To this member of the 'uninstructed and popular world' the ceremonies, oaths and theological underpinnings, as reported, seem somewhat strange to say the least - one must presume that most members join for other reasons. From the 18th century there have been 'exposures' of Masonic secrets - Richard Carlile wrote c. 1825 "Masonry, has been more like Judaism, professing the possession of a benefit, which has been exclusively held under the guise of secrecy or mystery : but which, had it been better understood, as a system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols, would have been passionately extended to the whole human race". The allegory and symbols are drawn from the biblical story of the building of Solomon's temple - the two pillars of the Temple, Boaz and Jachim, provide the initial secret words and are shown on many Masonic images usually surmounted by a Globes signifying heaven and earth - the tools of the Mason, especially those used to check work such as the set-square, plum-line etc. are given an allegorical interpretation in making judgements based on an underlying set of moral principles. This morality is taught via role playing in small set-piece allegorical theatrics with the addition of lectures or catechisms in which the candidate gives set answers to set questions. For those more interested in ritual there is Royal Arch masonry - a chapter is attached to many lodges - in which the allegory and the theatrics are developed more deeply.
There have been many attempts to provide a history of Masonry delving back to the medieval guilds, however Freemasonry as practised today is seen by most as a product of early 18th century enlightenment thought, invented, probably in London, though with some links to an earlier, though less speculative Scotish form. Stewart in a recent Prestonian Lecture discusses the linkage between the members of several London lodges and the Royal Society to illustrate the interest in the new rationality and scientific outlook promulgated within lodges at this early period. However by the mid 19th century he agrees with contemporary French criticism that English Freemasonry had become a 'body without a soul' having lost its original philosophic impulse and was by then (and possibly still is) obsessed by form, proceedure, decorum, status etc. It is indeed hard to imagine that the Victorian Manx Masonic Lodges, comprising, as they did, mainly those involved with the refreshment trade together with a significant fraction of insular lawyers, being other than convivial meeting places offering the opportunity to network amongst like minded men.
This page looks solely at the 19th century Manx lodges - it would be impossible however to ignore some of the opprobrium that has has recently been poured upon Masonry both in the UK and also on the Island for the opportunity that such secretive organisations provide for undisclosed conflicts of interest and/or undue influence for personal gain. This secrecy of membership as opposed to ritual, is very much a construction of the last 75 years - provoked, it is said, by the need to avoid fascist attacks in the 1930's. Under the Westminster 1799 Unlawful Societies Act (repealed only in 1967) it was a requirement that lists of members and their addresses be returned to the local Clerk of the Justices each year - many of these lists are now held by the local County Record Office, though such a requirement never applied to the Island. It must however be noted that in the last few years the Grand Lodge has opened itself much more to public and especially academic, scrutiny with the partial funding of an independent Centre for Research into Freemasonry based at Sheffield University and the opening up of its own extensive archives at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry at Grand Lodge in London.
Although the early history of Masonry has long been clothed in myth, it would appear to have been invented in the end of the 17th or early part of the 18th century. The British foundation would also appear to be linked in some way with the Jacobites - certainly the early Lodges in London were thought to have Jacobite sympathies and great efforts were made to dispel such thoughts, though by the time of the 1745 rebellion they were stridently Hanoverian and ever since have been strongly linked with the ruling English establishment.
Beside the 1717 Grand Lodge in London, two other opposing centres of power of 18th century masonry were the Grand Lodges of Ireland (Dublin) and of Scotland. The 3rd and the 4th Dukes of Atholl were associated with the leadership of the later so in some respects it is surprising to read in W. H Cain's history that all the early Lodges on the Island were formed under warrant from the Grand Lodge of Ireland though this might be explained by the strong link between the Irish Grand Lodge and Army Lodges.
Cain mentions the following early Lodges on the Island, all, except one short lived one, under Grand Lodge of Ireland - two dating pre1800:
Lodge 458 Civilian lodge meeting in Douglas between 1765 and
Lodge 290 Military Lodge meeting in Castletown, also between 1765 and 1813 though what little is known appears inconclusive.
