The Doric Lodge was formed on the 18th December 1819, writes W Bro Alan Newton, but the story really starts three decades earlier when Dr Stukeley, the noted antiquarian (a Lincolnshire man born in Holbeach) assisted in founding a lodge in Grantham in 1726; this is the first record of Freemasonry in Lincolnshire. Though this lodge was but temporary, in June 1790 when the Corinthian Lodge was formed at Newark one of the early initiations into this Lodge was John Langwith of Grantham in April 1791.
He may have been proposed by John Dodsworth MD. who at that time was the only Freemason in Grantham. His Initiation was quickly followed by three other Grantham citizens in September 1791.
On 22nd September 1791 three Brethren applied to Grand Lodge “requesting a Warrant to impower them to hold a Lodge at the George Inn in Grantham to be called the Doric Lodge.” This was forwarded with the assistance of the famous Freemason Rev. William Peters Grand Portrait Painter whose living was at Woolsthorpe by Belvoir, near Grantham. This application was successful, and a Warrant No. 582 dated 1st. October 1791 was received, and with the assistance of members of the Corinthian Lodge the Doric Lodge was formed at the George Inn, Grantham on the 13th. October 1791.
The first Provincial Grand Lodge of Lincolnshire was held at the George Inn Grantham, (now part of the George Shopping Centre) on 21st June 1792, there being then three lodges only in the Province: St Matthew, Barton -on- Humber; Prince of Wales, Gainsborough, (now known as Yarborough), and Doric, Grantham. The Rev William Peters was installed as Provincial Grand Master by WBro. John Dodsworth of Doric Lodge and of the remaining 13 first Provincial Grand Officers 8 were from the Doric lodge.
The Lodge was moved to The Ship Tavern in March 1794, possibly to reduce costs. (This tavern was sited at the junction of Harlaxton Rd. and Wharf Rd. and was demolished during the building of the Great Northern Railway Line).
The Lodge lasted for only three years, with the final recorded meeting on 14th. November 1794. The Lodge was finally erased by Rev. William Peters at the Provincial Grand Lodge at Lincoln in 1796.
The important fact is that the Warrant No. 582 was not returned to Grand Lodge, and possibly retained by Bro. John Langwith.
During the following years Grantham masons would have travelled to Lincoln or Newark for a Lodge meeting. Indeed J.S. Langwith, the son of John Langwith, was initiated in the Witham Lodge at Lincoln in 1809.
The situation continued for many years but following the death of the Provincial Grand Master and the arrival of other masons into the town momentum gradually increased to reform the Doric Lodge. One of these new arrivals was Bro. Robert Turner, who would play a major role in forming the new lodge.
The Doric petition
On 27th. November 1819, five members of the original Lodge and eight new brethren signed a Petition to request the formation of a new Lodge, to be named the Doric Lodge. This was sent to Bro. Rev Matthew Barnett Deputy PGM (in Charge) for approval. This was forthcoming in the form of a Dispensation, as he was under the impression that the Warrant No. 582 was dormant and not dead.
The DPGM reported these events to the new Grand Lodge in a letter dated 4th December 1819 and their reply was immediate. In a letter dated 18th December 1819 they advised “It was quite impossible the number can be ceded to them and a new application would be required.”
Thus started a saga which ran for many years, suffice it to say that the Lodge continued with this Old Warrant, with the number changed accordingly to 719, until the centenary in 1890 when they requested centenary jewel.
A further one-year Dispensation was received dated 22nd. January 1820 signed by the two Grand Secretaries and the Grand Master the Duke of Sussex.
The Lodge was opened on the 18th December 1819 with a further Dispensation confirming the change of venue from the Angel Inn to the Granby Tavern, and Bro. John Langwith was installed as the Master. During this period of operation several brethren applied to “Pass the Chair” this would enable them to join a Chapter, but this would not be in Lincolnshire.
The Lodge continued to operate, with monthly meetings throughout the year, until November 1825, the minute book then showing further dates up to December 1827 but no meetings recorded. We must therefore assume that the lodge had lapsed until the next recorded Minute Book commencing 9th September 1834. However, records at Grand Lodge prove that there was some activity, since annual Grand Lodge returns, listing names and Grand Lodge fees throughout those years, had been received from Bro. Rob. Turner (Jnr). In 1832 Grand Lodge advised the Secretary (R. Turner?) that the lodge number had been changed to 466, but no records remain of this at Grantham.
