St George 15, History of 150 Years Faithful by right

Our warrant was issued on the l5th October 1857 and the first meeting of the Lodge was held on 26th February 1858. After the reading of the warrant, the first Worshipful Master W. Bro. Rev. John Huyshe was installed by the Worshipful Master of Fortesque Lodge No 9. South Molton by special dispensation from Grand Lodge which stated:

"This is the Warrant and Dispensation to any installed Master of Mark Masters to install in the chair of the Fortesque Lodge of Mark Masters No. 9, Bro. Fredric Trower; also to install in the Chair of the St. George Lodge No. 15 Bro. John Huyshe, and to dispense with the presence of any other installed Master on either occasion in case no such other installed Master shall be present"

Given under the seal of Grand Lodge of Mark Masters
The second day of February 1858
By authority of the Grand Lodge
Signed Alex Ridgeway, Grand Registrar

Officers at that first meeting together with the W. Master were the Senior and Junior Wardens, Secretary, Senior and Junior Deacons and Tyler. Another historian W. Bro. Eveleigh could find no real explanation as to why Fortescue were the first Lodge as two of their three founders were Exeter brethren, indeed their first Master was a solicitor from Castle Street, also at No. 9's first meeting five of the seven brethren advanced came from Exeter. However at our first meeting these all became joining members, the first Bye-Laws were read and recommended.

1857, The Provincial Grand Lodge was formed and our W. Master Rev. John Huyshe became the first Provincial Grand Master.

15th July 1858, a Lodge was summoned but, owing to the inability of several officers to attend, it was deemed advisable to postpone it. However the next meeting was held on the 19th October when a Bro. Cann was unanimously elected Master Elect, the next day a special meeting was held and several members elected, but details are sparse.

The installation meeting was again a joint one with Fortesque No. 9, both Masters were duly installed and many Brethren advanced. It seems doubtful that a formal printed ritual was in use at this time. The salary of the Tyler was fixed at £2-0s-0d per annum, the subscriptions being five shillings. (25 pence)

1861 was the start of a period of some reorganisation as the Master Elect and the Secretary moved to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, some other members were not local so the Lodge concerned itself with occasional domestic matters and no Advancements ceremonies were performed.

The record states "finding a desire amongst the younger brethren to obtain the Degree, the Senior Warden was induced to ask advice and assistance from the Grand Secretary who was pleased, under peculiar circumstances, to commute the returns to 1st June 1866, by payment of £5-0s-0d." Following this a meeting was held with nine brethren being advanced and a Master elected. Interestingly at that meeting is recorded a visitor from the Masonic Lodge, Ohio U.S.A. who was proved by one of the Brethren.

1867, Collars were first mentioned in the minutes, officers were invested with their collars, probably only the senior officers, as many brethren were given at various times, collars and jewels which were usually inscribed. The whole set was completed in 1893, by then costing ten shillings (50 Pence) for the collars and 8s-6d (42½ pence) for the jewels which the Tyler engraved for free.

1867, The Grand Secretary asked in a letter that a benevolent fund be set up. The members voted for six pennies (2½ pence) per member to be sent.

About the same time the iron stands for the wands were presented by Bro. Bodley, having been made by his firm Taylor and Bodley. He was Treasurer for many years and some of his correspondence remains in archives.

Banquets were only held on Installation nights. The first name recorded being the Duse Haven Hotel, later The Globe, The Half Moon and The Rougemont. The latter being the only one remaining, although now renamed.

The first printed summons in the minute book is dated 1st December 1869 and reads;

Dear Sir and Brother,

"You are requested to meet the master and Brethren at a regular stated Lodge to be holden at the Masonic Hall on Wednesday next the 8th December at 7 o'clock precisely"

Senior members protested that the correct name of the Lodge is St George and not St. George's as summons were so headed and reported in the Exeter Gazette. This was corrected and remains to this day.

Amazingly, at the Lodge held on 23rd August 1871, there were eleven candidates for advancement. Working was by printed ritual because the Secretary was asked to purchase eight new ones, it seems that Fortesque had used a ritual since 1867 and revised it in 1872, and we probably used a similar one.

Installation in 1873 was performed by the second Provincial Grand Master, a Major Tanner Davy, who is described as delivering one of his novel elaborate orations to the W. Master, Wardens and Officers.

