Solihull Lodge 8088

Solihull Lodge 8088 historyA Brief History

The formation of Solihull Lodge was instituted by a number of Solihull Freemasons in late 1964. W Bro Ken Haskins, a Preceptor of Silhill Lodge No 4786, was approached by others to form a new Lodge. It was felt at that time that Silhill Lodge was too large (63 members!) Also, some Solihull brethren were in Lodges in London and other Provinces and felt the need for another local Lodge, where they could progress through the offices more quickly. These masons were joined by others from Lodges including Lodge of Endurance, Elizabethan Lodge and Francis Lodge.

The George Hotel, SolihullThe first preliminary meeting was held at The George Hotel, Solihull on Sunday, 28 February, 1965. Many others followed, during which the traditions of the Lodge were established.

As the Lodge was formed in the year that Winston Churchill died, it was initially proposed to name the Lodge after him. However, this was refused by The United Grand Lodge of England as no relative of that person was to be a founder (an apparent requirement when it comes to namings of this sort). Solihull Lodge was subsequently chosen as the name, as Silhill Lodge had undertaken to sponsor the Lodge as its daughter Lodge and there were no other Lodges of that name in the Province.

The preliminary work reached fruition on Tuesday, 24 May, 1966, when Solihull Lodge was duly consecrated by the RW Bro Sir Stanley J Harley, DL, in the Old Temple at St Francis Road, Edgbaston, This was the first consecration carried out in the Province after his appointment as Provincial Grand Master for Warwickshire.

250 masons were present, including the 17 founders. The ceremony lasted 3 hours, 17 minutes and included the Installation of W Bro Ken Haskins as the first Master, the driving force behind the formation of the Lodge. He in fact remained Master for 16 months. W Bro Jim Pearson was appointed Steward. Jim subsequently went through the chair of the Lodge, was Junior Warden twice and was an able Preceptor for many years. He also went through the chair of St Francis Lodge on 3 occasions!

As an interesting aside on financial matters, the first charity collection amounted to £51 10s 0d., the equivalent today of over £500! The dining fee was £1.0s 0d, subscriptions were £12 12s 0d and in its first year, donations to charity totalled £195 6s 0d., equivalent to nearly £2,000 today!

The Tyler of the Lodge elected on that night, Bro F H Berrill, was Mace Bearer for the Mayor of Solihull. He remained as Tyler until untimely called to the Grand Lodge above in December, 1990. He had unusually never been a Tyler prior to his appointment and was shown his duties by Ken Haskins! In recognition of his services to Solihull Lodge, he was made our first Honorary Member in 1986.

The first regular meeting of the Lodge was held on Monday, 19th September, 1966, when it was found that none of the Lodge equipment ordered from Masonic suppliers had arrived! Many items were, however presented by individual founders, including the Tyler’s sword, (W Bro ‘Bunny’ Roberts), the poignard, (Bro ‘Issy’ Bergman), the gavels, (Bro FW Pell), the miniature 3rd Degree tracing board, ballot and charity boxes and the Working Tools on the pedestals, (Bro RV Jenkins). W Bro Ken Haskins also presented a Loving Cup, which is still used today on Initiations.  (In 2006, the Lodges 40th Anniversary year, W Bro Jim Pearson continued the tradition by presenting 3 crystal decanters on behalf of the Lodge for use at the Festive Board, as he was the remaining Founder in the Lodge at that time.)

The original poignard presented by Bro Issy Bergman was in fact a Nazi dagger, a war souvenir and was replaced in 1993 by W Bro Andy Loomans, whose Dutch family were persecuted in Holland by the invading German Nazis. His father was in fact interred in Buchenwald Concentration Camp, survived and was liberated, but died a week later as a result of his ill-treatment whilst interred.

It is interesting to note that the wooden Working Tools used during Lodge ceremonies are hand-made from Japanese Oak, carved by an Englishman, polished by a Welshman, the silver inlays were mined in South Africa, rolled in Germany and worked and engraved by an Indian silversmith! Masonry universal?

The first Initiation Ceremony took place on 17th October, 1966, Ian Edgar Ramsey being the son of a founder, W Bro C J Ramsey, who performed the ceremony. Things did not go to smoothly, as he was found to be in possession of his wristwatch halfway through his Initiation and had to be readmitted! The first joining member was Bro G F Porter, Master Mason of Apollo Lodge, Number 301.

A tradition of inviting the Master and Wardens of Silhill Lodge to close the Lodge once during every Masonic Year has unfortunately fallen into disuse. Also, the Lodge only allowed 6 persons from any one trade or profession to be members at any one time and did not take more joining members than initiates in any Masonic year. Modern times dictate that this is desirable, but no longer essential.

The Founders also decreed that during the Ceremony of Installing a new Worshipful Master, the Lodge would be opened and closed in full in all three Degrees and the Working Tools would also be presented in full. Latterly, this does not apply if a Brother has previously been Master of a Lodge.

Solihull Lodge was twinned with St Francis Lodge, Number 4899 in 1990, encouraged by W Bro Jim Pearson, the only Solihull Lodge member to have been awarded the Provincial Grand Masters’ Certificate of Merit, a high honour for him and the Lodge. In 2009, St Francis Lodge unfortunately had to surrender their warrant, ending our close association with them.

