One Hundred and Fifty years in the long history of Freemasonry there are many Lodges that have been in existence for more than that length of time. Yet when one considers all the manifold changes that have taken place during this period, when nations have risen and fallen, cities have been destroyed and rebuilt and men's daily lives transformed in a way that would not have been thought remotely possible, is it not remarkable that an organisation such as ours should have survived? Here is the proof, if ever any were needed of "the solid foundation upon which Freemasonry rests." So a Sesquicentenary (150 years) is indeed an event to celebrate, something of which we as Freemasons should be proud of.
It is interesting to consider, for a moment or two, the conditions that prevailed at the time when our Lodge was founded. Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States and the American Civil War was raging. Bismark was the ruler of Germany. Some idea of what life was like in our own country can be gained from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, which he wrote in 1861. Lord Palmerston was the Prime Minister at the time.
What of Plymouth in those days? In ten years from 1861, the population rose from fifty-two to sixty-two thousand and Devonport from thirty-eight to fifty thousand. Iron and steam had taken the place of wood and sail, completely changing the face of the Dockyard and bringing a new prosperity to the people of the three towns, so time brings change. Yet if we consult the Minute Books of our Lodges, or the columns of the local Press of one hundred and fifty years ago, we find Freemasonry was much as we know it today. Lodge meetings appear to have been rather more lengthy than nowadays, and festive boards more festive, but the same toasts were honoured and in much the same terms. It was customary for any important Masonic function to be reported in the Press, sometimes at great length. Some of the leading personalities of the time are still known to us by name ie Huyshe who became Provincial Grand Master in 1865, and Metham, his Senior Warden. Another name which occurred in reports of Masonic Functions is Richard Rodda it was he who became the first Master of Fortitude Mark Lodge No. 66. in 1864.
Before dealing with Rodda and other brethren who founded the Lodge it is necessary to touch briefly on the history of the Craft Lodge of Fortitude 105, from which the Mark lodge sprang. From the writings and notes of the late W. Bro. Samuel Bradford, the father of our W. Bro. Lionel Bradford who was an honorary member of our Lodge, whose research into the history of the Craft Lodge of Fortitude No. 105 and Fortitude Mark Lodge No. 66 gave considerable information. W. Bro. S. Bradford's records inform us of his friendship with W. Bro. Samuel Jew. a Q.M.S. in the Royal Marines. He was initiated into Fortitude Lodge No. 105 in 1849 and Worshipful Master in 1861, he held the office of Provincial Grand Treasurer and also had Provincial rank in the Arch and Mark Degrees. He became a member of Fortitude Mark Lodge in 1873 and was Treasurer of the Lodge for twenty-five years, from 1874 until his death. Another Royal Marine Thomas Dunkerley, a natural son of King George 11. Dunkerley was the first Provincial Grand Master for Hampshire 1767, the Isle of Wight l772, Essex l776,Dorset 1777 and Bristol 1786 as well as the successor to the first P.G.M. of Gloucester and Somerset 1784.
In 1753 Dunkerley was stationed at Plymouth. He went on leave to Portsmouth and whilst there was initiated, passed and raised in the Order. Returning to Plymouth full of enthusiasm for Freemasonry joined both Lodges then existing in the " The Pope's Head Tavern" Lodge, in Looe Street and "The Masons Arms Tavern" Lodge in Penbroke Street, Plymouth Dock.
In both Lodges his outstanding ability was quickly recognised and after serving in the office of Warden he was installed as Rt W. Master (In those days Masters of Lodges were addressed as " Rt. Worshipful") in both Lodges which then met twice monthly and Masters were elected or re-elected every six months. In both Lodges Dunkerley was re-elected to the Chair for three sessions following and thus served as Master for two years in succession.
There were not any Rituals in existence in those days, the ceremonies were conducted by Catechism, a practice going back to medieval times, when few could read or write. Dunkerley saw the need for rituals and set to work writing them. In time he completed no fewer than twenty-six rituals and twelve Masonic "Orders", and in time some additional degrees, or, as we now know them, "allied" degrees, the Mark Master Masons, "Holy Royal Arch," and the "Knight Templars." Two copies of these rituals, have been copied from Dunkerley's original manuscripts, are still in existence.
