Freemasonry in Rugby - The Beginning

Freemasonry in Rugby was first established in the year 1844 when the warrant for the Lodge of Rectitude No. 739 was issued by the United Grand Lodge of England on 16th October 1844.  The Lodge having been sponsored by the Shakespeare Lodge No. 356, which met in the neighbouring County town of Warwick.

The first recorded meeting in the minute book is that of a special Meeting of the petitioners and others of the Lodge which took place at the Spread Eagle Hotel, Market Place, Rugby on Monday 16th December 1844 for the purpose of:

i) “Framing the Bye Laws for the proper regulation of the Lodge of Rectitude No. 739”

ii) Receiving Nominations of Candidates for Freemasonry, and also of Brothers solicitous of becoming Members.

At that Meeting the following Brethren were present including five of the twelve *Petitioners:

Brother J Sharp* – Shakespeare Lodge No. 356
Brother G J Kain*
Brother W Staples*
Brother R H Fry* – Shakespeare Lodge No. 356
Brother J Cross* – Shakespeare Lodge No. 356  
Brother Green- Shakespeare Lodge No. 356
Brother Carpenter – Shakespeare Lodge No. 356
Brother Slater – Trinity Lodge No. 254

Brother James Sharp having taken the Chair, proceeded to read the Warrant received from the Grand Secretary,
empowering the Brothers named therein, and others whom the Petition was signed by, to meet as a Masonic Lodge.

It was resolved, that the Bye Laws appended to the Minutes, having been unanimously agreed to, that they be submitted
to the Deputy Provincial Grand Master without delay for his approval.

It was proposed by Bro Kain, and seconded by Bro Fry, that Bro H T Louis, the Worshipful Master
of the Shakespeare Lodge No. 356 be admitted as a joining Member of the Lodge.

The following Candidates for Masonry were proposed by Bro Fry and seconded by Bro Staples:

Mr George Ashby, of Rugby, aged 27 years, Assistant Postmaster
Mr William Collins, of Rugby, aged 47 years, a Tailor
Mr William Pridmore, of Rugby, aged 28 years, a Draper
Mr James Stanley, of Rugby, aged 28 years, a Police Inspector
Mr Thomas Benn, of Rugby, age not given, an Attorney
Mr William Ashby, of Rugby, aged 23 years, an Innkeeper

Brother James Sharp having taken the Chair, proceeded to read the Warrant received from the Grand Secretary,
empowering the Brothers named therein, and others whom the Petition was signed by, to meet as a Masonic Lodge.

It was resolved, that the Bye Laws appended to the Minutes, having been unanimously agreed to, that they be submitted
to the Deputy Provincial Grand Master without delay for his approval.

It was proposed by Bro Kain, and seconded by Bro Fry, that Bro H T Louis, the Worshipful Master
of the Shakespeare Lodge No. 356 be admitted as a joining Member of the Lodge.

The following Candidates for Masonry were proposed by Bro Fry and seconded by Bro Staples:

Mr George Ashby, of Rugby, aged 27 years, Assistant Postmaster
Mr William Collins, of Rugby, aged 47 years, a Tailor
Mr William Pridmore, of Rugby, aged 28 years, a Draper
Mr James Stanley, of Rugby, aged 28 years, a Police Inspector
Mr Thomas Benn, of Rugby, age not given, an Attorney
Mr William Ashby, of Rugby, aged 23 years, an Innkeeper

175th Anniversary of The Lodge of Rectitude in 2019
W. Bro A.P. Wright ProvGTreas, PGStB, PPSGW - 50 Year Certificate in October 2021
Immediate Past Master - W.Bro A F Brand, who saw us safely through the Pandemic of 2020/21

The minutes were signed by Bro James Sharp.

Following the meeting at which the Bye Laws were formed, sixteen Lodge meetings were held in the first year, during which ten Gentlemen were Initiated.

The first Regular Lodge Minutes were in respect of a Meeting held on Monday 13th January 1845,
when Very Worshipful Brother N L Torre, the Deputy Provisional Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Warwickshire,
formally inducted Worshipful Brother James Sharp,a Past Master of Shakespeare Lodge No. 356 as Master of the Lodge of Rectitude No. 739.

As recorded in the minutes of the first meeting of the Lodge held on Monday 13th January 1845, the Deputy Provisional Grand Master stated in his address that the Constitution and Consecration of the Lodge would take place on some convenient future occasion. On Wednesday 21st October 1846 and two years after the issue of the Lodge Warrant, the Lodge was Constituted and Consecrated.
The Consecrating Officer was Dr Robert Thomas Crucefix, a Past Junior Grand Deacon of the United Grand Lodge of England.

