Wednesday, December 11, 2019

‘Weird Fact Wednesday: Sir Walter Raleigh Lodges!’

It’s time for another Weird Fact Wednesday!

You know that some lodges constituent to the United Grand Lodge of England are “affinity lodges” (once called “class lodges”), meaning how, additionally to the center of union, the members share a commonality of profession, education, hobby, etc., but did you know there have been lodges comprised of Masons in the tobacco business? In a few cases, they adopted Sir Walter Raleigh’s name for their own!

Granted, that’s not statutorily a weird fact. I just like tobacco, and this is my website.

There was Sir Walter Raleigh Lodge 2432 in London. I stumbled across this information last weekend in a book from 1909 titled Sidelights on Freemasonry: Craft and Royal Arch: “We might have thought that the tobacco trade would have found itself at home in any Masonic assembly, but nevertheless they have a Lodge of their own, the Sir Walter Raleigh.”

Click to enlarge.

The January 1, 1896 issue of the trade publication Tobacco reports: “This lodge, which was established in 1892 for the convenience of gentlemen engaged in the tobacco business, held its fifth annual meeting for the installation of a new Worshipful Master on Thursday, the 26th ult., at the Inns of Court Hotel, London.”

The story continues in surprising detail about the installation of officers, presentation of a Past Master jewel, and the “customary loyal and Masonic toasts,” including to the visitors, to the Past Masters, to the Treasurer and Secretary, and to the Officers, before “the Tyler’s toast concluded a most enjoyable evening,” as it should.

This lodge was warranted June 3, 1892 and consecrated on July 28, according to Lane’s Masonic Records. Alack, an internet search a minute ago reveals the sad news that this lodge went dark and was stricken from the rolls by Grand Lodge three years ago. Another victim of the National Health, maybe.

Its meeting place was that aforementioned hotel in Holborn; I do not know if it is the very same location as the Fuller’s pub that goes by the same name today. Lodges in London now, I think, all are centralized inside Freemason’s Hall on Great Queen Street—and, really, who wouldn’t want to meet there?—just as we do at Masonic Hall in Manhattan. I can only wonder what it must have been like generations ago, when lodges were local to neighborhoods throughout those cities.

I suppose that term “tobacco trade” could encompass a number of endeavors including the agriculture of tobacco; import/export; making of pipe mixtures, snuffs, and cigarettes; wholesaling and retailing of the same; advertising; and maybe more. Which brings me to Sir Walter Raleigh Lodge 2837 in Liverpool.

Of course London, essential nexus of so much of what transacts on earth for centuries, would have been central to the commerce of tobacco, and Liverpool—another maritime power—is equally renowned for the tobacco goods it served the world. That city’s tobacciana heyday is long gone—both the Ogden’s factory/headquarters and the gigantic Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse are converted to residential uses—but a century ago, tobacco enjoyers knew Liverpool as a mecca. (St. Bruno and Gold Block pipe tobaccos are still available, but now are made by Mac Baren in Denmark.)

Sir Walter Raleigh Lodge 2837 was warranted November 5, 1900, was consecrated July 12, 1901, but was erased from the rolls of Grand Lodge March 8, 2000 due to “decreased membership,” according to Lane’s.

Volume 40, No. 1663 of The Freemason: The Organ of the Craft, a Weekly Record of Progress in Freemasonry, Literature, Science and Art, from 1901, reports the following:

“With the object of fostering an interest in Freemasonry among those connected with the wholesale tobacco trade in Liverpool, a new lodge was consecrated on the 12th inst. At the Alexandra Hotel, Dale-street, by Bro. the Right Hon. the Earl of Lathom, P.G.W., Prov. Grand Master of West Lancashire. Appropriately enough the title of the lodge is the Sir Walter Raleigh, this bringing the total of the lodges under the rule of the West Lancashire Province up to 127. The consecration ceremony was very numerously attended. The Prov. Grand Master presided, and at his request Bro. the Hon. Reginald B. Wilbraham, P.M. 2682, acted as I.P.M. Bro. J.J. Lambert, P.G.D. Eng., and Bro. P.T. Shann, P.J.G.W., occupied the Senior and Junior Wardens’ chairs respectively; and Bro. G. Harrison, P.P.G. Treas., discharged the duties of I.G.”

The story continues with a list of the eminent brethren who were present, both as founders of the lodge and as visitors. Too many names and titles to transcribe here. And then:

“At the conclusion of the consecration service, the Prov. G. Master proceeded to install Bro. Alderman John Houlding as the first W.M. of the lodge.

“In the course of a few observations subsequently, the W.M. mentioned that the lodge started under very favorable auspices. The founders and officers to be invested had presented the working tools and regalia, and they hoped by the end of the year to be not only out of debt, but in a position to hand something over to those magnificent Charities belonging to the Order.”

And in conclusion:

“At the close of the lodge, the brethren sat down to a banquet, when the usual loyal and Masonic toasts were honoured.

“Lord Lathom, in responding to the toast of ‘The Consecrating Master’ proposed from the chair, said he trusted that the Sir Walter Raleigh Lodge would prosper for many years to come, and that the members would look to their first Master for help and guidance. He also wished every success to the tobacco trade of the city with which, he understood, many members of that new lodge were connected.

“A capital musical programme was contributed by Bros. Geo. Platt, D.L. Davies, Henry Fairfield, H. Bayard Harrock, J. Lane, and C. Jones, and Master Guilbert.

“The collars, jewels, founders’ jewels, &c., were manufactured by Bros. George Kenning and Son.”

That first Worshipful Master of the lodge was a previous Lord Mayor of Liverpool, a Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden of West Lancs, a 33º Freemason, a brewer, a hotelier, and founder of Liverpool Football Club!

Another Sir Walter Raleigh Lodge, this one, No. 2958, is still extant in Devonshire. My query via social media to the Provincial Grand Lodge there about that lodge possibly being related to the tobacco trade yielded a more interesting answer: The legendary Raleigh himself was a Devonshire man! (A brother with St. Johns 328 says Raleigh drank at a pub in Exeter named The Ship.)

This lodge was founded in some commemoration of the 350th anniversary of Raleigh’s birth. (Warranted February 27, 1903 and consecrated April 28.) Its earliest meeting spaces were within Odd Fellows lodges. And the brother from the PGL there sent this photo of a book page:

Click to enlarge.

Brown and Williamson brought the classic pipe mixture named for Raleigh to market in 1927, and it is still available today, although now made by Scandinavian Tobacco Group, which seems to make just about everything in pipe tobaccos these days that Mac Baren does not. It remains a mixture of burley tobaccos from the United States.

One prolific reviewer of pipe tobaccos writes in 2012 how he has smoked Sir Walter Raleigh samples from the past 70+ years, and that the taste is consistent throughout. Higher praise I cannot imagine.

Raise your pipe or cigar or whatever is handy to the memory of Sir Walter Raleigh, who brought tobacco to England, and to all the brethren of these historic Masonic lodges.

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