The Red Lion pub, Coulsdon Village 1910

Woodcote Lodge was consecrated on 14th February 1927 at the Masonic Hall, Sutton, the home of our mother lodge and sponsors, Parthenon Lodge No 1826. At that first meeting there were 14 Founder Members and 59 visitors.

The Consecrating Officers were:-

  • W.Bro G H Redwood, PGD, Dep.Prov.Grand Master, assisted by W. Bro J B Corrie, PGD, Asst.Prov.Grand Master
  • W.Bro G V A Schofield, PAGDC, Prov. Grand Secretary
  • W.Bro Percy Still, PGD, Prov.SGW. as SW
  • W.Bro F J H Coutts, CB, MD, Prov.JGW as JW
  • W.Bro The Revd. G G Irwin, BD, PAGChap. as Chaplain
  • W.Bro G R Saunders, PAGDC as DC
  • W.Bro W A Latham, PAGPurs, Prov AGSec. as IG

The Consecration was conducted in the traditional manner. The tracing board was uncovered and the Consecrating Officer scattered Corn, the symbol of Plenty; poured Wine, the symbol of Joy; Oil, the symbol of Peace and Unanimity; and Salt, the symbol of Fidelity and Friendship. After the consecration and when the first Master, W. Bro W Whittall, had been installed, proposals were made for five initiates and and four joining members, one of them being Bro Malcolm Campbell who in 1927 and 1928 won the Grand Prix World Championship, and was to become Sir Malcolm Campbell who broke the world land speed record nine times. In 1935 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah Sir Malcolm became the first person to drive an automobile at over three hundred miles an hour. Sir Malcolm died at his home in Reigate in 1948. All of Sir Malcolm’s record breaking cars were called Blue Bird, the same name adopted by his son Donald when carrying on the tradition and holding the world land and water titles before, tragically, being killed in the speedboat Blue Bird on Lake Coniston in 1967.

For that first year Woodcote Lodge held its meetings at Sutton Masonic Hall, but in 1927 the owner of the Red Lion pub in Coulsdon Village rebuilt the pub and incorporated a Masonic Temple. Woodcote Lodge moved to the Red Lion in 1928. From the very beginning Woodcote Lodge filled a long-felt want amongst Freemasons in this area. In the first two years 19 Initiates were proposed, as well as 12 joining members. The workload was so heavy that two emergency meetings were granted by Grand Lodge, and many ceremonies were carried out with two candidates at a time. At the meeting held in January 1930, two FC’s were raised, three EA’s were passed to the 2nd Degree and one was Initiated, another who was abroad on business and should have been Initiated, was held over to a later date.

The Red Lion in Coulsdon in 1929, the year Woodcote Lodge moved there.

In January 1929 Woodcote Lodge held it’s first meeting in the refurbished Red Lion. The move meant that we had to purchase our own Temple furniture, including the three pedestals. Owning our own meant that, within a year or two, when several other Lodges moved there for their meetings, we were able to hire out the use of our furniture to them. Full evening dress was the dress code, but in 1930 it was proposed that morning dress was acceptable.

Founded as it was in 1927, Woodcote Lodge had a clear run of several years before the onset of the Great Depression of the early ‘thirties’, which affected us as much as any other society of men. A number of brethren, including several founder members, had their resignations ‘accepted with regret’ in the words of the minute book. More than one Brother was financially assisted by the Lodge Benevolent Fund. Another spinoff from the Depression was a circular asking that only foodstuffs of ‘Empire’ origin should be given first place at all Lodge functions.

Our first Master, W.Bro Whittall and most of the other founder members were brought up on Taylors workings, and Taylors was adopted as the ritual for Woodcote Lodge. However, the Lodge Preceptor, W.Bro W H Taylor, found the type face too small for old eyes, so after a year we changed to Emulation which was available in a large type edition. Thus are traditions started. We have stayed with Emulation ever since, though slight variations, known as ‘Woodcote Workings’ have crept in over the years.

