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The rich history behind masonic lodge names

What’s in a name?

From rocks in Devonshire and Shrewsbury nymphs to lords who upheld the law on the Scottish border, Caitlin Davies explores the rich history behind lodge names

Names, as Romeo and Juliet knew all too well when considering their family ties, are crucial to identity. When it comes to masonic lodges, they provide an intriguing link to the past. Chosen by its founders, a lodge’s name could be the town in which it is based or the pub where members met, a shared interest or a notable figure, or even a masonic virtue.

‘Lodge names can stem from an element of local history or quirk of the times, but will seldom be arbitrary,’ says Susan Henderson, the United Grand Lodge of England’s Communications Adviser. ‘It can be a fascinating insight into the lodge’s formation. What has struck me is that people have a real emotional attachment to a lodge name.’

Some are inspired by the landscape in which the lodge was born. Queeselet Lodge, No. 6887, in Birmingham owes its name to two Anglo-Saxon words, ‘queest’ (a wood pigeon) and ‘slaed’ (a wooded valley). Torquay’s Tormohun Lodge, No. 6449, gets its name from the history of the area: Tor(re), meaning ‘top of’, refers to an area inhabited since Saxon times. ‘There was a rock, or tor, standing over the village and that’s how it got its name,’ explains Peter Keaty, Assistant Provincial Grand Master for Devonshire. 

Then there are lodges linked to a place or occupation. Tilbury Lodge, No. 2006, in Essex gets its name from the Tilbury Docks. When work first started in 1882, constructional officers who were Craft members decided to form a lodge for fellow employees. Another example, Clavis Lodge, No. 8585, in Oxfordshire is a lodge for church bellringers and takes its name from a 1788 manuscript on the subject, Clavis Campanalogia. Not forgetting Scientific Lodge, No. 840, in Wolverton, Buckinghamshire; its founding Master back in 1860 was locomotive designer James McConnell.

Some masonic lodges are linked to an individual, such as an Earl, Duke or local historical figure. Belted Will Lodge, No. 3189, meets in Cumbria, not far from Hadrian’s Wall in an area steeped in the history of Lord William Howard. Born in 1563, he was an English nobleman and antiquary, sometimes known as ‘Belted Will’. ‘Howard was a romantic figure,’ says lodge Secretary Ron Cameron. ‘He was made a Commissioner for the Border and helped to bring order out of chaos at a time of great bloodshed.’ 

Other lodge names have been inspired by figures in literature. Philammon Lodge, No. 3226, was founded in 1907 in Devonport. ‘When they were thinking of a name one of the founding members, brother Crang, said, “How about Philammon?” ’ says Peter. Crang was reading Charles Kingsley’s 1853 novel Hypatia, which a young monk named Philammon (Lover of God), and as a keen churchman, Crang decided he’d found a suitably esoteric name. 

Our tour of masonic lodges would be incomplete without mention of figures from myth. Sabrina Lodge, No. 4158, in Shrewsbury is named after the nymph of the River Severn, known as Hafren in Welsh mythology. She was the daughter of Locrin, king of the Britons, and Estrildis, his secret lover and second wife. 

Perhaps one of the most unusual names is Light from the East Lodge, No. 4186, in Surrey, founded by brethren who had served in India during World War I. When the lodge was consecrated in 1920, AE Shewring, the Consecrating Chaplain, noted: ‘Lodge Light from the East/What a name to be proud of/What a memory of the past/An inspiration for the present/And a hope for the Future.’

After this whirlwind journey through England’s lodges, it seems that names can point to geography, a love of literature or just where someone once lived. 

But they all reveal histories of which masons are proud. ‘There are hundreds more examples just as interesting,’ says Henderson. ‘I hope readers will be inspired to find out about their own local masonic history, and I expect a rash of letters to !’