One was made by Bro. John Knight of Redruth in 1777, another by Bro. Pender, both of whom went through all the twenty-six degrees in Lodge Fortitude. It must be understood that in those days a Craft Lodge claimed the right to work such additional degrees as it pleased and the right was not challenged. The first of these copies is now privately owned and the second is in the library of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge and from it photo-static copies have been made. These rituals are quite different from those in general use today, although fragments are common in both.
The introduction of these degrees and orders made the "Pope's Head Tavern" a mecca for Freemasons from the surrounding districts and even as far afield as Bristol, Bath and London and as the accommodation at this old inn soon became inadequate, Dunkerley soon found a solution to this problem.
The New Quay, which is now named The Parade, on the Barbican, Plymouth. had just been completed and a new tavern, to be called "The Three Crowns Tavern," was in construction, just at this time the First Plymouth Division of the Royal Marines was being formed. Many of the first officers, warrant officers and non-commissioned officers of the Royal Marines were known to Dunkerley as Freemasons and he induced them to apply for a warrant to form a new Lodge to meet at the new "Three Crowns Tavem" and to be known as The Marine Lodge, the name was changed to "Fortitude" in 1870.
The warrant was granted and the Lodge was opened on January 2nd 1759. (There was no ceremony of Consecration in those days.) It was not possible for the Lodge to meet immediately at "The Three Crowns Tavern as the building was not ready for occupation, so meetings were held pro tem at "The Red Lion Tavern' in Southside Street also the Mark and other allied degrees.
When "The Three Crowns Tavern" was completed it became, and for over a century remained, one of the three main centres of Freemasonry in the West of England, the others being at Bristol and Bath. It is a fair assumption that Thomas Dunkerley would have been the first Master of the new Lodge had not fate intervened and duty called him to the Siege of Quebec. It was 1763 when he returned to Plymouth and was able to occupy the Chair. By this time he had been recognised as the natural son of George 11. Such then, in brief, is the story of how the Craft Lodge came in to being.
It may be asked “Is not Fortitude Mark Lodge of contemporary origin"? W. Bro. Bradford always contended that it was, and that Dunkerley was in fact, the Founder of the Lodge. So strong was his conviction in this matter, that in 1954 W. Bro. Bradford sponsored a Petition to Mark Grand Lodge for Fortitude No.66 to be recognised as a Lodge with "Time Immemorial" Status. The Petition was supported by certain documentary evidence purporting to show that the Lodge was in existence as early as 1760, together with photo-static copies of various Mark certificates issued prior to 1856, the year when Mark Grand Lodge was formed.
The matter was investigated by a leading Masonic historian, V.W. Bro. J.A.Grantham, who submitted a most comprehensive report to the General Board. As a result the General Board felt unable to recommend to the M.W. Grand Master to grant Fortitude No. 66. T.I. Status, since the petition had failed to show any of the essential pre-requisites.. First and foremost of these is, that to be entitled to T.I. Status, a Mark Lodge must be able to produce "substantial and irrefutable proof that it had been an entity in the strict sense of the word, the brethren having been accustomed to meet and work as a Lodge of Mark Master Masons and that it had worked Mark Masonry actively and continuously prior to 1856." In short, items taken at random could not be accepted as evidence of continuity.
W. Bro. Grantham's report to the General Board is very interesting, as the following extracts will readily show.
"Fortitude. Mk:EC:66, East Stonehouse, now at Plymouth The Petition, dated 10th February 1864, prays for a Warrant of Constitution.
The petitioners apply as "regular registered Mark Masters" of the Lodges mentioned against their respective names. They do not petition as "Brethren who with other brethren have been heretofore accustomed to meet and work as a Lodge of Mark Master". The printed form of petition is "completed in the handwriting of Richard Rodda, the Provincial Grand Secretary. Richard Rodda heads the list of petitioners and signs as PrGSec and a member of St. John MK:EC:50 and of Sincerity MK:EC:35. He is designated the first W. Master of Fortitude No.66. B.W. Stoneman is the second signatory and the S.W. designate of Fortitude No. 66. He signs as PrGSD and a member of St. John MK;EC:50. Thomas Ash is the third signatory and the J.W. designate of Fortitude No. 66. He signs as Secretary of St. Aubyn MK:EC:64. George Hilson described as "I.G." of No. 46. This probably a clerical error for No 64. as No 46 is the Union Lodge Manchester. Horace Byron Kent, S.W. St. Aubyn MK:EC:64. John Rogers, P.M. No. 16.(ie Friendship, MK:EC:16) Robinson Ridley, of St. George, MK:EC:15.
