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Overview of the origins of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Worcestershire

The 'modern" Province of Worcestershire is not old in Provincial terms - The Province of Cheshire, for example dates its formation from 1725.

It would however be false to assume that the Masonic concept of Worcestershire did not exist prior to 1847. There were two early but historically isolated Provincial Grand Masters, Sir Robert de Cornwall from 1753 to 1756 and John Dent from 1792 to 1826, but these were appointments of patronage and their holders’ absentees. There were also at least two Deputy Provincial Grand Masters during John Dent's tenure of office, William Thomson 1802-22 and Adam Dods 1822-25, both members of the Worcester Lodge, but there was no Provincial structure as we recognise it today.

Dr. Adam Dods tried to rectify this situation. At the regular meeting of his lodge in September 1822 he gave notice of his intention to call a meeting of his own and the other two extant Worcestershire lodges - Faithful at Kidderminster and Mercy & Truth at Evesham (the only two Worcestershire lodges to have been erased since the Union, in 1844 and 1833 respectively), Harmonic at Dudley being then in abeyance - in order to hold a Provincial Grand Lodge and to appoint officers. This was scheduled for on 2nd October 1822 at the Reindeer Inn, Worcester, and duly took place, twenty-eight members of the three lodges being present. However, the Worcester Lodge subsequently refused to endorse the proposal that £16 be taken from Lodge funds and put into a Provincial Lodge Fund for the purchase of Provincial Grand Lodge regalia.

A second Provincial meeting was held in 1824, but the same disagreement continued and the attempt collapsed. On John Dent's death at the end of 1826 the Worcester Lodge petitioned Grand Lodge for a replacement, but was told that such appointment was the personal prerogative of the Most Worshipful The Grand Master, H.R.H. The Duke of Sussex. In fact, no appointment was forthcoming despite frequent petitions from Worcester, and in 1831 the Worcester Lodge refused to pay its dues to Grand Lodge in protest.

For some obscure reason Grand Lodge took seven years to react, then threatened to erase the rebel lodge unless its members recanted. This they did with considerable reluctance but, although the Board of General Purposes had empowered the Grand Registrar to appoint a Deputy Provincial Grand Master who could then organise a Provincial Grand Lodge, they appear by this time to have had enough and no further initiative in the matter came from Worcester. 

The successful initiative came from Kidderminster. There had been difficulty in founding the Royal Standard Lodge (which now meets at Dudley) in 1844 and its members became convinced that this would not have been the case had a Provincial Grand Lodge existed. So in 1846 one of the Past Masters, Dr. William Roden, decided, as his fellow medical practitioner Dr. Dods had done a quarter of a century before, that the best way to succeed was to organise one then apply to Grand Lodge for endorsement. Accordingly he wrote to the other four extant Worcestershire lodges - Worcester, Harmonic (up and running again), Hope and Charity and Semper Fidelis - inviting their members to meet at Kidderminster in February 1847. This produced an agreed sharing of offices and Dr. Roden negotiated with the Grand Registrar, Alexander Dobie, for formal recognition. The latter complied and on 17th August 1847, together with the Grand Secretary and the Grand Tyler, formally opened the first official Provincial Grand Lodge at the Guildhall, Worcester, suitably appointing Dr. Roden as the Deputy Provincial Grand Master.

The 'modern' era of the Masonic Province of Worcestershire had begun and four years later, in 1851, a new Provincial Grand Master in the person of Henry Charles Vernon was installed.

But it was under the Provincial Grand Mastership of General Sir Francis Davies, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., V.L., from 1919 to his death in 1948 that the expansion of the Province really took off. No less than 50 new lodges were consecrated and he personally officiated at 41 of these. This is all the more remarkable as he simultaneously held the onerous position of Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England from 1935 to 1947, paying official visits to numerous Provinces in this country and to many Grand Lodges overseas.

Since 1948 another 60 lodges have been consecrated under the Provincial Grand Masterships of Ben Marsh 1950-54 (13), Dr. Edward Bunting 1955-61 (9), Lt. Col. O.W.D. Smith 1962-73 (13), F.H. Griffiths 1973-82 (12), E.F. Hanson 1983-92 (8), B.M. Cooper from 1993 (1)and R G H Goddard from 2004 (3), so that the total now stands at 123.  With falling numbers in the Craft generally, the current aim is for consolidation rather than expansion.

 

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