1765 corresponds to the Act of Revestment whereby the British crown acquired the Lordship of Man, after which various Army detachments were stationed on the Island - 1814 is the year in which the statutes were changed to allow debts incurred off the Island to be sued for on the Island thus effectively driving off Island many of those who had run there to escape debts elsewhere. One name associated with Lodge 458 is Charles Kavanagh who wrote in 1768 when the Lodge appears to have 13 members - the various Lodge officers were Master: John Whirton, Warden's: Dick Owens and John Miller, Treasurer: Charles Kavanagh, Deacons: Hugh Boyd and John Burnett and Secretary Joseph Labat. From these names one could guess at an Irish rather than Manx membership.
The first mention of Masonic activity in the Manx Press is a comment in Manx Advertiser of 22 Dec 1804 in which Freemasons and friends are invited to celebrate the feast of St John's at Mrs Wilson's. Presumably this was lodge 458 which from Cain's comments would appear to have closed by 1814; this is confirmed by the next notice in the Press is in Manx Sun 26 March 1825 which advertises a meeting to be held at Mr Thos. Radcliffe's to consider the establishment of a lodge in Douglas. A lodge would appear to have been established though its life must have been short for a later attempt in 1843 provoked a letter to the Manx Sun [24 Jan 1843 p5] by 'Q' which stated that "there formerly existed a lodge in Douglas and that John Atkinson, watchmaker, was the last surviving mason. The lodge was kept in a house now occupied by Mr Thomas Braid, innkeeper, [Cumberland Tavern] then called 'the hotel'. One or two long boxes having on the side the arms of the Order and containing the paraphernalia &c of the lodge were left at the hotel".
Q's letter comes some 4 years after a comment in the Manx Liberal of 30 March 1839
We have heard it hinted that it is contemplated to revive the ancient order of Masonry in Mona - so long dormant here for paucity of brethren affiliated to the craft and that ere long a lodge will be established in the true and mystical spirit of free and accepted masons.
This comment comes just three weeks after a critical comment in the reporting of the opening dinner at the newly refurbished British Hotel
...which we would not have animadverted upon had it been the first time we observed it. We allude to one or two individuals who are in the habit of introducing into mixed company the signs, gestures and an insignificant clip of the hand which belong to secret societies.
though it is possible that the veiled comment referred to Oddfellows.
The Manx Sun, 14 Dec 1842, carried an advertisement reporting a meeting of free masons held yesterday [13 Dec] at Victoria Hotel with Kenneth Mackenzie, collector of customs, in the chair. The meeting was adjourned to the 26th Dec; it was requested that any letters be sent to Mr Maconochie, South Quay, Douglas. After being repeated for a few issues a further advertisement appeared 11 March 1843, above the name of Charles Johnson, convenor, requesting members to assemble on the evening of 13 March at the Victoria Hotel mentioning that 'a communication has been received from the Grand Lodge of Scotland'. Cain confirms that a short-lived Lodge 338, under Grand Lodge of Scotland warrant, was formed 21st March 1843 but did not meet again after May 1845. This was the Royal IoM Lodge mentioned in Manx Sun 23 November 1843 associated with H.W.Walshe.
Three further lodges were established under the Irish Constitution 1857/8:
Lodge 123: Royal Isle of Man Lodge Douglas opened March 1857 and closed Oct
1862 - members moved to Athole Lodge established 1864
Lodge 212: Lodge of Mona, Castletown opened June 1857 - closed Dec 1888 and reformed under English Constitution as 2358
Lodge 221: Lodge of St German's, Peel , opened November 1858 and suspended by Grand Lodge in 1871. Some 15 years later it was reformed as lodge 2164 under the English Constitution.
