The Four Old Lodges of England

The "Four Old Lodges" which united to form the Grand Lodge of England, as given by Gould in his larger "History of Freemasonry" are:

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Original No. 1, which met at the Goose and Gridiron, in St. Paul's Churchyard, from 1717 until 1729, and removed in the latter year to the King's (or Queen's) Arms, in the same locality, where it remained for a long period. In 1760 it assumed the title of the "West India and American Lodge," which ten years later was altered to that of the "Lodge of Antiquity." In 1794 it absorbed the Harodim Lodge No. 467, a mushroom creation of the year 1760. At the Union, in 1813, the first position in the new roll having devolved by lot upon No. 1 of the "Atholl" lodges, it became, and has since remained, No. 2.

According to the Engraved List of 1729 this lodge was originally constituted in 1691. Thomas Morris and Josias Villeneau, both in their time Grand Wardens, were among the members — the former being the Master in 1723, and the latter in 1725. Benjamin Cole, the engraver, belonged to the Lodge in 1730; but with these three exceptions the names, so far as they are given in the official record, do not invite any remark until after Preston's election to the chair, when the members suddenly awoke to a sense of the dignity of the senior English lodge, and became gradually impressed with the importance of its traditions.... From Preston's time down to our own, the Lodge of Antiquity has maintained a high degree of preeminence, as well for its seniority of constitution, as for the celebrity of the names which have graced its roll of members. The Duke of Sussex was its Master for many years; and the lamented Duke of Albany in more recent days filled the chair throughout several elections.

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Original No. 2 met at the Crown, Parker's Lane, in 1717, and was established at the Queen's Head, Turnstile, Holborn, in 1723 or earlier. Thence it moved in succession to the Green Lattice, Rose and Rummer, and Rose and Buffloe. In 1730 it met at the Bull and Gate, Holborn; and, appearing for the first time in the Engraved List for 1736, was struck off the roll at the renumbering in 1740. An application for its restoration was made in 1762, but, on the ground that none of the petitioners had ever been members of the lodge, it was rejected. According to the Engraved List for 1729, the lodge was constituted in 1712.

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Original No. 3, which met at the Apple Tree Tavern, in Charles Street, Covent Garden, in 1717, moved to the Queen's Head, Knave's Acre, in 1723 or earlier; and after several intermediate changes — including a stay of many years at the Fish and Bell, Charles Street, Soho Square — appears to have settled down, under the title of the Lodge of Fortitude, at the Roebuct Oxford Street, from 1768 until 1793. In 1818 it amalgamated with the Old Cumberland Lodge — constituted 1753 — and is now the Fortitude and Old Cumberland Lodge, No. 12.

Dr. Anderson informs us that, after the removal of this lodge to the Queen's Head, upon some difference, the members that met there came under a New Constitution (in 1723) "tho' they wanted it not"; and accordingly, when the lodges were arranged in order of seniority in 1729, Original No. 3, instead of being placed as one of the Four at the head of the roll found itself relegated by the Committee of Precedence to the eleventh number on the list. This appears to have taken the members by surprise — as well it might, considering that the last time the Four were all represented at Grand Lodge — April 19, 1727 — before the scale of precedence was adjusted in conformity with the New Regulations enacted for that purpose, their respective Masters and Wardens answered to their names in the same seniority as we find to have prevailed when the "Book of Constitutions" was approved by the representatives of lodges in 1723. But although the officers of No. 11 "represented that their lodge was misplaced in the printed book, whereby they lost their rank, and humbly prayed that the said mistake might be regulated" — "the said complaint was dismissed." It is probable that this petition would have experienced a very different fate had the three senior lodges been represented on the Committee of Precedence.

As Original No. 2 — also so numbered in 1729 — "dropt out" about 1736, the lodges immediately below it each went up a step in 1740; and Original No. 3 moved from the eleventh to the tenth place on the list. If the minutes of the Committee of Charity covering that period were extant, we should find, I think, a renewed protest by the subject of this sketch against its supersession, for one was certainly made at the next renumbering in 1756 — and not altogether without success, as will be seen by the following extract from the minute book of one of the lodges above it on the list:

July 22 1755. — "Letter being (read) from the Grand Secy: Citing us to appear at the Committee of Charity to answer the Fish and Bell Lodge (No. 10) to their demand of being placed prior to us, viz. in No. 3. Whereon our Rt Worsl Masr attended & the Question being propos'd was answer'd against (it) by with Spirit and Resolution well worthy the Character he assum'd and being put to Ballot was cared in favour of us. Report being made this night of the said proceedings thanks was Return'd him and his health drank with hearty Zeal by the Lodge present."