There were fifty seven members in the period 1870-1873, but dues for that period could not be sent to Provincial Grand Lodge, indeed a footnote to the summons for the 9th July (a Thursday) reads;
"The W.M. exceedingly regrets to find on taking office, the dues are considerably in arrears by the whole of the members, so much so that it is impossible to make the necessary returns to Provincial Grand Lodge. Brethren wishing to discontinue their subscriptions are requested to inform the Secretary on or before the 8th July"

Until 1875 meetings were recorded as being held in the Masonic Hall. No address being given, it may be presumed that this was Tuckers Hall as the Craft Lodges met there. In November 1876 the summons mentions Freemason's Hall, Gandy Street, where the Lodge remains.

Fees of Honour were first paid in 1878, in this year a new Tyler was appointed, the first Historian thought that he may be disabled as an Assistant Tyler was appointed at £1 .ls.0d (£1-5 pence) per annum, the Tyler receiving £2.2s.0d. (£2-10 pence)The problem was resolved some twenty years later when the Trustees were asked to 'provide a longer lever to the organ bellows thus obviating the necessity of appointing an assistant Tyler'

1879 that worthy Mason John Stocker was in the chair and he presented the Overseers pedestals to the Lodge, in his year is the only recorded instance of a ceremony of advancement being abandoned. The candidate had proceeded as far as the obligation when the Worshipful Master considered it advisable to discontinue, no explanation is given but it seems no one disagreed.

1880 W. Bro. Bodley who had presented the wand stands also presented the chisels and mallets for the Overseers.

The first suggestion of the formation of a Royal Ark Mariner Lodge was made in 1881 this was not achieved until some forty years later by Bro. T.H. Andrew. But in 1882 a Thomas Andrew who was Senior Steward and Mayor of Exeter, had his mark inscribed on the foundation stone of the extension to the Royal Albert Museum.

At this period there were only a small number of Mark Lodges in the Province and Provincial honours were awarded differently, as in 1883 not only the past Masters but Master, Wardens, Secretary down to Junior Overseer received such honours. Indeed the Junior Overseer, Bro Seymour, in appreciation presented the Lodge with the Tracing Board. In 1889 even the Inner Guard was proposed for and received a collar.

Grand Lodge held a moveable Lodge under the Banner of St. George at the Royal Public Rooms i.e. the old Hippodrome in 1890 and the current W. Master was accorded the privilege of acting as Dep. P.G.M.

Although there were many advancements, ten in 1877, a report stated' that it may be fairly presumed that the degree is not only pretty but popular' but the finances were not in good shape. It seems that the Tyler who was commissioned to collect dues, was a gentle and kind hearted man who was diffident about asking brethren who may ask him to call again! It seems that only one brother paid his dues in 1873! £15.15s.0d (£15-75 pence) was owed to the Trustees who agreed to write off £5.5s.0d (£5-25pence).The report suggested regular meetings and careful supervision of accounts.

1893, because of sparse attendances, a special notice was sent to each brother requesting that the Officers and Brethren to endeavour to be more regular in attendances but no meeting was held in 1895 because of a fire in Gandy Street.

Bro. Vickery gave an Alms bag, which was first used in 1897 when three shillings (15 pence) was collected, but it was many years before the sum of ten shillings (50 pence) was recorded.

1893 there were fifty nine members of which twenty seven had provincial rank, and for the first time the summons was printed in red for the November installation.

1896 they had difficulty in finding an organist. There was a Provincial Grand Lodge held on Wednesday 14th October and the PGM gave dispensation for the Ordinary Lodge meeting to be held on Thursday 15th at 7.30pm. The Installation Meeting on the 4th November 1896 must have been very busy because they conducted 2 ballots, did a ceremony of advancement, installed the Master Elect, and received the accounts all between 5 pm and dinner at 7.45pm. Thirty-three Brethren attended and the first mention of fire insurance occurred at this meeting.

It was proposed in February 1897 that Alms be collected after every meeting. Also £1 -0s-0d was voted to the fund being raised by the PGM (one Sir Stafford Northcott) to alleviate the distress of Her Majesty's Indian Subjects. £7-2s-0d (£7-10 pence) was sent to the Mark

Benevolent Fund: The following year Brethren attended a Masonic Concert at the Victoria Hall wearing regalia.

There was also a private letter received from HRH Prince of Wales, the Grand Master, stating Brother Gilles, a Past Grand Treasurer, had been expelled from the Degree and it be imperative he be refused admission to any Lodge. Unfortunately there are no other details.

In November the Lodge was in mourning for three months for a Past Grand Master, which involved draping pedestals and candlesticks in black plus black rosettes. The next summons in December was printed in red and didn't mention any mourning.

