Freemasons

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E16MasonJersey1890.jpg

Jersey Freemason in 1890


This history of Freemasonry in Jersey is based on the organisation's website


Jersey is the smallest Province of the United Grand Lodge of England, supporting just eleven Lodges. Jersey is not within the United Kingdom, having been a possession of the Duke of Normandy long before 1066. Although part of the Channel Islands, it is quite separate from Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm, all of which are in the neighbouring Province of Guernsey and Alderney.

The Masonic Temple in Stopford Road

Masonry's origins

There are no traces of operative masonry ever existing in Jersey. This is not surprising for, until late in the 18th Century, it was almost entirely a fishing and agricultural community. Until the Reformation it is likely that French master masons controlled the building of religious edifices, because Jersey was in the diocese of Coutances in Normandy. English masons were loaned for work on fortifications such as Mont Orgueil Castle and Elizabeth Castle.

Freemasonry first came to Jersey through the travelling warrants of the lodges connected with the army garrisons stationed in the Island. Military lodges were not allowed to initiate local residents, and as a result they had little impact on the local scene. There are traces of at least 16 travelling military lodges having worked in Jersey, three of which were Irish, and the remainder held "Antients" warrants. The real founder of Jersey Freemasonry was Major Charles Shirreff, an army officer who had been initiated into Freemasonry at Louisberg, Cape Breton in America in 1758 at the age of 21. He appears to have been active in several regimental Lodges while in America, being Master of a lodge in Cape Breton and founding Master of another in 1761. Following the end of the war against the French in Canada, the army was put onto a peace footing, and Shirreff returned to the United Kingdom in 1763 and moved to Jersey the following year.

There is little to account for Shirreff's presence in Jersey, for his regiment, the 45th Foot are not recorded as having done garrison duty in the Island. His (half) pay of two shillings and fourpence per day (12p) would have enabled him to live as a gentleman of leisure. He was reinstated to full pay in 1765, so it must be assumed that he was here in some military capacity, possibly as Fort Major. When he arrived in Jersey there were no permanent lodges. He therefore immediately applied to the Provincial authorities for a warrant to form a stationary lodge.

Guernsey grand master

Thomas Dobrée, a Guernsey merchant, had been appointed Provincial Grand Master on 22 December 1753 for "Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Sarke and Arme" (probably Herm) by Lord Carysfoot, Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge (Moderns). The Grand Master must have been an optimist, for at that time the Provincial Grand Master had only one lodge under his command, formed in Guernsey the previous May. Shirreff was successful in obtaining a warrant from him, and became in 1765, the founding Master of Lodge No 349 ("Union No 1"). Although holding a "Moderns" warrant, the working was decidedly "Antient", and included Royal Arch and probably Templar degrees as well. Shirreff left the island in 1768. Union No 1 Lodge continued until 1813 when it was erased.

Union Lodge No 2 followed in 1788 and also lasted until 1813. Both these lodges held "Moderns" warrants. Two other lodges that obtained Athol or "Antients" warrants are no longer in existence - Harmony (1809 - 1832) and Fortitude (exact dates not known but about 1795-1830). By 1813 there were three lodges in Jersey all working to the "Antient" pattern, of which two remain. The lasting effect that this has had on the ceremonies is in the layout of the Temple. The Master's chair is placed on a raised dais whereas on the floor of the lodge room, some distance in front of him is the pedestal to which he descends when dealing with candidates.

There were in addition two lodges authorised under the Irish Constitution, Lodge Justice No 34 (which was warranted on 3 June 1813 and which ceased on 17 September 1874) and Lodge Leinster No 265 (warranted 2 March 1820 and ceased in 1831). There is some suggestion that these were established under the Irish Constitution in order to continue working the old ceremonies as a protest against the union, for these two lodges also undertook Royal Arch, Mark and Knights Templar under their Craft warrant.

