Coopers’ Old Boys’ Lodge


History – First 25 Years

The Lodge was consecrated on 3rd November 1930 and on that anniversary in 1955 it completed its twenty-fifth year.

It was the general desire of the Brethren that a record of its achievements should be prepared. We refrain, however from terming such a record a history for we realise our youthfulness and feel that many lodges would, with some justification, consider that a Masonic lodge with only twenty-five years to its credit, had really no history at all.

But the Lodge is a child of an old City Guild School which certainly has a history, for it was founded in Tudor times; actually fifty-two years before the Armada’s abortive attempt on our liberties. There is a story current that the Coopers’ Company fitted out a ship for Elizabeth’s Navy which was largely manned by Old Coopers’ boys. One of the present Lodge toasts commemorates this act of loyal devotion.

No doubt Old Coopers’ boys of that period met in hostelry and tavern and talked over old times and their schooldays, but it is not until 1880 that we find any record of actual foregathering’s of Old Coopers’ boys. In that year the Old Boys’ Association was formed and thereafter held regular meetings in the form of Dinners, Suppers and kindred activities.

Many of these Old Boys had gone out into life, become of mature age and sound judgement and had been attracted to Masonry. They joined various lodges and had become masons of some standing.

It appears, too, that amongst them the idea of forming an Old School Lodge had been suggested again and again. But no definite move had been made towards the actual formation.

On 15th January, 1930, and Old Boys’ Supper was held at the Talbot Restaurant, London E.C.

There was a goodly company present which included Messrs. C.F.W. Rose, G.H. Bailey, J.H. Totman, A.E. Gray, F.W. Maddocks, Sir William Foster, Sir John Smith, and Alderman W.G. Davie who was President of the Association an in the Chair.

Mr. Douglas Hemmings added to the gaiety with his songs.

During the evening the President announced that a letter had been received from an Old Boy of the School, whose name was Orchard, enquiring whether it would be possible to form a Masonic Lodge in connection with the Old Boys’ Association. This brought matters to a head, for amongst the Masons who were present at that supper there arose a strong feeling that a lodge should and must be formed.

Mr. Charles Rose offered to act as Secretary. Mr. George Bailey, recently returned from India, agreed to do all he could to assist, Sir John Smith was booked to take part and the President promised all the help he was able to give.

Mr. Rose, pencil and paper in hand, went round the tables collecting the names of members of the Craft who were in favour of the proposal to form a lodge. It at once became evident that there would be a good deal of enthusiastic support.

In due course, Mr. Rose obtained permission from the Coopers’ Company to use their Hall in Basinghall Street in the City to hold a meeting of intending founders.

Some twenty Old Coopers’ Boys, who were also Masons, attended this meeting which was presided over by Bro. W.G. Davie who was at that time Master-elect of the Wanstead Lodge No. 3524.

There it was agreed to seek permission to form a new lodge to be called the Coopers’ Old Boys’ Lodge. W.Bro. Charles F. W. Rose, who acted as Secretary at all the meetings of the Founders, therefore wrote the following letter to the Grand Secretary at Freemasons’ Hall:

Further meetings of the Founders were held at Simpson’s Restaurant in Bird-in-Hand Court, Cheapside. Both the meeting places were to be destroyed in that devastating City blitz in 1940.

In due time the following Form of Petition was received by the Secretary.


The Petition was signed by the following:

NameNo. of each Lodge to which at date of Petition or formerly the petitioner was a subscribing memberProfession or Trade
Harry Percival Orchard 2941Medical Practitioner
James William Herbert Axtell 2664Bank Manager
Sir John James Smith, Kt. 108
Tent Manufacturer
William George Davie, J.P. 3524Coal Merchant
Joseph Moseley Warman 3115
James Henry Totman3115Estate Agent
William James Talbot2661Solicitor’s Managing Clerk
Stirling Gilchrist781Builder
Robert Heslop Lauderdale554Superintendent Lighterman
George Henry Bailey2866
Indian Finance Service (Retired)
Fredrick William Maddocks3526Rate Collector (Retired)
George Henry Lloyd3752Contractor
Leonard Charles Olley4225Managing Director
Alfred Hawley Bindoff1278Engineer
Charles Frederick William Rose3115Dental Surgeon
Arthur William Long2884

