The Story of Neptune Lodge No. 22
THE STORY OF
NEPTUNE LODGE No. 22
TREVOR I. HARRIS, Past Master
The lodge first met as an Antients or Atholl lodge on the 22nd August 1757. At that time the lodge is described in the 1st minute book as being “not constituted”, and the minutes are described as “transactions at a Freemason’s Lodge”, as at this time our lodge had neither name nor number.
The Warrant of Constitution had been applied for in person by our first Master, Lawrence Boyne, who was paid 11s 7d in expenses for his troubles, the Warrant to commence on the 12th December 1757, but the Warrant did not to arrive until December 14th 1757. The cost was £2.2s.6d, and the lodge was given the number 64.
The money was forwarded to the famous Lawrence Dermott personally, the driving force behind the Antients Grand Lodge. The Deputy Grand Master, William Holford, was due to arrive in Deptford to present the Warrant on the 12th December 1757, with the Brethren waiting in eager anticipation. However, neither Warrant nor Deputy Grand Master turned up, to the great disappointment of all the brethren.
But fortunately the mishap was rectified two days later, on the 14th December, and to inform the brethren of the new date, three messengers were despatched at a cost of 2/- each. What we do know is that the lodge had been meeting for many months prior to August 1757, and there are written records confirming at least two initiations before that date.
We also know that the lodge had to be formed after 1753, as it was using the redundant minute book of Atholl lodge No. 20, which was formed in November 1752 and ceased to work after December 1753. The lodge is also fortunate in having a virtually complete set of minute books from 1757 to the present day, something few lodges in the craft can match.
From what we can glean from the very early records, Neptune lodge was founded by six brethren, including Bro. Lawrence Boyne, who worked at HM Victualling offices in Deptford and had been initiated into Atholl Lodge No. 30 in January 1754, and Bro. James Clare, and were appointed Worshipful Master and Senior Warden of our lodge respectively in August 1757.
The lodge held its first meetings at the Redhouse Tavern, Deptford, a fact unrecorded in Grand Lodge records to this day, and not even Lane’s Masonic Records mentions this fact. Perhaps they should be told.
From very small beginnings the lodge flourished, holding up to three or four meetings each month, many of which were initiations. When no ceremony was performed, one of the senior brethren would present a Masonic lecture. The Lodge’s first members were sailors, ships fitters and victuallers working at the Royal Navy Victualling yards at Deptford, mainly of Irish descent’
Despite the many initiations performed, the lodge also lost many members when ships set sail, for although many ships were initially provisioned at Deptford, they sailed to other dockyards to be re-provisioned. This is illustrated by the fact that by 1760, Bro Boyne, the first Master, was the only one of our six founders still in the lodge.
The Past Masters Jewel
On November 21st 1757, Samuel Garth, the proprietor of the Redhouse Tavern, who was not a Freemason, was initiated into the lodge, a very useful move as he rewarded the brethren with 5/- in punch in addition to his initiation fee.
The initiation fee was £1. 5s. 0d., a large sum in those days. Consequently, most initiates paid their fees by instalments, however they could not take their 3rd degree until all outstanding fees had been paid. Bro. Garth must have been quite affluent, as he settled his entire fee in one payment.
Members of the rival Moderns Grand Lodge were able to join Neptune Lodge, and would only have to pay a normal joining fee of 5/-, but they would have to agree to sever all links with the Moderns Grand Lodge, and then be re-initiated.
The lodge was flourishing, and in 1758 it held its first election of officers, with Bro. Lawrence Boyne being unanimously elected to continue as Master. Lawrence Boyne was truly the father of the lodge, and he was to remain an active member for just under forty years.
He gave numerous lectures whenever required, and his zeal brought the lodge through many difficult periods, and as a reward was given the title “Senior Past Master”.
At that time, elections were held twice a year, with a shortened ceremony if the incumbent Master was being re-elected.
In December 1758, Bro. Clare, who also worked in H. M.’s victualling office, was installed as Worshipful Master. It is interesting to note that in those days the Master was called the Right Worshipful Master, and The Wardens were called Worshipful Brother Wardens. In 1759 the lodge became Number 13. Its first Junior Warden, John Irons, was a sailmaker, and became Right Worshipful Master in 1760.
The first Senior Deacon was a waterman at King’s Yard, but he was not made a Master Mason until the following year. When, at the installation meeting of December 1759 he was not given an office, he created such a rumpus that the Master had no choice but to ask him to leave, which he did, at the same time tendering his resignation, and he was not heard of ever again. We are fortunate that Masons today do not behave in that manner, hopefully.
The first initiate was Bro. James Reading, who worked in the Government Victualling office. He rapidly advanced, being appointed Secretary just four weeks after his initiation.