The driving force behind these lodges appears to have been English born H. B Mayle(1807-68) who according to Turner owned the Douglas Hotel, however this was not established as a hotel until 1862 (and then under title Old Customhouse Inn - today's name coming later in 19th century) - Henry B Mayle (& later son Henry Priest Mayle (1839-1901)) are found running a lodging house in 1860's directories, with H. P. Mayle later appearing as a wine merchant. H. Mayle was first Master of Lodge 123, Installing Master at Lodge 212 and was involved in the foundation of Lodge 221.
In a Memorial Notice for Thomas Bawden it is stated that he was strongly associated with lodge 123 in which he rose to be WM and on its dissolution joined the Athole Lodge; it apparently met in rooms in Fort street. James Brown, father of J. A. Brown who was to play a key role in the 1880's onwards, was lodge secretary and J. A Brown was initiated there in November 1860. Lodge affairs did not appear to have run smoothly - Cain quotes Willis writing in 1862 as saying "What is wanted in this Island is a Provincial Grand Lodge, from want of it, the Douglas Lodge has gone to wreck, and without one, there will be irregularities and abuses in the other Lodges" - however the existence of a Province did not stop some irregularities in the later Lodges under the English Constitution.
Smith reports that Lodge 212 was petitioned for by the necessary 17 signatories, on 11 May 1858 - key roles being played by Robert Bruce Willis (1826-97 OB KWC, previously involved in Masonic activities in Oxford and Chester), Capt William Thomas Barker, James Mylchreest (grocer and MHK) and William Wallace (Captain William Wallace,of the Crofts, Castletown) - the first three became first WM, SW and JW respectively, though Barker was soon to be expelled for activities incompatible with his masonic membership. The secretary was J. J Kegg. It met at the George (around this period also called the Lancashire and Yorkshire Hotel) with a typical lodge membership of 20 (reported peak of 30 in June 1862) - the proprietor William Ockerby (1795-1864) was also a founder member. It would appear accommodation was a major problem - they lost the George soon after the initial meeting, tried the Oddfellows' Hall, then the High Bailiff's rooms in the Tynwald building, a room above the Bank of Mona, Mr Kewley's rooms before finally returning to the George in 1867 until 1873 after which time in their declining years they appear to have moved around often. Dining and drinking seems to played a major role as witness substantial amounts in the accounts for Installation banquets. A key early initiate was the Rev Edward Ferrier, Government Chaplain (of St Mary's), who was WM some 10 times - described as possessing a 'prominent, dominating and stabilising personality in the Lodge'. The rotation of troops at Castletown barracks brought some short-term joining members but from 1870 Smith states that the lodge struggled to survive - a resolution to close the lodge was passed in May 1885 but it struggled on until 1887 when its warrant was returned with the intention of re-appearing as part of the newly formed Isle of Man Province under the English Constitution, this finally occurred in 1890.
The Peel Lodge seemed to get off to a good start, many of its first set of Officers coming from Lodge 123 - early initiates were John Kneale, Joseph Higgins, James McWhannell, John Moffat (landlord of Royal Hotel where the Lodge was later to have its rooms though banquets were held at the larger Peel Castle Hotel) and a little later John Joughin (grocer later MHK and chairman of Peel Town Commissioners). Turner states that relations with the Castletown Lodge appeared excellent with several joint meetings whereas those with Douglas were strained with each reporting the other for infringement of rules. The lodge closed somewhat suddenly in March 1868 with no trace of problems visible in the minute book. The new lodge under the English Constitution, which was to include several old members of 221 did not start until 1886.
Three insular lodges under the English Constitution were formed in the 1860's following what appears to be the collapse of the Douglas Lodge:- Athole Lodge (1004) Douglas was established in 1864 (Athole Chapter attached 1870); St Maughold Lodge (1075), Ramsey in 1865 and Tynwald Lodge (1242) Douglas in 1868. Names associated with these early Lodges were E. Ferrier, W. Wallace, J. Brown, Henry P. Mayle and R.B. Willis. H. P. Mayle is reported as being the driving force as he both applied for a warrant (supported it seems by friends in other Lodges under Grand Lodge) and personally paid for it.