The Petition of these seven brethren was recommended by the PGMM. in the following terms:-
"I am well acquainted with the brethren who have signed this petition. They are well deserving of having a Warrant entrusted to them, and I therefore recommend that the prayer of their Petition should be granted."
In due course a Warrant of CONSTITUTION was granted under the date 2nd April 1864.
The material wording of the terms of warranty should be noted:-
Whereas a Petition has been addressed to the Grand Master by Brothers (here follow the names) regularly registered Mark Masters praying that they may be constituted a regular Lodge of Mark Masters.
Now be it known that the Grand Master doth hereby constitute these seven brethren a regular Lodge of Mark under the Title. . . .
The ultimate success of the Grand Mark Lodge, newly set up in 1856, could be achieved only if all Lodges of Mark Masters in England and Wales were to enrol under its Banner. This was appreciated by Lord Leigh, the first M.W.G.M.M. and other brethren responsible for the management of the affairs of G.M.L. In 1857 very attractive terms were offered to the old Independent Mark Lodges and S.C. Mark Lodges to unite with G.M.L. as Lord Leigh described it. ... Lodges under G.M.L. was looked upon as event of great moment.
The CONFIRMATION of a Mark Lodge stemming from roots in pre-1856 past far exceed the CONSTITUTION of a new Lodge. Huyshe was one of the first seven Prov. G.M.M's. to be appointed. The Provinces were Wiltshire, Kent, Devon, Surrey, South Wales, Australia and China. that Huyshe strove unceasingly to enhance the status of G.M.L. and who had a profound knowledge of Masonic ramifications in the South-West, who is still remembered as one of the outstanding figures of Freemasonry in Plymouth was the main instrument in persuading Friendship Independent Mark Lodge to cast its lot and join the youthful G.M.L.
Rodda, the Prov. G. Secretary, although not yet holding that office when Friendship petitioned for and obtained a Warrant of Confirmation in1862, was present at the inaugural meeting. He cannot have been unfamiliar with the position of Mark Masonry in the Three Towns. Even before his appointment as Prov. G. Secretary he was in constant contact with Huyshe, sharing the latter's enthusiasm for Mark Masonry.
Of the seven signatories to the Petition six were members of Craft Lodge of Fortitude No. 105.
Richard Rodda,.High Bailiff initiated Feb 1860, J.W. 1 861, W.M. 1862, also designated as Prov. G. Registrar. Clearance 1868.
Bernard Wills Stoneman, Grocer. initiated 1862. S.W. 1863, W.M.1864.
Thomas Ash, Architect. Initiated 1862, S.W. 1864, W.M. 1865. Clearance 1867.
George Hilson, Contractor, initiated 1862, J.W. 1866, S.W. I 867, W.M. 1 868.Lapsed1869.
Horace Byron Kent, Grocer joined from Lodge St Aubyn in 1864. (no further record)
Robinson Ridley, Coal Merchant, Joined 1860 W.M. 1861, Clearance 1870, re-joined 1872, Lapsed 1881.
It would appear that in those days promotion was rapid and membership short-lived. It is also somewhat difficult to reconcile with such a record the high esteem in which they were held by the Reverend W. Bro. Huyshe.
I suppose that it is in the best traditions of Mark Masonry that part of the original plans would have been lost, and we have no record of the working of the Lodge from the time of its constitution until 1872. A few pieces of information can be pieced together from various items pasted in the back of the first Minutes Book. For example there is an account from the Printers and Stationers John H. Spry for a Minute Book, Treasurers Book, Circulars for December and February 1864 and for February, March, May, September and October 1865, together with other items of stationary, for a total of £1-7s-5d and bearing the signature of Richard Rodda. W.M. There is a copy of the circular for October 1865, informing the members that the next regular meeting would be held at the Lodge Room, Prince George Hotel, East, Stonehouse, on Thursday October 26th 1865 at 6-30pm. The business was to ballot and if approved, to Advance, James Hasselwood, Victualler, of Lodge Fortitude No.105 and Joseph Dimbleby, Outfitter, of Lodge Unity Peace and Concord No. 639. Also to install the W.M. Elect Bro. B.W. Stoneman, PPrGD. S.W. The circular appears over the name of Thomas Heath, PAG.Sec., Secretary 66 (Pro Tem).