After having been signed by the Founders, who also gave their respective addresses, the form was handed to W.Bro. B. Gurner Jones, L.R. (London Rank, known as London Grand Rank since June 1939), Secretary of The Borough of Stepney Lodge, No. 2884, who was himself an Old Coopers’ Boy. His Lodge had been approached and asked to sponsor the new lodge. This it had agreed to do and to endorse the Petition to Grand Lodge. The sponsoring Lodge was required to sign the following declaration on the Petition:

It is laid down that seven signatures at least are required on a Petition for a new Lodge. The Coopers’ Old Boys’ Lodge was fortunate enough to secure sixteen, though one Brother retired before the Consecration (Arthur William Long, a member of Lodge No. 2884). All petitioners must be regularly registered English Master Masons and must be of a least three years’ standing.

It appears that personal contact has to be made between the would-be Founders and the Grand Lodge Authorities before the formation of a new lodge can be considered.

At this interview with the Grand Secretary at Freemasons’ Hall we were ably represented by W.Bro. H.P. Orchard, who had recently passed the Chair of Lambeth Borough Council Lodge, No. 2941, and Bro. G.H. Bailey.

At this meeting a number of points were discussed and the time, date and place of consecration were decided.

The Petition which had been submitted on 27th May was considered by Grand Lodge and notification was received on 3rd September 1930 that the Warrant had been granted. The Founders were informed that they could go ahead with the arrangements for the Consecration on 3rd November, which ceremony was required to take place at Freemasons’ Hall.

This communication was accompanied by a demand for fifteen guineas being the fee for the issue of the Warrant, together with five shillings each for the sixteen petitioners.

A design for the badge of the Lodge was prepared and submitted to Grand Lodge. This did not meet with approval. But a second was more fortunate. This included representations of implements used in cooperage, an Elizabethan ship and the motto of the Coopers’ Company – “Love as Brethren” – a most appropriate sentiment for a masonic device.

With the permission of the Old Boys’ Association, granted on 6th August, 1930 under the signature of the President Bro. W.G. Davie, it was decided to use the Association’s ribbon for the Masonic Jewel of the Lodge for Founders and Past Masters.

At this stage it was discovered that the newly appointed Headmaster of the School was a Mason. He had come to Coopers’ in mid-September.

Obviously he was a very keen Mason for six years previously he had occupied the Chair of the University of London Lodge No. 2033 and was at that time the M.E.Z. of the Columbia Chapter No.2397. He was also to be honoured with London Rank within the year. It was too late for him to become a Founder but he was promptly invited to the Consecration Ceremony. He was soon elected a Joining Member and became a tower of strength to the youthful Lodge, helping it in many and diverse ways.

A number of meetings of the Founders were held to discuss the many and various points which cropped up. Some of these took place in W.Bro. Rose’s own home in Ilford.

Unfortunately no minutes of these meetings have ever been found. 

A preliminary draft of the by-laws was prepared; the fees for Initiation and Joining members were fixed; as was also the annual subscription. There was a definite decision that a brother should be able to go through all stages in a Lodge from Initiation to Past Master without any financial claim on him beyond the payment of his ordinary annual subscriptions. This has become an unwritten law of the Lodge.

Thus was the stage set for the Consecration on November 3rd.

The day arrived, the fifteen Founder Brethren assembled at Freemasons; Hall to witness the ceremony of the Consecration. This was performed in the Grand Temple by the Very Worshipful Brother Sir P. Colville-Smith, the Grand Secretary. He was assisted by six Grand Lodge Officers one of whom, W.Bro J. A. Miller was an Old Boy of the school.

The Chaplain in his orientation during the ceremony said that “Freemasonry was a standing protest against envy, jealousy, selfishness and self-seeking. The Lodge had adopted an excellent Motto ‘Love as Brethren’ and their association with the School should enable them to live up to it.”

Our first Master, W.Bro Dr. H. P. Orchard was then installed by the Grand Secretary and W.Bro F. W. Maddocks was invested as Acting I.P.M.

The Charter or Warrant from the Grand Lodge of England, which had been brought by the Grand Tyler, was delivered into the keeping of the W.Master, who then appointed and invested his officers.