These lodges came under the jurisdiction of United Grand Lodge in London whose membership returns are now accessible - the research (still in progress) reported here is based on examination of these records up to c. 1901 - for two lodges at least, Tynwald pre 1884 and St Trinian's it appears that insular records have been lost, thus these returns provide the sole information as to membership.
Two lodges were consecrated in 1884 - 2049 Ellan Vannin and 2050 St Trinians, followed shortly afterwards by 2164 St German's (later Glenfaba) in Peel and the Lodge of Mona in Castletown which resurrected the defunct 212; a Temperance Lodge was also formed in Douglas in 1887 though the behaviour of many at this lodge in the late 1890's appeared very far from temperate.
Grand Lodge was apparently surprised by the request to form two new Douglas Lodges - Ellan Vannin was intended as the lodge for 'professional brethren' whilst St Trinians was for the 'refreshment trade'. However Ellan Vannin closed in 1900 though there is a letter on file at Grand Lodge from J. A Brown (15 Oct 1899) stating that it is proposed to convert the Lodge into a Lodge for Past Masters with RW PGM Sir John Goldie-Taubman, 'who has accepted offer' as first Master - however the sudden death of Sir John later that year scuppered that plan. There was apparently an earlier plan for a St John's Lodge of PM's - the secretary of lodge 1242 wrote on 14 February 1899 stating that "circulars were constantly received for a supposed lodge of St John's but that there was no lodge in formation nor likely to be under the petition sent you". It was apparently pushed by "a PM not now on Island, nor likely ever to be, some intending first officers now dead" - however it would appear that he had not seen a list of these signatures as he asks for a copy.
The formation of the Peel Lodge appears to have been coordinated via the new Ellan Vannin Lodge as on 29 Jan 1885 John Hodgson, secretary, asks for a petition form for Peel 'containing a considerable number of local resident brethren' and 'in consequence of the formation of the local Provincial Grand Lodge they are desireous of obtaining a charter'.
A key figure in all of these was John A. Brown, he was usually a petitioner and founder member of each newly formed lodge as well as playing a major role in the formation of the Provincial Grand Lodge inaugurated in September 1886.
By the end of the 19th century one lodge, 2049, had closed whilst another, Castletown, only just survived - however post 1900 things improved, there are now some 17 lodges on the Island.
Some basic information on the meeting places of these lodges is available from the 1894 listing of Lodges coming under Grand Lodge jurisdiction (John Lane Masonic Records of England and Wales 1717-1894)-
1004 Athole Lodge, Douglas, warrant dated 18 Feb 1864, consecrated 10
met Douglas Hotel 1864
Masonic Hall Prospect Hill 1873
Masonic Hall Loch Promenade 1879 [52 & 53 Loch Promenade]
1075 St Maughold Lodge, Ramsey, warrant dated 19 Oct 1865, consecrated
met Mitre Hotel 1865
Ramsey Grammar School 1866
Masonic Rooms Neptune Street 1870
Masonic Rooms Albert St 1879
Masonic Rooms Mona St 1880
Masonic Hall Water St 1889
1242 Tynwald Lodge, Douglas consecrated Dec 1868
St. James Hall, Athol Street. 1874
Masonic Hall Loch Promenade 1879
2049 Ellan Vannin, Douglas, warrant dated 22 May 1884, consecrated 1
met Masonic Hall, Loch Prom 1884
2050 St Trinian's, Douglas, warrant dated 22 May 1884, consecrated 3
met Masonic Hall, Loch Prom
2164 St German's, Peel, warrant dated 27 May 1886, consecrated 28 Sep
renamed as Glenfaba Lodge in 1918 (possibly a sign of anti-German sentiment ?)
met Centenary Hall, Athol Street, (Methodist !) 1886
Peel Castle Hotel 1886
2197 Spencer Walpole Temperance Lodge, Douglas, warrant dated 18 Mar
1887, consecrated 17 May 1887
met Masonic Hall, Loch Prom 1887
2358 Lodge of Mona, Castletown, warrant dated 15 Apr 1890, consecrated
10 Mar 1892
met Masonic Hall, 1892.