He unfortunately died in 1759, with the lodge contributing 15s 6d towards his funeral expenses, with perhaps some spent on alcoholic solace.
The sixth member of the lodge, John Stowers, another Waterman, was “Declared off”, and left without his certificate, not having paid his dues up to date. In January 1759, the lodge moved to The Sign of the Griffin Inn, also in Deptford. It was no co-incidence that the landlord of the Griffin Inn, Bro. Dell, had been initiated into Neptune Lodge the month previous.
This so upset Bro. Garth, the proprietor of the Redhouse Inn where they had been meeting, that he resigned immediately. Certainly, he couldn’t have liked the thought of frequenting a rival establishment.
It had always been a lodge custom for the Master to be paid 2/6d towards his expenses for attending Grand Lodge, but Bro. McCabe, a joining member, thought accepting such a donation it was unmasonic, and resigned in protest.
In 1765, the lodge bought seven aprons at 1/3d each, and presumably they were presented to each Master Mason on completion of his third degree. In 1767, Bro. Dell, the landlord of the Griffin, passed to the Grand Lodge above, and the minute book states “buried Bro. Dell, Grand Officers and Brethren to the number of sixty attended”. At this time, the membership of the lodge had increased to 23 Brethren.
July 1766 saw the bye-laws revised. Of note is No. 7, which stated that a visitor who was not an Antient Mason could only visit the lodge once without joining. This gave a Moderns Mason the opportunity to see Neptune Lodge at work before taking the major step of switching allegiance to an Antients lodge.
In 1767 the lodge purchased two chairs, for the Master and the Senior Warden, at a cost of £2. 7s. 0d. One wonders where those chairs are today.
It was common practice for Masons at this time to parade through the streets in procession wearing full regalia, and on St. Johns Day on the 24th June 1767, the lodge was opened at 9 o’clock in the morning at the Griffin, and joined a Masonic procession at Bro. Smith’s at Blackheath, to parade to Greenwich and back. They returned in the evening to dine at the Griffin, and the lodge was closed at 10 o’clock that evening.
It is interesting to note that our early brethren of Neptune Lodge were extremely proud of being Freemasons, and perfectly happy to be seen in full regalia by both non-masons and ladies alike.
The first toast recorded in the Minutes was on St. Johns Day, 1777, when the Brethren dined at 1 o’clock. The toast was “the Grand Master and all absent brethren”. For the next twenty years, the lodge worked steadily, with the usual ups and downs, although from 1784 the lodge met just once a month.
The year 1790 saw the first Royal Arch ceremony. As an Antients lodge, this would have involved the candidate to pass through the veils, a beautiful ceremony which was removed from the ritual at the amalgamation of the two Grand Lodges in 1813. This ceremony is still practised in Ireland and some parts of England to this day.
Candidates for the Royal Arch had to be Past Masters, so, when membership of the Royal Arch declined due to a shortage of Past Masters, the difficulty was overcome by the introduction of a short ceremony where members were “passed through the Chair”.
After this they were treated as Past Masters, even though they had never actually been Master of a lodge. The Royal Arch degree was now proving to be very popular, however in the craft the curious case of Bro. Levy was now approaching.
In 1793, seventeen new brethren, both initiates and joining members, were admitted, one of whom was the infamous Joseph Levy, a Past Master. After nine month’s membership, the records state “The affair Mr. Levy coming forward “to our attention”, we found him to be a clandestine mason, and dismissed him and closed the lodge in good harmony”.
Bro. Levy was apparently a Moderns Mason who was supposed to have given up his allegiance to the Moderns Grand Lodge, but obviously hadn’t. His secret had then been discovered, and he was instantly expelled. It is interesting to note that the records contemptuously refer to him as Mr. Levy, and not as Bro. Levy, even though he was a Past Master.
The lodge traditionally had a luncheon on both St. John’s Day in June and in December, on the day of installation, and in 1794 our records state that “Dinner is proposed to be on the table for 2 o’clock”.
In 1798 the lodge purchased its first Past Master’s jewel for £1. 5s 0d, a princely sum in those days. Its whereabouts today are unknown, but it might still turn up someday.
Many sailors were now joining the lodge, some to resign the same night that they were initiated, as they were due to go to sea the following day.
Then came the Napoleonic wars, and it was not unusual for the Master and both Wardens to be absent at the war with the French. In fact, the lodge might have gone under at this time had it was not for the visitors from the United Mariners Lodge No. 30, who filled the major offices when senior brethren were away at war. It is interesting to note that any officer who was absent from the lodge without good cause was given a fine.
In addition to sailors there were many Irish members, and it was not uncommon for a brother to resign on account of his returning to Ireland , or as he was going to sea many of the visitors were also members of Irish lodges. Travelling in winter was often difficult, and there is least one instance where the lodge was not opened due to members being unable to attend as a consequence of bad weather.
