A Brief History Of Derwent Lodge

In early 1920 several active brethren living in the Chopwell area discussed the possibility of forming a lodge in Chopwell. Among these worthy masons were, schoolteachers, policemen, store managers, electricians, the local butchers and a company director. The petitioners, who all later became the founders were all well established members of other lodges ranging from Constance Lodge 2135, who eventually became the Sponsor Lodge to Linport Lodge 1776 in Portsmouth. The brothers from this Lodge having seen navel service in the First World War, and had moved to Chopwell at the end of hostilities.

The petition to form the new Lodge was approved and signed in open Lodge at the Regular Meeting of Constance Lodge on the 15th June 1920 by the then W.M. W.Bro. William Graham, Bro. Joseph Hamilton S.W. and Bro. Joseph Siddle J.W.

The P.G.M. received a deputation on 11th October 1920 from the petitioners at Consett immediately after the Consecration of Temperance Lodge 4115 to discuss the formation.

On January 14th 1921 correspondence was received from the P.G.M. Lord Ravensworth indicating that the petition had been recommended to G.L., subject to minor changes to the original proposals.

These being as follows:

  • That the initiation fee be £10 – 10s – 0d.
  • That the Lodge work in Emulation.
  • That the Lodge membership be limited to 60 members but with the powers to appeal to increase the membership.
  • That the annual subscription to 2½ Guineas to comply with other petitions recently approved.

Having complied with the changes requested, the petitioners were informed on the 26th February 1921 that the Warrant of the Lodge had been granted.

The Lodge was consecrated on the 24th August 1921 in the Masonic Temple, Jackson Street Gateshead at 2pm. by the P.G.M. Rt. Worshipful The Rt. Hon. Lord Ravensworth accompanied by S.G.W. W.Bro Rev Joseph Shaw and J.G.W. W.Bro. James R Wheldon together with other Grand and Provincial Officers. The ceremony on this occasion had been preceded, at 12.30, by luncheon on the premises.

The Master Designate W.Bro. J W Daniels P.M. Constance Lodge 2135 was obligated and installed as the first Master of Derwent Lodge by the consecrating official the P.G.M. Lord Ravensworth.

All of the other officers were appointed and invested, all other Masonic business completed, the Lodge being closed in Love and Harmony at 4.30pm.

The first meeting of the Lodge was held in the R.A.O.B. Club on the 4th Tuesday of September 1921, that evening being chosen as the Regular night of the meeting. The Lodge was granted a dispensation to change the meeting night to its present dates in May 1923.

On March 28th 1922 a letter from Provincial Grand Lodge was received offering the lodge its first Provincial Honour, that of a Past Stewards Collar. This was accepted and Bro. W Sterling was selected to receive this honour.

The Derwent Lodge’s first Grand Lodge Officer was W.Bro. A F Kirkup who was promoted to the office of PGStB in 1962. He was initiated into the Derwent Lodge by W.Bro. J Daniels, in November 1925, installed as Master in 1937 and promoted to P.S.G.D. in Provincial Grand Lodge in 1946.

The present day building was acquired from the Ravensworth Estates in 1932 for the handsome sum of £600 and after considerable alterations the new Temple was opened and the members of the Lodge moved in after the dedication on Wednesday the 5th October 1932.

The W. Bro. J Cumberledge was the first Master in the new Temple after being installed on 25th October 1932.

In 1933 seating facilities were made more agreeable after the purchase of 117 chairs from the Hippodrome Stanley for the princely sum of £19.9s.0d.

January 1934 saw the introduction of the First Ladies Night this being held in the Church Hall Chopwell.

The members, family and friends in the 1930’s attended alternating Divine Services between Ebchester Church and Chopwell Methodist Church but sadly no longer take place. What a pity this tradition has been lost!

In November 1939 the dinning room was put at the disposal of the Chopwell branch of the Army, Navy and Air Force Fund each Wednesday for the purpose of collecting comfort parcels for servicemen of the village and surrounding areas.

In October 1940 the building was commandeered by the armed forces which resulted in the October installation and November meeting being held 4 miles away in Rowlands Gill. It was due to this action that our present regular meeting night was established.

In March 1941 a very stern letter was received from the M.o.D, calling for the provision of steel helmets for the fire watchers for the building, maybe this provision should still be made available for the protection of All Lodge Secretaries.

On May 15th 1941 the building was finally de-requisitioned and a cheque for £25-11s-9d was received from the War Office.

In August 1942 we lost our railings to the war effort and in November 1942 our application for a Catering licence was turned down.

September 1943 saw the S******’s for candidates dispensed with, as there was no clothing coupons to replace them.

The first cabinet for the tracing boards was presented in 1943 to the Lodge by Bro H Bell; this continued to be used until 1982 when new Cabinets and Tracing Boards were presented to the Lodge.

In 1946 saw the suggestions of forming a sister lodge and the formation of a chapter.

In 1948 due to large numbers, the list for membership was closed and remained so until it was reopened in 1950 but restricted only to the sons of members.

