Historic look at Southbourne Lodge


Southbourne Lodge was consecrated on Thursday, 23 October 1990, in the Saffrons Rooms (above Caffyns Motor Showrooms at the junction of Saffrons Road and Meads Road) by W. Bro Major Robert Lawrence Thornton, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Sussex, who installed W. Bro. Sir Charles O'Brien Harding, as the first Worshipful Master. He was also one of the Lodge founders.

The 36 founders were drawn in almost equal numbers from four Lodges already existing in Eastbourne at the time - Hartington No.916 (1862), Tyrian No.110 (1866), Anderida No.2434 (1892) and Royal Connaught No.2676 (1897), and among the founders there were 4 doctors, 2 dentists, 1 chemist, 2 ministers of religion, 3 solicitors, 2 schoolmasters, an architect, a dairy farmer, Butcher, hairdresser, printer, wine merchant, estate agent, borough surveyor, bachelor of music, and various company directors, one of whom, Bro. Lachlan McLachlan, owned his own bakery.

The warrant or charter was issued on 3rd September 1919, on the authority of the Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and is required to be produced at the beginning of every meeting of the Lodge, and passed by each Worshipful Master to his successor for safekeeping. During the Second World War, the warrant was lodged with grand Lodge, and a photographic copy was allowed to be used to meantime.

The name "Southbourne" is derived from the name of the small hamlet which was part of the Eastbourne area in the mid-18th-century; situated generally between Southfields Road and the top of Grove Road and South Street, where the town hall now stands at the nearby Saffrons Rooms, which was the meeting place for Eastbourne lodges for several years.

The first initiate of the Lodge, on 27 November, 1919, and No.37 on the Lodge Roll, was Colonel (then captain) Leonard C Stevens of Chelmsford Hall School, and the first initiate to become the Lodge's Worshipful Master was William F Stacey also a schoolmaster, who was initiated on 22nd January 1920, and installed as Worshipful Master on 27th October 1927. He was the ninth Master of the Lodge, and later gave distinguished service as secretary from 1931 to 1940, and from 1943 until his death in 1962.

At the installation meeting in 1920, there were 42 members of the Lodge Roll, and the annual subscription, inclusive of supper, decided at £3 3s 0d, remained until 1938, when it was raised to £3 13s 6d and the membership had increased to 57. The subscription was reduced to £1 10s in November 1939, after the introduction of food rationing, and a light supper or other refreshments only, was provided for which members paid direct at the time. The Lodge summons of 23rd November 1939 indicated that the Queens Hotel, where the meetings were then being held, could provide a light supper at four shillings if rationing regulations permitted, but as the Lodge room was used by hotel patrons as a gas proof air raid shelter, no smoking was allowed in the immediate vicinity!

When the Saffrons Rooms were requisitioned for defence purposes, meetings were then held at various venues including the Queens Hotel, the basement room of the Technical Institute in Grove Road, and the Drive Hotel in Victoria Drive, before the present Masonic Hall became available in October 1945.

For many years the Lodge had a close association with local education, a significant number of its members having been masters of the grammar school (as it then was) and other schools, and when schools were evacuated from the town for safety reasons, the hospitality shown to members of the Lodge who moved to Hertfordshire, was so appreciated that the Worshipful Master and members of Cecil Lodge No.494 of Hitchin, were made honorary members of Southbourne Lodge.

Two members of the Lodge died on active service - W. Bro. W.H. Beney was killed in April 1941 when helping to rescue women and children from ships torpedoed in the Atlantic, and Bro. M.J. Hicks of the RAF was killed on a bombing raid over Germany in 1944.

In 1928 the Lodge Passed and Raised Bro. A.D. Miles of Doric Lodge No.34 of Danville, Quebec, at the request of the Grand Lodge of Quebec, and in 1945, at the request of the Grand Lodge of Queensland, Staff Sgt N.W. Swindon of the Australian Army was initiated and passed, having already been elected to the Heather LodgeNo.221 in that Province. Much more recently, on 27th of March 1997, Bro. Adam Carter, who was doing part of his medical studies at the Eastbourne District General Hospital, was passed to the second degree at the request of his mother Lodge, the Scotia Lodge No.624 of New York.

Demonstrations of other Masonic ritual have occasionally been given in the Lodge. In 1935 an initiation as worked about 1760 at the Bear Inn, Bath, and taken from the records of the Royal Cumberland Lodge No.41 of Bath, was performed at Eastbourne College, arrangements having been made by our then Worshipful Master, W. Bro. R.C. Matthewsl, who had been initiated in their Lodge. In 1936, a demonstration of the Bristol third degree by a team of Bristol Masons was given in Eastbourne town hall, this Lodge making the arrangements

The Lodge has been well served by its Principal Officers, some of whom have given very long and devoted service. W. Bro. Augustus I C Lacoste, a wine merchant and one of our founders, served as Charity Steward for 34 years until 1953, and his successor W. Bro Maurice Stepney served for 15 years until his death in 1968, when worshipful Brother Allenn Howarth took over and served well for the next 27 years. In another important office, Lodge Almoner, W. Bro Maurice Wise served for 20 years until 2000.

There have been 11 secretaries, two of whom were very long serving - W. Bro W.F. Stacey for 28 years in two stints between 1931 and 1962, and W. Bro. Percy Syrus for 18 years until 1985. Of the 11 treasures, the longest serving so far, was W. Bro. Frank Aldridge, for 17 years to 1964. Of the 83 masters who've successfully presided over the Lodge, one, W. Bro. C.J. Milroy, died in office in 1950, and W. Bros. John Hyde and George Gower served for two years in succession from 1971-73 and from 1998 to 2000 respectively.

A Lodge of Instruction was established in 1922, its early meetings being held in the local Chamber of Commerce offices before the Masonic Hall became available. It remains a very important feature of Lodge life and will become increasingly so in the approach to the Lodge Centenary in 2019.