A major decision was taken in October 1848 when it was resolved that the Lodge should be moved from the Spread Eagle Hotel to the George Hotel situated on the opposite side of Market Place. The reason being that special arrangements had been made for supper to be provided on Lodge nights at Three Shillings per head provided the Lodge could guarantee the presence of at least six members.

On Wednesday 10th October 1849 Rugby hosted the Annual meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Warwickshire for the first time. It was presided over by Worshipful Brother John W Boughton-Leigh, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, who was also the reigning Master
of the Lodge of Rectitude No. 739 and who resided at Brownsover Hall.

Rugby hosted the Annual Meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Warwickshire for a second time in September 1856 under the Presidency of the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master, Lord Leigh, whose own residence was at Stoneleigh Abbey in the County. 

In 1859 the Lodge changed its meeting place once again, when the regular Lodge Meetings were held at the Town Hall, which was situated on the High Street on the site that was later to become the Woolworths building.

In a letter from the Grand Secretary dated Monday 6th July 1863 informing the Master of the Lodge of Rectitude No. 739, it was declared that following alterations to Lodge numbers on the register of Grand Lodge due to voluntary surrender of warrants and erasure of Lodges.
The Lodge of Rectitude would be No. 502 instead of as heretofore No. 739. 

The prosperity of the Lodge had been for some time been in decline, and in 1863 there were only eleven subscribing members. Despite the low numbers in membership between the years 1863 and 1866 the Lodge somehow managed to survive, with only one initiation taking place in March 1865. The last candidate having been initiated nearly five years previously in May 1860. It took a further two years before there was any real revival in the membership when the Lodge took on a new lease of life with six new candidates for initiation and a further seven joining members. The Brethren of the Lodge must have been extremely relieved, as the Lodge was on the verge of dissolution during each of the preceding two years. 

In December 1867, and after an eleven year gap, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Warwickshire returned to meet in Rugby under the Presidency of the Right Honourable, Lord Leigh, the Provincial Grand Master of Warwickshire. With those present firstly attending
Divine Service at St Andrew’s Parish Church in the town. 

At the regular Lodge meeting In October 1888 seven members of the Lodge of Rectitude gave constitutional notice of motion for a special meeting in order to consider a change of meeting place to more “commodious premises”. As a result it was agreed to move to new premises located over Messrs Tait’s offices in Albert Street, which later became the office of Rugby Conservative Association.

In October 1896 following the termination of the tenancy agreement for the Albert Street premises and due to the Lodge being unable to obtain better terms, the Lodge moved to the Spread Eagle Rooms in Market Place.

The Lodge celebrated its Jubilee with a visit from the Provincial Grand Lodge, with the Meeting being held at the Town Hall on 23rd April 1893. There were ninety Brethren in attendance, some travelling great distances to be present. The Meeting was also attended by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master and his Officers, who opened a Provincial Grand Lodge and conducted the business of the evening, during which the Provincial Grand Chaplain gave an eloquent address to the Brethren.

For two years from October 1896, the Lodge met at the Eagle Rooms, formally the Spread Eagle Hotel, as they were unable to obtain better terms from the proprietor of the premises in Albert Street.

The idea of the members owning their own Masonic premises finally came to fruition when in February 1897 a piece of land was purchased in Castle Street to erect a purpose built Masonic Hall. On 26th March 1898, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, W Bro George Beech, Dedicated the New Masonic Hall in Castle Street, Rugby, placed a Memorial Stone in position and was presented by the Members of the Lodge with an engraved silver trowel.

The Lodge was again honoured at the September Meeting of 1898 when it was to host the Provincial Grand Lodge of Warwickshire, under the presidency of the Right Hon, Lord Leigh, Provincial Grand Master, and on this occasion the Meeting was held in the New Big School, part of Rugby School campus, which is now known as Macready Theatre. Prior to the meeting Divine Service was held in Rugby School Chapel. Following the Meeting, the Brethren adjourned to the Eagle Family and Commercial Hotel for the banquet.

The Lodge of Rectitude No. 502 had finally achieved their goal and had firmly planted the roots of Freemasonry in the town of Rugby.
It took a further Sixty Six years after Freemasonry was first established in the town, for the expansion of Freemasonry to take place
with a second Rugby Lodge of Freemasons having been petitioned.