There is an account from Pinsent and Co. of Market St. Devonport, for fifteen Masonic Collars at 8s-6d also with Richard Rodda's signature, and a number of receipts, signed by "John Rogers, Tyler" for each of the meetings held during 1865 and a meeting in January 1866.
There is also a receipt from Grand Lodge dated 13th November 1865 for three guineas the cost of the Warrant and four certificates at 8s-6d and a further receipt dated February 1867 for eleven certificates. From this it can be assumed that fifteen candidates were advanced during the first two years of the Lodge's working. After this there is nothing until February 2nd 1872 when the Chair was occupied by W. Bro. J.B. Glover. The minutes of this meeting state, The Minutes of the last meeting are not forthcoming, the residence of the late secretary not being known.
"The Lodge unanimously elected by ballot for V.W. Bro. H. Dubosc, V.W. Bro. J.B. Glover, Bro. H.T. Hearle. and Bro. Goddschalk. all of Lodge 50. All proposed by W. Bro. T. Ash, Master and seconded by W. Bro. Stoneman. On the proposition of Bro. Glover. seconded by Bro. Hearle. V.W. Bro. Henry Dubosc was elected Master for the ensuing year. It was resolved that Returns to Grand and Provincial Grand Lodge should be made forthwith, and that the Installation should take place on February 17'th 1872."
From 1872 onwards there is a continuous record of the working of the Lodge. But no further Advancements were made, as it was the intention of the Brethren to function as a Lodge of Past Masters. Thus any brother who joined the Lodge from another Mark Lodge, who had not already been through the Chair of another Lodge, would almost immediately be appointed to one of the Warden's Chairs, all the other offices, with the exception of that of the Master, being filled by Past Masters. A copy of the returns for the year 1880 indicates that every member of Fortitude Mark Lodge then sixteen in number, held Grand or Provincial Grand Lodge rank. W. Bro. Bradford recalls a Masonic Exhibition for Devon and Cornwall held in 1887, the catalogue for which was edited by William James Hughan a well known Masonic Historian. Item No. 790 in the exhibition was the Warrant of Fortitude Mark Lodge No.66, and there is a footnote by Hughan, "All the officers of No.66 Mark Lodge are present or past Provincial officers."
In the absence of any record of an earlier set, the first By-Laws were drawn up in February 1875, and a copy appears in the Minute Book bearing the signature of the Provincial G.M.M. Lieut.-Col. John Tanner Davy. These state that the Lodge should meet at The Huyshe Masonic Temple, Princess Place, Plymouth. on the third Tuesday in the months of March, June, September and December, that the annual subscription was to be Four Shillings and the fee for advancement Five Guineas! Bearing in mind the value of money was small in those days no wonder there was no advancements made while those By-Laws were in force.
Henry Dubosc was duly installed as Master in 1872 and he appointed John B. Gover as Secretary, an office he held continuously for thirty-four years until his death at the age of seventy-eight years in 1907. Thus he was associated with five Provincial Grand Masters, Earl Fortescue, John Huyshe, Viscount Ebrington, Lord Northcote and Major Davie. One does not have to read between the lines to realise that as far as Fortitude Mark Lodge was concerned he was the power behind throne for over thirty years.
At the installation meeting held on March 3rd 1873 the Chair was taken by W. Bro.Sammuel Jew, he later became Treasurer in which office he remained until his death in 1898. In 1875 the Lodge was granted its first Dispensation to install Bro. Goddschalk in the Chair, the form is almost identical with that in use today.
At a meeting held on March 20th 1888, it was resolved that the Lodge should move from the Temple to 193, Union Street and a dispensation for that purpose was applied for. Only one meeting was held there, however, in September, when it was decided that the Lodge should move to the Freemasons Hall, Plymouth, where it met continuously until the building was destroyed by enemy action in194l. It then moved to The Davie Freemasons Hall where it then met, except for a period from 1946 to 1952 when it met at The Sincerity Masonic Hall.
On the death of J.B. Gover, W. Bro. T. Parker became Secretary of the Lodge. A Solicitor by profession, W. Bro. Parker was advanced in Metham Mark Lodge, joining Fortitude 1Mark Lodge in 1900 and occupied the Chair in l903. He remained in office as Secretary for seventeen years. He served the Lodge well, for the records of its affairs over this period were meticulously kept.
The meeting following Gover's death, held on September 2nd 1907, the business was as follows :-
"To consider the present position of the Lodge, and take such action as may be considered necessary with regard to its future".
