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History of the Lodge

THE FIRST 40 YEARS

by W. Bro. Royston Low, PPSGW

 

The history of Claygate Lodge begins, strangely enough, with the Consecration of Sudbrook Lodge, No.6440 in 1947, when the Founding Master was W. Bro. Walter Westlake.

The object of their first meeting was to initiate his son, Orville Westlake. Brother Orville progressed steadily through the various offices until he too attained the Chair, when his first duty was to initiate an old friend of his, Royston Low.

 

Sudbrook Lodge took pride in their punctilious working of the ceremony, adhering to strict Emulation with the presiding Master delivering every word of the Master's Part, but at times it was felt that things were becoming too regimented. It was, in those days, a large Lodge, with attendances regularly up to the forty mark, and although the ceremonies were a pleasure to perform, somehow there was no sense of fun or companionship.

Orville Westlake conceived the idea of forming another lodge which would combine the best of both worlds a meaningful, well-performed ceremony superimposed on true Brotherly Love and Affection' and exhibiting the meaning of Masonry by tempering solemnity with enjoyment.

To this end the lodge would need to be very selective in choosing prospective members and not so large as to become 'cliquey' -preferably youngish professional or business types who would be prepared to give time and effort to making the Lodge an integral part of their lives 'with out detriment to themselves or connections'.

At the beginning the net was cast at those members of Sudbrook Lodge whom Orville and Royston felt would fit in with this picture, plus three brethren known to Bro. Westlake from other lodges.

 

It was agreed that, as brothers Westlake and Low both lived in Claygate, it would be called Claygate Lodge. Much thought was given to deciding upon a suitable emblem, and eventually it was felt that the old Semaphore Station upon Telegraph Hill was a sufficiently unusual and interesting local feature and that just as the semaphore station was used to transmit messages from one place to another, so it was hoped that Claygate Lodge would be of service in transmitting the Brotherly Affection of Masonry to all within its compass.

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At the first regular meeting of the lodge two further members of Sudbrook Lodge were admitted as Joining Members -Brothers Basil Imber and Tony Budd, whilst two prospective candidates were balloted for, one of them ­Jasper Gamham -being initiated at that meeting.

At the conclusion of W. Bro. Westlake's year, the S.W., Bro. Addison, was duly installed and was to provide us with a most interesting year as he never appeared for his last three meetings, his place being taken by various other Past Masters. His final year would naturally have entailed him installing Bro. Low as Master, but in his absence the ceremony was performed by Orville Westlake, thus serendipitously giving W. Bro. Orville the pleasure of having proposed Bro. Low into Freemasonry, Initiating, Passing and Raising him, and now finally installing him in the Chair.

A sad event of the second year· was the illness of our secretary, Bro. Jack Savory. Jack was an extremely popular figure and a model of efficiency; his place was taken by W. Bro. Westlake, who was to fill the post for over thirty years (1964-1995)

Apart from the ceremonies W. Bro. Royston's year was particularly remem­bered for his Ladies' Night, which was held at the Mitre Hotel, Hampton Court. In his early days, Royston had been a professional musician in the West End and naturally arranged for several of his old colleagues to provide the music (into which he joined). In those days it was the custom for the President to wear 'White Tie and Tails'. The brethren were therefore astonished at the sight of the President, coat tails flapping, chanting loudly whilst he belaboured a pair of Conga-Drums in a spirited rendition of the Hawaiian War Chant!!!

It was during this year that the Brethren had to take a decision by ballot as to whether the Lodge should adopt the alternative form of words in the Obligations regarding the Penalties, as permitted by resolution of Grand Lodge. The result of the ballot was that the majority of the members were against the adoption. It was during this year also that Bro. Low introduced the custom of the junior officers answering for themselves when queried during : the opening of the Lodge. It was felt that, whilst not strict Emulation, it did not break any of the ancient regulations and could have the effect of giving those officers just that little bit of work extra to do. (Some time later he also introduced the short soliloquy during the third degree, all of which served to give Claygate just that little bit of difference).

1967 saw the Chair occupied by Brother Ron Semmens, a Brother esteemed for his humour as well as for his ritual. A long remembered example of the former was his address to the Ladies on one festive occasion when after five minutes spent stressing their fragrance and their colourful appearance he, with perfect timing, announced 'I got all that lot off the back of a packet of seeds!!'

1968 was marred by news of the death of Bro. Jack Savory, our Founding Secretary, after a long illness. A big change occurred when Orville Westlake moved to an imposing new residence in Fairmile Park Road, Cobham. This house was important in that it possessed a very large music room which was quite capable of housing thirty or forty people, and it was therefore decided that not only would all future Lodges of Instruction be held there but also future Ladies' Nights. With the assistance of an excellent Hi-Fi system and some very good caterers we were able to save quite a lot of money which could go to the Charities.

