Lodge Meeting Dates: 2nd Wednesday in February, March, April, October, November & December
Lodge Rooms: The Coventry Masonic Heritage Centre at 165 Warwick Road, Coventry, CV3 6AU
STIVICHALL LODGE: THE VISION
After the great depression of the 1930/31 period, probably the worst depression Britain suffered for almost a century, Coventry was to become one of the centres of new industry which would lead the Country back to prosperity. The city was to play a vital part in the drive to re-arm the Royal Ait Force, and this, with the other growing industrial establishments inevitably brought about a great expansion in the city.
In the period 1930-39 the population grew by some 52,000 and it is on record that some 42,000 of this total were migrants, and to accommodate this influx some 25,000 new houses were built.
The predominant pattern of the migrants was young adult males, who would arrive in the city, find employment and accommodation, and then send for wife and family – if he had one.
Coventry had become the fastest growing city in Britain and reached the rank of the ninth largest city, and was enjoying a decent level of prosperity by the standards of these times.
It was in this environment that during the 1936-38 period, in a number of speeches the Provincial Grand Master, R.W. Bro. Colonel Sir William Wyley V.D., D.L., drew attention to the fact that with the waiting list approaching 80, the waiting time for any further applicants to join any of the existing Coventry Lodges would be in excess of five years. he clearly indicated that there was a need for further Lodges in the city, for the membership of some Lodges was such that Masons initiated ten years ago had only just reached the office of Steward.
So it was that a body of earnest Freemasons, domiciled mainly in the neighbourhood of Styvechale, came together to form a Lodge to bear the name of ‘Styvechale’ or ‘Stivichall’.
The leader of this enterprise was W. Bro. S.J. Harley whose drive and enthusiasm are legendary. He was a fine example of public service and dedication to all good works and it is a source of great thankfulness that he had such great devotion for the Masonic activities in Coventry.
There were two objectives before this group as they set out on their task.
- To form a Lodge with close family connections, particularly the father and son concept.
- To ensure that its membership reflected the great range of commercial and industrial activities (past and present) of the city.
This then, was the vision which inspired this dedicated band of freemasons in all their endeavours.
STIVICHALL LODGE: THE PREPARATION
Work started in earnest in January 1939 for on the 23rd day of that month the first of six founders committee meetings was held in the offices of the Coventry Gauge and Tool Co. Ltd., when W. Bro. S. J. Harley was elected as Chairman and Bro. E. Carpenter as Secretary.
It was decided to approach Victory Lodge No. 4009 to act as the sponsoring Lodge, and that the new Lodge should be named ‘Styvechale’ or Stivichall’ whichever spelling was found to be the older. After much research W. Bro. S. J. Harley was able to write to the Provincial Grand Secretary and one paragraph of his letter reads as follows:-
“The parish (of Styvechale) has very old associations and indeed in order that we could ascertain which was the correct spelling from a number of different spellings which existed, various authorities were consulted and some very old documents were produced, one being in regard to Births, Marriages and Deaths in accordance wi th an Act of Parliament of 1635, and from the contents of that document and from other sources it was felt that the spelling we suggest as ‘Stivichall’ indeed represents the oldest form of the name.”
At the five subsequent founders committee meetings all the other vital decisions necessary for the launching of a new Lodge were taken.
In conjunction with the Coventry Masonic Joint Committee six meeting days were fixed (the second Wednesday in September, October, November, February, March, April), the installation meeting to be in November.
The preparation of the By-Laws was a clear indication of how seriously the founders regarded their responsibilities, not only to the new Lodge but to masonry in general, by their great attention to detail.
In the draft submitted for approval the following featured as By-Law No. 8:-
“No member or visiting brother shall on any account or pretence whatever in any way disclose or make known (except to a subsribing member of this Lodge) any of the proceedings thereof, or the name of any brother who may object to the proposition or oppose the election of any person wishing to be made a Mason in this Lodge, or of a brother desirous of becoming a joining member thereof, under the penalty of being forever excluded, and, if a visiting brother, of never being allowed again to visi t or become a member of this Lodge, and that in future, immediately after an initiation or admission of a joining member, the Master shall cause this By-Law to be read, in order that no brother may plead ignorance of it.”
The Grand Secretary commented as follows:-
“The By-Laws as submitted are in order, but with regard to No.8, although there is nothing in it contrary to regulations, I feel that it might create rather an unfortunate impression on the mind of the reader, particularly an initiate, who might gain the idea it is necessary for the members to have constantly brought to their notice the penalties for unmasonic conduct.