A strong feeling was evinced that there should be drastic revision of the By-Laws, leading to the reception of candidates for Advancement, a Notice of Motion was given to alter them. As a result the fee for Advancement was reduced from Five Guineas to twenty-four shillings, the Joining Fee from one to half-a-guinea and the subscription raised from four to six shillings. Sanction for these alterations having been obtained
An Emergency Meeting was held on 12th February 1908, when no fewer than ten candidates were advanced and four joining members joined the Lodge. Many of these brethren were well known personalities.
The candidates were from Craft Lodges as follows:-
Bro's. Henry Warren Crow - Maristow Lodge, Edward Eliot Square - Philammon Lodge, Richard Congdon Stilwell - Fortitude Lodge, Frederick Wise - Elliot Lodge, Frank Head Drew - Fortitude Lodge, Frank Underhill - Harmony Lodge, John Westcott Underhill - Harmony Lodge, Charles Robert Warren - Philammon Lodge, John Archibald Venn - Maristow Lodge, William Arthur Mahany - Dundas Lodge.
The joining members were William Brockman - Fidelity-Huyshe Mark Lodge, Edgecombe Stevens - St.Aubyn Mark Lodge, Herbert Beechy Spencer - Metham Mark Lodge, William James Williams - St. Aubyn Mark Lodge.
Many of these brethren later had distinguished Masonic careers.
The regular meeting held on 17th March 1908, W. Bro. Percy Pearce was installed as Master. The event was reported at length in The Western Morning News, from which the following extract was taken:-
"The occasion was one of more than ordinary interest, on account of the resuscitation of the Lodge from what was known as a Past Masters Lodge into a working Lodge for advancement of candidates. The Charter or Warrant of No. 66 was granted in 1864, and since then many and worthy and prominent townsmen and Past Masters of the Mark Degree have passed through the Chair. On the death of the late lamented Secretary, W. Bro. J. B. Gover in June last, the Past Masters and members determined on altering its character and turning it to a more useful purpose. The By-Laws were revised and since the election of W. Bro. Pearce to the Chair he has thrown his whole heart and energy into the work of effecting the desired change and as a result of his indefatigable able efforts a large number of candidates were recently advanced in this most interesting degree.
At the Installation Ceremony there was a gathering of over a hundred brethren from all parts of Devon and Cornwall." William Henry Crang, at that time the Secretary of Education for Devonport, joined Fortitude No. 66. in 1904 from Friendship 16T.I. and became Master the following year.
He was appointed Treasurer in 1908,and like his predecessors Jew and Gover, held the Office continuously until his death in December 1946. He was a member of St. John Lodge No. 70 and a founder member of Philammon Lodge No.3226. It was owing to his influence that many members of Philammon Lodge most of them members of the scholastic
profession joined Fortitude No. 66. In his will he made a bequest to Fortitude and his money was utilised to purchase a new set of collars to replace those which were lost when the Masonic Hall in Princess Square was destroyed in 1941 . The jewel on the Master's collar bears the inscription, "In affectionate remembrance of W.H. Crang, PPGW. 1904-1946
The Warrant and banner of the Lodge were also unhappily, lost through enemy action. A new Warrant from Grand Lodge was presented to the W. Master at the Installation Meeting held in March 1947, by the Prov. G. Secretary, V.W. Bro. C.J.R. Souhamy.
The Banner, which was originally presented to the Lodge at a meeting of Provincial Grand lodge held at Tavistock in July 1910, by the PGM. R.W. Bro Major George Sidney Strode, had not been replaced for reasons of economy. W. Bro. Percy Pearce was one of those men on whose enthusiasm the very existence of the Lodge has largely depended. He was succeeded by a number of able Masters under whom and with the invaluable assistance of W.B ro's Parker and Crang the Lodge flourished and membership greatly increased. The First World War seems to have had little effect on Masonry in general.
There are many references in the Minute Books to apologies from brethren “on duty in France." So the years passed until we come to the outbreak of World War II and the survival, not only of our Lodges but of our very nation, became, for a time at least, a matter of speculation. It is a tribute to the tenacity of its members that the Lodge was able to continue working throughout the war years . The strength of the Lodge has always been and still is, the support it receives from its Past Masters. In this connection particular tribute must be paid to W. Bro. O.S.J. Williams, PPGW who took over the Treasurer’s office after the death of W. Bro. Crang also W. Bro. A. Kirkwood who was the Director of Ceremonies and finally the senior Past Master V.W. Bro. W.N. Dolton.
