Treasure trove returned
On May 17th 2016, the Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro David Hagger received, on behalf of the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, a magnificent collection of masonic jewels, regalia and documentary material from the surviving children, Dr Anthony Howe and Mrs Elieen Mann, of W Bro Harry Billson Howe who was part of the vibrant textiles business in Leicester.
Dr Howe discovered the hoard in a case at his home in Poole, Dorset and contacted the Lodge of Gratitude No. 5614 via its website. W Bro Richard Brocklehurst of the lodge subsequently arranged a meeting, with representatives from several lodges and chapters, at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester so that the collection could be returned.
W Bro Harry Howe was initiated into the Commercial Lodge No. 1391 in 1919 and became the first Junior Warden of the newly consecrated Holmes Lodge No. 4654 in 1924, becoming its third Master in succession to his friends and business colleagues from Leicester's industrial core industries, W Bro George Hunt and W Bro Sir John Corah.
W Bro Howe was a Lewis and his father also had a distinguished masonic and business career, and has a memorial window in the St Katherine's Chapel at Leicester Cathedral. At a Provincial level, W Bro Howe served for many years as Provincial Director of Ceremonies and was honoured by receiving Grand Rank as PAGDC. W Bro Howe was also heavily involved with the Holy Royal Arch degree and the Ancient and Accepted Rite in both of which he also received Grand Rank.
W Bro Howe was a keen supporter of the Leicester Union Lodge of Instruction and it was through that body that the Lodge of Gratitude came to be formed as a token of thanks from the Union Lodge's preceptors for the fellowship they had enjoyed. W Bro Howe was the 'Primus' Master of the lodge and he was given a particularly fine jewel in token of this. Despite leaving Leicester, he retained his subscribing membership to the Lodge of Gratitude while accepting honorary membership of Holmes Lodge and St Margaret's Rose Croix Chapter No. 92.
W Bro Howe’s regalia, which was generously and thoughtfully returned by the Howe family, include collars and jewels for various Grand Rank appointments, and also a number of highly valuable and precious jewels in connection with his appointment in Holmes Lodge and the Lodge of Gratitude. In addition to the regalia and jewels, W Bro Howe's papers include a considerable number of fascinating items giving insights into the life of freemasonry between 1919 and 1960.
However, it was not just masonic material which was received. There was a wealth of matter relating to the Howe family business which was situated in Curzon Street and Birstall Street and which ultimately became part of the Curzonia Group. This will be invaluable in the staging of exhibitions to demonstrate the links between Freemasonry and Leicester's industrial heritage. In addition, material relating to his service in the Great War was also received when he was involved in espionage behind the German lines as an agent for what is now known as MI6.