But although defeated in this instance, the officers appear to have satisfied the committee that their lodge was entitled to higher number than would fall to it in the ordinary course, from two of its seniors having "dropt out" since the revision of 1740. Instead, therefore, of becoming No. 8, we find that it passed over the heads of the two Lodges immediately above it, and appeared in the sixth place on the list for 1756; whilst the Lodges thus superseded by the No. 10 of 1755, themselves changed their relative positions in the list for 1756, with the result that Nos. 8, and 9 and 10 in the former list severally became 8, 7, and 6 in the latter, — or to express it in another way, Nos. 8 and 10 of 1755 change places in 1756.

Elsewhere I have observed: "The supersession of Original No. 3 by eight junior Lodges in 1729, together with its partial restoration of rank in 1756, has introduced so much confusion into the history of this Lodge, that for upwards of a century its identity with the 'old Lodge,' which met at the Apple Tree Tavern in 1717, appears to have been wholly lost sight of."

The age of this lodge cannot be even approximately determined. It occupied the second place in the Engraved Lists 1723 and 1725, and probably continued to do so until 1728. The position of the lodge in 1729 must have been wholly determined by the date of its warrant, and therefore affords no clue to its actual seniority. It is quite impossible to say whether it established earlier or later than original No. 2 (1712), nor pace Preston can we be altogether sure — if we assume the precedency in such matters to be regulated by dates of formation — that Fortitude and Old Cumberland Lodge would be justified in yielding the pas, even to the Lodge of Antiquity itself.

Alluding to the meeting at the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse, on St. John the Baptist's day, 1717, Findel observes, "This day is celebrated by all German Lodges as the day of anniversity of the Society of Freemasons. It is the high-noon of the year, the day of light and roses, and it ought to be celebrated everywhere."

It seems to me, however, that not only is this remarkable incident in the history of the Lodge of Antiquity worthy of annual commemoration but that the services of the Fortitute and Old Cumberland Lodge, in connection with what may termed the most momentous event in the history of the Craft are at least entitled to a similar distinction. The first Grand Master, it is true, was elected and installed at the Goose Gridiron, under the banner of the Old Lodge there, but the first Grand Lodge was formed and constituted at the Apple Tree under similar auspices. Also, we must not forget, that the lo at the latter tavern supplied the Grand Master-Sayer who was elected and installed in the former.

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Original No. 4 met at the Rummer and Grapes Tavern, Channel Row, Westminster, in 1717, and its representatives — George Payne, Master, Stephen Hall and Francis Sorell, Wardens — joined with those of nineteen other lodges, in subscribing the "Approbation" of the Constitutions in January, 1723. The date of its removal to the tavern with which it became so long associated, and whose name it adopted, is uncertain. It is shown at the "Horn" in the earliest of the Engraved Lists, ostensibly of the year 1723, but there are grounds for believing that this appeared towards the close of the period embraced by the Grand Mastership of the Earl of Dalkeith, which would render it of later date than the following extract from a newspaper of the period:

"There was a great Lodge of the ancient Society of the Free Masons held last week at the Horn Tavern, in Palace Yard, at which were present the Earl of Dalkeith, their Grand Master, the Deputy Grand Master, the Duke of Richmond, and several other persons of quality, at which time, the Lord Carmichael, Col. Carpenter, Sir Thomas Prendergast, Col. Paget, and Col. Saunderson, were accepted Free Masons, and went home in their Leather Aprons and Gloves."

The names of these five initiates, two of whom were afterwards Grand Wardens, are shown in the earliest list of members furnished by the Lodge at the "Horn" — in conformity with the order of Grand Lodge. From this we learn that in 1724 the Duke of Richmond was the Master, and George Payne the Deputy Master, whilst Alexander Hardine and Alexander Choke were the Wardens. The character of the lodge has been already glanced at, but the names of its members during the years 1724 and 1725, will be given in full in the Appendix to which therefore it will be unnecessary to do more than refer. Among the private members were Desaguliers and Anderson, neither of whom in the years 1724-25 held office in the lodge. Unfortunately, the page allotted to Original No. 4 — or No. 3 as it became from 1729 — in the Grand Lodge Register for 1730, is a blank, and after that year there is no list to consult for nearly half a century; when we again meet with one in the official records, where the names of the then members are headed by that of Thomas Dunckerley "a member from 1768."