This is not intended as a definitive description but as a guide, by a non-Mason, to the interpretation of the records.
The first three stages are
These stages generally occur at monthly intervals at successive lodges, though under special arrangements the time scale can be shortened. Fees both to Provincial and London Grand Lodges are payable on these stages - there is also a quarterage fee payable together with the specific Lodge fees.
Candidates should be of 'full age' - generally taken as 21 but can be younger (e.g. at some University Lodges) - a certificate is issued (on payment of a fee) by Grand Lodge which allows the member to move to or be entertained by, other lodges. These fees etc. generally restrict membership to the professional classes, though the returned forms to Grand Lodge in the 1880's and '90's are full of entries marked 'in arrears'. After a couple of requests as to how individual lodges should deal with the problem of arrears it would appear that they modified, or tightened up on the interpretation of their bye-laws and a wholesale batch of exclusions appears in the late 1890's in several lodges.
Masonic records abound in honorifics - all positions are balloted for, usually annually, though some of the officers may hold a post for some time. There is a progression through JW to SW and on to WM though the expense and time involved may preclude some.
A minimum of seven members is required to allow a lodge to function.
Above the Lodge is the Province -
Royal Arch Masonry, with its Companions organised into Chapters has its own officers -
Like many other ritual based organisation a lodge needs some mechanism to allow members to 'progress' and indicate to others that they are privy to 'secrets' not divulged to those of lower rank - the roles of JW, SW and WM provide some form of progression but once past the chair there is no further progression available within the lodge. A Provincial Grand Lodge provides a further arena in which to progress - it can also provide a more local oversight of local lodges than is possible from distant London.
An insular Province was mooted in the 1850's soon after the formation of Lodges under the Irish Constitution but quite naturally Dublin replied too early and too few. By January 1884 delegates from the three senior English Lodges had produced a coordinated request to Grand Lodge to form either a District or a Province, though St Maughold Lodge then voted to reject the proposal. The visit of senior Masons to the Island in October 1884 for the consecration of two new lodges, gave further impetus to this request - the newly formed St Trinians was however doubtful it could afford to pay additional Provincial fees. After a visit by the Grand Secretary and other Grand Officers to Ramsey in December 1884 that lodge rescinded its opposition. John Senhouse Goldie-Taubman accepted appointment as first Provincial GM in January 1886 and appointed T H. Nesbitt (town clerk of Douglas) as first secretary.
The Library possesses probably the best collection of Masonic artifacts, ephemera and printed material though for most it will be their collection of Lodge Histories and Masonic Yearbooks that is most valuable, as although minute books of disbanded Lodges ought legally to be sent to Grand Lodge, it would appear that the majority of these as well as those of current Lodges remain locally where they are subject to the vagaries of both survival and access. What however is centralised is a list of members - or rather bound volumes of transcribed membership lists supposedly returned annually by each lodge - there is no unified index of members, thus unless you know the lodge number, searches can be very time consuming (and costly as all searches must be directed via Library staff) - even knowing the lodge number requires searching down lists of handwritten names (those post 1930 are in a card index and later records are computerised). The pages of the bound volumes up to c.1885, organised by lodge, were photographed and then the photographic images placed on CD-ROM, however these CD-ROMs are not yet available for public search though copies of pages may be made available for academic research purposes (public access may well be available in the future). Ideally the form of the entry in the book is a tabulated list of names giving dates of initiation, passing and raising (or if transferring from another lodge the date of entry into the new lodge and the lodge number transferred from), full name including all forenames, age at initiation, full address, occupation and date of resignation, death or exclusion for some reason (generally non-payment of dues stretching back for some time). In practice the photographic image may be virtually unreadable (though for most Manx records this probably applies to less than 5%), the address is usually just Douglas (or Ramsey ...), the age is seldom given and departure dates need usually be derived from cessation of annual payments; transfers from non English lodges are usually indicated Irish etc. The actual returns from the lodges may be available for the years after 1886 - these are filed in batches under the year of return, together with various letters sent by the Lodge to Grand Lodge (sometimes with a pencilled note as to the form of reply to be sent - possibly a copy of this reply may be in the Grand Lodge correspondance files though it appears that these have been weeded at various times). If any conclusion can be drawn from reading some 25 years of such returns it is that the majority of Manx Lodge Secretaries, though usually professional men, did not pay particular attention to bureaucracy - the lodge files are full of forms returned by Grand Lodge requesting, in red ink, that certain information (age etc) be given before the records can be accepted or apologies that the returns are late, that the previous Lodge secretary has mislaid the information or was ill etc etc.