The Bible which has always been used in the Lodge was then presented by W.Bro Maddocks. It was a gift to the Lodge from those of the Founders who had attended the School before it was moved from School House Lane to Tredegar Square.

The Consecrating Offices were elected honorary members and silver-mounted match containers were presented to them as souvenirs. The Grand Secretary acknowledged the compliment and the presentations.

W.Bro. B. Gurner Jone, L. R., Secretary for some twenty years of Lodge No. 2884, and an Old Boy of the School, who had rendered good service to the Founders in the preliminaries, was also elected an honorary member.

Three propositions for initiation and three for joining were laid before the Lodge.

The ceremonial music during the Consecration was very ably rendered by Eton Singers, under the direction of W.Bro Harry Carver, P.P.G.Org., (Berks).

The Consecration ceremony over, the company repaired to The Connaught Rooms where a banquet was spread. There our W.Master presided over a gathering numbering one hundred and five.

Responding after dinner to the toast of the Grand Lodge Officers, Bro. Sir Alfred Robbins said that he had been delighted to accept the Grand Secretary’s invitation to act as S.W. He had known Bro. Orchard, who had been his medical adviser for many years, as an excellent Mason. The Founders had emphasized to them the great responsibility they had undertaken, and he prayed that the Lodge would be well able to maintain that responsibility. Their Lodge had come into existence at a time when English speaking Freemasonry was extending very widely. It had been his fortune to visit Lodges in Brazil, in cities which were now in possession of the troops of a new Government, and with the recollection of his visit to them, he hoped that our Brethren in those distant parts were not in serious danger. In those Lodges there were the same opening hymn, the same ceremony and the same spirit as in the London Lodges. He hoped they would be careful to avoid having candidates merely for the sake of giving the Master work. The test should be: Were they persons whom they would invite into their own homes? If they maintained that standard, which was capable of being realised everyday, the edifice which had been begun that night would, he hoped, stand firm for ever, and the Coopers’ Old Boys Lodge remain a reminder of the faithfulness of those who had gone before.

The W.Master proposed the toast to the Consecrating Officers.

The Grand Secretary, in response, said that in the Lodge Bro. Prebendary Perry, and just a few moments ago Sir Alfred Robbins, had spoken to them of what their Lodge should be, and he felt sure that they had started a Lodge which would be a credit to the Craft in every way. The great school association would enable them to bring worthy men into Masonry. He had just consecrated another school lodge, connected with Radley, and it was always a pleasure to consecrate lodges connected with schools. He had every confidence in the future of Coopers’ Old Boys Lodge.

Bro. Sir George Boughey, who was also asked to speak, thanked the Founders for the help they had given them that evening. It was quite clear that all present had felt the solemn character of the occasion, and were obviously impressed; one of the best auguries of the true Masonic spirit. He wished them every success.

Bro. Maddocks, proposing the toast of the Master, said the Lodge in its motto, had followed the example of the Company and the School and in these three words – “Love as Brethren” – they had something singularly appropriate. The Master, in response, said that in 1536, when the school was founded, there may have been some speculative as well as operative Masons. They felt deeply what Bro. Sir Alfred Robbins had said as to the standard of candidates. They had inherited a fine tradition from the Company and the School, which enabled him to promise that the Lodge would maintain a high standard.

The toast of the Guests, who numbered 83, was proposed by the J.W., Bro. Davie, who mentioned that their I.P.M had left the school as 1893.

Bros. W. E. Smith (and Old Boy), A. E. Wood, P. Prov. G. Reg Berks, W. E. Soar (Mendelssohn Lodge) A. J. White, P.M., University of London, 2033 (the Headmaster of the School) and A. E. Beckett, J. W. Yarborough, 554, responded. Bro. Smith, one of four Brothers who were there that night, all Old Boys, gave some very cheery reminiscences of his school-days. Bro. White, the headmaster, expressed great pleasure that the Lodge had been formed as he felt it would benefit the School. For 3,000 years they had been discussing what the aim of education was, and they were still puzzling over it. What better aim could they have that to produce a man fit to be a candidate for Freemasonry and guided by the principles of the institution? The galleon on their badge was a very apt symbol of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when their School was founded.

The S. Warden (Bro. Bailey) and the Secretary (W. Bro. Rose) responded to the toast of the Officers.