Alexander Hardine was the Master in 1725, the office becoming vacant by the Duke of Richmond's election as Grand Master. There is hide doubt, however — to use the quanit language of "Old Regulation XVII." — by virtue of which the Duke was debarred from continuing in the chair of the "Horn Lodge," whilst at the head of the Craft — that "as soon as he had honourably discharged his Grand Office, he returned to that Post or Station in his particular Lodge, from which he was call'd to officiate above." At all events he was back there in 1729, for on July 11 of that year, the Deputy Grand Master (Blackerly) informed Grand Lodge, by desire of the "Duke of Richmond, Master of the Horn Lodge," as an excuse for the members not having brought charity, like those of the other lodges, that they "were, for the most part, persons of Quality, and Members of Parliament," and therefore out of town at that season of the year. The Duke was very attentive to his duties in the lodge. He was in the chair at the initiation of the Earl of Sunderland, on January 2, 1730, on which occasion there were present the Grand Master, Lord Kingston, the Grand Master elect, the Duke of Norfolk, together with the Duke of Montagu, Lords Dalkeith, Delvin, Inchiquin, and other persons of distinction.

Later in the same year, he presided over another important meeting, when many foreign noblemen, and also William Cowper (D.G.M., 1726), were admitted members, and was supported by the Grand Master (Duke of Norfolk), the Deputy (Blackerly), Lord Mordaunt, and the Marquesses of Beaumont and Du Quesne. The Duke of Richmond resigned the Mastership in April, 1738, and Nathaniel Blackerly was unanimously chosen to fill his place. Original No. 4 was given the third place in the Engraved List for 1729, and in 1740 became No. 2 — which number it retained till the Union.

On April 3, 1747, it was erased from the list, for non-attendance at the Quarterly Communications, but was restored to its place September 4, 1751. According to the official records — "Bro. Lediard informed the Brethren that the Right Worshipful Bro. Payne, L. G. M., and several other members of the Lodge lately held at the Horn, Palace Yard, Westminster, had been very successful in their endeavours to serve the said Lodge, and that they were ready to pay 2 guineas to the use of the Grand Charity, and therefore moved that out of respect to Bro. Payne and the several other L.G.M. (late Grand Masters) who were members thereof, the Said Lodge might be restored and have its former rank and Place in the Lists of Lodges - which was ordered accordingly." Earl Ferrers was master of the "Horn Lodge" when elected Grand Master of the Society in 1762.

On February 16, 1766, at an "Occasional" Lodge, held at the Horn Tavern, the Grand Master, Lord Blayney, presiding, His Royal Highness, William Henry, Duke of Gloucester, "was made an entered apprentice, passed a fellow craft, and raised to the degree of a Master Mason."

This Prince, and his two brothers, the Duke of York and Cumberland, eventually became members of the "New Lodge at the Horn," No. 313, the name of which, out of compliment to them, was changed to that of the "Royal Lodge." At the period, however, of the Duke of Gloucester's admission into the Society (1766), there were two lodges meeting at the Horn Tavern. The "Old" Lodge, the subject of the present sketch, and the "New" Lodge, No. 313, constituted April 4, 1764. The Duke was initiated in neither, but in an "Occasional" Lodge, at which, for all we know to the contrary, members of both may have been present. But at whatever date the decadence of the "Old Horn Lodge" may be said to have first set in, whether directly after the formation of a new lodge at the same tavern, or later, it reached its culminating point about the time when the Duke of Cumberland, following the example of his two brothers, became an honourary member of No. 313. This occurred March 4, 1767, and on April 1 of the same year, the Dukes of Gloucester and Cumberland attended a meeting of the junior Lodge, and the latter was installed its W. M., an office he also held in later years.