The lodges went through considerable hard times, until the formal Provincial structure was established. The relations between the various lodges, and between them and the Irish Justice Lodge were also somewhat mercurial. However there is no doubt that Freemasonry was recognised in Jersey and we have evidence of this at the laying of the Foundation Stone at the Victoria Harbour in Jersey on 29 September 1841. The assembly included the Lieut-Governor, Sir Edward Gibbs, The Bailiff, Sir John de Veulle, The Dean, Rev Jeune, and representatives of all interests within the island. Delegates were invited from the Farmers Lodge No 302 and the Mechanics Lodge No 306.

The interior of the Temple when it was reopened after the German Occupation

Also present at the ceremony was an artist, Mr G Reynolds, who made a sketch of the proceedings on the spot from which he afterwards painted a large oil painting, which is on exhibition at the Société Jersiaise in St Helier. This painstaking artist has depicted details with the most admirable precision and every face in the gathering appears to be a portrait, many of which can be checked against other paintings for accuracy. There were four Freemasons in the painting, and the surprising observation is that they were still wearing Atholl regalia, some 25 years after the definite instructions given in 1815 and subsequent Books of Constitution that they were no longer valid and must not be worn.

Interior of the Masonic Temple

This was a time when Freemasonry was much more open, and respected in the community. As can be seen in the book The Story of Jersey Freemasonry, the Freemasons were invited to lay Foundation Stones at buildings, such as the New Waterworks, Victoria College and other important edifices. Processions in full regalia were common, Masonic funerals with laying in state, followed by funeral processions, again in full regalia, occurred frequently.

Provincial Grand Lodge

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Jersey was originally formed in 1848, but as a result of problems with the Provincial Grand Master of the time, James John Hammond, the Province ceased to operate in 1868. This situation could not last, and the Province was reconstituted in September 1869 since when it has remained a small but very active Province of the United Grand Lodge of England.

During the short-lived first Provincial Grand Lodge, the Jersey Masonic Temple was built and consecrated in 1864. It is a most handsome building, and details and pictures are given on other pages. It was well-designed (at the time there were only about 200 Freemasons in Jersey) and has coped with much larger numbers over the years, the present membership being about 600.

Membership list

We were pleased to be sent a membership register of Antients Grand Lodge: Fortitude 287 Jersey for 1795 to 1813

The Temple

The Masonic Temple in Stopford Road, St Helier, undoubtedly one of the finest buildings in St Helier, was built in 1864 when, according to C E B Brett's 1977 review for the National Trust of Jersey - Buildings in the Town and Parish of St Helier - total membership of the island's five freemasonry lodges 'did not exceed 120'.

It was designed by Thomas Gallichan, a member of Loge La Cesaree, and built by a Mr de La Mare.

Brett commented that the building 'amply suffices for the needs of 1,000 members' and quoted Hill's Historical Guide to the Channel Islands:

"Brother Gallichan supplied little touches of Masonic symbolism in various parts of the building", which he described as "an extraordinarily heavy and forbidding Corinthian stucco monster".
"It is erected in a style purely Corinthian, and is constructed of brick and cement with granite facings. It exhibits a finely proportioned building, classical in appearance, and beautiful as regards detailing."

Brett said:"The side view to Oxford Road is quite overwhelming, but this is really a sham, for the building is L-shaped."

Website

The building is described in the following terms on the organisation's website:

"One of the most attractive buildings of its type and compares very favourably with other similar buildings throughout the United Kingdom. It is constructed of brick and cement with granite facings in pure Corinthian style, classical in appearance and beautiful as regards detail. The principal facade on the north side of the building facing Stopford Road has a most imposing porch of four columns rising 26 feet high.
"There are two flights of steps leading to the main doors on the first floor. The basement is decorated entirely with rusticated quoins, above which runs a row of columns with Corinthian capitals. Immediately above these columns is a bold and chastely designed cornice surmounting this again with a parapet. Between each of the four columns is a large semicircular French window.
"The basement floor contains a dining room 50 feet by 28 feet, which can seat 105 people, a committee and Grand Officers' robing room, kitchen and auxiliary rooms. In addition to the principal external staircase, access to the main floor is by means of a noble flight of stairs, the candidate's room being on the first landing. On the left of the principal entrance is the common or assembly room, and on the right is the ante room leading to the Temple itself. The common room is fitted with cupboards and drawers, in which Lodge warrants, furnishings, regalia and personal regalia are stored.
Banknote issued by the Freemasons to fund the building of their Temple - effectively a ten-year loan