The rules in the Book of Constitutions deal fully with such matters and I think it preferable to rely upon the brethren maintaining strict decorum and adherence to their obligations and with the provisions in the Constitutions to fall back upon if the conduct of a member or members should require investigation.”
In the light of these comments it was decided that this proposed clause would not be included in the Lodge By-Laws.
With the object of maintaining the relationship between the Lodge and the parish, in which many of the founders resided, it was decided to contact Major Gregory-Hood, the head of the family in whose possession the Styvechale Estate had been since Elizabethan times, to seek his permission to incorporate the Hood family ‘Coat of Arms’ in the Lodge banner.
When this suggestion came to the notice of the Grand Secretary he wrote to the Provincial Grand Secretary in the following terms:-
“With regard to the suggestions that the petitiorers are endeavouring to obtain permission to use a Coat of Arms on the Lodge Banner, I must point out that the use of heraldic devices in Lodge Banners is not encouraged. I enclose a circular relating to this matter and from this you will see that Lodges are recommended to adopt badges consisting of some object or objects combined to form a design with the use of a shield.”
In another letter a few days later, the Grand Secretary commented as follows:-
“In the present instance it appears that the owner of the Armorial Bearings, who has given his consent to their use by the Lodge, is not a member of the craft and therefore cannot have any personal connection with the Lodge. In these circumstances I cannot help thinking that a view of Stivichall Hall would be a more appropriate device for the Lodge Banner. If, however, the founders are not prepared to accept this suggestion, no objection will be raised to the use of the Armorial Arms.”
After the Secretary of the founders committee had advised the Provincial Grand Secretary that Stivichall Hall had been demolished, and as the Grand Secretary had stated that no objection would be raised to using the Armorial Bearings of the Gregory-Hood family, it was decided to proceed with the banner design as originally submitted.
In due time W. Bro. Harley received the following letter:-
“I shall be very pleased to give my consent for my Arms to be used in your Lodge Banner.
I have written to my lawyers to have a painting of my Arms made and I will sent it to you when it arrives.
These original paintings are kept very securely, together with many other Lodge records, in the archives.
There is recorded in the Minutes of the founders committee meeting a note of the particular work carried out by W. Bro. Arthur Smith on the provision of Lodge regalia and Presentation Jewels, stating how much all his work was appreciated.
As the news circulated in Masonic circles of the impending consecration of ‘The Stivichall Lodge’ in Coventry it soon became very clear that, with the number of brethren wishing to attend the ceremony, the Masonic Rooms in Little Park Street would not be large enough.
On behalf of the founders the Provincial Grand Secretary made an approach to the Grand Master to permit the ceremony to be transferred to the ancient Guild Hall of St. Mary, with the banquet to follow being held in the Masonic Rooms in Little Park Street.
The Grand Master readily agreed to these arrangements.
To ensure that the ceremony in be a success arrangements were organ and the Provincial Grand to play the changed venue would made to hire a Hammond Organist kindly agreed to play.
Another, perhaps unusual, touch was the engagement of four professional vocalists, all members of the craft, to lead the singing during the ceremony.
There remained many mundane, yet important, decisions to be made, so necessary for the smooth running of the new Lodge. These included the fixing of the annual subscription, initiation fees, and so many other matters for the financial well-being of the Lodge. It is interesting to note that in September 1939 the annual subscription was fixed at four guineas, and that fifty years later this would equate to £75.00 approximately.
At the penultimate meeting of the founders committee, the list of founders was completed together with a list of officers designate. To enable this to be submitted for approval it was necessary to clear with Grand Lodge the fact that, at the date of consecration, W. Bro. S. J. Harley (who it was desired would be the first Worshipful Master) would also be Master of two other Lodges (Victory No. 4009 and Old Wrekenian No. 5481) . Rule No. 134 of the Book of Constitutions appears to infer that a brother cannot occupy the chair in more than two Lodges at the same time.
The Grand Secretary responded as follows:-
“Rule No. 134 of the Book of Constitutions does not restrict a brother’s Masterships to two Lodges at the same time, but simply provides that he may not be Master of more than one Lodge at the same time without obtaining a dispensation from the Grand Master.”
There remained one other matter needing clarification, and this concerned W. Bro. L. J. Kaye, a Past Master of St. Georges Lodge No.3, and a member of Georgian Lodge No. 11, both in Paris under the Grand National Lodge of France.
To clarify the position W. Bro. Kaye wrote to the Provincial Grand Secretary as follows:-
“I am hoping to be permitted to be a Founder of the proposed new Lodge in Coventry ‘Stivichall’ and I have been asked what particular Lodge in England my Mother Lodge is affiliated to.