May 1900 the Lodge rent was raised to £9-9s-0d (£9-45 pence) per annum, and a levy of £3-3s-0d (£3-15 pence) was asked for to reduce Freemason's Hall deficit. The rent was approved but not the levy, although the Lodge was prepared to advance £10-0s-0d towards a loan for a mortgage to reduce the debt. The advancement fee was raised to £2-2s-0d and the November Installation lasted one and a half hours from 6.00pm-7.30pm and the minutes state the first printed accounts.

On the Death of Queen Victoria the summonses from February 1901 was edged in black for three months.

In the same period a Motion to consider the desirability of submitting to the R.W. Provincial Grand Master the name of a subscribing member of the Lodge as worthy of Provincial Honours the Worshipful Master was recommended. In September 1902 there was a ballot for a candidate but he was away on business and his name does not appear again.

May 1903, considerable discussion ensued on a Notice of Motion that a Lodge of Instruction be formed the proposer eventually withdrew his Motion. At this time there were 52 members of the Lodge.

1904, the Lodge considered changing its meeting patterns. In May, the Lodge agreed to meet on the third Wednesday in June, the portion of the minutes relating to that resolution were not confirmed. This was carried by 6 votes to 2 with 14 members present. In October, a Notice of Motion that the Lodge meet the first Wednesday in December, February, April, June and October was carried 'nemcom'. It was also proposed that at the December Installation the Brethren shall dine together unless otherwise determined by a vote in open Lodge at the previous meeting, this was carried by 12 to 4, but the Tyler's salary was then reduced from £3-3s-0d (£3- 15 pence) to £2-2s-0d (£3-10 pence).

September 1906, a Notice of Motion at a previous meeting, to reduce the annual subscription to 7s 6d (37½ pence) did not appear in the minutes. In February 1908 was the first Ordinary Red Summons. They remained red except for the deaths of King Edward VII and certain Past Grand Masters.

March 1913, a Dispensation was given for advancement without an advancement fee. Bro. Rampton was a chef residing at Freemason's Hall. He was advanced and immediately elected Tyler. There is a mistake in copying the Dispensation as "out" was missed from the second use of "without", but no one seems to have been bothered.

Generally during the next few years the Lodge met at 7.30pm, most summonses only had a few items except when Advancees were named, By-Laws were regularly read out in Lodge. No closing times are given so it is hard to gauge how long meetings lasted, but in September 1913 the first reference to refreshment after labour and officers were listed on each summons.

January 1914, a special committee reported on By-Law 2 and the advisability of more meetings. They recommended Lodge meet on the second Monday of February, April, June, October and December with the installation moved to February. It was discussed and several Brethren advocated two more meetings a year. With 19 members present the report was ultimately referred back and two additional members included in the Committee. The next report suggested eight meetings October to May, Installation in May with the meetings being the first Friday in the month. This was changed to the second Monday during the discussion. Notice was given that the alterations be moved for adoption at the next meeting by the 10 members present. The following meeting, with 15 present, approved the motion with October being the Installation month, although there was one dissention.

Over the years the number of monthly meetings varied, by 1915 a meeting in January and November had been added, with Installation in October, but January was dropped in 1927.

A communication from Grand Mark Lodge decreed that if a Worshipful Master was installed but prevented from completing his year in office for Naval or Military reasons, he be treated as if he had completed his year and accorded Past Rank, confirmed by the Board. This may include Membership of Grand Lodge. £1-1s-0d (£1-5 pence) was voted to the Belgium relief fund.

January 1915, was the first mention of "the lecture being delivered" presumably this is the tracing board lecture. In October 1915, the Worshipful Master was installed for the second time with a full ceremony. The Installing Master Worshipful Bro. John Stocker, said he was happy to oblige, but as he had done it for the past twenty five times already, could some other Past Masters please learn the ceremony! The Master and two Wardens were asked to make arrangements to raise a fund in support of the Mark Benevolent Fund and in 1918 the annual subscription was raised to £1-0s-0d to place the finances of the Lodge on a more satisfactory basis.

1920, the Lodge consented to a Warrant of Constitution for a R.A.M. Lodge attached to the Lodge.

November 1923, the Installation Meeting was changed to February, which took effect in 1925 in which year the formation of a Finance and GP Committee to assist in the running of the Lodge, was approved. Consisting of the WM, Wardens, Treasurer, Secretary plus three with five are the quorum. Past Masters were included later in the year.

1928, the rent was raised from £8-8s-0d (£8-40 pence) to £10-10s-0d (£10.50 pence) and to fund the new Mark Grand Lodge Headquarters in Queen Street, the Lodge accepted that dues be twenty shillings, (60 pence) unless the Members had already paid or were members of the other Mark Lodge. One feels sorry for the Treasurer in trying to sort this out.

