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Mark Sutherland Describes the Anniversary of Anchor & Hope Lodge No. 37
The United Grand Lodge of England can be justifiably proud that it will celebrate its tercentenary in 2017, just eight years from now and plans are afoot to mark such an auspicious occasion. But what of celebrating significant lodge anniversaries before then?
Lodges consecrated within a few years of the establishment of Grand Lodge are about to mark their 275th anniversaries and they too can be equally proud of such a great achievement. The first of such ‘antiquarian’ lodges to reach the grand old age of 275 was Anchor & Hope Lodge No. 37 which has met continuously since its consecration in the town of Bolton in the Province of East Lancashire in 1732, making it the premier lodge of the provinces.
Anchor & Hope Lodge – as it was named in 1767 - was warranted on 23 October 1732 by the Grand Master, Lord Montague and duly constituted on 9 November 1732. Soon afterwards, on 7 December 1732, was the opening of the first Royal Opera House in Covent Garden! That same year the American colony of Georgia had been founded by Freemason General James Oglethorpe.
Originally lodge No.105, it appears in Pine’s Engraved List of Lodges for 1734. It was renumbered as No. 37 in 1863.
The lodge celebrated its 275th anniversary on 12 November 2007: this article looks at some of the key features involved in planning a lodge anniversary with a view to making it a success.
Logistics and preliminaries
Early preparation is key and in this case No. 37 started planning eighteen months before the big day. Indeed, the Province of East Lancashire was contacted well before then to ascertain if it would be possible to invite one of the Rulers from Grand Lodge. Regular dissemination of information to lodge members is crucial in order to fix the event in everybody’s minds and busy diaries! Mention in the lodge minutes as to how the planning was going helped in this regard as well as regular updates at lodge meetings.
Seven make a perfect lodge organising committee and this proved to be a workable solution. One member looked at the lodge history which was to form part of the celebration’s proceedings whilst another dealt with its proof-reading, one dealt with catering and wines and the Lodge Secretary supervised the invitations. A computer ‘buff’ masterminded the table plan and personalised place cards bearing the name and ranks of all members and guests. The volunteers who made up the team each contributed in different ways depending on his particular area of interest and expertise.
Mail merge was used to generate the invitations which were sent out well in advance - six months before the event to be precise. The lodge organising committee met at last four times in the six months prior to the event and other ad hoc meetings were held as and when necessary. A reserve list was established for those who had expressed an interest in attending but who were not directly invited. In the end most could be accommodated but being firm on abiding by response deadlines was important to a hassle free event.
All of the lodge’s artifacts were studied carefully and only the more unusual items were selected for display and explanation on the big night. After all, early minute books and correspondence is fairly commonplace amongst old lodges so the lodge committee wanted to ensure that unique items of interest would be the focus of attention and the lodge’s historian was charged with this particular mandate.
The contents of the lodge history was carefully considered and it was a given that close cooperation with the Province was required in order to avoid any duplication of effort between the lodge historian and the Provincial Assistant Grand Chaplain who was to give the oration.
Of course, the finances of the anniversary need careful thought and the ticket price was set to break even but pitched at a level that would not deter members inviting a large number of personal guests. The main out-of-pocket expense was the Provincial delegation which numbered about ten and this was met from lodge funds. With e-mail, postage and paperwork expenses were kept to a minimum.
A souvenir programme is a worthwhile investment as a future reminder of the event and of the happy times enjoyed by the member and guests.
Remembering one of the aims of Freemasonry, the lodge set out to make a substantial gift to charity which it was able to meet through donations. The local Parish Church was one beneficiary as it graciously allowed free visitor car parking. In arranging the celebratory banquet, consideration was given to striking the right balance between a ensuring a memorable occasion for members and guests whilst not discouraging charity giving both before and at the event.
A dress rehearsal on the morning of the event and a large number of Stewards and lodge officers/ushers were in place to ensure all ran smoothly on the night. So how did it all go?
The Anniversary Celebrations
The 275th Anniversary Meeting of No. 37 was opened by the Master of the lodge, Graham Stratford and his officers supported by 110 guests emanating from a wide range of lodges from No. 2 through to No. 8816.
The Reverend David Halford, Provincial Assistant Grand Chaplain, delivered a moving Oration which reflected upon the reality of the times: the Jacobite rebellions, the reign of King George II, Prime Minister Walpole and Louis XV of France and the Spanish siege of Gibraltar. Halford recalled the first and founding Master of the Lodge, Edward Entwistle, who went on to be installed as the first Provincial Grand Master of Lancashire holding the post from 1734 to 1743. The Lodge has since seen two further Provincial Grand Masters from within its ranks – Brother Stephen Blair (1856 - 1870) and The Earl of Derby (1899 - 1948).
David Hawkins, the lodge’s Senior Warden and historian, presented an epitome of the Lodge’s History updated since its 250th Anniversary in 1982 which was presided over by Lord Cornwallis, the then Pro Grand Master.
The careful preservation of the Lodge ‘gems’ was emphasised. The Lodge possesses the oldest known copy of the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge held on 21 November 1732 held at the Devil Tavern within Temple Bar.
The Guest of Honour, Paul Rink, then Provincial Grand Master of East Lancashire, accepted the gavel of the lodge and gave his personal reflections and invited Brethren present to contemplate what life must have been like in the early 1700’s. He commended the Lodge upon its happy achievement and the long-suffering Lodge Secretary, Richard Sutherland whose sterling supervisory efforts had made the celebration possible. Paul Rink mused as to how Sutherland would look donning a powdered wig - the head gear of the times - and sporting a silver-handled quill pen!
Paul Rink presented the lodge with a Certificate of Appreciation and was in turn presented by the Master with a cheque for the East Lancashire Masonic Charity. There are undoubtedly many different ways of marking an occasion such as a 275th anniversary, or indeed any anniversary but our way proved effective and enjoyable.
INVITE THE MAYOR AND THE MEDIA
Any lodge which has been working in a town for 250 years or more, will have contributed much to the history of that city, to the business and social worlds. Mayors will have been members as will undoubtedly have been editors of the local newspaper.
Freemasonry has a good relationship with almost all local media so invite their representatives and the Mayor along to the dinner as guests of the lodge. Draw up an outline (around 500 words) of a short history of the Lodge and the City noting the contribution which members of the lodge have made to civic life and give this to all media outlets: newspapers, radio, television.
Make a list of who to contact and give them plenty of warning so that they can accommodate the celebration in their schedules. Make sure that all publicity sent out has a contact number or email address.