Lodge Amalgamation

All Lodges go through highs and lows of attendance.  Harrow Lodge 1310, the second Lodge consecrated in the newly formed Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex in 1870, has seen its fair share of both.  The Installation Meeting of 6 May 2008 was possibly the lowest point in the Lodge’s history, with a total attendance of 6 Officers, a Guest Organist, a Tyler and one visitor, who was pressed into service as Inner Guard for the meeting.  The principal absence was that of the Master Elect, but it was fortunate that he was the ruling WM, was due to continue in office for a second year and that the next regular meeting, in June, fell within a period that met the requirements of Rule 108 b and c of the Book of Constitutions, so that declaration of the WM’s continuation in office and the appointment and investiture of officers for the ensuing year could be effected at that meeting. 

The paucity of Initiates in the 4 years leading to this particular event had been in the minds of the Past Masters at that time; the last three Initiates had entered the Lodge in September 2004, September 2005 and September 2006.  There were no indications of any new applications for initiation and membership had shrunk to eleven full and five country members.  Seven of the members were already holders of Provincial Grand Rank; four were Master Masons, of whom only three harboured any ambition to advance to the Master’s chair.  It was difficult to see a good long term future for the Lodge. 

On 24 July 2008 the Secretary of Harrow Lodge, W Bro David Pearson, received a telephone call from W Bro Nigel Codron, who was then the Assistant Director of Ceremonies for Temple of Harrow Lodge 8287, which revealed that his Lodge was in a similar position to that of Harrow Lodge.  Temple of Harrow Lodge had an active membership of twelve with three Master Masons and seven or eight holders of Provincial Grand Rank. The Lodge had recently been considering its future and succession planning and had deputed W Bro Codron to take the lead in seeking an opportunity to amalgamate with another Lodge.  Temple of Harrow Lodge met at Harrow District Masonic Centre and did not want to move; the Lodge practiced Logic ritual and there were only three other Logic Lodges in Middlesex, all of them meeting at The Twickenham District Masonic Centre, Cole Court.  The Lodge had therefore decided that it should seek a link to a Lodge based at Harrow with Taylor’s working, which is the closest to Logic.  The brethren of Temple of Harrow Lodge had an open mind as to whether they close, surrender their warrant and join another Lodge en masse, or seek amalgamation with one or two other Lodges with the aim of trying to find the best fit. 

W Bros Codron and Pearson provisionally agreed that Temple of Harrow Lodge and Harrow Lodge should exchange visits as a first step; those visits took place on 17 September 2008, which was the Temple of Harrow Installation meeting, and 3 November 2008, when Harrow Lodge demonstrated a Raising.  Following those visits, the two Lodges considered the next steps recognising that should they agree that an amalgamation would be desirable, the necessary process would have to be followed through Provincial Grand Lodge and United Grand Lodge of England.  The exploration of possibilities was fully supported by the Assistant Provincial Grand Masters responsible for the two Lodges. 

The General Purposes Committees of the two Lodges consulted all the members of the Lodges to acquire their views as a first step in taking the process further.  It was generally recognised that with many Lodges experiencing difficult times with membership numbers and the lack of new candidates, it was inevitable that Lodges would fold and therefore, wherever possible, merger or amalgamation of Lodges should be encouraged and fully embraced. 

Within Harrow Lodge the brethren generally agreed that the Lodge could not survive much longer in its present form without an influx of new members, but the Lodge had a proud history and the present members owed it to the memory of many fine Past Masters to maintain the identity of the Lodge and its traditions.  The Lodge, while not rich, was financially sound and was about to celebrate its status as Grand Patron of the Middlesex 2009 Festival for the RMBI.  The brethren supported in principle the prospect of amalgamating its strengths with those of other Lodges in order to build for a secure future and to provide a more encouraging and vibrant base for the younger brethren it could then attract to share with them the pleasures of Freemasonry.  The brethren were, however, opposed in principle to surrendering the Lodge's Warrant, feeling that Harrow Lodge could provide a sound base for amalgamation under its own banner.  The brethren enthusiastically supported a suggestion that the possibility should be considered of amalgamating as a first step the Lodges of Instruction of Harrow and Temple of Harrow Lodges. 