1929, an extra meeting was added in January, which was again Installation month.

May 1937, the GP Committee recommended that all candidates' names be submitted to the GP Committee before being mentioned in open Lodge, which was approved, but the recommendations that future DCs be PMs was left to the discretion of the WM. In that year the DC was Bro. Uff and in 1938 Bro. Cunes, but in 1939 it was W. Bro. R Jones. 1929

February 1938, it was agreed that a box be purchased for use by the Secretary. This box sufficed until a Past Master of the Lodge, during the centenary year, presented a large deed box for the proper and adequate custody of the Warrant, Antient minute books and Lodge Documents.

January 1939, the Grand Lodge return shows ninety one members, fourteen of whom are listed as retired, the others covered a very wide range of activity, solicitors being the most represented and Bro. Stickley, who was listed as golf professional. The Lodge also considered a notice of motion to raise subscriptions to 15/- (75 Pence) and the cost of Official Guests to be defrayed out of Lodge Funds, providing these costs did not exceed one quarter of receipts of subscriptions in any year. Sixteen members voted for, thirteen against, but as it was not a two-thirds majority it was lost.

October 1938, father and son, Bro. B.S. Quaintance and Bro. G.B. Quaintance were advanced into the Lodge. Their craft Lodge being Semper Fidelis, Bro. G.B. Quaintance became Master in April 1952, his father dying in 1945.

The War affected the Lodge in several ways, not least in the problems of dining. The refreshment after labour disappeared from the summons in September 1939 but soon returned, often noted as 'light refreshments', In October 1941 in bold red, it was announced that accommodation only for brethren returning the enclosed postcard will be available, because of rationing difficulties.

May 1943, a special prayer for brethren in the Forces was introduced and serving Lodge brethren were listed on the summons from

1942, several deaths of brethren were reported each being marked by black bands or type on the summons, but the death of the Grand Master, Most W. Bro. H.R.H. Duke of Kent, on active service in September was probably the most significant. The first summons after he died was red printed and over lined in black, probably because they were already prepared, but the next three, to mark six months mourning, were all in black.

A dispensation to wear Craft Aprons in the Lodge was granted, but candidates, during the ceremony of advancement, it was stated, must be invested with the Mark Mason's regalia. In St George, the secretary reported sufficient regalia available and there is no record of any difficulties.

October 1944, it was proposed that the Lodge become a Keystone Lodge; the necessary quota had been collected by 14th May 1945. At the Lodge held on that day, the brethren stood to order as a salute to all those who had made VE Day possible, the Master W. Bro. Chudley said how proud he was to be occupying the Chair on this historic occasion. W.Bro. Chapple proposed a toast be drunk at the Refreshment Board and it must have been a most intensely satisfying festive board, but no doubt tinged with much personal sadness, as condolences to several brothers who lost relatives are recorded over the war years.

The summons carried the new heading Keystone Lodge for the first time in September 1945, but the new printers block, as is currently used, appeared in April 1946.

Officers were requested to inform the Secretary as soon as possible if they were not attending as it often seems that no G.P. Committee was held. The times of starting also changed frequently between 6.00pm and 6.l5pm and occasionally 6.30pm. It was not until January 1947 that the regular pattern of 6.30pm starts returned. There have been many dispensations granted to elect as Master, brethren who have not yet become Master of a Craft Lodge. This appears to be a very smooth operation normally, but in January '41 there must have been some moments of concern, because the minutes record that the dispensation necessary for the installation had not arrived by the day and he had contacted the Prov. Grand Secretary who instructed him to carry on, as the delay was caused by the National Emergency. There is a footnote added later that the Dispensation has since arrived. How much later is not recorded.

By 1949 the January meeting had been dropped, so February became Installation month, the March meeting was also omitted.

The Centenary Celebrations of 1957, V.W.Bro. John Sullivan was WM in that year and did much to make it a memorable one, but the October Lodge, which was the anniversary of the Lodge, was THE special Lodge meeting. In leading up to that event it was intended that: -

New collars are provided, existing jewels being affixed to them. A Special wages token for each advancee that year, marked: "15-Century 1957". The Warrant, Antient minutes, History of the Lodge be made available for the members. A banner was hoped to be provided for the Lodge, but at the cost of £50-Os-Od it could not be proceeded with at the time.