During the evening, which was very successful and pleasant, Miss Rita Barnaby, Bros. W. B. Hodgson and Frank Watts entertained the Brethren, with Bro. D. C. Hemmings at the piano.

Nine days after the Consecration, the Lodge held its first regular meeting at the Florence Restaurant, Rupert St., W. On that night there were two initiates, Mr. C. J. T. Mackie, later to become our Secretary, and Mr E. W. Palmer, who is now Director of Ceremonies.

Bro. A. E. Gray had given in his name to become a Founder but had not been a Master Mason for the necessary qualifying period. On account of this he was made the senior member of the Lodge after the Founders.

The news that a Lodge had been formed in connection with the School began to spread among the Old Boys. An unobtrusive paragraph appeared in the School Magazine inviting those interested to communicate with the Secretary. There was very soon a waiting list.

The Lodge Committee began to consider many things.

It had been the original intention to limit membership to actual Old Boys of the School. But this was extended to include Governors and members of the Staff of Coopers’.

The fee for initiation had been fixed at ten guineas, for joining members, five, and the annual subscription was four. The financial year extended from November 1st to October 31st and the four regular meetings were to take place on the second Wednesday in the months of November, February, May and September.

Masonic Evening Dress had been worn at the Consecration and first regular meeting. Thereafter, it was decreed that it should be worn at the Installations, which were the November meetings

Masonic Dress Wear in those days was tails, white tie and black waistcoat.

The Lodge Committee was confronted with the problem of deciding which of the many rituals it was going to adopt. Each Founder, of course, preferred his own and amongst them it appears nearly all the workings were represented. Finally it was decided that the Lodge should adopt Emulation Working and gradually eliminate all others.

For this purpose it was necessary to form a Lodge of Instruction. W. Bro. White’s offer of premises at the School was gladly accepted and the first, a preliminary meeting, was held there on Friday, 4th September, 1931.

Five days later sanction was given in open Lodge for the formation of the Coopers’ Old Boys Lodge of Instruction and for regular meetings to be held at the School on the first Fridays in the months September to May.

The early Masters found plenty of work initiating the Old Boys who were anxious to become Masons and in their Old School Lodge. Other Old Boys already Masons felt the urge to be associated with this new venture.

Membership steadily grew. The zeal of the Founders coupled with the keenness of the later members rapidly produced a Lodge whose work was good and in which the tone was excellent, so much so, that the Grand Secretary paid us the great compliment of sending to us overseas visitors who were Masons anxious to see English ritual and working at their best. In September 1935, the Lodge was asked to raise a candidate to the third degree on behalf of his Mother Lodge (Scottish Constitution).

 A Coopers’ Old Boys Lodge Masonic Benevolent Fund was formed and the usual Masonic charities were supported.

The Members of the Lodge were anxious to acknowledge their indebtedness to their Old School. They therefore decided to make a presentation annually of a silver watch to the boy who, in the opinion of the Headmaster and the Staff, was the best in all round excellence.

The Lodge was obviously outgrowing its accommodation at the Florence Restaurant. On 11th May, 1932, the seventh regular meeting, a motion was put forward to consider the removal to the Horse Shoe Hotel, Tottenham Court Road, W.1. There a special meeting was held on Wednesday, 22nd June, 1932 to see if the place were suitable. It proved to be for the Lodge has been meeting there ever since.

When in 1936 the School would complete its four hundredth year, the Lodge felt it would like to associate itself with the celebrations which were to take place in that October. A Masonic service was suggested to be held in Stepney Parish Church where Nicholas Gibson, the Founder of the School, was buried.

Accordingly permission was obtained from Grand Lodge to hold a Masonic service to which the public was admitted.

On Sunday, 25th October, 1936, the Brethren met at the Church Hall and in Masonic clothing went in procession to the Church. After the service a return procession was made to the Church Hall. The collections and donations enabled the Lodge to send £60 to the Rector of Stepney and ten genius to the Royal Masonic Hospital.

There had been a growing feeling that, as September was a holiday month, the meeting in the second week was always too early. A postal vote by the Brethren confirmed this by an overwhelming majority. The Committee therefore decreed that the future September meetings would be held on the fourth Wednesday and the by-laws were altered accordingly (for September 1937).