Meanwhile, enquiries were being made of other Lodges that met the requirements of Temple of Harrow Lodge.  Coming into the picture as potential candidates for amalgamation were Unity & Friendship Lodge 8224, Harrow Progress Lodge 5964 (a daughter Lodge of Harrow Lodge) and Ravensfield Lodge 5833.  Inter-visiting of Lodges took place and informal discussions continued through 2008 and early 2009, but during this process Harrow Progress and Ravensfield Lodges withdrew from consideration.  Harrow Progress Lodge continues today as a successful independent Lodge, but Ravensfield Lodge has since surrendered its warrant and closed.  Unity & Friendship Lodge, however, continued to express interest in the prospect of amalgamation, because at around this time it had been talking about speaking to Taylor’s Lodges meeting at Harrow who were in a similar position to its own, which indeed mirrored that of Harrow and Temple of Harrow Lodges.  Unity & Friendship Lodge had determined that if it were unable to find a suitable Lodge or Lodges its members could join or with which the Lodge could amalgamate it would have to close as it did not have enough members to continue.  In September 2008, members of Temple of Harrow and Unity & Friendship Lodges exchanged visits, following which they jointly approached Harrow Lodge. 

Eventually, a meeting took place on 3 August 2009, the purpose of which was to introduce representative brethren of the three Lodges who had not previously met and discuss the prospects of amalgamating activities in some form arising from discussions and correspondence which had so far taken place within all three Lodges, led by W Bros Codron, Pearson and, from Unity & Friendship Lodge, Colin Allen. 

That meeting generally acknowledged that a way forward must be found to revive the spirit of fraternal enjoyment of meetings and festive boards, because no one of the Lodges was strong enough in numbers, particularly of lay brethren, to generate by itself the level of on-going commitment and enjoyment that everyone wanted.  There was no reason for any of the brethren to feel bad about this, because these were problems being faced across the board in Freemasonry.  The fall-off in numbers resulted in some Initiates failing to stay in Freemasonry and many of those who remained finding they were advancing sooner than they ideally wanted or was in their best interests. 

Following detailed discussion around this general theme, it was agreed that the three Lodges would actively pursue the following courses of action. 

  1. Harrow Lodge was the only one holding regular Lodge of Instruction meetings, so brethren of the other two Lodges would be welcome to join Harrow Lodge of Instruction on a regular basis, ie every second Monday (excluding Bank Holidays). 

  2. The three Lodges would do all they could to support each other’s meetings.  Harrow and Unity & Friendship were both scheduled to meet on Tuesday 8 September, the former planning an Initiation rehearsal, the latter for its Installation Meeting.  It was agreed that Harrow would hold its meeting at 17:00 on 8 September, conduct basic business only and close in time for Unity & Friendship to open its Installation Meeting in the same temple at 18:00.  The brethren of both Lodges would attend both meetings, as would brethren from Temple of Harrow.  Harrow would host the Festive Board.  In preparation for this, it was agreed that Harrow Lodge of Instruction on 17 August would be a rehearsal for Unity & Friendship’s Installation Meeting. 

  3. Brethren of Harrow and Unity & Friendship would then attend the meeting of Temple of Harrow on 15 September, in preparation for which Harrow Lodge of Instruction on 14 September would be a rehearsal for Temple of Harrow’s meeting. 

  4. Beyond these immediate arrangements future meetings of Harrow Lodge of Instruction would reflect the needs of the programme of events of the three Lodges.

  5. Unity & Friendship’s regular meeting on 24 November would be targeted as a Recruitment Night.  All three Lodges would invite non-Masonic guests to join them for a talk on Freemasonry with the aim of recruiting new members. 

These measures were all designed to avoid any immediate need for the surrendering of warrants, formal amalgamation or founding of a new Lodge.  Unity & Friendship was due to discuss the possibility of reducing its regular meetings to two a year, but it is hoped that by mutual support and the development of a stronger base through the facility of Harrow Lodge of Instruction, the three Lodges would be able to face the future with more confidence and rekindle their enjoyment of meetings and festive boards. 

In parallel with that activity discussions took place with W Bro Michael Dean, Provincial Grand Secretary, VW Bro Peter Baker, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, the relevant Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, Visiting Officers and Grand Lodge and a meeting was arranged for 17 February 2010 for the three Lodge representatives (W Bros Pearson, Codron and Allen) to discuss details further with W Bro Dean and VW Bro Baker in the light of advice received from Grand Lodge.  Following that meeting a relatively smooth progress developed informally leading to a formal meeting of representatives of the three Lodges held at Harrow District Masonic Centre on 10 April 2010.  The three Lodges were represented by W Bros Pearson and Goodman (Harrow Lodge), Allen and David Windsor (Unity & Friendship Lodge), Hume, Squires and Codron (Temple of Harrow Lodge).  At that meeting the results of further consultation with Provincial Grand Lodge and United Grand Lodge of England were tabled and agreement was cordially reached on the following points. 