In June 1808, Bro. William Graham was passed through all three degrees in one evening on account of his going to sea. He left the next day with his Neptune Lodge membership certificate, but eight week’s later he was shipwrecked. After his return to England , he asked the lodge for a replacement certificate, as his original had gone down with his ship. His request was naturally granted.
In February 1810, the lodge purchased its first banner, at the huge price of £17. Three years later, the union of the two Grand Lodges took place, and a Lodge of Reconciliation was set up, to promote the practise of a standardised working. To help it through this difficult period, Neptune was honoured in having two members, Bro. James McCann, and Bro. Philip Broadfoot, as members of that prestigious lodge.
The new United Grand Lodge forbade lodge officers from wearing officers jewels enclosed within a silver circle, this privilege being reserved for Grand Lodge only. Neptune Lodge already had jewels which were enclosed, but as they had been in use for some years, the lodge was allowed to retain them, and they are still in use to this day, the Deacon’s jewels having been made by the famous Thomas Harper himself.
In 1850, Bro. Henry Muggeridge, leader of the Stability Lodge of Instruction and secretary of Panmure Lodge No. 715, was made an honorary member of the lodge. He became the preceptor, and his knowledge of ritual was so great that he is known as the Father of Stability working.
The Muggeridge Jewel
It is the privilege of every Master of Neptune Lodge to wear this jewel during his year of office.
In appreciation of his services to the lodge, a very special jewel had been presented to him the previous year, and it is still worn by Masters of Neptune Lodge to this day. Henry Muggeridge’s association with the lodge continued right up to his death in 1898.
Although founded in 1757, the lodge did not receive its Centenary warrant until 1859, the centenary of the date the lodge’s number was changed to No. 13. A special Centenary jewel was made, and as this was before the standard pattern jewel was introduced, the lodge was able to choose its own design, based on its banner. The original cost of the jewels was three guineas each.
Neptune Lodge’s Pre-Regulation Centenary Jewel
(Note the erroneous date)
Members of Neptune Lodge served in the Crimean War, and there are records of members of Neptune Lodge holding lodge meetings illegally at Smyrna in the Crimea. They did possess an old Irish warrant, but even though no valid warrant was present, they initiated several candidates.
Some of these new members formed themselves into three lodges, which eventually became the Grand Lodge of Turkey. The Grand Secretary was so incensed at this blatant flouting of rules that he wrote to all English lodges, forbidding them to admit any mason initiated at Smyrna.
During the American Civil War, Bro. Haggar, who we had initiated in 1852, applied for a replacement certificate as his original has been destroyed when the Grand Temple of Texas was razed down to the ground.
During the 1860’s, the lodge flourished, with the membership reaching 89, and was financially very prosperous, with visitors coming from all over the world. There were even ten Parsees who joined the lodge, eight of whom were initiates. The prosperity was reflected in the fact that very large charitable donations were made to the Masonic Institutions.
Many illustrious personages joined Neptune Lodge at this time, one of the more well known being Captain Mathew Webb, initiated in November 1875, who was the first man to swim the English Channel.
In 1877 the lodge received a letter from Montefiore Lodge No. 1017, to help petition the Grand Lodge of Germany, who excluded everyone from Freemasonry who did not profess Christianity, and in the best Masonic tradition, our lodge offered ready assistance.
When in 1922 a fund was launched to build the new Freemasons Hall, Neptune Lodge was ready with a sizeable donation towards a fund known as the Masonic Millions fund, and consequently the lodge became one of the famous Hall Stone Lodges. Neptune was presented with a Hall Stone Jewel, which the Master still has the privilege of wearing during his year of office.
Neptune Lodge has continued to flourish, and in the years that followed, no less than two Grand Secretaries, Sir Sidney White, Grand Secretary from 1937-1957, and Sir James Stubbs, Grand Secretary from 1958-1968, comprising a continuous fun of over fifty years, were both active members of Neptune Lodge.
In October 1999 Neptune Lodge was joined by the brethren of De Grey and Rippon Lodge No. 905, which had ceased working.
Neptune Lodge was also the Host Lodge for the three Masonic Experiences, held in 2001 and hosted by Trevor Harris, a Past Master of Neptune Lodge and the Lodge Historian, which were extremely successful in raising money for both the Lodge Charities and the Library and Museum.
The Masonic experiences comprised a series of lectures, also written by Trevor Harris, which were held in The Library and Museum. They centred around the story of the Country Stewards Lodge, and its unfortunate demise. The lectures were followed by fundraising dinners.
Neptune lodge celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2007. It is both an honour and a privilege to be a member of this ancient and prestigious lodge, and we trust that Neptune Lodge will be able to look forward to another equally successful 250 years.