The Masonic Hall is an unpretentious building on Union Road, which houses a long history told here in a speech given by Mr. Brian Lawrence.
Peveril of Peak Lodge No 940
The warrant is dated the 13th of July 1855, with seven founders being named, but the first recorded meeting wasn't held until the 3rd of October 1855 at The Crown Hotel, here in New Mills when one past master, a senior warden, a junior warden, three members and five visitors were present, it is assumed that the P.M. acted as Worshipful Master.
The first W.M. is listed as Brother the Rev. Frederick William Russel but there is no record of him attending any meetings, although he was made Prov. J.W. in 1855 and two other founders were appointed Prov. Officers that same year.
In the first two years, meetings were infrequent and sparsely attended, but nonetheless there were 20 initiations, 16 passings and 16 raisings, there was a proposition fee of 1 Guinea paid for each candidate and an initiation fee of 3 Guineas.
The first recorded installation of a W.M. is that of Samuel Wellington Ready installed by two past masters of Devonshire Lodge in April 1862, later the same year the lodge appointed a J.W. a Secretary and two Deacons, and a subscription of 1/- per month was proposed. There are expenses recorded for conveyance of visitors from Marple (6s6d), and from Poynton (4s6d).
In July 1863 Grand Lodge allocated all lodges a new number and Peveril of the Peak became No 654. In 1864 an Inner Guard is recorded as being present, and in March of the same year Bro. Richard Brayne, the landlord of The Crown Hotel was approached to fit up a lodge room for the exclusive use of Peveril of the Peak Lodge at an agreed rent of £8 per annum and funds were being raised to furnish this room.
The times of the meetings varied a great deal, some starting as early as 4.45. and some as late as 8.30. Details of the ceremony are very sketchy, but at the installation in January 1865, it is noted that charges (or addresses) were given to the newly appointed officers and in the same year a Relieving Officer was appointed, his duties being 'To relieve the distressed brethren that should pass though the neighbourhood in a destitute condition'. For many years after, the minute books show distressed brethren from as far apart as New York and Calcutta being relieved with small amounts of cash.
During this same period the W.M. and Wardens were granted £1 each in expenses to attend Provincial Grand Lodge.
In December of 1865 the lodge was tyled at 5.30. there was an initiation, a passing and the installation of a new master, the lodge closed in peace and harmony two hours later at 7.30. I guess that this means that our installations as practiced today could be considered as being long winded as we seldom seem to get away on the same day that we arrived.
In March 1866 there is the first mention of food being served ''as the lodge was called off at 7.45. for refreshments and called on again at 8.15.'' the costs were included in the subscription fee being paid.
Later the same year it was proposed that the initiation fee be raised from 4 to 5 guineas, the proposition fee having apparently been dropped at some time in the past The name of Brother the Rev. Russel now re-appear, as he presented a bible to the lodge, that bible is still in use today.
Towards the end of 1866 a proposition was made "that a knife and fork tea be served at 6.30. instead of the supper after the meeting, and that four decanters be placed around the lodge room, instead of drinks being ordered, and that a levy of 6d.be made on each member who takes refreshments."
Things then proceeded quite smoothly with nothing extraordinary being reported, meetings still showed multiple ceremonies being carried out on occasions, and at other times no business was recorded, refreshments had returned to being served in the middle of regular meetings, initiation fees were being gradually raised and donations of regalia and furniture were recorded in the minutes. The next occurrence of note was that the lodge although founded in 1855 was not consecrated until January 1868. The consecration ceremony was carried out by Worshipful Brother H. C. Okeover Dep. Prov. Grand Master, assisted by officers of Prov. Grand Lodge and a new W.M. was installed by one of the visiting Prov. officers. The meal after consecration was served at the Wesleyan School room.
We again enter a period of regular routine meetings, and during these years the lodge was making donations to The Boys Masonic School and thereby purchasing life votes. These votes could be used to support the application of a young boy from the distressed family of a dead brother, to be educated at the school. It was also the usual practice when a brother died to have a letter of condolence engrossed on vellum and presented to his family.
In 1874 a change was made to the bye-laws to the effect ''that officers of Her Majesty's Army and Navy may become members on payment of entrance or joining fee, and that they pay monthly contributions only for the time they are in England'' whether this applied to the ordinary cannon fodder of the day is not made clear.