In 1952 it was decided that greater interest would be fostered if the Lodge met more frequently, the By-Laws were revised to enable the Lodge to meet six times a year instead of four, a change which has given the members more opportunity to familiarise themselves with the working of the Degree. In 1954, somewhat belatedly, the Lodge passed the Keystone Resolution, which was duly implemented towards the end of 1957. Members have enjoyed many successful Ladies Evenings at the "The Moorland Links Hotel" dancing to the music of our Bro Frank Fuge. were especially memorable. Several of our Brethren attended the Mark Benevolent Festival held in London in 1951 which our P.G.M. presided with great distinction, whilst the Dinner held at the Palace Hotel Torquay, on the 23rd November 1957, to mark the Centenary of the Province, is also remembered with much pleasure.
And so we come to our own "Centenary" (100 years) which was celebrated on the 18th April 1989 and should have been celebrated in April 1964, some 25years earlier, due to the fact the Lodge could not prove continuous working for the reasons I have mentioned previously, which I am now happy to say has now been sorted due to indebted painstaking researches in the archives of Grand Lodge by our PGM. R.W. Bro. P. Hawken. MBE.
At the Installation Ceremony of W. Bro. F.W. Fuge on the 21st April 1964 a "Ceremony of Thanksgiving" was preformed to mark the Centenary of the Lodge. The W.M. invited the PGM. R.W. Bro. Col. C. B. Spencer. to preside over the meeting, the Provincial Grand Chaplain read Psalms 127 and 133.
A copy of the original Warrant granted in 1864 was then read by W. Bro. Col. F.W. Dewhurst the Grand Sword Bearer. The Psalm l22,"Laetatus Sum" was sung and the Prayer was offered by the Prov. G. Chaplain.
The PGM then addressed the Brethren and he congratulated the Lodge on reaching its Centenary. It was an occasion for rejoicing as well as for thanksgiving. The Anthem "Disposer Supreme", was sung and the "Patriarchal Blessing" was given.
The Charity Steward. W. Bro. R. Hall, then presented the P.G.M. with a cheque for One Hundred Guineas as a donation to the Benevolent Fund as a token of gratitude to T.G.O.OT.U. The Brethren retired from the Lodge informally and then re-entered the Lodge for the Installation Ceremony.
So time moves forward and at a meeting on the 16th December 1975 on the agenda was a Notice of Motion in the name of W. Bro. R.S.C. Burch. I.P.M. that the Lodge move to Queen Victoria Masonic Hall, St. Budeaux, Plymouth. A lengthy discussion on the move took place, many brethren speaking in favour and many against the vote was taken with Seventeen voting for, and Nine against, in short the move was made because the building was warmer, the rent, meals and drinks cheaper. The Lodge moved and held their first meeting at the Queen Victoria Masonic Hall, on Friday 20th February 1976.
Tuesday 20th April 1982, W.F. Clemens. was installed as Master he then appointed W. Bro. J. Bishop as Secretary an office he held for some seventeen years until his death. It is now with great sadness that I report the death of W. Bro. Lionel C. Bradford the former Secretary who passed to the Grand Lodge above on the 1st May 1982.
At a regular meeting on Tuesday 18th June 1985, a Notice of Motion in the name of W. Bro. W.F. Clemens. Charity Steward, "That the Lodge shall meet at the St. Aubyn Masonic Hall, Devonport Road, Stoke, Plymouth". After a brief discussion a vote was taken by a show of hands and was unanimous that the Lodge should move to the new venue at the earliest convenience, the Lodge met at St. Aubyn Masonic Hall, on the Tuesday 20th August 1985.