There was a buffet tea from 5.l5pm to 6.00pm. Lodge opened at 6.00pm and closed at 8.25pm with the Banquet being due to start at 8.l5pm, unfortunately there was no record of the menu in the minutes or whether there were problems with the caterers!
After Lodge, proceedings were enlivened by entertainment by talented members of the Lodge, but speeches were kept to a minimum.

The WM hoped one hundred brethren would be present. At the Lodge there were forty eight brethren from St George, and sixty two from thirteen sister Lodges, including the WM and eight brethren from Fortescue No 9.

When the P.G.M and Provincial Officers were admitted, there were a total of one hundred and five brethren at this most memorable ceremony, especially for the Bro. H.J. Street who was advanced.

The ceremony of thanksgiving contained readings from Psalms, including Psalm 133 verse 1: 'Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity' The Warrant of the Lodge was read, together with the minutes of the first meeting.

Psalm 122 was sung and the Provincial Grand Chaplain offered a special prayer. The Provincial Grand Master addressed the Lodge Brethren, who sang the Anthem "Disposer Supreme", the Patriarchal Benediction then being given, following which the Master and Officers were invested with new collars of Office by the Dep. P.G.M.

The tangible reminder of that year of celebration is our Banner. You will recall it was to cost about
£50-0s-0d the ultimate cost was £79.4.9d, (£79-24 pence) but sufficient was not raised until November 1959 when it was ordered. It was presented by V.W. Bro. J. Sullivan and was dedicated by the Chaplain Bro. Rev. J. P. Heston at Lodge on the 11th April1960. Incorporated in the banner is part of the coat of arms of the Huyshe family, the Rev. John Huyshe being our first WM as you will recall. The Latin inscription reads: "Faithfully By Right"

For the next thirty years the Lodge functioned steadily although several features stand out: -

May 1962, Bro. Jeffrey, manager of Freemason's Hall, was advanced, he being recorded as a member of the Polish National Lodge No.534. The accounts were received at the Installation meeting, starting at 6.30pm. This continued for a good many years.

The reduction of meetings from six to five was approved in December of 1966, that month also gives the first mention of gifts to specific widows; it seems as a matter of course each year. A few years later this was changed to each case being considered on its merits.

The main feature of this period was the number of dispensations granted to Brethren to be W. Master, who had not been Masters of Craft Lodges, a total of 12, many who remain senior members of the Lodge. The promotion could be quite rapid; one was inner guard after three years, then SD, followed by S.W., then Master.

The timing of singing the opening and closing odes was regulated by a Grand Lodge communication in 1967 to their present slots, e.g. opening ode before the Lodge opened closing ode after Lodge closed.

The appointment of Honorary Members was first mentioned in 1967, he first being a Lodge Member who had moved away and could not travel. Two years later the P.G.M. was so voted, eight years later the D.P.G.M. and A.P.G.M. were added.

Fees of Honour for Master, Wardens and Overseers were abolished by N.O.M. in December 1970.

The Lodge suffered a great tragedy in February 1988 when the incumbent W. Master collapsed and died just before installing his successor, the Lodge was formally closed but the Brethren retired informally. A special dispensation recalled the Lodge on the 29th February.

At the end of the 1980's the Lodge was suffering from a shortage of suitable candidates and a special committee advised the Brethren to try and sell the Degree, approach members of their Craft Lodges and suggested the active promotion of social activity.

The last twenty years of the Lodge's history has been one of trying to maintain numbers, which seem to have settled at around thirty to thirty three members - with some twenty to twenty four being active. Many newer younger members have found job commitments having to take priority over their Masonic activities, added to which the advancing years have also taken their toll on members. However, several very active members have joined in this period and are proving that the Lodge is in safe hands.

Indeed that continues to this day in that we have a steady flow of younger brethren, in two cases fathers introduced and advanced their sons, and all members find in St George no. 15 friendship and because of the smaller number of advancements at times many lectures have been given, all of Mark Masonic interest, perhaps the most unusual was "Freemasonry in Captivity in Singapore in the Japanese Occupation". It proved a most moving and poignant evening, for all who heard it, but Freemasonry, including Mark Masonry proved a Beacon of Hope and a Standard of Ideals for all those who took part in those troubled times.

Perhaps that is a message for the next fifty years?

Taken from Historical Minutes prepared by W. Bro. L.G. Palmer Worshipful Master 1986

In Celebration of our 150 years the Lodge has contributed £1500.00 to local charities.
This was dispersed as follows £600.00 to FORCE
£300.00 to the NSPCC Young Witness Support Project
£300.00 to the Organisation for Anti-Convulsant Syndrome
£300.00 to Hospice care.