In April 1877 it was suggested that Tracing Boards be purchased, this being the first time that such items have been mentioned, so it appears that ceremonies are proceeding on lines we are familiar with today, and I suggest that the tracing boards we are currently using were obtained about that time and can be numbered amongst the many antiques we've accumulated over the years and that doesn't include the Past masters we drag from obscurity for Purple Nights.
In December 1877 it has become the usual practice for the secretary to read out the names of brethren eligible for the office of W.M. and then one was duly elected, at the same meeting we had a truly momentous development - A Director of Ceremonies was elected for the first time. However in 1879 the D.C. sank without trace.
Installation meetings lasted about an hour and a half, and an initiation and a raising were thrown in for good measure. In 1882 the lodge was opened with solemn prayer at 7-30 the minutes were read, an explanation of the third tracing board was given. A Grand Lodge certificate was presented and signed, a resignation letter was read, and the lodge was closed in peace and harmony at 8pm they certainly didn't hang about in those days.
In December 1885 the D.C. makes a welcome return, and first mention is made of the first, second, and third degree tools being presented a later note states that the charge after initiation was given.
The next two years 1886 and 1887 appear to have been a rather barren period there were one or even two meetings per month, very little Masonic business was reported and the meetings sometimes lasted only 15 minutes.
The minutes for November 1887 record that the Senior Warden died whilst holding office, and that the Lodge was granted permission by the Prov. G.M to attend the funeral in Masonic regalia. I understand that such practices are now forbidden by Grand Lodge.
The cashbook at the end of that same year showed that 11 distressed brethren had received relief at a total cost of twenty shillings and 6 pence.
In 1889 the minutes show for the first time that the Lodge is being formally opened in the first, second and third degree, and this is the year that a Lodge banner was presented by the Worshipful Master Brother Salisbury. The remains of that banner are enclosed in the glass case behind the Worshipful Masters chair.
The cost of the installation meal had now risen to five shillings, and a typical bill of fayre about this time reads as follows.
Soups - Oxtail soup, Hare soup.
Fish - Cod with Oyster sauce, Turbot and Lobster sauce
Joints - Roast Beef, Boiled Mutton
Poultry - Roast Turkey, Boiled Turkey, Geese, Roast Fowl and Boiled Fowl.
Game - Pheasants and Partridges.
Sweets - Plum pudding, Bakewell pudding, Mince pies, Apple tart, Various Tartlets, Custards, Blancmange, jellies ect.
Dessert - Grapes, Apples, Pears, Raisins and Almonds, Nuts and Pineapples.
Together with an extensive wine list, including Moet and Chandon Champagne at 8/6d a bottle.
In common with most early Lodges, our Lodge was a Lunar Lodge and met on the Wednesday on or before the full moon, in January 1891 the date of our meetings was changed to the second Wednesday in each month and remains so to the present day.
At the January meeting in 1894 a proposition was made "that a building suitable for Masonic Meetings be erected and in May 1894 a contract to build was placed with Joseph Hudson and sons for the sum of £580. A sum of seven hundred pounds was raised by loans from the members, and in June the foundation stone was laid.
The brethren formed a procession for this ceremony, and led by the New Mills Brass Band marched from the Crown Hotel, carrying all the necessary tools, banner, columns, bible, wine, corn and oil ect. Dress for this occasion was Morning Dress, Silk Hats, White Tie and White Gloves and full Regalia.
The opening ceremony. 13th June 1894
Hundreds of spectators were assembled on Union road; on an erected platform were the lady wives and daughters of the brethren. The band played and then the Worshipful Master addressed the spectators according to the ancient custom. Next Brother Jackson handed him the trowel. The stone having been raised, the Prov. Grand Chaplain offered prayer and the stone was lowered
nine inches before the following lines were sung;-
When the Temple’s first stone was slowly descending.
A stillness like death the scene reigned around.
There thousands of gazers in silence were bending.
Till rested the ponderous mass on the ground.
