The Past Master’s jewel of Burgoyne Lodge No. 902 belongs to W. Bro. Ernest B. Hamley CStJ, whose invaluable assistance in writing this article is gratefully acknowledged.