Brown's Directory 1882 gives list of lodges and officers, Porter's Directory those for 1889
Bertram Kelly Sixty-Five Years of Freemasonry (Masonic Life of the late John A. Brown) IOM Weekly Times 26 September 1925 p2
Library and Museum of Freemasonry <www.freemasonry.london.museum>
Centre for Research into Freemasonry <www.shef.ac.uk/~crf> [note must be viewed using insecure IE due to non-standards compliant coding of website]
Grand Lodge 1717-1967 London: United Grand Lodge 1967
The History of English Freemasonry London: Grand Lodge n.d [c.2003] .- provides a profusely illustrated short introduction.
T. Stewart English Speculative Freemasonry: Some possible Origins, Themes and Developments (Prestonian Lecture 2004) London: Grand Lodge 2004
Several lodges issued a history of their lodge as part of a Centenary celebration - these were intended for private circulation though copies may be consulted at Grand Lodge library (ref given GL:)
R.D. Bregazzi Tynwald 1242 Centenary Meeting 9 April 1969 1969 Douglas:Tynwald Lodge (GL: BE166(1242)BRE)
W. H. Cain The History of the First 100 years of the Isle of Man Provincial Grand Lodge Douglas: Provincial Grand Lodge 1986
F. W. Tregallis St Trinian's 2050 Centenary 17 April 1985 Douglas: St Trinian's Lodge 1985 (GL: BEM166(2050) TRE)
J Colin Turner Glenfaba Lodge No. 2164 Centenary Meeting Peel: Glenfaba Lodge (Stanley Rd) 1986 (GL: BEM 166(2164)COW)
J.R. Smith History of the Lodge of Mona 1992 Castletown:Lodge of Mona (GL: BE166(2358)SMI)
Spencer Walpole Lodge 2197 Centenary 19 May 1987
An early 'exposure' book (there are many more and many editions) is
Richard Carlile Manual of Freemasonry : in three parts London: Andrew Vickers 1855 - would appear to originally date from the 1830's - gives a description of the various rites that is at least consistent with the few details that emerge in the Insular lodge correspondence.
One often reprinted anti Masonic text written from a Catholic viewpoint and extremely critical of the religious overtones of Masonic rites:
W. Hannah Darkness Visible 10th Ed. Devon:Britons Publishing (ISBN 0-85172-890-1) 1975
It is possible that Hannah reads too much into the rites, and of some of the 'way-out' writings of Mason 'mystics' - however it is interesting to note that Joseph Smith appropriated many of the same ideas in his Mormon church (see e.g. Brook's Refiner's Fire referenced on my Mormon pages). Roman Catholics are forbidden by their church to belong to the Freemasons (Catholics are acceptable to English Grand Lodge though the Scottish Lodge has in the past rejected such members); the Methodists and the Scottish Presbyterians have also denounced Masonic theology though this has not stopped many adherents also being Masons.
Conspiracy theorists will have a field day with
S Knight The Brotherhood 1983
and its follow up
M. Short Inside the Brotherhood Grafton Books (ISBN 0-206-13020-2) 1989
though such books are better read for entertainment than any attempt at historical accuracy.