During this period of operation, the Lodge had an interesting visitor, namely Bro. Peter Gilkes and at the meeting of 25th September 1825 he took the chair. Bro. Gilkes was a teacher of Masonic ritual, having attended one of the meetings of the Lodge of Promulgation, and a prominent member of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement. We have no knowledge of the ritual the Doric Lodge was using, but there is little doubt that Bro. Gilkes gave them full instructions on that evening of September 25th. Peter Gilkes was a grocer by trade and made frequent visits to this area, and is also recorded in the minutes of the Witham Lodge at Lincoln.
We now move to the next stage of the Lodge development, when on the 9th September 1835 a Lodge of Emergency was called with 4 original members and 3 visitors assembled namely Bro’s Dawkins, Wood and Winter in private rooms on the High St. The Lodge continued to operate in these rooms for the next 70 years, with membership increasing to over 30 by the turn of the century. This could be attributed to the Industrial Revolution in the form of Ruston & Hornsby’s factory and the introduction of the Great Northern Railway in the 1850’s
During this period there are numerous items of interest which were acquired, such as a Lodge Banner, Pedestals, and Tracing Boards.
In the Treasurers Accounts of 1835 it is recorded “for Thos. Wood for Pedestals £6/18/6”
In the Treasurers accounts dated 1839 the following cost are listed “For Tramans for painting Banner & Floor Clothe £5/12/0
For Scarborough for painting Tracing Boards £3/10/0”
The banner of the lodge, which still hangs in the temple behind the Master’s chair, is believed to have been painted in 1791 by the Rev William Peters, when he was the vicar of Woolsthorpe by Belvoir. The banner is not signed, but the painter’s palette at the bottom is thought to be his painters ‘mark’.
In 1842 Dr Thomas Crucifix joined the lodge in support of his friend Dr George Oliver the Deputy PGM. Crucifix later went on the establish the Ancient & Accepted Rite, Rose Croix and become its head as Sovereign Grand Commander.
At the January lodge in 1890 Bro. Pick suggested special Chairs be provided for the Master & Warden’s and in the following month produced drawings. This was approved, providing the cost did not exceed £26, and in October 1890 Bro. Padget was thanked for producing the chairs at a cost of £26/18/0 including covers.
As there in no mention of the purchase of any of these items again, we can only assume that they refer to those present in the Lodge today. They have since been reupholstered. The Tracing Boards are further mentioned in March 1841 when the “W.M. Bro. F.P Newcome gave the 1st. / 2nd. / 3rd. Degree Tracing Boards.”
On nights of Installation the Brethren had “sumptuous” dinners at either Bro. Fillingham’s George Hotel or Bro. Child’s Angel Hotel.
The saga of the Lodge Warrant came to a head following a suggestion in November 1890 that the Lodge could possibly claim a Centenary Jewel during the following year. This resulted in numerous letters between the Grand Secretary and the Lodge, and was resolved by the purchase of a New Charter at the cost of £2/2/0
In 1891 the Doric Holy Royal Arch Chapter was consecrated, and several prominent members of local society became members.
In the February 1900 minutes it is recorded that Bro. R.F. Lee was departing for active Military Service in S. Africa (the Boer War) and they wished him a safe return.
During these early years there were many prominent Grantham brethren who were members, notably local business and professional people. Amongst them was R.F. Moresby White (Solicitor, lodge DC and Provincial DC for many years, also active in other Orders). The ancient gavel used at Installation meetings was presented to the lodge by him. In 1936 the Lord Brownlow of Belton House was the Worshipful Master.
Towards the end of the first decade of the new century the lodge rooms were becoming too small for the growing membership, now exceeding 30 and in October 1907 a committee was formed to investigate alternative premises. This was superseded by an offer from Bro. T. Hockley to build new lodge rooms with shops beneath on London Road. This offer was accepted and the first meeting in the new premises was on the 5th. November 1908.
The next item of note is the advent of the First World War when at the October 1914 meeting the Tyler gave notice that he had been called to “Active Service with his Regiment” and it was also proposed to to give a grant to the War Distress Fund. Later it was moved that help should be given to the Belgian Refugees who had been drafted to Grantham.
At the meeting in August 1917 the Worshipful Master. & Wardens signed the Petition for the “Maguncor Lodge” to be formed, and to use the premises and equipment at an annual charge of £36. It was Consecrated at the Guildhall the following month and consisted almost entirely of military members of the Machine Gun Corps. stationed at Belton Park.
