Coquetdale 5122

Coquetdale Lodge - No.5122

Early History

Coquetdale Lodge No.5122 was founded in 1929 and an excellent brief history of events has been investigated by W.Bro. Ian Glendinning.

The history of any organisation is important, as the heritage and traditions should never be forgotten. Too many things have been lost with the passage of time and it is of great importance that we should be able to make reference to our heritage, to carry on the traditions and values of those who went before us.

Coquetdale Lodge was formed in 1929. It came about as a result of a meeting of brethren mainly from Morpeth Lodge, No.4176. There was clearly a need for a lodge in the thriving community of the Coquet Valley, but anyone who wanted to be a mason then, had to travel to Morpeth, Alnwick or Wooler. On 14th February 1929, 16 brethren, from mostly Morpeth Lodge met at the Jubilee Hall and proposed that a new lodge be formed, called the 'Coquetdale Lodge'. Brother Sam Cordrey, of Lodge de Ogle, made the proposal.

The PGM had already been contacted and given a written estimate of the cost of establishing a new lodge, it being in the region of £100. It was noted in the minutes that the Past Masters Committee of Morpeth Lodge No.4176 had shown considerable interest in assisting in the formation of the new lodge. Various brethren were appointed to research venues to hold meetings and it was proposed that Morpeth Lodge be asked to 'mother' the Coquetdale Lodge.

The seeds were sown and on the 7th March a further meeting was held. It was agreed to send a deputation to Morpeth Lodge to formally request they act as 'mother'. It was then agreed that the County Hotel should act as a meeting place, other places including the Newcastle House being discounted. Interestingly, a sub committee of 6 brethren was formed to decide whether to use the billiard room or the ballroom for meetings! This was obviously a matter of some importance. Brother Stopford submitted the design for the badge of the Lodge and W.Bro Shotton volunteered to adorn the lodge with a star and ceiling decorations.

Things were now moving fast on the 27th March a further meeting was held which was chaired by the WM Elect, WBro Hugh Dickie. There is no record of how or where he came to be WM elect. It is interesting to note the subscriptions that were set at this meeting - 3 guineas was the founder's fee, and this included the first years subscription. This was the equivalent of £127 today. Another monumental decision was taken - it was decided to use the billiards room at the County Hotel instead of the ballroom, on the condition that the secretary would attempt to obtain a reduction in the rates! In true Masonic fashion, it is noted that the brethren then adjourned to the County Hotel to meet the WM elect and partake in some light refreshment.

There was one more meeting before the lodge was consecrated, where the fees were set.

Initiation 10 gns (£425)

Joining 1 1/2 gns plus 30 shillings subs (£127)

The date of the consecration of the new lodge was set for the 27th June 1929, on which date a lodge was formed, at the County Hotel Billiards Room, by W Bro Charles W Hodgson, DPGM.

The PGM, R W Bro C W Napier Clavering entered, with other officers of provincial and grand lodge, and the lodge was solemnly constituted, consecrated and dedicated. There was a large turnout of visitors. Brethren attended from the Province of Middlesex and 23 lodges were represented, including a lodge in New Zealand. The billiards room must have been rather crowded. W Bro Hugh Dickie became the first master. It is well worth considering his first year in office and the first year of Coquetdale Lodge, drawing comparisons with the state of Freemasonry today.

There were 15 meetings - 10 regular and 5 lodges of emergency. In those meetings, there were 14 first degrees, 12 second and 8 thirds. All were with real candidates! Not a single demonstration to be seen.

The lodge had 23 founding members and in the first year, there were 15 joining members and a staggering 43 candidates were proposed. At least two candidates were turned down as it was thought that they lived too far away, in Heaton and Widdrington. On a number of occasions, two degrees were worked in one evening, with two candidates being initiated and a further two passed.

Contrast this to today, where in many lodges, a master has not seen a new candidate for years. There is no doubt that freemasonry was popular and flourishing in the Coquet Valley in 1929. There could hardly have been a family that was not in some way connected to Coquetdale Lodge. At the end of the first year. the lodge was in a healthy state. The bank balance was £122.3.4. with outgoings of £30.12.6. The equivalent today would be £4811 and £1206 respectively. Interestingly, part of the expenditure was to the College of Arms, payment for a search for the crest of the Umfraville family. It would seem that this might have been considered for an emblem for the lodge. Umfravilles being a rich and noble medieval family in the area.

The numbers in the lodge were increasing with every meeting, which must have been rather cramped. Understandably, then, it was felt that a new building was necessary and that the prosperity of the lodge would be able to support the purchase of property. On 6th March 1931 it was agreed that the lodge should offer a maximum of £500 for the purchase of the Sharps school building. In December of that year, the purchase was completed, the actual price being £300. It was to cost a further £400 to carry out the alterations necessary to make the building suitable as a Masonic meeting place. An Inventory from 1931 showing some of the costs and 1932 showing furnishings and gifts can be viewed HERE .

A number of options were considered to raise the capital for this and it was decided that a generous offer from W.Bro P Grayston be accepted. He offered to finance the whole venture at a cost of 5% interest. The building was dedicated at a ceremony on the 12th July 1932.60 members were present on that occasion. The membership had almost tripled in 3 years. The Provincial Grand Master, R W Bro Cecil Cochrane. performed the ceremony. Around 80 - 100 brethren, including visitors, attended each meeting at this time.

Sadly, much of the lodge fittings were lost when the building was ultimately sold. Apparently the ravages of woodworm had taken their toll.