  1. The Amalgamated Lodge would be called Harrow Temple in Unity Lodge No. 1310. 
  1. The Lodge would meet on the 3rd Tuesday in February, 1st Tuesday in May (Installation), 3rd Tuesday in September and 4th Tuesday in November. 
  1. The Amalgamation Ceremony would be held on Tuesday 25 January 2011 by dispensation. 
  1. The proposition would be put to the meeting of Harrow Lodge on 8 June 2010 that: 
    • the Lodge accept the amalgamation into it of the Unity & Friendship Lodge No 8224 and the Temple of Harrow Lodge No 8287 and, jointly with the said Lodges, petition the MW The Grand Master for a Certificate of Amalgamation and for the name of the Lodge to be changed to the Harrow Temple in Unity Lodge No 1310;
    • the transfer to the Lodge of such of the assets and funds of the Unity & Friendship Lodge No 8224 and the Temple of Harrow Lodge No 8287 as are capable of being disposed by the members thereof shall be deemed to be payment of the joining fees in respect of such members of the said Lodges as wish to transfer their membership to this Lodge 

          Similar propositions would be put to meetings of the other two Lodges. 

  1. A draft list of Officers for appointment and investiture in May 2011 with Bro Roland Wade being installed as the first Installed Master of the amalgamated Lodge. 
  1. Special invitations for the Amalgamation meeting would be issued to the three Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, who had been responsible for the three Lodges, namely, W Bros Geoff Rayner, Brian Lown and Terry Baker. 
  1. Unity & Friendship and Temple of Harrow would prepare inventories of Assets and finalise Lodge accounts by the September meeting. 
  1. Any financial surplus to be donated to charity or transferred to Amalgamated Lodge.

 (At the Installation meeting of Unity & Friendship Lodge in September 2010, the address to the Master was given by a member of Harrow Lodge and the address to the Wardens was given by a member of Temple of Harrow Lodge.  Unity & Friendship Lodge closed on 23 November 2010.)

Eventually, at its meeting on 1 November 2010 Harrow Lodge balloted successfully for the acceptance into joining membership of those brethren wishing to transfer from the other two Lodges.  On 8 November 2010 the Harrow Lodge General Purposes Committee met, to which meeting the Past Masters and Committee members of the other two Lodges had been invited, and at which formal agreement was reached on the Lodge Officers and other duties to be recommended to the Master Elect.

Finally, on 25 January 2011 the Amalgamation Meeting was held by dispensation.  This was a splendid ceremonial occasion, for which detailed rehearsals had been held under the direction of W Bro Philip Lowe, Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies.  The Amalgamation Ceremony was conducted by the pro Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro Roger Croome, QPM, who was accompanied by W Bro Alastair Mason PSGD DepProvGM, W Bro Terence Baker PSGD AProvGM, W Bro Stuart Ravenscroft PAGDC AProvGM, W Bro Michael Higginbotham PGStB AProvGM, RW Bro Colin Harris, ProvGM (Herts) ProvSGW, W Bro John Taylor ProvJGW, W Bro The Rev Elkan Levy PJGD ProvGChap, W Bro Brian Fisher PAGDC ProvGTreas, W Bro Michael Dean PAGDC ProvGSec, W Bro Barry Cramer PProvDepGDC, W Bro Paul Sully ProvGSwdB, W Bro Yogesh Teli ProvGStB and W Bro Graham Fielding ProvGTyler.

Since then Harrow Temple in Unity Lodge 1310 has accepted three Joining Members, two of whom were Past Masters of another Lodge, which had closed, and two Initiates, both of whom have now been raised to Master Mason and are starting their progress through the offices.  The Lodge currently (at April 2014) has two applications for Initiation and confidently expects to receive more during the next year as the result of a very successful White Table recruitment dinner held after its regular Lodge meeting on 26 November 2013.  Lodge membership now stands at 31; the brethren are enjoying their Freemasonry and face the future with confidence.

 

David J Pearson
Secretary, Harrow Temple in Unity Lodge 1310
14 April 2014