 

1968 saw the installation of Leonard McNae as Master of the Lodge and also the opportunity of meeting at the Masonic Hall, Surbiton. We were not sorry to say 'Goodbye' to the Youth Centre with its rather bleak atmosphere and to say 'Hello' to the relative cosiness of the Masonic Hall (even if the food was not quite up to the Bear standards'). Unfortunately we had no ceremonies to perform during Bro. McNae's year, but Bro. Low filled in with lectures on the First Tracing Board, the Hiramic Legend, etc.etc.

 

1970, under Bro. Jimmy James, saw three new Initiates and one Joining member. By pure coincidence two of the Initiates, Ronald Black and Geoffrey Reed, were both air-line pilots. Bro. Reed was an Australian who will be ever remembered for his sense of humour and his habit of switching into an appalling 'straine' accent when least expected. But he was a Freemason in the finest meaning of the word and a brilliant ritualist....

 

1971 saw a long-delayed ceremonial Dedication of the Lodge Banner by W. Bro. Rev. J.J. Hastwell, Prov.A G. Chaplain, assisted by W . Bro. L.G. Banwell. OBE, MSM, PPSGW as S.W., W. Bro. C.A Spriggs, PPJGWas J.W., and W. Bro. J.R. Jones, Prov .Dep. GDC as Director of Ceremonies. After the ceremony the W.M. resumed his chair and expressed thanks to W.Bro. Orville Westlake for presenting the banner to the Lodge. A very welcome Joining Member in that year was W. Bro. Francis Watson, PPG Supt. Wks. who was elected with immediate effect into the combined offices of Almoner and Charity Steward

 

In 1972 the lodge received its first Provincial honours, W. Bro. Westlake being given PSGD and W. Bro. Brookes PPJGD. In 1975 W. Bro. Low was honoured to receive Acting Provincial Rank as Prov.JGD and W. Bro. McNae received PPSGD. Also in 1975 (under Frank Watson as WM) we saw the entrance of Lionel Frewin as a very welcome Joining Member whilst 1976 saw W. Bro. Westlake assuming the Chair for the second time.

1980 saw the resignation of W. Bro. McNae as Treasurer after many years of faithful and painstaking service, and W. Bro. Budd was elected in his place. Bro. Budd, being a Chartered Accountant, it was felt the lodge finances would continue to be in safe hands!

 

In April 1981 W. Bro. Brookes resigned. He was our Founding DC and later Organist, and greatly respected by all who knew him. December of that year saw the ascent of Lionel Frewin to the Master's Chair, and the presence of a strong West Country contingent including R. W. Bro. Kinnersley, the Prov.GM. for Somerset, W. Bro. Francis, the AProv.GM for Cornwall, the AProvGM for Somerset and many other distinguished visitors and members of Lionel's old Queen's College Lodge. (The West Country influence was to continue to this day, Lionel having introduced a few small but interesting variations into the signs and rituals).

 

In 1982 Orville Westlake was promoted to PPJGW, and in 1983 he moved from Compton Water, so we had to find new premises for our LoI's. For a short while Lionel Frewin put up with us in his house as did Rod Carroll but Royston Low had a patient who managed the Foley Arms in Claygate and who confirmed that they had a hall, which could be used for weekly meetings. We were very happily ensconced and the beer was excellent.

 

1985-6 showed periods where there was no set work to be performed, giving the opportunity for the Brethren to sit back and make 'a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge' in the form of various lectures by W. Bro. Low and a very interesting talk on 'King Solomon and the Israelites' by Dennis Machin.

On the 24th. June 1989 the Lodge suffered a grievous loss in the unexpected death of W .Bro. Geoffrey Reed. Geoff will always be remembered with great esteem and affection for his terrific dry sense of humour and also for the sincerity and efficiency he evinced in his Masonry. He is sorely missed. A further sad oc­currence was the resignation of W. Bro. Frank Watson who had served the Lodge so ably and so well in the capacity of Charity Steward over a long period.

 

1990 saw changes in the way the Masonic Hall was being run, as a result of which the various lodges were expected to provide all the necessary pieces of equipment for themselves. The Brethren rallied round to a heart-warming extent, including a fearsome Tyler's Sword from Bro. Gerry Lambert and a set of Working Tools in the three degrees from W. Bro. Low (the Minute Book records, that he uttered "an Ancient Egyptian Curse' to guard them from theft, but unfortunately he couldn't remember what it was!). W. Bro .Alan George presented a poniard, W . Bro. Frewin two squares, and W. Bro. Rodney Car­roll gave a set of three gavels.

