A Brief History of Freemasonry in the County

1746

The oldest Lodge in Nottinghamshire would seem to be a Lodge warranted in 1746 by the “Moderns” Grand Lodge and was numbered No. 224, meeting at the Blackamores Head (the corner of High Street & Pelham Street). In 1755 it was renumbered No. 160, but erased in 1758. Masonry at this time taking its lead from the London Lodges. The first Provincial Grand Master of Nottinghamshire was Thomas Boothby Parkyns, 1st Lord Rancliffe, the grandson of Thomas Parkyns, the Lord of the Manor of Bunny and Ruddington, architect scholar and pugilist. He was successfully sued for a great deal of money by his grandson, the 1st Lord Rancliffe.

1757

In 1757 a Lodge warranted as No. 62 by the “Antients” was also given a warrant as No. 292 by the “Moderns”, and was known from 1787 onwards as the Union Lodge. The Union Lodge later sponsored the Tynan Lodge in the Province of Derbyshire. The Union Lodge was also the progenitor of the Royal Arch Chapter of Justice in Nottinghamshire but the Chapter was transferred to the Tyrian Lodge (Derbys), when the Union Lodge ceased in 1814.

1790

In 1790, a Lodge warranted by the “Antients” as No.260 met at the Carpenters Arms in Castle Gate, Nottingham. This Lodge transferred to the Moderns and was renumbered 595 and named the Warren Lodge in 1802 - in honour of Sir John Borlace Warren of Stapleford who was a Rear Admiral of the White in the Royal Navy. He had recently become the Provincial Grand Master of Nottinghamshire after resigning as the Provincial Grand Master for Derbyshire. (The Warren Lodge ceased to exist in 1823, after the death of Sir John.) If Lodges existing under two different constitutions seems a little confusing, it comes about by “The Grand Lodge” reorganising or perhaps more correctly modifying Masonry, so that when Irish Masons came to England they were not able to prove themselves Masons under the “new” English arrangement. So the Irish formed another Grand Lodge, calling themselves “The Antients” and styling the existing Grand Lodge “The Moderns”. It seemed to the Irish that the “Moderns” had corrupted Antient Freemasonry, so, the old became The Moderns, and the new became “The Antients”.

1802

In 1802, Sir John Borlace Warren was appointed the Ambassador Plenipotentiary to the Czar of all the Russias, an appointment that took him away from England for three years, therefore to act in his stead he appointed the Reverend William Peters who became the first Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Nottinghamshire. The Reverend William Peters was already the Provincial Grand Master of Lincolnshire and his talent as an artist was such as to have prompted Grand Lodge to create, especially for William Peters, the office of “Grand Artist”. In Newark, the original Corinthian Lodge was warranted as No. 470 by the Moderns and in 1792 subsequently renumbered 524, but again renumbered 347 in 1832. The Corinthian Lodge lapsed a few months later during 1833. The Antients Lodge was warranted in 1806 and at some point applied to Grand Lodge, through Sir John Borlace Warren, to be transferred to the Moderns. This request was granted and a warrant was issued for the Warren Lodge No. 132 but was never taken up by Lodge No. 107. This Lodge lapsed in 1813.

1813

In 1813, the two Grand Masters, the Duke of Kent and the Duke of Sussex agreed to a Union of the two Grand Lodges and the Duke of Kent stood down in order that the Duke of Sussex should become the First Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. The acrimony between the Ancients and the Moderns mostly ceased with the Union. Even so, it was another thirty years before all of the unifying was completed and along the way there were a few petty squabbles. We know from a few records that Lodge meetings could be a very haphazard affair. Some were cancelled by the Provincial Grand Master without reason, some cancelled because the tavern room was double booked, others because there was no quorum.

1823

In 1823, Colonel Thomas Wildman, a hero of Waterloo, was appointed Provincial Grand Master of Nottinghamshire after the death of Sir John Borlace Warren. One of Colonel Wildman’s first tasks was to try and bring a disparate band of Masons, meeting at different Public Houses in the city, into a more cohesive organisation. Wildman therefore asked Edmund Percy to try and numerate how many Lodges and Masons there were in the Province, a task that proved quite difficult given the communications of the day.

1829

Thomas Wildman bought Newstead Abbey from Lord Byron the poet, and spent a vast amount of money on restoration of the Abbey. The Duke of Sussex became a regular visitor to the Abbey. It was he who coerced his friend Wildman into forming a new Lodge in his name, hence the creation of the Royal Sussex Lodge in 1829 and consecrated at the Thurland Hall. During Colonel Wildman’s involvement in the Peninsular Wars, Nottinghamshire had a mostly absent Provincial Grand Master, and no Deputy, as William Peters had died.

1842

However, on the Feast Days of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, in June and December respectively, often as many as sixty Masons would attend the meeting and supper. Perhaps this unhappy situation prompted some of the more dedicated Masons to consider the building of a Masonic Hall specifically for the use of Masons. We know that in 1842 at a meeting of the Newstead Lodge at the Castle and Falcon Inn Warsar Gate, such a proposition was made.

1847

At the time there were three Masonic Lodges meeting in Nottingham, in 1847 there were only 98 subscribing Masons in the Province of Nottinghamshire and this number only increased to 117 by 1854.

1870

At the beginning of the 1870s there were four Lodges, by 1876 a firm commitment to build a Masonic Hall, and by the beginning of the 1880s a further ten Lodges. The Masonic Hall, Goldsmith Street was dedicated in the presence of the Provincial Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother the Duke of St. Albans on Saturday 2nd June 1881. It had been a quite incredible decade for the Province.

1900

For thirty years the Masonic Hall sufficed before a new scheme to move to Chaucer Street was planned but World War I halted progress. The houses already purchased for the new hall were used by a Belgium Refugee Fund. In the 1920s the plan changed to construct a new building on the existing site. The hall was designed by Bro C. E. Howilt and the Foundation Stone was laid in December 1929 and the building was dedicated in July 1931.

1941

On the night of May 8th 1941 Nottingham was bombed, the Co-op bakery on Meadow Lane was hit and many lost their lives. Boots off London Road was hit and four lost their lives. The Masonic Hall received a direct hit - the bomb did not explode but damaged the central stairway causing the facade to have to be shored up pending repair, and no life was lost.