The first Lodges of Instruction were held in Coulsdon Court Hotel, but in 1929 they moved to the Red Lion. Although the LOI was called ‘Woodcote’ other Masons, usually those who lived locally, but belonged to central London Lodges, took part in the rehearsals. Up to 12 Lodges were represented, with 20 or more Masons attending the weekly LOI’s, with competition for offices being fierce. Once a year the members of the Lodge of Instruction put on a demonstration of a ceremony in the Red Lion Temple.

The first Ladies Festival was held in 1929 when full Masonic regalia and jewels were worn. The cost of tickets was one guinea (one pound one shilling) which by 2000 standards would be £125.00. The wearing of Masonic clothing was repeated for many years, but gradually dropped out of favour.

The 1939-1945 war inevitably affected the Lodge to a great extent. The October and November meetings of 1939 never happened, but at a meeting in January 1940 it was resolved that the next meeting would be in March, followed by April and May, the last one being the Installation Meeting. During the war younger members were called away for active service and when the blitz started in May 1940 other members were detailed for wartime duties as air raid wardens, fire-watching and in the Home Guard. Attendance at Lodge meetings fluctuated during the war with some Lodge meetings having a little as 10 members. However, we often had visitors, at one meeting 13 visitors almost outnumbered members. In nearby Earlswood the Canadians were stationed and we welcomed Canadian Masons as visitors. A Woodcote Lodge member, Bro. Peter Laing, had been captured by the Japanese and spent three years in a PoW camp, eventually being released in 1946. The Lodge kept in touch with his wife, offering her any support she needed, and through her managed to get a message of greetings to him.

There was one unusual entry in the minutes for October 1944, where it is recorded that ‘a photographic replica of the Warrant of the Lodge had been prepared and presented by Bro. Webster’. No reason for producing a replica of the Warrant is given but it must be remembered that many of our Lodge members lived in old Coulsdon and Kenley and witnessed the devastation of the German raid on Kenley Airport on 18th August 1940. In 1944 the German V-bombs raids started and nobody knew how long the attacks would be for, or how effective. The replica Warrant may have been insurance against enemy activity. There was one meeting between November 1943 and June 1944, but thereafter meetings became more regular and Installations of WM’s settled back to March. Ever since Woodcote Lodge’s consecration in 1927 W. Bro Edward Lee had been secretary of the Lodge. However, in 1945, having the Lodge through the whole of the war he had to resign the office due to increasing illness. He was made an Honorary Member for his services.

As the war ended in 1945 and members of the forces were demobed, membership of the Lodge built up again. By November 1945 there were 33 listed on the summons, though 11 lived out of the district, from Sheffield to Cornwall, so were unlikely to be regular attenders. Due to wartime restrictions it had not been possible to present Masters with their Jewel at the end of their year of office, but this was corrected in 1946. One PM, of a more practical nature, requested and was presented with a silver-plated tankard suitably engraved, in place of the lapel jewel. It is an indication of the time it took the country to recover from wartime restrictions, that it was 1951 before Provincial Grand Lodge requested brethren to resume the wearing of white gloves, which had been discontinued in 1941 due to the wartime rationing of clothing.

At a Lodge Committee Meeting in 1932 it was suggested that there should be a Lodge Banner. Because of the horrendous price quoted by a professional banner maker, W.Bro Marsh, one of our Founders offered to make the banner. W.Bro W Hearn provided the necessary materials. No one realised the extent of the task at that time:

There were over half-a-million stitches in it;
Each square inch took over two hours to embroider;
Seventeen different shades of gold are incorporated in the two pillars;
Throughout the work only one needle was use;
It took five years to complete.

The Banner was dedicated at the February 1939 meeting by the RW. Provincial Grand Master the Revd. Canon J C Morrris MA, PGChap. At the meeting we were honoured by having with us all the remaining Founding and Consecrating Officers and for the ceremony, they occupied the same offices as at our Consecration. They were:

  • W.Bro J B Corrie, PGD, PAPGM as IPM
  • W.Bro Percy still PGD, PPGW as SW
  • W.Bro F J H Coutts CB, MD, PPGW as JW
  • V.W.Bro Revd. G F Irwin, MA, DD, PGS as Chaplain
  • W.Bro W A Latham, PAGDC, PPAGSec. as IG
  • W.Bro J M Forsdyke, PAGDC, PGStwd as DC

The Dedication of the Banner produced a mystery.
There is no doubt that the Lodge was consecrated on St Valentine’s Day, which was February 14th 1927. This memorable date was recalled by the Consecrating Officers who were present at the Dedication ceremony. Yet the Banner proudly proclaims the date as “March 1927”, not February. How this mistake was made is not known but it is a fact that it was not noticed by the Lodge Committee who passed the design, nor by the embroiderer during the years of work, nor by the Past Masters who first saw the completed work, nor anyone else until the Dedication night seven years later!