Underneath the memorial stone a cavity was formed, and in it were placed by the treasurer, brother Jackson, several current coins of the British realm, also a silver plate, upon which was engraved by Messrs Salisbury and Campbell the following:- ‘Peveril of the Peak lodge of Freemasons, No 654. New Mills. Memorial stone of Masonic Hall, June 13, 1894.’ the inscription was read to the spectators by the secretary Brother Thornley, after which the cement was spread by the builder Brother Hudson, and the stone lowered to its bed. This having been done, the Worshipful Master then said ‘Brother Junior Warden, what is the proper jewel of your office?’ J.W.: ‘The plumb rule.’ - W.M.: Have you applied the plumb rule to the external edges of the stone?’ J.W. I have Right Worshipful Master, and the craftsmen have done their duty.’ - W.M.: Brother Senior Warden, what is the proper jewel of your office?’ S.W.: ‘The level.’ - W.M. : ‘Have you applied the level to the stone?’ S.W. : ‘I have Right Worshipful Master, and the craftsmen have done their duty.’ W.M. : Brother Deputy Master, what is the proper jewel of your office?’ D.M. : ‘The square.’ - W.M. : Have you applied the square to those parts of the stone that should be square?’ D.M. : ‘I have Right Worshipful Master, and the craftsmen have done their duty.’ - W.M. : ‘Having full confidence in your skill in the Royal art, it now remains with me to request you to finish the work.’ The architect Mr Godward, next delivered the plans to the Worshipful Master, to whom a mallet was presented by the secretary. The stone was then blessed with corn, oil, wine and salt and the Worshipful Master, receiving the Cornucopia, &c., proceeded to spread the corn saturated with the wine and oil, over the stone, at the same time saying; ‘ I strew this wheat as the emblem of plenty; I pour this wine as the emblem of joy and gladness; I pour this oil as the emblem of prosperity and happiness; I sprinkle this salt as the emblem of wisdom, fidelity and perpetuity. Following prayers the 100th Psalm was sung and the Masonic version of the National Anthem. High Peak Reporter
The building was completed and fitted out before the end of the year, with the final cost being £699-19s-8d; our treasurer is still trying to locate the 4d change.
The first meeting in the new Masonic Hall was held on the 9th of January 1895 when Bro. John Scattergood was raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason. He went on to become W.M. in 1906.
In that same year 1895 a social club was formed, with joining fee set at 10 shilling per annum, with the club being open two evenings a week, funds were also being raised to purchase a billiard table. A house committee was also set up to handle routine Masonic business, and they selected a menu for each monthly meeting, and even stipulated the amount of meat to be purchased, they also arranged for a caretaker/steward and a cook to be employed. They also ordered the first liquor supplies, this comprised - 2 Gallons of Irish Whiskey, 10 Gallons of Scotch Whisky, together with cases of Champagne and sundry bottles of wine. The percentage proof of the whisky was also stipulated on the order.
For installation meetings the Conservative Club was used, both for the ceremony and the banquet, with brethren delegated to carry the furniture backwards and forwards, others were elected to arrange musical entertainment and four lucky members were appointed stewards for the day. No serving staff are mentioned so we can assume that the stewards served the meals and took pot luck on what they themselves finished up with, which was probably stone cold and comprised what nobody else wanted, - pretty much like the early days when I joined.
The essential supplies for the installation social board of 1907 comprised two dozen Bollinger, 2 dozen Perrier and Jonet, and 1 dozen Moet and Chandon Champagnes, 1 gallon finest Cognac, 2 dozen Claret, 1 dozen Burgundy, 1 dozen Port, half dozen Sherry and 100 cigars I guess this just supplemented the extensive whisky stock they always carried.
Liquid refreshment was included in the price of the meal but there's no indication of what that price was.
In that same year there was a proposition, duly seconded '' that a new worm be fixed to the cork drawer '' this baffled me for a few minutes until I realised that the most important of working tools - the corkscrew, needed repairing.
Smoking concerts became a regular feature of the social calendar and around this time the first Ladies Evenings were held.
We are now approaching the start of the first world war, provisions are becoming scarce and in 1915 the house committee proposed '' that 6 bottles of Oxo be purchased direct from the Manchester agent " and that the Worshipful Master a small supply of tea and coffee.
In 1915 and 1916 the installation banquet was dispensed with, and a supper served instead and only visitors with official invitations where allowed to have wine at the Lodges expense, beer, stout and mineral water had now been added to the bill of fayre.