The Centenary Warrant Presentation was held on Tuesday 18th April 1989, the Installation Ceremony of W. Bro. F. H. Wheeler. who is currently our Treasurer an office he has held for the last fourteen years. The Installing Master was W. Bro. A. Crosby, this was his second time in the Chair, occupying the Chair in 1984 and 1988. Presiding was the PGM. R.W. Bro. H.E.E. Holladay, Dep.PGM. V.W. Bro. J.H. Wickstead, and the Assist. P.G.M. W. Bro. J.F. Annear. A transcript copy of the Warrant dated 19th April 1864 which was destroyed by enemy action on 21't March 1941 was read by W. Bro. D. Owen. Prov. G. Secretary, the present Warrant being granted by Grand Lodge under Rule 96 of the Book of Constitutions dated 1st March 1946. The Prayer was delivered by the Dep.Prov.G. Chaplain and afterwards delivered an Oration, based on the Keystone, Christianity, and Mark Masons, which was received with great appreciation and applause by all present. W. Bro. D. Owen the Provincial Grand Secretary, read the Centenary Warrant, duly signed and the Grand Lodge Seal affixed dated 6th October 1988. The Warrant was then handed to the P.G.M. who presented it to W. Bro. A. Crosby. W.M.
Time goes on, and many distinguished brethren have been Advanced and Installed into the Chair, on Tuesday l5th April 1997 the l25th Installation Meeting and Presentation of Honours Board List of Past Masters from 1864 to date. The W.M. was W. Bro. M.W.C. Oats. the Master Elect was W. Bro. L.G. Clemens. After the Master Elect was installed into the Chair, the D.C. W. Bro. D. Phillips asked Bro. R. Lucas (Master Joiner) to present the Honours Board jointly to W. Bro. L. Clemens Worshipful Master and to W. Bro. M.W.C. Oats I.P.M.
In 1997 W.B ro. M.W.C. Oats was appointed Secretary the office he had been fulfilling for the past three years due to the secretary's W. Bro. J. Bishop's ill health, there have only been two secretaries for the past thirty five years W. Bro's J. Bishop and M.W.C. Oats. W. Bro. J. Bishop was made an Honorary Member in 2006 proposed by W. Bro. F. Wheeler and seconded by W. Bro. M.W.C. Oats, sadly on the 23rd September 2008 W. Bro. J. Bishop passed to the Grand Lodge above. Another of our distinguished Past Masters W. Bro. D. Mills who had been the Treasurer of the Lodge for many years and had served the Lodge with distinction passed to the Grand Lodge above suddenly on the 5rH March 2008 whilst on Holiday in Australia.
On the 5th October 2013 at Provincial Grand Lodge held at Exeter University the Lodge was presented with the Grand Patron Gold Award Collar by R.W. Bro. P. Hawken MBE. the Provincial Grand Master, the collar was presented to the Worshipful Master W. Bro. R. Linford, being a great honour for the Lodge.
Finally, mention must be made to W.Bro. C. Brock who was the D.C. for many years, he was known as the father figure of the Lodge and has sadly passed to the Grand Lodge above. Also our Past Masters, starting with the senior Past Master W. Bro. D. Phillips who has been a member of this Lodge for forty-three years and was D.C. for a number of years. W.Bro. B. Frude who was the Treasurer for many years, his son Bro. N. Frude will be W.M. for the Sesquicentenaries' Celebration in June 2014.
V.W. Bro. W.F. Clemens who was Charity Steward for many years, has supported this Lodge with dedication and is continuing to do so. W. Bro. F. Wheeler the Lodge Treasurer who has kept the accounts of the Lodge for the past fourteen years. W. Bro. T. Bailey who has been the Chaplain for many years. W. Bro. M. Smith a very conscientious Almoner of the Lodge. W. Bro. A. Lee has served as Charity Steward for a number of years. W. Bro. M.W.C. Oats has been the Secretary for the past twenty years.
W. Bro. L. Clemens was the D.C. for years. W. Bro. A. Carney was the Charity Steward for years. W. Bro. K. Foster the present A.D.C. W. Bro. N. White the present D.C. and the Prov.G.J.W. W.Bro. A. Fowkes the new Charity Steward. The strength of the Lodge has remained the support it receives from the Past Masters and Brethren.
And so we come to our Sesquicentenary , and to the celebration of, gratitude to the T.G.O.O.T.U., for a hundred and fifty years of good fellowship and that true spirit of friendship which we associate especially with this beautiful and important
Degree in Freemasonry."Have we marked well, " Great Overseer, A work to last beyond all time? "
Now quoting the words of W.Bro. S.B. Jackson. Lodge Secretary written in 1964.
" May this grand old Lodge of Fortitude No. 66. go from strength to
strength; may its members, ever mindful of the example of the noble Socrates, never
allow force or drive or temptation to entice them from the right path; and may the
moving finger, having written, move on and continue to record the history of the
Lodge when Time with us shall be no more".
So mote it be.
W. Bro. M.W.C. Oats.