As it was impossible to rectify the error the Provincial Grand Master authorised the Lodge to retain the Banner in its present form. Time and usage have taken their toll over sixty years; threads have worked loose and the Banner was in need of serious repair. In 1996 W. Bro Mikes Danias took it in hand and repaired it beautifully.

In 1950 a masonic fountain-pen was presented to the lodge for members and visitors to use when signing the attendance Book. This was a replacement for the original one from 1927, and now both have been lost.

Our 25th Anniversary was celebrated on February 8th 1952. This sadly coincided with the death of King George VI, Past Grand Master of Freemasonry, two days earlier, this sad event was marked by the brethren standing in silence. The Prov. GM, who was present, took the opportunity of investing a PM of the Lodge with Provincial Honours. This was followed by an Initiation ceremony and, it being the Election meeting, Officers for the coming year were elected. Thirty-eight Lodge members (of the 48 listed on the summons and including 3 Founder Members) plus 70 visitors sat down to a special festive board, when the dining fee, including wines, was raised to £1.25.

The Lodge suffered a sad loss at the October meeting in 1956, when WM W. Bro William Richard Johnson, who had been installed at the previous meeting in March, died half-an-hour before his first meeting in the Chair. At the next meeting the secretary, W.Bro William Simmonds who had held the post for seven years, resigned due to ill health and was replaced by W.Bro Frank Marsh, who continued in that post until 1977.

After the 1956 the Lodge had a quiet and prosperous period for some ten years, with nothing of note worthy of mention until 1967, when it was agreed that the meetings should take place in January, February, March, April and May. No reason is mentioned for this change. Two members of note died: RW. Bro Percy Still, PGW, OSM, PPGW, who had been a Consecrating Officer in 1927 and was an Honorary Member. He died in his 101st year, having attended our Lodge in his 99th year. Bro C J Stenholm, one of our two remaining Founders died in 1968, leaving our only remaining Founder W.Bro Frank Marsh to soldier on.

In 1969 we had to vacate our meeting Temple in the Red Lion after 42 years. This was brought about by the sale of the pub to the Goodhews Brewery, who intended to demolish the Temple, or the ‘Ballroom’ as it was known to local Coulsdon residents. After much debate about a future meeting hall it was agreed that we should meet at the Croydon Masonic Hall from January 1970. Sadly this meant that our annual subscriptions had to rise from £2.63 to £4.20 for five meetings. In 1973 Croydon Masonic Halls Ltd. applied a swinging increase to our costs. The immediate reaction of the Lodge was a motion to move to Soper’s Hall in Caterham, but it proved impossible to arrange suitable dates for our meetings and members were asked to pay a voluntary surcharge to keep our meetings in Croydon. To keep our costs down, the number of meetings was reduced to four per year by cancelling the January meeting.

The Golden Jubilee meeting of the Lodge was held on 11th February 1977. Fifty years after being a Founder Member of Woodcote Lodge, W. Bro Frank Marsh finally took the chair of the Lodge. There were 109 guests, including four Grand Officers and the Assistant Grand Master W. Bro A C Searle. The Golden Jubilee Charity List raised £1230.00, a remarkably large sum for those days, which was split between five Masonic and three local charities,

1977 was a turning point in many ways for Woodcote Lodge. It was a nadir in the matter of candidates for Initiation. There was one in 1973, one in 1978, and 1 in 1980 and had it not been for several joining members coming into the Lodge we would have been in a very sorry state. Meetings were filled by lectures on various masonic subjects and with rehearsals of the Degrees. It took nearly a decade for the effects of this to work through, during which a number of Past Masters took the Chair for a second time. The Diamond Jubilee of the Lodge in February 1987 passed with minimal notice being taken. W.Bro Col. D J McLelland, CBE, TD, DL, PAGDC Assistant Provincial Grand Master attended the meeting as the Official Visitor from Provincial Grand Lodge. As well as being a Provincial Grand Master, ‘Mac’ as we affectionally referred to him, was a member of Woodcote Lodge and was our Director of Ceremonies.