I am under the impression that the French Protestant Lodges, under which ruling St. Georges works, are affiliated to the British Constitution. I shall be glad if you will let me have a ruling on this subject s9 as to satisfy the Founders.”
The Provincial Grand Secretary’s reply was as follows:-
” … the Independent and Regular National Grand Lodge of France and the French Colonies is a Foreign Grand Lodge duly recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England, and St. Georges Lodge No. 3 and Georgian Lodge No. 11 are regular Lodges appearing in the list of the French Constitution. The term ‘affiliation’ is not used in the English Constitution so that I do not think that the question can arise as to what Engl1sh Lodge your French Lodges have been affiliated to, the recognition of Grand Lodge is quite sufficient. My view is that you are enti tled by your membership of the Victory Lodge No. 4009 to become a founder of the suggested new Lodge.”
With these points out of the way and with all necessary clearance certificates to hand, the list of founders and officers designate was finalised as follows:-
|WM Designate||W Bro Stanley Jaffa Harley 3846, 4209, WM 4009, 5481|
|IPM Designate||W Bro William Aubrey Jones PM 4009|
|SW Designate||Bro Harry Noel Gillitt 254, 5570|
|JW Designate||Bro Charles Leslie Gillitt 254, 5570|
|Treasurer Designate||W Bro Harry Charles Gillitt 4099 PM 254, P P G S B|
|Chaplain Designate||W Bro Thomas Charles Frederick 4538, 5690, PM 3836|
|Secretary Designate||Bro Eric Carpenter 254, 3846, 4009, 5690|
|DC designate||W Bro Arthur Smith 4538, PM 4009|
|SD Designate||Bro John Morton 725|
|JD Designate||Bro William ErIe Shanks 4009|
|ADC Designate||W Bro Louis James Kaye 11 Paris 4009, PM 3 Paris|
|Almoner Designate||W Bro Herbert Henry Harley 3846 4209, 4538, 5481, PM 4930|
|Organist Designate||Bro William Robert Heatley 254 5690…. WM|
|Asst Sec Designate||Bro Oliver Green 4009|
|IG Designate||Bro James Malcom Meston 4009|
|Steward Designate||Bro Norman John Pugh 4543|
|Steward Designate||Bro Victor William Oubridge 3846, 4009, 5682|
|Steward Designate||Bro Richard Barnes Cole 4930|
|W Bro William Arthur Oubridge 254, 4538, PM 3846, 4009, 5690, P A G S Wks, P P G W|
|W Bro William Roland Cleverley 5698, PM 4009|
|W Bro James Lewis Whitby 601, PM 3146, P P G STD B (Hertfordshire)|
|W Bro Thomas Henry Stafford Meakin PM 4009|
|W Bro John Wormell 254|
|Bro Reginald Robert Grindlay 4009|
|W Bro Arthur Cecil Boon 432, PM 5102|
Looking back at the objectives the founders had before them it is interesting to note what so far has been achieved.
As regards a membership with close family connections, particularly the father and son concept, the list of twenty-five founders indicates the following:-
- One father and his two sons
- Two fathers with one son each
- One father with one son-in-law
- Two brothers-in-law
This, together with the fact of very close family relationships amongst other founders, was reckoned as a most encouraging start, which was to be still further strengthened in the years immediately ahead.
The wide range of commercial, industrial, and professional activities of the founders ensured a membership of very wide experience.
From the total of twenty-five founders, there were eight mechanical engineers (not surprlslng in a city like Coventry). These, together with a textile manufacturer, a dental surgeon, an architect, a builder, a slate merchant, a colliery agent, a haulage contractor, a purchasing manager, a timber merchant, a steel manufactuer, a chartered accountant, a solicitor, a grocer, a manufacturer’s agent, and a civil. engineer, plus two retired brethren (to bring a measure of wisdom) was indeed a very representative team.
The final meeting of the founders committee was held on 30th August by which time there were very ominous developments in the international situation, and there was concern as to the possible effect on the consecration less than two weeks away. Nevertheless, there had been no attempt to halt or modify any of the arrangements, but with prudence every precaution had been taken in reserving the right to modify or cancel should circumstances so demand.
This realistic and practical attitude was so fully justified when at 11.00am on Sunday 3rd September the Prime Minister informed the Country that a state of war existed with Germany.
STIVICHALL LODGE: THE CONSECRATION
Watch this space, the next eposide will be updated soon!
NOTE: The above is an extract from Stivichall Lodge No. 5799 The First 50 Years 1939-1989 by W. Bro. J. H. Darling. The Lodge has been moving from strength to strength ever since.