Temple

"Carpeted throughout, the Temple measures 47 feet by 27 feet and 30 feet clear in height. The ceiling of this magnificent hall is semi-circular or concave, beautifully moulded in panels surrounded by a Corinthian cornice, supported by Corinthian columns mounted on pedestals. To enter the room, one has to ascend three steps. There are four splendid portraits by Bro John St Helier Lander, of the Provincial Grand Masters Col E C Malet de Carteret and C E Malet de Carteret, and Deputy Provincial Grand Masters Dr J Le Cronier and C H Wilson. Lately portraits of more recent Provincial Grand Masters: Kenneth Michael Rondel, A David J Rosser, David Binnington, George Bennett Wakeham, Henry Heys Duckworth, Bertrand Lampard Clift and Elie Philip Marett have been added.
"Around the walls of the Temple are the Masters' boards of nine of the Lodges, with the boards of the two newest Lodges being in the ante room. Beneath the painting of Dr Le Cronier is the board listing the Provincial Grand Masters. Beneath that of Col E C Malet de Carteret is the board detailing the Deputy Provincial Grand Masters. Banners of the various Craft Lodges adorn the walls. The Master sits on a raised dais in the East, following Antients practice, and on the floor some distance in front of him is a pedestal to which he descends when dealing with candidates.

Standards and Arms

"On either side of the Master's chair are the standards of Provincial Grand Lodge, and of the Provincial Grand Master. In the Northeast and Southeast corners are the banners of Provincial Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Chapter. The banners bear the arms of Grand Lodge, on which are superimposed the arms of the Island of Jersey. This apparent spoiling of the arms of Grand Lodge was expressly permitted after the second World War in recognition of the problems of Freemasons in the island during and after the war, and in the restoration of the Temple.
"However, when the Grand Secretary Sir James W Stubbs visited the island in 1971 for the consecration of the Jersey Lodge of Installed Masters No 8383, he expressed concern at the apparent misuse of the arms of Grand Lodge. Fortunately records were available to prove to him that this singular permission had indeed been given to the Province of Jersey and a minute in the Board of General Purposes committee book in 1952 confirms the situation.

Columns

"The columns at the Northwest and Southwest corners of the chequered carpet, were presented after the Liberation in 1945 by W Bro S L Amy, Master of Yarborough Lodge in 1931. He had acquired a large four poster bed prior to the war and decided that the columns of this bed would be very suitable as furniture in the Temple. Two of these were mounted with spheres, on which are delineated maps of the celestial and terrestrial globes. In the centre of the carpet is placed the mahogany cabinet housing the tracing boards. This cabinet had been acquired by the Duke of Normandy Lodge in 1855 during the Mastership of W Bro T O Lyte. It had been thought to have been taken from the Temple during the Occupation. However W Bro G S Knocker discovered it among a collection of rubbish in the building in December 1945, and he proposed that the Lodge present it to the Province so as to serve all the Lodges.
"The tracing boards were presented in February 1946 by W Bro G F Thorpe. They were painted by a local artist Mr A G Wright. In the ante-room can be seen the Masters' Boards of the two newest Lodges, together with a showcase of commemorative Masonic items, the War Memorial and the banner of the Caesarean Mark Lodge No 74.

Library

"A further staircase leads from the principal entrance to another storey containing a rehearsal room, 27 feet by 21 feet, originally designed as a Royal Arch Chapter room. Opposite is the Jersey Masonic Library and Museum in which are displayed hundreds of Masonic books and many items of general, but principally local, Masonic interest. Among the items on show are samples of the temporary aprons used by the brethren immediately after the second World War, until new aprons could be obtained. The Library contains many rare books, including a first edition of Anderson's Book of Constitutions dated 1723."


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