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Historic bottle of ‘Masonic’ gin raises £160 for the 2022 MCF Festival

Wednesday, 04 April 2018
(Reading time: 2 - 3 minutes)

The Leicestershire and Rutland Provincial Grand Orator, David Hughes, was delighted to be given a 1958 bottle of Booth’s gin by a member of the Castle of Leicester Lodge No. 7767

Upon inspection, the bottle was a distinctive six sided shape, the colour of the liquor pale gold and it bore the traditional trademark of a red lion.

The Booth family started to make London Dry Gin in 1740, thus making their brand arguably the oldest in the world. The then head of the family, Philip Booth built a distillery in London at 55, Cowcross Street on the site of what is now Farringdon Station. There were further premises at Red Lion Street in Clerkenwell.

Philip Booth was succeeded by his three sons, William, Felix and John. They built an even larger distillery at Brentford, and Felix took sole control of the company in 1830.

Under Sir Felix Booth the family became the largest distillery company in the United Kingdom and King William IV conferred a Royal Warrant for the supply of gin on them in 1833. Thereafter Booths became known as the 'King of Gins'. It should be noted that Sir Felix was a a member of The Lodge of Harmony No. 255, then No.317, meeting at Richmond, which was noted for its generous and hospitable kindness to visitors.

The Booth family held control of the company until the death of Sir Felix`s nephew, Sir Charles, in 1897, while the last male heir of the family died in 1926. The brand was acquired in 1937 by the Distillers Company and later purchased by Guinness in 1986. The brand is now owned by Diageo. Although the company discontinued production of Booth’s in the UK in 2006, it continues in the USA, but without the traditionally distinctive bottle shape and pale gold hue.

Realising that the bottle was a collectors item, David Hughes generously offered it for sale via an online auction house based in London who specialise in the sale of collectible spirits in order to raise funds for the 2022 MCF Festival. At first the bids came in slowly but the bottle eventually sold for £160 which has been kindly donated to the Festival. David, a Past Master of the Lodge of Research No. 2429, has now become so interested in Sir Felix Booth that he is now pursuing further research into the life and times of this famous Brother.

Dale Page, 2022 Festival Chairman, said: 'Knowing David as I do, I appreciate what a huge gesture this is. Original ideas such as this highlight the many and varied ways we can all contribute to our Festival appeal. We have made a positive start, but our target remains a challenging one. However, if we can supplement our regular direct debit contributions and one-off donations with marvellous initiatives such as this I am confident our £1.8 million target is well within our grasp.'