It is easy to roll out a list of facts and figures, but freemasonry is about the people who are involved, and rather than just a list of names, it is interesting to look at the lives of some of the founding members.

The tirst WM, W.Bro Hugh Dickie was a Scotsman, I believe from the Isle of Arran. born in 1865. He was 64 years old at the time of his year in office. He was a surgeon, living in Bridge Street, Morpeth, with his wife Mary, 5 years his junior. He had a daughter named Doris and a son also called Hugh. In the early 1900's, he employed 3 servants and a coachman, so he was obviously a well to do person. He was a-general practitioner in Morpeth, where he married a local girl, Mary Swinney, in 1891. He rose in his profession to become a surgeon. Hugh was a past master of Morpeth Lodge, No.4176 and had achieved the rank of Past Provincial Grand Deacon prior to his installation as the first master of Coquetdale lodge.

Sadly, W.Bro Dickie died in 1932, only two years after leaving the chair. He only attended the lodge on a couple of occasions after this, so it may be assumed that he fell ill. A portrait was presented to the lodge and unveiled by his oldest Masonic friend, WBBO James Whittle. The location of this portrait is being investigated.

The first candidate was William Bell, a grocer from Rothbury, who's father, Thomas, was also a grocer in the village, and the first joining member was Ninian Wilson, a butcher from Town Foot.

At the commencement of hostilities in 1939, meetings were disrupted or cancelled. Grand Lodge, cancelled all meetings in September and thereafter advising that all meetings should be as brief as possible and finished by 9pm, with proceedings afterwards to be 'brief and simple'. Official visits were discontinued, lodge minute books were to be kept in a place of safety between meetings and a notice displayed indicating the direction and distance of the nearest air raid shelter. Special care was taken in the enquiries made of any person seeking to be initiated into a lodge. Some circulars from the war years can be viewed with this link.

For a time, the Masonic Hall in Rothbury was commandeered by the military and used as a billet, but the Temple was exempted from this and meetings were able to continue. Not only did they continue, but the list of candidates grew and the lodge prospered.

An interesting snippet is revealed in the minute books when it was explained that the absent brethren toast, in the festive board, had it's origins in the First World War, when brethren serving abroad were toasted. It is also explained that the Benevolent Board took in and educated all the children of those who fell, if application was made.

The lodge received its first Provincial Honour in January 1940, when W.Bro G R Patterson was given the rank of PPSGD. It is noted in the minutes that the news was broken to W.Bro Patterson as he lay grievously ill in bed. Also in 1940, the lodge voted in favour of excusing all serving members of HM forces from paying subscriptions. I cannot find anything to say that this decision was ever overturned.

A notable comparison to today's charities donations is mentioned in the minutes. In 1942, for the Masonic Girls School Festival, the Northumberland Province raised the handsome sum of £53,684.

During the war years, the lodge flourished, with an average of around 38 members and a similar number of visitors attending each meeting. Such was the volume of candidates that almost every month, a lodge of emergency was held to help reduce the backlog of initiates. Can you imagine the work involved then? Candidates were invariably put through the degrees in pairs and it was not unknown to perform 2 or even 3 degrees in the same evening, sometimes with the master performing all the work!

In 1948, all members of the lodge who were serving with HM forces were presented with a silver pencil. A member who desired to remain anonymous provided these to the lodge. In the mid 1940's, a loan scheme was initiated, with 48 lodge members purchasing £5 shares in the lodge, and receiving in turn an annual dividend of 2.5%.

It may not be widely known, but in 1938 an illustrious personage was received into the lodge as ajoining member. Sir Archibald Woollaston White, 4th Baronet, of Trewhitt Hall, was balloted for and elected as a joining member. Quite apart from being a peer of the realm, his claim to fame was that he was the captain of the Yorkshire County Cricket Team from 1911 - 1914, leading them to the county championship in 1912. Sir Archibald was a past master of Albert Victor Lodge no 2328 in Yorkshire and joined Coquetdale with his son, Thomas AstIey W oollaston White, who succeeded him as 5th Baronet on Sir Archibald's death in 1945. He was master of the West Percy Hunt and also lived at Otterburn Towers for a while. He saw service in the Great War as a Lt. Col. in the Royal Horse Artillery. As might be expected, he was also a Justice of the Peace.

Looking down the list of lodge members over the years, it is clear that membership of the Coquetdale lodge was a much sought after privilege.

People from all walks of life, from gardeners at Cragside to peers of the realm mixed together in the temple and at the festive board. The lodge history is a snapshot of the community of the Coquet Valley in years gone by. Freemasonry was obviously held in high regard, as evidenced by the sheer volume of candidates. Many familiar names are listed in the membership. Tully, Mackay, Snaith, Cummings, Murray, Gregory, Rogerson, to name but a few.

It can only be hoped that in years to come, Coquetdale lodge will again find favour within the local community and that an upsurge of interest will swell our ranks with candidates.


Excerpts from the Lodge By-Laws of 1929




The Castle Ritual

A an excellently preserved example of the 10th edition of the Castle Ritual book below - dated 1928.

A well worn example of the 13th edition of the Castle Ritual book above - dated 1944.


Coquetdale Masonic Lodge
Club Rules

The booklet below is an excellently preserved early example of the Clubs Rules when the Lodge was in the Masonic Hall, Rothbury



And Finally

Do You Know Anyone?

This is an early Coquetdale Masonic Lodge Group Photo

It was taken in the grounds of the Masonic Hall, Rothbury - please pass on any information about the Brethren.

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