The following year the Maguncor Chapter Rose Croix was consecrated and whilst the lodge now meets in London the Chapter remains in Grantham.
The war years
Throughout the war years there are mentions of some of the sons of the brethren being killed in action also that of the son of the Provincial Grand Master the Earl of Yarborough. The only recorded deaths of Doric members are Bro. J.A. Mettham, who was killed at Archangel on the 21st November 1918, and Bro. A.W.J. Manners, who died in November 1926, possibly from the effects of mustard gas. At the December meeting of 1919 Major W. Parks (the Snr. Warden) “was welcomed on a safe return from Military Duties in Italy and congratulated on distinction conferred on him by the King of Italy for his valuable services during the War”.
In January 1920 the lodge celebrated its Centenary with a meeting at the Guildhall, Grantham. A Centenary Warrant and jewels were presented after which WBro Dunkerton the 100th Master then installed his successor Bro Major Walter Parks.
Following the war, the Lodge continued to prosper, but by 1927 as the membership was approaching 50, this caused problems for the progression to the Chair. To overcome this problem a new Lodge was suggested, and a petition was signed on the 5th May 1927 to form the Granta Lodge No. 4950. This Lodge was Consecrated at the Guildhall on 22nd September 1927.
By the mid 1930’s Freemasonry was gaining in popularity, and so at the December 1934 lodge meeting a petition was signed to form the Kesteven Lodge (later changed to the Shire Lodge) and this was Consecrated in February 1936. The lodge since relocated to Sleaford.
Back in May 1924 a Premises Committee had been formed, their remit was to plan to house the Lodge when the present lease expired. This committee remained in place for many years and their efforts became necessary with the Lodge membership increasing in the early 30’s to forty plus and with visitors making the Lodge room become too small. At an emergency meeting in June 1936 the Committee reported entering into a contract to purchase for £700 the freehold of No. 4 Chambers St. with the object of acquiring the property for Masonic purposes. They were satisfied there was ample room for building as and when necessary.
In the two years between June 1936 and January 1938 the Grantham freemasons were busy in developing the newly acquired building to Masonic use. This must have been the Lodge, dining and changing rooms, plus updating the kitchen and toilets. No details of these activities are available but may have been carried out by either the Foster or Eatch Builders, both being involved in Grantham Freemasonry.
The first Lodge meeting held in the new premises was on the 11th January 1938 with 46 members and 26 visitors attending. The Granta Lodge followed on the 13th January with a report of a rent requirement of £97/12/0.
The Second World War restricted development in membership and other activities but it is recorded that several members were called up to serve their country and some of whom became P.O.W’s.
Following the War Freemasonry expanded, and other Orders followed including, Mark first established in 1933, Knight Templar, 1946 & Red Cross of Constantine 1986. Also, a Museum of 3 rooms for masonic effects was created. William Peters Lodge was consecrated in 1947 and Sir Isaac Newton Lodge in 1966 both sponsored by the Granta Lodge.
On 14th November 1992 the Lincolnshire Bicentenary Lodge of Installed Masters No. 9467 was sponsored by the Doric Lodge and consecrated at Grantham. With a large membership and frequent VIP speakers, Grantham has become a second home for this Lodge.
In 2019 the Doric brethren made application to Grand Lodge for a Bicentenary Warrant in anticipation of a celebration in January 2020. After due consideration this was refused on the grounds that records from the Minutes of the Lodge show that between the years of 1825 and 1834 meetings were not regularly held, although there were occasions when dues were paid to Grand Lodge.
Despite the fact that there is evidence of meetings being held in accordance with the Laws of the Craft between 1920 and the present day, the application was still refused by Grand Lodge and deferred until the year 2057.
On Wednesday 4th December 2019 the lodge was honoured by the presence of the Provincial Grand Master Rt W Bro David Malcolm Wheeler accompanied by members of the executive and the Provincial team to join in the celebration of 200 years of the Doric lodge.
Continual development of the premises has been carried out to suit members requirements and various legislation. The largest of these changes came in 2001 following the bequest of W.Bro. A Gascoigne when a new room was built over the original changing room providing a rehearsal and additional storage facilities.
2018/19 saw a significant change in the layout of the premises in an effort to keep the cost of Freemasonry in Grantham within reasonable proportions. The ground floor has been revised for public use and the upper floors for Masonic purposes.
There have been many developments to masonry in general and in Grantham over the past 200 or so years hopefully, it will continue and flourish over the coming years.