It was a tale from across the pond as David Wakely, Secretary of Beaminster Manor Lodge No. 1367 in Dorset, received an email from Ben Headley, of Franklin Lodge No. 20 in Connecticut, America
Ben identified that he had found a wooden plaque bearing the name of Beaminster Manor Lodge and with the name of a W Bro Toby dated 1873. He provided a photograph of it hanging in an antiques shop in Niantic, Connecticut. His quest was to establish if the artefact was of importance to the lodge and if so, to inform David if there was anything he could do to help repatriate it to its rightful owners.
David recognised it as a similar plaque for a W Bro A Butler dated 1885 which had hung in the lodge dining room for many years. He sent a photograph of their plaque and confirmed that they would be most grateful that, if they covered all of the costs, would he be able to arrange to purchase and ship the item back to Beaminster. In the true spirit of Freemasonry they declined all offers of reimbursement and merely requested that they would like to ‘present’ it in their lodge first and then send it off.
It turned out that the plaque was purchased at an estate sale in Mystic, Connecticut, and as some American troops had been stationed in Beaminster during World War Two and the lodge premises had been requisitioned during the war, its possible it was ‘requisitioned’ at the same time.
Coincidentally, Beaminster Manor Lodge had by this time started on a refurbishment and redecoration of their lodge room. When turning out a cupboard, they discovered three more plaques all from the late 1800’s. The lodge believe that it may have been the practise for the lodge to present a plaque to the Worshipful Master at the end of his term of office. It is then quite possible, upon his death, that the plaque could have been passed to the family.
As promised, the plaque was duly presented at the Franklin Lodge meeting in September 2018 and was recorded with a photograph of the event. It was then dispatched in late October and at the Beaminster Lodge meeting on 13th November they duly repatriated the plaque to the lodge and similarly, had a photograph taken to record the event. This was then sent off to the Franklin Lodge with grateful thanks.
Beaminster Manor Lodge have now arranged all five plaques, which now hang in a row above and behind the Worshipful Master’s chair in the lodge – a fitting conclusion to the memory of those Past Masters. All involved are deeply indebted to the members of Franklin Lodge, to Ben Headley, their Worshipful Master Joe Giancaspro and to their Secretary Daniel Rzewuski.
Beaminster Museum in West Dorset is hosting a ‘300 years of Freemasonry’ exhibition which commemorates the Tercentenary of the formation of the first Grand Lodge of England
The exhibition gives an insight into Freemasonry and in particular, Beaminster Manor Lodge No. 1367, showing some of its activities and personalities.
It shows important aspects, including memorabilia of the history of Beaminster Manor Lodge and how it had played its part in local life in a rural community. It also aims to dispel some of the myths and mysteries around Freemasonry and answer questions posed by members of the general public.
The museum is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays 10:30am – 4pm and Sundays 2pm – 4:30pm.
The exhibition will be running until 29th October 2017.