By 1862 there were six Mark Lodges with warrants issued by the Grand Mark Lodge in the Province of Devonshire. These were Fortescue No 9, St. George No 15, Russell No 23, Sincerity No. 35, Brunswick No. 48 and St. John No. 50.
The popularity of the Mark Degree was encouraged by Rev John Huyshe, the Mark Provincial Grand Master who was also the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of the Craft. At a meeting on the 11 July 1862 the members of Friendship Mark Lodge No 238, agreed that a petition be drawn up for the signature of the Brethren in order to place this ancient Lodge under the Constitution of the Grand Master of Mark Masons at the nominal expense of £2 .2s." and a new certificate for each member for a shilling.
The petition was signed by Bros. Charles Elphinstone, James Fox Cornelius Jennings, John Rogers, Joseph Benney, Henry Cook, John Ash, Samuel Crocker, Edwin Murch, Charles Collings, William Radmore, F. Emmett, Philip Rickard, William Girdley, Richard Earl, William Jordon Hoar, Francis Icipion Brizze and Henry Welch.
The warrant was received and read at the September meeting 1862. It was unanimously agreed that Bro. Elphinstone should be the First Worshipful Master, Bro. Fox the first Senior Warden and Bro. Jennings the first Junior Warden under the new Constitution and reconstituted Lodge which would take place on 13th November, 1862 to install the Worshipful Master elect.
Notice was sent to those brethren who had been promoted to the Degree of Mark Master Masons in the Lodge under its previous workings (1822 to1862) and if desire to be registered as members under the new Constitution are requested to attend on this occasion and produce their Certificates in order that they may be enrolled without further ballot. Brethren so presenting themselves will receive new certificates at the mere cost of the parchment, but this indulgence cannot be shown to any who apply at a later date than the 13th instant". The minutes recorded there were 18 members of the Lodge present and they were obligated under the new constitution and 12 visiting brethren.
Samuel Chapple who was promoted into Friendship Lodge on the 13th. February, 1856 and had also joined St. George Mark Lodge No. 15, undertook the inaugural ceremony in his capacity of the Director of Ceremonies in Mark Grand Lodge. He took the chair, appointed the installing officers and opened the Lodge. After reading the warrant, he opened a Board of Installed Masters and invested W. Bro. John Rogers to the office of Immediate Past Master. He then installed Bro. Charles Elphinstone as Worshipful Master. The Master then invested two wardens, secretary and Registrar of Marks, three overseers, two deacons, an inner guard and a Tyler.
The enrolment of this independent Mark Lodge was important not only for Devon but far beyond the borders of the Province. It was of great publicity value as well as proving that the Provincial Grand Master (the Rev. John Huyshe) was successful in his efforts to further the spread of Mark Masonry. Grand Lodge were certainly aware that it could only succeed if it had the support of all Mark bodies, and the affiliation of a Time Immemorial lodge was a great acquisition.
Notice from the General Board of Grand Mark Lodge dated 10th. December, 1862, contained the following comments: "A warrant of Confirmation has been granted to a lodge meeting at Devonport in the County of Devon under Time Immemorial constitution which now stands on the register of Grand Lodge as Friendship Lodge, No. 16". Friendship was now in the fold, and for the first time the minutes referred to candidates being balloted for and their Marks registered in a separate book. Brethren who had been advanced in the Lodge under its old workings before the issue of the warrant were, on applying, would re-obligated for a fee of one shilling. (5 pence) To stress the importance of Friendship's enrolment the next meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge of Devonshire was held under its banner.
For the next 60 years Friendship Mark Lodge worked successfully and certainly without recorded complaint with its Lodge number of No 16 until awareness arose that its true antiquity was for some reason no longer fully recognised. In March, 1922, a petition was sent to the Grand Master, signed by the Worshipful Master, officers and brethren requesting "that Friendship Mark Lodge No, 16 be restored to its former status of an old (Time Immemorial) Lodge”. It was sent to London with a recommendation from the Provincial Grand Master that the Grand Master give it favourable consideration,
On the 3rd July, 1922, the Grand Secretary W. Bro. A.D. Hansell wrote pointing out to the Provincial Grand Secretary W. Bro. H.B. Spencer, that
"there are other lodges working under the jurisdiction of Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons under numbers which are older than the Friendship Lodge. Probably such Lodges did not come under the jurisdiction of Grand Lodge as soon as they might have done and being so were accorded a number corresponding to the order in which they submitted themselves to the Jurisdiction of Grand Mark Lodge. The Board therefore feels that it is difficult, without further information, to comply with the request of the members of Friendship Lodge, but would be prepared to consider further any additional arguments which can be put forward in furtherance of the wishes expressed, either by correspondence or by a deputation from the Lodge or Province. The present arrangement of numbering has been accepted without question for 60 years, and it is for the present members of the Lodge to justify the alteration of the terms of the warrant of Confirmation, which must be taken as embodying the agreement, arrived at between Grand Lodge and the members of Friendship Lodge in 1862."