War clouds had been gathering over Europe for some time and the Dictators had spoken in no uncertain terms about secret societies.

Grand Lodge issued a communication dated August 1938, relating to the aims and relationships of the Craft and a copy was sent to every subscribing member of the Fraternity.

In the Autumn of 1939 came the actual war with all its worries and uncertainties. The powers that be decreed that assemblages of persons were to be avoided on account of danger from the air. Grand Lodge backed this edict but left it largely to the good sense of the individual lodges, for each had its own peculiar problems.

We had met in May 1939 and again in June for an emergency meeting, but we did not meet again until February 1940. At this meeting it was decided that the Lodge would continue to be held regularly; that the annual subscription would be one guinea and that those members wishing to dine at The Horse Shoe Hotel would pay a pro rata sum of the hotel bill.

W.Bro. S. T. Nevard, who had been installed in November 1938, was still in the Chair. Bro. E. W. Palmer expressed his willingness to relieve him and do whatever was possible to keep the Lodge in being. He was therefore installed on 8th May 1940. But war conditions were such that the Lodge did not meet again for a full twelve months. This was on Saturday, 10th May 1941, and the Lodge opened at 2.30 p.m. to enable members to get home and under cover before nightly air raids began.

At this meeting W.Bro. E. W. Palmer was re-elected and again proclaimed and those of his officers who were present he re-invested.

The Lodge now met regularly again and even held an extra emergency meeting, but it was always an afternoon function and a very early start was made. Ladies festivals had been, of course, during the war period, unthinkable.

It was becoming increasingly difficult for Masters to get together a working team of officers who could attend. Some members were evacuated, many were in the Forces and everyone whose presence in London was not definitely needed was urged by the Government to leave the capital.

The Horse Shoe Hotel suffered from the bombing but fortunately not seriously while the Lodge was in session. The actual Temple, however, escaped completely.

Our Secretary, who was now W.Bro. C. J. T. Mackie, conceived the idea of writing up a précis of the Lodge doings coupled with an account of the happenings at the festal board of each meeting. Items of interest gleaned from letters form members overseas were also included.

A copy of this Bulletin, which related to the Installation on 5th November, 1941, was sent to every member of the Lodge whose address was known. It met with a most enthusiastic reception and particularly from those with the Colours in the uttermost parts of the earth. Thus encouraged our Secretary prepared a Bulletin after every Lodge meeting while the war lasted. The final copy was twenty-one.

While other Lodges, particularly those in the provinces had waiting lists of candidates wishing to be initiated we were having fewer and fewer applications. This, of course, was only as it should have been, for as we were an old school lodge our normal intake of young men had been diverted to the services.

Time could therefore now be found for the working of the lectures on open Lodge, much to the benefit of those who were hardy enough to risk attending. This attendance became very scanty and the W.M.s of this period found themselves addressing lodges of far more empty chairs than members. The raids increased in intensity and it was not only tylers who made reports outside the door of the Lodge! But through it all Coopers’ carried on and fortunately without casualty.

The idea of collecting money at the tables for the cost of dining was found distasteful, especially with visitors present, so it was decided to make the subscription three guineas per annum and have done with such collections.

For some time there had been a feeling within the Lodge that there should be a chapter associated with us. In the February meeting of 1944, the formal consent of the Lodge was given to the Petition to form a Royal Arch Chapter to be called The Coopers’ Old Boys Chapter. This was Consecrated at Freemasons’ Hall on 11th October, 1944.

In the Autumn of the next year the Lodge of Instruction, which had been functioning at the Secretary’s office on occasions when there was special need for it, opened again at the School for normal and regular meetings.

The annual school prize of a watch given by the Lodge came under review. Timepieces had become most difficult to obtain. It was finally decided that instead the Lodge would bear the cost of silver cap badges which were awarded yearly to prefects of the School.

Late in 1945 there was a movement to for a Federation of School Lodges. This was strongly supported by our own Lodge and the Federation is now firmly established.

The first Chairman was our Secretary, W.BRo. C. J. T. Mackie and another of our past Masters, W.Bro. A. C. Rowe, has been the treasurer ever since the Federation’s foundation.

