On Tuesday 2nd August 2022, the Torbay Lodge No.1358 celebrated their 150 years in style at the Riviera International Conference Centre with 200 Freemasons in attendance.

torbay lodge 1358 150years

What a pleasure to photograph Torbay Lodge No.1358 yesterday (2/8/2022) celebrating 150 years. More than 200 attended with a huge turnout of Grand & Provincial Officers from all orders. Heads and full executive of Orders for HRA Chapter, Mark Master Masons, Royal Ark Mariners, Rose Croix, Red Cross etc.

A mega spirit and raffle draw took place and a cheque presentation to R.W. Bro Ian Kingsbury, Provincial Grand Master, for £6,000 to the 2023 MCF Festival

A superb meal was put on by the caterers of the RICC, Riviera International Conference Centre and all in all it was a great day for Devonshire Freemasonry.

W.Bro John Smerdon 

150 Years History of Torbay Lodge No 1358

by
V.W. Bro N A Ball DepPGM, PGSwdB.

THE ORIGINAL TORBAY LODGE

I've been invited to open the formal part of the meeting and explain and highlight the beginning of Torbay Lodge’s 150 year existence.

I do not feel you can do this however without reference to the original Torbay Lodge after which this Lodge was named. The original Torbay Lodge No.427 was established some 99 years earlier in 1772 when it became the first masonic lodge in the bay and
only the 25th in the Province of Devonshire. Only 6 of those now exist, all of this is before the formation of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Devonshire some three years later in 1775.

I think that it's important to also put some perspective on the era;

  • The power lay in the hands of the landed aristocracy
  • Slavery was permissible.
  • Press gangs were in existence.
  • Over 200 offences other than murder were punishable by death - the executions being public!
  • There was no piped water supply or piped drainage
  • Schools and Universities were for the privileged who could afford them.
  • The number of inhabitants of "Paynton" was about 2000
  • The connectivity between local towns can only be described as lanes and the transport was mainly by horseback. Horse drawn carriages were only in their infancy.

Little is known about the original lodge 250 years ago as there are no minutes of meetings and much of the information has been derived from the register from the Grand Lodge of England which shows that during the 52 year existence of the original lodge they had 105 members.

There are names of some brethren listed on the Grand Lodge Register for the original lodge who appear to be related to brethren who’s names also occur in this current lodge amongst which are Bro's; Eastley, Perrett, Goodrich and Tozer the last two being named as founders.

In the absence of any minutes and based solely on the dates of the initiations it can be seen that meetings were random. As an example an initiation was held on one day and a week later another initiation was undertaken.

In 1812 alone they had thirteen initiations. On 17th February 1812 they had three ceremonies of initiation in the one evening. There is no record of any of the other meetings so there may have been other multiple ceremonies of passing and raising or even in addition to a ceremony of initiation.

Over 80% of the meetings recorded were held on a Monday but these varied between the 1st, 2nd ,3rd & 4th Monday of each month. The remaining meetings occurred on every day of the week including Sunday. In fact a total of seven brethren were initiated on a Sunday and on one of those occasions as I mentioned they held a “triple initiation”.

Neither a triple initiation or meetings on a Sunday would now be permitted.

There are 3 items which give us a link at least 200 years back to the original Torbay Lodge.

  • One of these antiquities which has survived from the original Lodge is the Masters Chair which unfortunately is not here today. It is of a Georgian design and is embellished with 2 royal moto's together with the date of 1820 and a reference to King George IV
  • The second and third items are a pair of water jugs which were presented to the Lodge in 1878. These are held in the display cabinet in the refectory. They have been examined by experts and confirmed as being over 200 years old. It is likely however that they held strong ale rather than water.

At the time that the original lodge was dissolved they were meeting at the “Crown & Anchor Hotel” in Church Street (which is no longer in existence).

When the lodge reformed one of the founding members was Frederick Golden who was an innkeeper residing at the “ Crown and Anchor Hotel”. There is a strong possibility that when the Warrant was surrendered the chair remained in the upstairs rooms of the hotel until this Torbay Lodge was resurrected.

The lodge has also retrieved 3 of the original certificates for brethren who were members of the original lodge. These are displayed in the lodge refectory. They are: -

  • Bro. Samuel Compton dated 17th December 1810 at the London Inn. This was another venue for meetings and is also situated further down Church Street.
  • Bro. Samuel Davey dated 19th August 1805 (1 day after the battle of Trafalgar)
  • And the oldest Bro. Richard Paddon dated 1772

If you have an opportunity to have a look at these you will notice that none of these Certificates which could then be issued by private lodges and are not signed by Grand Lodge or even Provincial Grand Lodge.
They are in fact signed by the Worshipful Master and a combination of the Wardens, Secretary and Treasurer but not necessarily all of them.

Unfortunately the lodge which was now numbered 350 was disbanded in 1824 and the Warrant was returned. Since 1863 this number has been held by The Lodge of Charity in Bolton, E Lancs.