Solihull Lodge was rarely without a candidate for initiation and the 50th initiate, Bro GF Ferris was initiated in the Lodges 25th year, in 1991. During the ceremonies of Passing and Raising, Candidates were also asked to repeat their obligation from the former degrees. This was still the case as late as the 1980’s but it was felt it placed too much pressure on new Masons and the practice has ceased.

Knowle Masonic Centre, the home of Solihull Lodge 8088The Solihull Masonic Temple was forced to leave the George Hotel in 1992 and the Lodge found temporary accommodation as a guest of Coleshill Lodge in the Town Hall, Coleshill. This was not a ready-made Temple and the Brethren had to assemble and take down all the Lodge furniture and equipment at every meeting.

After a hard search for new premises in the Solihull area, SMT Ltd eventually found and purchased a property in Knowle in 1993 and converted it into a superb Masonic Temple, with dining room, bar and meeting rooms.

The Lodge moved there in 1999, showing their gratitude to Coleshill Lodge by taking their Tyler, Brother Ted Sheldon with them!

In 2009 our twinned Lodge, St Francis, sadly had to surrender their warrant, ending our close association with that fine Lodge.

2010 saw the Lodge become Grand Patron of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution.

In 2011, W Bro Jim Pearson, the last founder still a member of the Lodge, was called to the Grand Lodge above after over 50 years in Freemasonry. He is still sorely missed to this day. Two wings were added to the Lodge Honours Board in his memory, presented by W Bro Dave Fry.

Two Lodge members have also received 50 year certificates, W Bro Brian Beaumont in 2011, and W Bro Ray Hart in 2013.

Two long serving brethren resigned their offices but remained in the Lodge, Bro Mike Cleveley in 2012 after more than 40 years as Treasurer, and W Bro David Harborne in 2015 after more than 20 years as Secretary. Both received engraved pens from the Lodge in recognition of their excellent and valued contributions.

Over the years, the Lodge has been enhanced by several esteemed joining brethren and in 2012 was pleased to welcome W Bros Len Bowden and David Mathews, whose own Lodge had to unfortunately surrender its warrant. Len immediately showed his mettle by volunteering to be the first Lodge Mentor. On appointment in 2013, he kindly donated the collar and jewel of that office, but sadly passed to the Grand Lodge above in September, 2016. David was our Senior Warden for the Anniversary year.

Solihull Lodge has always ably supported Masonic Charity Festivals over the last 50 years and in 2012, the Lodge achieved its target of over £11,000 for the Masonic Samaritan Fund Festival. In recognition, it was presented with a commemorative mawl by the Provincial Grand Master for Warwickshire, RW Bro David F Macey.

2013 was a remarkable year for the Lodge. For the first time in its history, the Lodge had to abandon the regular meeting in January, due to the extremely inclement weather, the snow having fallen thick and fast. Also, the number of regular meetings was reduced from 7 to 6, the April meeting no longer being included. The Lodge was then greatly honoured by the appointment of VW Bro Michael Morris as Deputy Provincial Grand Master for Warwickshire, after having been an Assistant Prov GM since 2009. He then accepted the office of Worshipful Master for 2016/17, the Lodge 50th Anniversary year. He was also Master during the Lodges 25th Anniversary year.

Solihull Lodge then celebrated their 50th Anniversary with ceremonies of Initiation (Bro Will Davies, our 80th candidate, initiated at our 350th meeting in October, 2016), also a Passing and Raising and the celebratory meeting in November. The Initiation and November meetings were also attended by the first Initiate into the Lodge, W Bro Ian Ramsey. W Bro Geoff Beacham, our then remaining Founder, residing in Yorkshire, was too infirm to travel, but sent his best wishes to the Loge. Commemorative enamel badges were presented to all Lodge members and those visiting Brethren on that occasion.

Finally, continuing the tradition of presentations on special occasions, W Bro A David Fry, PProvJGW, the Senior Past Master, presented 3 engraved wooden gavels for use by the Master, Senior, and Junior Wardens during meetings.

Due to a lack of initiates in later years, the Lodge continued with many interesting and varied lectures, from Jack the Ripper Masonic Connection, The Masons Gavel, a history of the plaster plaques in the Lodge Room, a demonstration of the Walking Charge, explanations of all three Tracing Boards, the Charges after Initiation, Passing and Raising and a unique illuminated explanation of The Traditional History.

2020 saw us decimated by Covid 19 and the Installation Meeting in September had to be abandoned, only the second time for a meeting of the Lodge. Other Lodge Meetings were suspended by joint decision of the Brethren until the pandemic had eased. Officers Meetings were carried out via Zoom, which enabled members to keep in touch and allow the administration of Lodge affairs to continue.

This meant that we were unable to install W Bro Paul Draper, ME, giving rise to the unique circumstance for Solihull Lodge of W Bro Richard Cox continuing for a third year as Master. Paul was eventually installed in September, 2021.

Currently, due to the demise of the Provincial building at Stirling Road, Birmingham the Knowle Masonic Centre has blossomed and is full to capacity with 24 Craft Lodges, (including a daylight Lodge), 7 Chapters & 14 other side orders, such as Mark Masons and Knights Templar occupying the premises.

W Bro AD Fry PProvJGW, with grateful thanks to W Bro Ken Haskins, W Bro Jim Pearson, W Bros David Harborne, Andy Loomans & Bob Fellowes.