It would appear that for the next 3 to 4 years an unsettling period was experienced in the Lodge.

In April 1951 seven candidates were rejected and in June 1951 one candidate was approved by the Lodge Committee but rejected by the members.

The year of 1955 finally saw the reopening of the waiting list.

The premises were loaned to Rowlands Gill Lodge in 1958 for January and February meetings. This year also saw the presentation of the organ to the Lodge (which is still in use today), sadly it is not recorded who made this presentation.

The church services mentioned earlier still continued, the last of these took place in St Johns Church in May 1961.

Things seem to settle down as there was a large influx of applicants during the early 1960’s and for several years during this period 6 candidates were initiated. This practice was stopped in 1969 and has never been reinstated.

In 1967 the piano, still currently being used at the Festive Board, was presented to the lodge by the late W. Bro R Carr P.M. Vulcan Lodge No. 5757.

In 1968 the Entertainments Committee was reformed, and they took over the responsibility of the bar in 1970.

The 50th Anniversary of the Lodge was celebrated with a deputation from Provincial Grand Lodge lead by the Rt. Worshipful P.G.M. The Rt.Hon. Lord Barnard in his first year as P.G.M. The W. M. at this celebration was W.Bro H Rutter who is now PPSGW.

In 1972 Rowlands Gill Lodge was again granted the use of the building and the Durham Benevolent committee held their first ever meeting at Chopwell, in September 1973.

An attempt to revive the family church Services was made in 1976 but was rejected by the Lodge committee. At this time a decision was also made to form a Royal Arch Chapter.

On the 22nd May 1974 the W.M. W. Bro J Cox presented the Lodge  with a minature 3rd Degree Tracing Board to mark his 25 Years in Derwent Lodge and gave this in association with his son Bro J Cox, his brother Bro A Cox S.W. and his nephew Bro B Cox, son of A Cox who was Raised to a Master Mason that evening with Bro E.Jackson.

In 1977 a foundation Jewel was sent to Grand Lodge, and in 1978 for the first time in the history of the Lodge visitors were requested to pay a dinning fee.

On the 28th November 1984 W.Bro Potts and W.Bro Gardiner unveiled the Lodge Banner and New Tracing Boards, together with Ashlars, Carpet Square, Square and Compasses and Kneeling Stool which had been presented to the Lodge were dedicated with solemn prayer by W.Bro H T Rushford Provincial Grand Chaplain.

Also in 1984 the Lodge Secretary had discussions with the Lodge Committee of Rowlands Gill Lodge to put forward proposals for an amalgamation of both Lodges and side degrees in one building. This was totally rejected by Rowlands Gill and no further attempt has been made.

In 1990 at the September meeting, during W. Bro’s C J Leedham’s term of office, a fire was discovered in the Tyler’s room during the Festive Board. The building had to be evacuated and the Fire Brigade called, and whilst thankfully no one was injured extensive damage was caused by water. All Lodge regalia had to be renewed, this being dedicated at the November Meeting.

The Lodge celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1996 and we were again honoured with the presence of the P.G.M. The Rt.Hon. Lord Barnard.

At our installation meeting in October 1999 W.Bro. K.Cook PPrGSWks became the first W.M. to be installed into the Master’s chair for the second time.

Derwent Lodge’s second Grand Lodge Honour came in 2001, with the promotion of W.Bro. R A Urwin to the rank of PAGSwdB.

2001 also saw the promotion of W.Bro. T W D Railson to PAGDC in the Royal Arch.

Derwent Lodge’s third Grand Lodge Honour came in 2003, with the promotion of W.Bro. T.W.D.Railson to the rank of PAGSwdB.

The Derwent Lodge website was launched in 2004.

2009 saw the introduction of electronic mailing of Lodge Summonses.

On the 12th June 2010 W.Bro T.W.D.Railson PAGSwdB was installed as Grand Superintendent of the Districts of Northumberland and Durham of the Holy Royal Arch Knights Templar Priests. Derwent Lodge’s fourth Grand Lodge Honour also came in 2010, with the promotion of W.Bro. T.E.Henderson to the rank of PAGDC.

On the 3rd August 2011 Derwent Lodge sold their building to Graeme Elliot and Jeffery Edward Hird and now lease the building from them, Jeffery Edward Hird is a member and Past Master of the Lodge.

During the summer recess of 2012 the Temple was refurbished, walls replastered and decorated with new carpeting and seating.

On the 10th December 2012 Derwent Lodge was accepted into membership of the River Lodges Association which had 30 members, December 2017 there are 61 members. The aim of the Association is the promotion of fraternal relations between member Lodge’s. To support charitable aims, undertake social functions or fund raising in its own name or support those of any of its member Lodges. Inter-visiting is encouraged between Member Lodges.

During the summer recess of 2016 the dining room was refurbished, walls replastered and new lowered ceiling installed. During the summer recess of 2017 the bar was refurbished.

As a result of the suspension of Masonic meetings and Government restrictions, owing to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Lodge was unable to meet during the period from the 26th February 2020 to 7th June 2021


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