1987 saw an improvement in the fortunes of the Lodge regarding candidates, during the year we had three candidates, two were passed and two more were waiting. In the 1990-91 year we lost two members of note, the last of our Founders, W.Bro Frank Marsh died and W.Bro Len Grimes resigned as Lodge Secretary due to ill health. W.Bro Ian Scales took over the yoke as Secretary. Though new candidates were entering the Lodge the lack of candidates in the previous decade was showing, with practically all Officers of the Lodge being Past Masters either of Woodcote or had joined the Lodge and immediately stepped onto the ladder. A question arose: How to mark their second year in the Chair? Several Past Masters chose the option of instead of having another Past Masters Jewel they would have an engraved Firing Glass. W.Bro’s Westwood, Long, Lettington, Green, Jenkins and Hawkins are the proud possessors of these mementos.

In 2007 we lost a distinguished member of our Lodge , distinguished not only in Freemasonry, but in other walks of life.

W.Bro Col. Douglas McLelland, CBE, TD, DL, PSGD died in October 2007, one of the great Brothers in the Lodge following several months of great pain brought about by a cancer of the bones. His funeral was held in St. John’s church in Coulsdon and was attended by many members of the Lodge and the Provincial Officers.

Mac was born in November 1919 and at the age of 19 joined the TA in 1938 in an anti-aircraft regiment in Guildford. With the outbreak of war in 1939 he was commissioned into the london AA Regiment, later transferring to the Queen’s Own Royal Weat Kent regiment with which he fought through Italy and Greece, finishing his wartime service in 1946.

After the war he joined the TA, rising to command a south London Royal Artillery regiment and in the 1960s achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel. In 1966 he was promoted to the rank of Colonel and appointed Deputy Commander, Royal Artillery and was granted the Territorial Decoration for his services to the TA; he was also appointed CBE for his long military service.

In 1967 he was appointed one of her Majesty’s Deputy Lieutenants for Greater London, becoming Croydon’s first Queen’s Representative for the Borough. He was made an Honorary Freeman of Croydon Borough in 1993.

He filled many other roles, too, acting as Area President of the St. John’s Ambulance for Southwest London, President of the 4th Purley Scouts Group, President of the Queen’s Own Regimental Association and Chairman of the London and Kent Artillery Trust; all these as well as being involved with many other charitable organisations including Freemasonry.

W.Bro Mac – as we all new him – was made a Mason when he was Initiated into Woodcote Lodge in February 1954, rising to be WM in 1966. After his year as IPM he became DC, a position he held with a certain fierceness and during which he was responsible for the introduction of ‘Woodcote Working.

His abilities in organisational matters were recognised by appointment to Prov.Deputy Grand DC in 1974 for five years when he was promoted Prov. Senior Grand Warden in 1979. This was followed by promotion to Asst. Prov. GM in 1983 which he held until 1992 when he retired from active duties in the Province.
UGLE recognised his abilities, too and he was appointed Past Senior Grand Deacon in 1985.

Our present Temple, Nutfield Temple near Redhill.

In 2009, after long debate in theLodge it was decided to move away from Croydon’s Masonic Halls. During our sojourn in West Croydon we had candidates from the area, some who sadly felt that they could not travel further south into Surrey. However, the nucleus of the Lodge still lived in the towns around Coulsdon and when we decided to move to the Masonic Halls at Nutfield we had the support of not only local members of the Lodge, but the majority of the members who moved with us from Croydon.

So, here we are in 2012, a compact Lodge of 24 members on our summons, but 24 true Masons. Not the kind who after their Initiation on realising that there is not any pecuniary advantage to being a Freemason, leave.

In compiling this history of Woodcote Lodge No 4891 I would like to acknowledge the contributions of:-

W.Bro Mikes Danias
W.Bro Ian Scales