There is a also list of those original 105 members displayed on the right hand wall as you enter the refectory. I would encourage you to look at this when you are next in attendance and pay particular attention to their "professions"

Naturally there were numerous Mariners which one would expect. Merchants, Shipwrights etc. Many however were referred to as "gentlemen".

Who today would have the confidence to name themselves as a "gentleman"?

Moving on - This naturally brings us on to:

THE FOUNDING OF TORBAY LODGE No.1358

In 1871 twenty one brethren who were residing in the Torbay area approached Pleiades Lodge to support a “Petition” to re-form a lodge to meet in Paignton to be named “Torbay Lodge” after the original lodge meeting in the town.

Among the 21 brethren who became founding members were:-

  • 6 brethren from Pleiades’ Lodge. Totnes.
  • 8 brethren from St.John’s Lodge, Torquay
  • And 2 brethren from Semper Fidelis Lodge, Exeter

There were also three brethren who were members of Lodges in the London area namely:-

  • Malling Abbey Lodge No.63
  • Shakespeare Lodge No.99
  • And Moira Lodge No.109

The two other brethren came from further afield: -

  • One came from The Newcastle-upon-Tyne Lodge No.24
  • And the other came from Phoenix Lodge No.914, Kingston Jamaica.

In researching these brethren all of the lodge secretaries were contacted and most of them were very helpful. Where there was little or no information; Richard Ebrey was able to fill in the gaps.

THE FOUNDING MEMBERS

Several of the founders had a very interesting background and a couple worthy of mention are: -

The first must be Bro Rev Robert Bowden who was probably the leading light to reform the lodge.

The fact that the request to support the Petition was taken to Pleiades Lodge in lieu of St John’s Lodge where he was a Craft member was probably due to Bro Rev Bowden’s strong links with companions of Pleiades Chapter who were more than likely also members of the Pleiades Craft Lodge.

He was the vicar for Stoke Gabriel and a consummate mason.

  • He joined St.John’s Lodge in 1856
  • In 1864 he became the “Founding Zerubbabel" of Pleiades HRA Chapter No.710 and went on to hold this office for a further three years to 1867
  • In 1867 he also became the Worshipful Master of St Johns Lodge a position he also held in 1868.
  • In 1871 he became the “Founding Worshipful Master“ of Torbay Lodge No.1358 and again was Worshipful Master the following year in 1872.
  • Then in 1879 he went on to be the “Founding Zerubbabel“ of Torbay HRA Chapter No.1358.

The next must be Bro William Jermen Tozer whose ancestor was a member of the original lodge.

On his initiation into Phoenix Lodge in January 1867 his profession was shown as a Gunners Mate serving on H.M.S.S. Lady. He was passed just three weeks later (possibly by special dispensation as he was a serving seaman)

In 1878 he presented the Lodge a “Moira Apron” which had been worn in the old Lodge by his ancestor.
Assuming his ancestor had the same surname, Bro Richard Tozer was initiated on 27th December 1812 (not long after America had declared War on Britain).
Unfortunately however the Apron has not survived as an artefact of the Lodge.

This brings us naturally onto the:

THE CONSECRATION OF TORBAY LODGE No.1358

It was reported in the 12th August 1971 edition of the Freemasons Magazine and Masonic Mirror that on 3rd August 1871 The Annual Meeting of the Grand Lodge of the Province of Devonshire was held at Paignton when there were a large number of members present consisting of some 300 members mostly past and present officers.

On the arrival of the train shortly before 11.30am the Lodge met at the Assembly-rooms which were situated to the rear of the Gerston Hotel. There were two or three triumphal marches, many flags were hung out of the houses of the inhabitants who turned out in large numbers to see the processions.

On a raised portion at one end of the room was a harmonium which was ably presided over by Bro.Windeatt of St.John Lodge No.70(Plymouth) and Bro Taylor of Pleiades Lodge No.710.

Meantime the other brethren assembled in Grand Lodge which was duly opened by the Provincial Grand Master RW the Rev. John Huyshe Past Grand Chaplain, accompanied by The Deputy Provincial Grand Master.

The new Torbay Lodge, No. 1358, was then opened and after the Warrant had been read and the Lodge properly placed etc. the DepPGM RW Bro L P Metham delivered the oration which excited much applause.

Also at the Consecration Meeting on 3rd August 1871 the PGM received on behalf of Torbay Lodge No.1358 a Large Masonic Bible This was presented by Bro. John Thompson Goodridge M.R.C.S. the founding Senior Deacon to be employed at the Worshipful Masters Pedestal. To mark the occasion, it was suitably inscribed on the inside front cover.

The Provincial Grand Lodge returned to it’s usual business of the day and after the appointments had been made, the brethren turned from labour to refreshment and adjourned to the Gerston Hotel in Station Square. There a capital banquet was set out to which over 100 of the brethren sat down. The cost of the Banquet was 6 shillings - (30pence = over £80 today )

As the banquet was not served until after 5 o’clock the time was too short to permit more than the usual Loyal and Masonic toasts. As the hour approached seven o’clock the brethren rose in order to catch the train leaving a few minutes after the hour.

Brethren – That concludes my brief explanation on the reformation of Torbay Lodge