When the letter was received W. Bro. Spencer's reaction, to quote his words has "It is not always wise to take 'No' for an answer" With the close co-operation of M. Bro. James Sanders Brock, a member of Pleiades Mark Lodge at Totnes, who had a reputation as an enthusiastic Mark Master and obviously a strong personality, W. Bro. Spencer began to organise a deputation.
To back the petition they gathered all the old minute books, had copies of the Mark Certificate which the Lodge used to grant over 100 years previously printed from the original copper plate, Grand Lodge documents of the 1865 which cited Friendship as an old (Time Immemorial) lodge, and a lengthy but carefully prepared statement. With this documentary evidence W. Bro. Brock presented himself before the General Board of Brand Lodge early in December,1922, to present Friendship‘s case to be recognised as Time Immemorial. It was, or so everyone thought, evidence which could not be refuted,
A confident Bro, Brock returned to Devon.
The General Board pondered and on the 28th. January, 1923, came their decision:
Brother Brock stated his case with great ability and clearness and left various documents for the consideration of the General Board: among them minute books of the lodge from the 31st, March, 1817 to 1875. I enclose an extract from these minutes which sets out the circumstances under which the petition for a warrant of Confirmation was applied for and obtained in 1862.
"The Board is therefore of opinion that the Confirmation warrant dated the 24 October, 1862, conferred upon the brethren of the Lodge all the privileges which they then sought, and that no case has been established for altering the number or status of the Lodge as constituted by such warrant".
What a bitter blow to all the hopes of Friendship Lodge and all concerned. Indeed, what a blow to the whole Province to be denied the enhanced status of having a Time Immemorial Lodge under its banner. W. Bro Spencer's commented was:
"I have reason to believe that other Lodges are placed in a similar position and that is the real reason that the application has not been successful. The Board, I fancy, fear to create a precedent".
Later in a letter to the Lodge he wrote:
"The whole affair has been most interesting and instructive and I have learned much about your good old Lodge of which I was previously ignorant. My one regret is that we did not succeed in our application though we proved the Lodge to be Time Immemorial to the hilt."
When the decision of Grand Lodge was conveyed to a meeting of Friendship a proposition was moved that "we still further the petition", but an amendment, of which the Lodge Secretary, W. Bro; W.H.C. Chaff was the proposer, was carried. This was: "That we accept the decision of Grand Lodge but that we head our Lodge circulars etc., Friendship Lodge No. 16 Constitution: Time Immemorial." And this they did, apparently without let or hindrance.
But it is a story with a happy ending.
On the 4th January, 1929 six later, Mark Grand Lodge sent the following letter to W. Bro. H.B. Spencer:
"I placed details in connection with the history of this Lodge before the General Board yesterday, and I write to tell you that the members are quite satisfied as to the antiquity of the Lodge and its old traditions."Sanction is therefore given officially to the Lodge to adopt the suffix of 'Time Immemorial" and this will appear in all subsequent Year Books, etc. "I shall be very glad if you will convey to the members of the Friendship Lodge the good wishes of the General Board with the hope that the Lodge will continue its successful career for many years to come.
Yours sincerely and fraternally,
(Signed) T.G.L. Lumley-Smith
W. Bros, Brock and Spencer were made honorary members of the Friendship Mark Lodge.
8th December 2011
At the Installation meeting on the 8th December 2011, W. Bro. Dennis Lown PAGStdB presented the Provincial Grand Master R.W.Bro Peter Hawken MBE, GMRAC with an original Mark Master Masons Certificate issued by Friendship 238 Mark Lodge from 1822 to 1862. This was duly signed by the Overseers and secretary after whom R. W. Bro. Peter Hawken PGM signed the certificate at the secretary’s desk before presentation to the Worshipful Master. R.W.Bro. Peter Hawken PGM, GMRAC, sincerely thanked the Lodge.