The warrant for the Laurence Sheriffe Lodge No. 3497 was issued by the United Grand Lodge of England on 22nd December 1910.
The Laurence Sheriffe Lodge was formally consecrated on 28th March 1911 and was to become our first Daughter Lodge.

By 1934 there were three Craft Lodges meeting at the Castle Street Masonic Hall, The Lodge of Rectitude No. 502, Laurence Sheriffe Lodge No. 3497, Rokeby Lodge No. 4118, together with one Holy Royal Arch Chapter, Chapter of Rectitude No. 502 and one Lodge of Mark Master Masons, Rugby Lodge of Mark Master Masons No. 776. As Freemasonry in Rugby expanded it was decided that the Castle Street premises were becoming inadequate for the number of members attending the various meetings. In June 1934 the Lodge held an emergency meeting for the purpose of electing three Directors to serve on the Board of the ‘new’ Masonic Buildings (Rugby) Ltd. The three members of the Lodge of Rectitude who were elected were J T Fleet, H V Wait and A T Finch. In addition, three members from Laurence Sheriffe Lodge and three members from Rokeby Lodge were also elected to serve as Directors. Those from Laurence Sheriffe Lodge being, A R Tatham, H E Hargraves and W Cockburn and those members from Rokeby Lodge being C S Brown, E S Little and D Mitchell. M E T Wratislaw a Past Master of the Lodge of Rectitude No. 502 and a member of the Laurence Sheriffe Lodge No. 3497 was elected as Chairman of the newly formed committee

This followed a meeting in the New Big School – Rugby School, of all subscribing Masons in Rugby, to consider the recommendations of the new Masonic Hall Committee. At the Meeting it was agreed to purchase Eastfield House, in Church Walk, which had previously served as the Eastfield Preparatory School. It was stated that the cost to purchase the property, including alterations and new extensions to provide a Temple, Dining Room and Kitchen etc; would be in the region of £6,250. It was decided to raise this amount by the issue of debentures, restricted to Freemasons only and to form a Limited Company. Many tenders were received from builders as far away as Banbury, Northampton and Leicester. The Directors under the Chairmanship of W Bro M E T Wratislaw, decided to accept that of D Mitchell & Son of Rugby, at a reduced price of £5,529.5.3d.

The foundation stone was duly laid by the Right Worshipful Brother, the Provincial Grand Master Col. W F Wyley  on 9th October 1935 in the presence of the Rugby Brethren and their wives, and a collection taken of £15.15.0d which was distributed to the Hospital of St. Cross, Hamilton House and the Rugby Personal Service League. The Temple was dedicated by the Provincial Grand Master at the regular meeting of the Lodge of Rectitude on Tuesday 10th March 1936.

Following the move to Eastfield House Freemasonry has further expanded in the town with a number of other Lodges meeting in Rugby. Ten regular Craft Lodges, one Lodge of Installed Masters and a equal amount of other Masonic orders currently meet at the Rugby Masonic Hall.

The Lodge of Rectitude No. 502 has six Daughter Lodges: The Laurence Sheriffe Lodge No. 3497, The Rokeby Lodge No. 4118, The Composite Lodge No. 5727, The Dunsmore Lodge No. 6442, The Warwickshire Royal Air Force Lodge No. 9456 and The Mike Hailwood Lodge No. 9839 

Past Members

The Lodge of Rectitude No. 502 has been fortunate to have had a number of past members who have either served as Civic leaders or who were well known businessmen in the town, of which many local people will recognise from the list of names below.

The names of those who have served as Masters of the Lodge can be seen on the Honours Board, which each Lodge has displayed upstairs in the Temple at the Masonic Hall.

The Lodge of Rectitude continues to prosper and has a very distinguished history which has evolved from the dedication, commitment and hard work of all of its founder members and Past Masters who have continued to maintain the traditions of the Lodge.

In October 2019 the Lodge celebrated 175 years of Freemasonry in Rugby, when the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master,
RW Bro David F Macey
visited the Lodge to share in the celebrations, accompanied by 15 of his Acting Provincial Officers.

Compiled by W Bro Gordon J Ferguson PProvAGReg – Worshipful Master of the Lodge of Rectitude No. 502. 2011 & 2017
With extracts taken from  “A History of The Lodge of Rectitude No. 502” 1844-1994 written by W Bro Michael J Wells PProvJGW

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