 

The next few years saw a steady progression, with some excellent ceremonies and a number of new initiates (including, in 1992, Bro. Austin Hanway, whose addresses at the Festive Board vied with those of Alan George in keeping the Brethren convulsed with laughter!).

All was going well, until in the Autumn of 1995 to the Lodge suffered the sudden and unexpected death, through an aortic aneurism, of W. Bro. Orville Westlake. As the 'Founding Father" of the Lodge Orville, apart from his two spells as W.M. had filled the office of secretary since the year after its inception, and had steadily ensured that Claygate maintained those Masonic standards upon which it was founded. His readiness to help in any circumstance sprang from a generosity of heart which he often kept concealed, but all who knew him well, held him in the greatest respect and affection. The Lodge is grateful to W. Bro. Paul Spearing who took over the difficult job of filling Orville's place as Secretary at such short notice, and who gave great service to the Lodge over many years

 

The following three years had unfortunately several meetings with no regular ceremonies, but the brethren again had the opportunity of expanding their Masonic horizons. The Minute Book records:-

Apr. 1996 -W. Bros. Frewin and Spearing gave a demonstration of the Lectures in the 1st.Degree.

May 1997 -W. Bro. Low gave a lecture on The Origins of the Craft', followed by an open forum.

Oct 1997 -W. Bros. Frewin and Spearing gave a demonstration of the second section of the 1st.lectures in the three degrees.

May 1998  saw W.Bros. Frewin and Spearing give a demonstration of the third section of the 1st.lectures.

During this period efforts were made to strengthen the social side of the lodge, and Lionel Frewin held meetings at his home to raise funds for the charity "Get Kids Going". In 1990, when W. Bro. Gerry Lambert was in the Chair, Claygate had the pleasure of travelling to Bridport, in Dorset, to share a Ladies Night with his other Lodge. W. Bro. Frewin invited the lodge to travel to the West Country to witness an Installation at Queen's College Taunton Lodge, which proved of great interest. Lionel also organised Summer barbeques for members, friends and wives which met with great acclaim. He also organised the first attendance of members at a Cbristmas pantomime (followed by a fish-and-chip supper) and later, in 1997, at a meeting at the Sandown race-track followed by an Italian meal.

Claygate Festive Boards had always been a matter of pride to the Lodge and pleasure to our guests, marked as they were by a certain amount of noisy conviviality. Prominent in this was the production of numerous groan-producing puns, to such an extent that Bro. Frewin was prompted to bring along a magnificent cast bronze bowl which was immediately labelled the Pun Pot. The object of this was that any brother guilty of a horrible pun should pay the forfeit of one pound thrown into the Pun Pot. This served to render the proceedings still noisier but also offered an easy way of extracting still further contributions for charity.

 

1998 onwards saw an increased influx of candidates, and W. Bro. Low presented the lodge with a heavy maul for use in the 3rd.degree. This year also saw W . Bro. Frewin presenting a fund in memory of Geoffrey Reed, for providing a pair of white gloves for every Initiate.

In 1999, extra colour was added to Claygate' s meetings, by the awarding to Bro John Rumbold, of the active rank of Provincial Grand Steward, which gave him the privilege of wearing a bright new apron, resplendent with red trimmings.

 

In 2000 we were joined, by joining member W. Bro. Peter Habermel, LGR. He had only been with us for a short when he attained the honour of Grand Rank (PGStB), thus presenting Claygate with its first Grand Officer member.

 

In 2001 we were saddened by the death of Emie Rush. Emie had been a joining member from Noel Accacia lodge and had entered fully into the spirit of Claygate. He had become a firm friend of all the members.

 

In 2002 W. Bro.lan Willis made a most generous and unusual gift of a replica skull and cross-bones for use in the 3rd.degree. In December of that year, W. Bro. Royston Low intimated that he wished to step down from his office of Director of Ceremonies. He had held the post for nearly Thirty years, and felt that at the age of 82 it was time he gave a younger brother the opportunity of taking over. W. Bro. Lambert had agreed to fill the post and it was felt that it could not be in better hands. For the previous two or three years W. Bro. Austin Hanway had been acting as Preceptor of the Lodge of Instruction and was performing an invaluable service. The enthusiasm evinced by the younger members of the Lodge was encouraging for the future and we hand the Lodge into their keeping knowing that their enthusiasm will nurture the flower of Freemasonry in their hearts to the benefit of all whom they may contact.

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