A letter written more than 250 years ago in Amsterdam, congratulating the new master of a Leeds Masonic Lodge, has been discovered amongst the pages of a book in the market town of Skipton in North Yorkshire
In the two-page letter penned in 1762, Lewis Bastide, a member of Golden Lion Lodge, also speaks of his experience with foreign lodges in the Dutch capital and his intention to form an English lodge in Amsterdam.
The correspondence was unearthed by Chris Hill, secretary of Craven Lodge No. 810, during an audit of historical books and documents, where it was found in an envelope tucked into an old copy of a Book of Constitutions.
From records held at The Library and Museum of Freemasonry in London, the Golden Lion Lodge was warranted by the Premier Grand Lodge of England on January 8, 1761, and numbered 258 on the Roll of Lodges, and initially called 'A Masters Lodge'.
The Warrant for Lodge No. 258 was issued by Lord Aberdour, Grand Master, and appointed Sir Henry Ibbetson to be Master, Lewis Bastide to be Senior Warden and George Lawman to be Junior Warden.
During the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, Sir Henry raised a corps of 100 men at his own expense and, in recompense for his loyalty, was created a Baronet.
Lewis Bastide was a prominent merchant in Leeds whilst George Lawman was a master Surgeon in the Army. The lodge met at various taverns in Leeds including, from 1766, the Golden Lion, Briggate, from which the Lodge took its name in 1772. However, it ceased to meet regularly from December 1780, and was erased on February 1, 1786.
The only information available about the Lodge’s members is a list of names which appears in a volume entitled List of Members 1770.
Chris Hill, Secretary of Craven Lodge in Skipton, said: 'This wonderful letter was found totally by accident when I was conducting an audit of lodge possessions.
'It was in a plain envelope and fell out of the pages of an old Book of Constitutions. Despite it being there for goodness knows how long, the letter is in remarkably good condition, and is now carefully preserved.
'The contents of the letter are fascinating and give an insight into Freemasonry in Leeds and Amsterdam more than 250 years ago. It’s just a shame the name of the Master Lewis Bastide was writing to congratulate is not known.'
Below is the transcribed letter in full:
To Golden Lion Lodge No. 285
Amsterdam - the 23rd March 1762
Dear Sir & Brother,
I should have troubled you before now with a few lines had my business allowed me the time to write them, which I hope you will excuse: the friendship and brotherly love reigns no less betwixt us for all that, at least on my side and I dare flatter myself of its being the same on yours.
It is with great deal of pleasure that I have heard by Brother Geo. Scott that the Brethren have elected you Master of our Lodge, of which I wish you joy. What pleases me the most and what I can say without flattery is to see that our worthy Brethren have recompensed your merits, and that they have done but what you justly deserv’d by the zeal you have always shew’d for the Craft, and the trouble you have taken in helping to make the Lodge upon a good footing and to maintain a good order in the same, which I doubt not but you’ll continue, especially now that you are at the head of it, and to which I take the liberty to exhort you and the rest of the Brethren , and to see our laws well observed by everyone in the Lodge. For what greater beauty and pleasure there can be than to see a good order kept in a Society? It is that only, that creates and maintains a good harmony and friendship amongst the members thereof.
You’ll have heard that I have had the pleasure of visiting some foreign Lodges, where there is such a good order kept that you would be charmed with if you was to see it. I was admitted to one in Amsterdam where the Baron of Boetzelaer, Grand Master of Holland assisted, and as I had the honour of being placed by him, he asked me several questions about our Grand Lodge at London and how Masonry went on in England to which I answered in the best manner I was able. They did me the honour of drinking our Lodge’s prosperity which I return’d in a proper manner. I have met with some Brethren in Amsterdam, whom were made in England and being desirous to work in the English way I instruct them in the same and am going to form an English Lodge in the said place having accordingly wrote for a Constitution to Bro. Spencer.
I further observe that you are increased in number, and that you are removed to the old Kings Arms. I must beg to tell you upon the first article that you should be very discreet in taking people in; you know what we had resolved upon before I left Leeds, and I hope if we keep them rules our Lodge will flourish and will be composed of good sorts of people. In regard to the other article, that is about changing the Lodge, I did the necessary for the same and paid 2/6d to Bro. Spencer for it which please to note in conformity.
I cannot say to have anything further to write at present but to wish you health, happiness & prosperity in all your undertakings, and to Salute you as well as to the rest of the Brethren, by the number only known of the Enlighten’d mortals and believe me always Dear Sir and Brother
Your most obed’t and Humble Serv’t, and Affectionate Bro.
PS: I am afraid I shall not be so happy as to be with you before May. If I can be of any service to you or to any other friend please to give your letters to young Tennant who will take care to forward them to me.