History of the Lodge
Part 1: The Origins of the Lodge
By the late nineteenth century the members of certain prominent masonic lodges were identifying a need for a specialist lodge to assist them in various ways connected with their peculiar methods of operating.
The Apollo University Lodge No 357 (Oxford) had then, and still maintains, a rule prohibiting officers from remaining in the progression when they went down from the University. This left many very able young masons struggling to re-discover their masonic ‘career’ and not having an obvious channel for doing so. A lodge was needed that would allow Apollo initiates who moved to London to continue their progression towards the Chair, without losing any seniority. Clearly such assistance would require a special sort of lodge.
The Household Brigade Lodge No 2614 (London) had its own problems with progression of officers, but this was caused by brethren entering upon the ladder of progression and then being posted away with their respective military units. A lodge was required that would enable such a brother to mark-time, or even to continue his progression despite a protracted absence. Again, this type of assistance would require an unusual lodge.
The Prince of Wales’s Lodge No 259 (London) is one of the lodges to nominate a Grand Steward, and at the end of the nineteenth century it was common practice for the brother so nominated to become Master of the lodge several years later. The Prince of Wales’s Lodge identified a need to have some sort of companion lodge in which Master Masons who had become Grand Stewards-nominate could be advanced rapidly to the Chair so as to gain their apron levels, and also some experience. This kind of assistance would likewise require a special sort of lodge.
The idea was therefore born of forming a special “Lodge of Assistance”.
Part 2: The Consecration
With a need identified, the Lodge of Assistance was born, with a Warrant granted on 24th July 1899, and the consecration taking place on 18th November 1899.
The Sponsoring Lodge was Household Brigade Lodge No 2614, and one quarter of the founders were members of this lodge. Almost half of the founders were members of the Apollo University Lodge No 357. The first lodge to begin receiving assistance was the Prince of Wales’s Lodge No 259. The following list shows various members' names, followed by the date they were Master of the Lodge of Assistance, and then the date they were Grand Steward nominated by Prince of Wales's Lodge.
Louis Miéville 1899 1897
Sydney Hargrove 1900 1902
Spyridion Mavrojani 1901 1904
Lionel Darell 1903 1901
H. Martin Holman 1907 1907
Francis Walrond 1908 1906
Duncan Fitzwilliams 1911 1914
The Hon. George Edwards 1914 1913
Robert Hale 1915 1918
Peter Galsworthy 1919 1920
Arthur Hansell * 1921 1903
Eric Chamier 1925 1921
Neville Howard 1926 1928
Cecil Uniacke 1928 1929
Lionel Harbord 1929 1930
Ronald Brooks 1933 1933
Charles Powell 1934 1934
Jean Miéville 1935 1936
Cyril Connor 1936 1937
Theodore McArthur 1939 1938
A clear pattern quickly emerges. Master Masons nominated as Grand Steward in 259 (or due for nomination within a couple of years) were put through the Chair of 2773. Installed Masters so nominated were also generally put through the chair of 2773, though after their year as Grand Steward. The only break from the pattern is *Arthur Hansell, who was a special case, being founder-Secretary of the Lodge of Assistance and Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons.
Military men and Oxford graduates also continued to join the lodge in good numbers from 2614, 357, and other lodges. There were also initiates, though they were few in number, and always have been.
Part 3: Forms of Assistance
The Lodge of Assistance has always remained flexible. The massive membership overlap with the Prince of Wales’s Lodge No 259, and the assistance offered to their Grand Stewards and Grand Stewards-nominate, lasted for almost half a century. Today there is just one member common to both 259 and 2773, and the relationship has largely ended.
The provision of assistance for those from the Household Brigade Lodge No 2614 whose military postings proved problematic, was never greatly taken up by that lodge. On 24th October 1956 the Secretary of 2773 wrote to the Secretary of 2614 reminding him of the existence of the Lodge of Assistance, and offering places in the lodge, but there was no significant response. Consequently the relationship between the Lodge of Assistance and its own mother lodge has declined, and again there is only one brother today with membership of both lodges.
The relationship with the Apollo University Lodge No 357 has remained strong, and is still current. There are still many Apollo initiates in the current membership of 2773, and it continues to offer rapid progression to Apollo men, and direct transfers from the ‘ladder’ of one lodge to that of the other. The current Secretary of the Lodge of Assistance left 357 as Senior Deacon and joined 2773 as Junior Warden.
From the outset, the most significant membership overlap was with the Studholme Lodge No 1591 (now known as United Studholme Alliance Lodge) and there seems to have been a certain amount of assistance offered to that lodge in the early days. This relationship has since come to an end.
During the 1950s, as the original relationship with the Prince of Wales’s Lodge was beginning to grow weak, so the Lodge of Assistance struck up a working arrangement with another ‘red apron’ lodge, British Lodge No 8. From the 1950s until the late 1990s membership of British Lodge virtually guaranteed membership of the Lodge of Assistance, and 2773 took on a new role as the virtual ‘lodge of instruction’ for No 8, allowing members and officers to rehearse ceremonies in an informal setting. Although that union is now fading, there still remains a sizeable membership overlap between these two lodges.
Mention must also be made of ‘Rule 8’ assistance, which provides for the Lodge of Assistance to advance any Master Mason rapidly to the Chair when requested to do so by the Grand Lodge or another senior authority, such as Grand Chapter, a Provincial Grand Master, or one of the national Masonic charities.
Part 4: Further Changes
Initiates were always few in number, with most members being nominated by other lodges, for reasons of particular ‘assistance’. The very first initiate, in 1901, was Geoffrey Thomas, 4th Marquess of Headfort. From 1899 to 1926 there were just 12 initiates. From then until the new millennium there was just one - Henry Malden Studd in 1967. However, in 2003 regular initiations resumed once more, and a number of young masons have entered the lodge and the Craft through this route. So much degree work has been generated in fact, that the Lodge of Assistance has been able to assist several other London lodges which are short of floor work by providing candidates to receive degrees in such other lodges.
This change has led the Lodge of Assistance to seek a formal relationship with the Royal Somerset House & Inverness Royal Arch Chapter No 4, which is proving to be a further exciting development, and may itself lead to the opening of new channels of assistance by which lodge 2773 may continue to support both Craft and Royal Arch Freemasonry in England and Wales.
Part 5: The Centenary
In 1999 the Lodge of Assistance reached its 100th birthday, but sadly it was not permitted a party! The Grand Lodge raised several questions relating to the issue of ‘continuous working’ of the Lodge; in other words, it was alleged that the Lodge may have shut down at two different points in its history, and subsequently re-started after a gap. This practice causes an automatic disqualification from the award of a Centenary Jewel.
However, the necessary evidence was eventually produced to prove continuous working. This process took an extra four years of work, meaning that the Centenary was finally celebrated in 2003. Since that year, all members of the Lodge have been entitled to wear the Lodge Centenary Jewel with their other masonic regalia.
A published history book was released in 2003 as part of the Centenary celebrations. Copies have now sold out, but do occasionally become available on internet auction sites.