Things could only get worse and in 1917 the brethren were reduced to having hotpot served at the regular meetings, with a ladies committee having been formed to prepare it. In 1918 meals at regular meetings were stopped entirely, but the installation banquet went ahead, with the ladies again doing their duty, and it wasn't until February 1919 that once again meals returned to the regular meetings, with the ladies still doing the cooking and this state of affairs continued until 1921.
Purchase of liquid refreshment was still proving difficult and it was proposed in 1920 ''that not more than 4 bottles of whisky be allocated, free of charge to the social board." If we had a similar allocation today, I should imagine that the 20 members who regularly attend would find this perfectly adequate and that the social board would end up being just that little bit more lively.
The club was now open every night for general socialising and playing billiards and the Lodge was inundated with applicants for initiation so many in fact that membership was limited to 70, and other applicants were placed on a waiting list.
The next leap forward was the installing of electricity in 1930, and in 1931 the building was extended to provide a ladies toilet in the basement. This must have meant excavating under the building.
In 1932 an advertisement was placed in the Manchester Evening News for a steward and stewardess, 50 applications were received, nowadays we can't even get a caretaker.
In 1933 a truly momentous proposition of earth shattering significance was put before the membership and duly recorded in the minutes this was a resolution to purchase a new hairbrush and comb.
Now we are approaching the outbreak of the second world war and in September 1939 a circular was received from Grand Lodge saying ''that having regard to the emergency orders of His Majesty's Government that until further notice all Masonic Meetings are to be suspended" however a further circular received later the same month gave permission to resume meetings, subject to special conditions. The fact that King George V1 was a mason may have had some bearing on that change of heart.
That year the installation ceremony was held in the Masonic Hall, but the banquet was still held at the Conservative Club, and in early 1940 instructions were received from Grand Lodge not to purchase any rationed food for suppers. By this time the house committee was no longer stipulating what meals were to be served, but in January 1942 they resolved '' that in view of the difficulty in obtaining whisky the social board be rationed to 2 bottles." Things are going downhill fast and how they ever managed to get by without a regular supply of cigars cigarettes and pipe tobacco doesn't bear thinking about.
In August of 1944, a backlog of 20 ceremonies was reported where these new members are coming from heaven only knows surely most young men would have been abroad fighting for King and Country, maybe it was just old men who were only here for the beer and billiards. However it was resolved to hold emergency meetings to reduce the number outstanding, and to serve sandwiches only at these meetings, but in December 1945, the ultimate calamity beset the Lodge, when it was reported that no wines could be supplied for the installation banquet! However the panic gradually subsided and in late 1947 normality was restored.
At regular meetings, meals and social boards were still being held in the downstairs dining room, installation ceremonies were carried out in the Temple. But the banquet was held in the Conservative Club. A note in the house committee minutes for November 1949, shows that tables for the banquet had to be borrowed from Newtown Sunday School, however in 1951 the Lodge actually purchased 5 tables of its own for 30 shillings, but it wasn't until 1958 that the Temple could be used for meals. In that year a bar was installed in the ante-room, the billiards table was removed, and a hoist installed to connect the kitchen with the Temple.
In 1969, the annual subscription was 6 guineas, but times were getting hard and it was resolved that bottles of whisky normally passed freely around the social board, should now be restricted to one each being placed in front of the W.M. the S.W. and the J.W., to be dispensed at their discretion, in 1970 the practice of providing free whisky ceased entirely.
From that time up to the present date subscriptions and meal costs have risen steadily. Records show that in 1974 the Lodge had a membership of 90, Subscriptions were now being paid in pounds sterling, and at the installation meeting one glass of wine was included in the price of the meal. Subscriptions in 1976 were £10, this had risen to £20 in 1980 and to £40 in 1985, inflation had truly set in, and it's continued up to the present date.
Summing up brethren we start with rather informal gatherings held in a pub, and progress into our own tailor made premises, during this period we gave birth to three daughter Lodges, and the premises are now being used by 4 Craft Lodges and 5 side degrees, and we have a very active social life to supplement the more formal part of Freemasonry.
Who knows we may in the future be able to employ a caretaker and a steward, re-install a billiard table, partake of free whisky at the social board, and share a banquet as earlier described with 90 other members. We could re-introduce Smoking Concerts and if we imbibe too freely, the Lodge could provide conveyance home at their expense.
See also Old New Mills - Masonic - Peveril of the Peak Lodge.