The Engraved List for 1767 shows the "Old Horn Lodge" to have removed from the tavern of that name to the Fleece, Tothill Street, Westminster. Thence, in 1772, it migrated to the King's Arms, also in Westminster, and on January 10, 1774, "finding themselves in a declining state, the members agreed to incorporate with a new and flourishing lodge, entitled the Somerset House Lodge, which immediately assumed their rank." So far Preston, in the editions of his famous "Illustrations," published after the schism was healed, of which the privileges of the Lodge of Antiquity had been the origin. But in those published whilst the schism lasted (1779-89), he tells us, that "the members of this Lodge tacitly agreed to a renunciation of their rights as one of the four original Lodges by openly avowing a declaration of their Master in Grand Lodge. They put themselves entirely under the authority of Grand Lodge; claimed no distinct privilege, by virtue of an Immemorial Constitution, but precedency of rank, and considered themselves subject to every law or regulation of the Grand Lodge, over whom they could admit of no control, and to whose determination they and every Lodge were bound to submit."

The value, indeed, of this evidence, is much impaired — and must appear so, even to those by whom Preston's veracity is regarded as beyond suspicion — by the necessity of reconciling with it the remarks of the same writer after 1790, when he speaks of me the two old lodges then extant, acting by immemorial constitution.

But the status of the junior of these lodges stood in no need of restoration at the hands of Preston, or of any other person or body. In all the official lists, published after its amalgamation with a lodge lower down on the roll, from 1775 to the present year, the words "Time Immemorial" in lieu of a date, are placed opposite its printed title. Nor is there any entry in the minutes of Grand Lodge, which will bear out the assertion that at the fusion of the two lodges there was any sacrifice of independence on the part of the senior. The junior of the parties to this alliance — in 1774, the Somerset House Lodge, No. 219 — was originally constituted May 22, 1762, and is described in the Engraved List for 1763 as "On Board H. M. Ship the 'Prince,' at Plymouth"; in 1764-66 as "On Board H. M. Ship the 'Guadaloupe"'; and in 1767-73 as "the Sommerset House Lodge (No. 219 on the numeration of 1770-80) at ye King's Arms, New Bond Street."

Thomas Dunckerley (of whom more hereafter), a natural son of George II., was initiated into Masonry, January 10, 1754, whilst in the naval service, in which he attained the rank of gunner; and his duties afloat seem to have come to an end at about the same date on which the old "Sea Lodge" in the "Prince" and lastly in the "Guadaloupe," was removed to London and christened the "Somerset House," and most probably by way of compliment to Dunckerley himself, being the name of the place of residence where quarters were first of all assigned to him on his coming to the Metropolis. In 1767 the king ordered him a pension of 100 pounds a year, which was afterwards increased to 800 pounds, with a suite of apartments in Hampton Court Palace.

The official records merely inform us that Dunckerley was a member of the Somerset House Lodge after the fusion, and that he had been a member of one or both of them from 1768, beyond which year the Grand Lodge Register does not extend, except longo intervallo, viz., at the returns for 1730, a gap already noticed, and which it is as impossible to bridge over from one end as the other.

After Dunckerley's we meet with the names of Lord Gormanstone, Sir Joseph Bankes, Viscount Hampden, Rowland Berkeley, James Heseltine, and Rowland Holt, and later still of Admiral Sir Peter Parker, Deputy Grand Master. In 1828 the Lodge again resorted to amalgamation, and absorbed the "Royal Inverness" Lodge, No. 648. The latter was virtually a military Lodge, having been formed by the officers of the Royal North British Volunteer Corps, of which the Duke of Sussex (Earl of Inverness) was the commander. Among the members of the "Royal Inverness" Lodge were Sir Augustus D'Este, son of the Duke of Sussex; Lord William Pitt Lennox; Charles Matthews the elder, "comedian"; Laurence Thompson, "painter," the noted preceptor; and in the Grand Lodge Register, under the date of May 5, 1825, is the following entry, — "Charles James Matthews, Architect, Ivy Cottage, aged 24."

The "old Lodge at the Horn," which we have traced through so many vicissitudes — for reasons already given in the sketch of the Lodge of Antiquity — dropped from the second to the fourth place on the roll at the union; and in 1828 assumed the title of the "Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge," by which it is still described in the list. It is a subject for regret that no history of this renowned Lodge has been compiled. The early minutes, I am informed, are missing, but the materials for a descriptive account of a Lodge associated with such brilliant memories still exist, although there May be some slight trouble in searching for them. Among the Masonic jottings in the early newspapers, and the waifs and strays at Freemasons' Hall, will be found a great many allusions to this ancient Lodge. Of these, examples are afforded in the sketch now brought to a close, which is mainly based on those sources of information.