Austerity was still the rule. Catering was very difficult and money was extremely tight. But in spite it all the Lodge felt, and felt it strongly, that we should again hold Ladies’ Festivals. It was our way of saying “Thank you” to our women folk for their untiring efforts during the war and since. For standing in queues of all kinds and for providing sustaining meals seemingly out of nothing. They proved to us that the age of miracles was indeed not dead. The selected day was in October 1946 and when all was ready a sudden strike of hotel staff made it impossible. However, the Festival was finally held in the following February at the Mayfair Hotel, and it has been an annual event there ever since.

At Stepney Parish Church, St. Dunstan’s, on Sunday, 15th June, 1947 the School held a service of Remembrance for those of its Old Boys and one of its Masters who made the supreme sacrifice in the recent War. The Lodge was represented by our then Master W.Bro. L. R. Tarlton, supported by his two Wardens, Bros. A. C. Rowe and H. J. Shepherd and a considerable number of brethren.

In May 1948on account of the general rises in prices and costs the Lodge Committee was forced to raise the annual subscription. It had already reverted to the original four guineas. It now became five, but the initiation and joining fees were allowed to remain at the same levels.

Ultimately, however, the Lodge Committee found it necessary to advance the initiation fee from ten to fifteen guineas. The country membership subscription became one-and-a-half guineas and the visitor’s fee for all banquets twenty-one shillings.

A Masonic Lodge built on the foundation of an ancient school has many advantages. Whereas the normal Lodge often consists of members previously unknown to one another, the Old School Lodge is made up of men who were boys together.

We in the Coopers’ Old Boys Lodge are strongly conscious of this and at the dinner after an Installation meeting we introduced a non-masonic toast – The School – and it is always enthusiastically received. Into our after dinner speeches is introduced that refreshing spirit of leg-pulling to an extent which might be unsafe in any other than an Old School Lodge.

On 14th June an emergency meeting was called. This by way of experiment was held in the School library. The dinner was served in the refectory. It is always pleasing to re-enter the old school atmosphere as a free agent with the full assurance of one’s independence, but the experiment showed us that the serving of the meal after the Lodge was too heavy a load for the School Catering Department.

On Sunday, 26th October, 1952 the Lodge held a Masonic service in St. Dunstan’s, Stepney Parish Church, in commemoration of the 1,000th anniversary of the church. The Service was supported by fourteen other Lodges.

The W.Master of our Lodge wears a metal chain which is sewn on to the front of his collar; the gift of W.Bro. A. H. Bindoff. At the bottom of that chain is the actual silver cap-badge which he wore in 1892 when he was a boy at Coopers’ School at Ratcliffe.

The history of that badge is worth recording.

W.Bro. Bindoff’s father was a silversmith and from the device of the Coopers’ Company’s Arms impressed on the cover of a prize, he fashioned this badge in silver for his son to wear at school. The then Headmaster noticed it, borrowed it, had it copied and mass produced in white metal. Thus it became the recognised badge of the Coopers’ School boy.

W.Bro. Bindoff also presented a fine set of gavels for use in the Lodge. On the face of each he let in one of these white metal badges. These were given by members of the Lodge who had preserved them from their schooldays.

In the Coopers’ Old Boys’ Lodge we honour the toast of “Absent Brethren” usually at nine o’clock and with nautical fire.

The Director of Ceremonies used to give “Two Bells” by striking a wine glass. Bro. L. McEwen, as he then was, felt that the toast was worthy of the real thing. He therefore presented to the Lodge a handsome brass ship’s bell. That was in 1947. Ever since the Director of Ceremonies has given “Absent Brethren” by holding the bell aloft and striking it. The toast is then drunk and the fire is – masthead, breast and badge three times.

The Lodge has made a presentation to each outgoing Master in recognition of his services. This has been a Past Master’s collar with jewel and also a Past Masters Jewel.

The square appended to the collar is always inscribed on the reverse side with the names of those brethren whom he initiated during his year of office.

It is with gratitude that we look back to our Founders and back beyond them to pious Nicholas Gibson who, in 1536, set our clear beacon burning. Our keen young members enable us to look to the future with confidence. Therefore let our slogan ever be “hats off to the past and coats off to the future.”

This history of the first twenty-five years of the lodge was compiled by W.Bro. W.B. Johnson, LGR for inclusion in a commemorative book sharing that name which was published in 1956.

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