History of St Johns

St John's Lodge

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Following the end of the Great War in 1918 there was a great influx of soldiers returning from the conflict into Freemasons Lodges across the Country, including Northampton. They had a great desire to join something that was working to make the world a better place as well as continuing that brotherhood and fraternity they had experience in the Forces during the conflict.

At the end of the War there were only three Lodges in Northampton Town, the last of these being Kingsley Lodge which was consecrated in 1892, twenty six years previously. It quickly became obvious that the number of new members would strain the exiting Lodges in the Town and the Provincial Grand Master Lord Lilford instructed that a new Lodge should be formed. As a result, on the 12th May1919 a petition was sent to the United Grand Lodge of England requesting that the Grand Master consider authorising the formation of a new Lodge to be called St John’s. A letter accompanying stated

“I send herewith a petition for a new Lodge in Northampton. The Pomfret, Eleanor Cross and Kingsley Lodges have now grown so large that many Brethren cannot see any chance of getting into office for many years and it is felt that another Lodge would give some relief and would be of advantage to the Craft".

The Lodge was consecrated Wednesday 8"‘ October 1919 at Freemasons Hall Princes Street Northampton under the sponsorship of Pomfret Lodge no: 360.  There were 36 Founder Members which included R.W. Bro. Lord Lilford the Provincial Grand Master who was installed as the first Worshipful Master.

Also, during the time between October 1919 and April 1929 there were 35 1st Degree (including one double), 31 2nd Degrees (including 5 doubles), 38 3rd Degrees (including 4 doubles) and 12 Joining Members. It was not unusual to have 2 different degrees at the same meeting.

At the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 the September and Installation meeting of the Lodge was cancelled. In the following November it was decided that the Installation would procced and the Master was duly installed on the 15th of January 1940. This was the only interruption the Lodge would experience during the war, with all three degrees ceremonies taking place. However, at the September 1940 meeting a letter was read out headed “After proceedings”

In view of the increasing difficulties of catering and of the present national requirements, the P.G. M. asks lodges to exercise moderation in the after-proceedings. He is fully aware of the benefit which is derived from social intercourse but asks all Lodges in the Province to consider whether during the coming session it would not he inharmony with the spirit of the times to confine the provision of meals at after proceedings to the installation meetings. In this connection he reminds the brethren of a statement made earlier this year by our late M.W. Grand Master concerning the restrictions it has been necessary to impose on all. He said, “We can maintain all our customs with just as good effect by being simple in our ways and hope that no Lodge will he guilty of any action which could be condemned or even criticised.”

Although many members of the Lodge joined the forces there is thankfully no record of any deaths or serious injury due to enemy action. From January 1st, 1940, to March 1943 there was no supper or in other words no festive board. From April 1943 a light supper was served.
In December 1945, the Lodge was honoured by a request from the Provincial Grand Superintendent to form St. John’s Chapter, which was duly consecrated on 25"‘ July 1946. In January of the same year, Lord Lilford, the first W.M. of the Lodge died,

At a Past Masters meeting on 15 November 1948 it was agreed to sponsor-a new lodge and consequently The Lodge of St. James was duly consecrated on 21“ Mar 1949.

On the 19'” November 1962 a new Lodge banner was dedicated by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master V.W.Bro B Guillaume, a Past Master of the Lodge. The banner depicts St. John the Baptist and contains the motto in Latin “Non Sur Rexit Major” (Greater has not risen). V.W.Bro. Guillaume went onto be the Provincial Grand Master on the 17th of December 1962

The 1970’s brought on a move for the Lodge. From April 72 to November 72 the Lodge met at the Towcester Masonic Hall and dined at the Saracen‘s Head. This was following the compulsory purchase and demolition of the Hall at Princes Street to allow for the construction of the Grosvenor Centre and Bus Station. A new Hall was built at St Georges Avenue alongside the Racecourse. The first meeting at the new Hall was on the 20th November 1972.

By the late 1990’s Lodge members started to dwindle and another move followed the sale of the St Georges Ave premises. The Lodge met for a year at the Westone Hotel in Weston Favell until the new Hall at our current home of Sheaf Close was completed. In 2018 the Lodge saw the lowest number of members in the Lodges history. With the Lodge beginning to struggle with an aging and reducing membership the Provincial Grand Master realising that the Lodge was to need support if it was going to reach its Centenary. The PGM sent out a request to the other Lodges in the Province, particularly Northampton, for new members to join the Lodge. As a result, the lodge received 21 new members of all ranks and ages which meant that the Lodge was secure. It was also decided that the Lodge would be transformed into the Province's first UGLE Universities Scheme with an objective of forming a relationship with the University of Northampton and a route into the Craft for Students at the University .

In February 2020 the Lodge celebrated its centenary meeting, something that had been in serous doubt a year or two previously. The banner was rededicated, and the Lodge refreshed to take on the challenges of the next century. Little did we know that evening would be the last meeting of the Lodge would hold, the outbreak of a disease in far away China was starting to gain some attention with all Masonic activity ceasing the following month as what was to become known as COVID 19 started to ravage the country and the Masonic suspension was announced by the Grand Master in March 2020.

While the Lodge couldn’t operate normally during the Masonic suspension it made good use of the modern technologies that our Brothers 100 years ago could only dream of. The lodge kept in contact with regular Zoom meetings with not only its members but the prospective candidates of the Lodge who were waiting to join us very patiently .

Thankfully, July 2021 saw an easing of the restrictions and a lifting of the suspension. This enabled the Lodge to hold its first emergency meeting in August 2021 to elect Bro Jim Keegan as the Master for the ensuing year and the first Light Blue Mason since 2014. This was followed in September 2021 by a second emergency meeting to initiate the first of the Lodge’s waiting candidates.  The recovery of the Lodge was now well underway with the 2nd candidate to be initiated since the rescue had been launched.