Aigburth Lodge No 4103 has reached that momentous milestone of being continuously operating for 100 years. The district after which the lodge was named has been known for over 1,000 years as part of the forest of Toxteth where a rocky promontory stood, covered with oak trees. Its ancient name `Ackerbeth` comes from the Anglo-Saxon `ac` (oak) coupled with a derivate of `beran` (to bear).
Situated on the banks of the River Mersey, the area was probably occupied by the Celts and also the Norsemen, who are known to have sailed up the river. 13th century records show that at the time the area was owned and farmed by the monks of Stanlaw in Cheshire, having been given to them by Adam, Lord of Gerstan in 1264 and called at the time `Aikeberg`.
The first meeting to consider forming the lodge was held at `Wetherfield`, Mersey Road, the home of H Goldstone on 29 June 1920. 26 brethren formed the lodge, of whom 17 would eventually occupy the master’s chair. The lodge chose the oaks of Ackerbeth which gave the area its original name, as its emblem, which is still in use today. The formalities of setting up a lodge, drawn from members of St Michaels Temperance Lodge No 3401 were completed on 19 February 1920 and the petition was then forwarded by St Michaels to Grand Lodge.
The founders were seeking to meet on the first Monday of every month, July and August excepted, at `Vale House` No 1 Aigburth Vale, Liverpool. The warrant was granted and the lodge consecrated at the Masonic Hall, Hope Street, on Thursday 22 July 1920, and the founders met as a lodge for the first on Monday 6 September 1920. The joining fees in 1920 were five guineas, the initiation fees 15 guineas and two guineas as resident annual subscription. This did not discourage candidates however and in 1920, 26 candidates were initiated in batches of up to four at a time.
The association with Vale House was not entirely happy; the accommodation was thought to be uncomfortable and the kitchen facilities inadequate. The premises were also used as a dancing academy and the efforts of a jazz band were not welcomed during meetings. The founders were also unhappy at being charged the sum of half-a-crown for every hotpot which was set up but not required!
The lodge members were however tied to a five-year lease and were unable to move on until it expired. The last meeting held at Vale House was on 21 December 1926. The lodge was effectively without a fixed home until it took up residence at the newly built Garston Masonic Hall for its meeting on 18 January 1927. The lodge furniture that had been removed from Vale House became surplus to requirement and was sold to Aintree Lodge No 4906 for £85. This was invested and in 1936 realised £115 which was to be donated to the Royal Masonic Benevolence Institution (RMBI) 1937 Festival.
In the period until WW II, the lodge grew in strength, both Masonic and social, with ladies’ nights, summer excursions and children’s parties and even invitations to the ladies to join the brethren for dinner after lodge proceedings. However, the war years had a detrimental effect on the lodge with meetings having to be held on Saturday afternoons and attendances slumped badly. The lodge made another transfer on 1 February 1943 to meet in the Adams Room at Hope Street, where they continued to meet until the disastrous fire there on 13 October 1968. Thanks to the efforts of several brethren most of the lodge regalia and warrant were rescued, although fire and water damaged.
Garston Masonic Hall came to the rescue again and meetings resumed at Garston on 4 May 1968 and the lodge celebrated its golden jubilee at Garston on 4 May 1970 with 90 subscribing brethren. The 75th anniversary unfortunately saw the lodge with only 59 members.
There can be few lodges such as Aigburth who can number four blood brothers, all through the chair; Jeffrey Fisher installed in 1972, followed by Eric Fisher in 1973 and Gilbert Fisher in 1974. Kenneth Fisher, the last of the brothers was installed in 1981. The lodge was presented with a fine master’s collar by Brian Hodkinson in 1979 and bears a silver chain engraved with the names of all the successive masters of the Aigburth Lodge.
In December 1987 the lodge was presented with a finely-crafted and embroidered banner by Harry Boscoe and it was dedicated by the then Assistant Provincial Grand Master R Wallace Davies. In 1989 the lodge became a Patron of the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, with a donation of £4,103 to the charity, in its festival year of 1997.
The lodge continued to meet a Garston until April 2017 but with numbers down to eight it was decided that the lodge should return to the Liverpool Masonic Hall. Monday 4 September 2017 was the date of its first meeting back at Hope Street and numbers initially improved in 2018/19 season, rising to 15 subscribing brethren. On 28 July 2018 Aigburth Lodge became the first lodge to hold a meeting on water when, with special dispensation, the members and invited guests boarded the ‘Floating Grace` at Salthouse Quay Liverpool. The meeting, attended by 32 brethren, was opened once the captain had left the quay and was in open water. The vessel later returned to Salthouse Quay to pick up guests to enjoy a three-course meal on board while sailing around the enclosed docks which was full of the recently returned vessels from the ‘Round the World Yacht Race’.
During 2021, due to various circumstances, including the COVID pandemic, the lodge has reduced to 10 members, but with a core of younger men they trust that the lodge continues and be granted the health and good fortune to imitate the great oaks after which they are named and grow strong again.
Of course, such a distinguished history merits a similar occasion, so the centenary celebration was held at the Liverpool Masonic Hall on Hope Street with the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison as principal guest. The lodge was opened in due form by the WM Mark Lawrence, ably assisted by his wardens John Smith and Paul Green. Aigburth Lodge is also indeed very fortunate to have as their director of ceremonies the vastly experienced Richard F Wilson, who the previous week had celebrated 50 years in Freemasonry.
After the traditional business of the lodge was concluded, the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell came into the room to announce that Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and the Provincial delegation were to enter. On this occasion the Provincial team was made up of; Tony Harrison, Assistant Provincial Grand Master Mark Matthews, Provincial Senior Grand Warden Daniel Crossley, Provincial Junior Grand Warden Ben Gorry, Provincial Grand Secretary Peter Taylor, Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell, Provincial Grand Sword Bearer James Gregson, Provincial Grand Chaplain Rev John Hall, Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Jason Dell, Provincial Senior Grand Deacon Steven Williams, Provincial Junior Grand Deacon Stephen Oliver, Provincial Grand Standard Bearer Kenneth Tooey, Provincial Grand Standard Bearer Raymond Cooper, Provincial Grand Organist Derek Hughson, Provincial Grand Pursuivant Gavin Egan and Provincial Grand Tyler Jim Finnegan – a very impressive entourage if ever there was!
This was also a special occasion for a number of the Provincial delegation, particularly the two newly appointed warden’s Dan Crossley and Ben Gorry, as this was their first opportunity to officiate at any event this season. Representing the Liverpool Group in attendance were chairman Dave Johnson, vice chairman Tim Burgess and scribe Ezra Neil Francis.
On being welcomed and offered the gavel by the WM, Tony Harrison took the chair and assisted by Mark Matthews proceeded to place his Provincial officers into their position for the centenary ceremony. During the ceremony the Centenary Warrant from United Grand Lodge was presented to Aigburth Lodge and the members also were presented with their Centenary Jewel to wear. Of special delight to all was the ‘field’ promotion bestowed by Tony Harrison upon the lodge secretary Alan Parkinson, from Past Provincial Senior Grand Deacon to Past Provincial Grand Sword Bearer – a very well-deserved award for all the hard work and commitment Alan has continued with since his last promotion.
With such a good attendance on the night, considering the present circumstances, it was also heartening to hear the lodge secretary announce there was a joining member coming into Aigburth, plus three new candidates awaiting their initiations. The following festive board was an equally enjoyable occasion with much bonhomie around the tables and the optimists present had enjoyed themselves so much they were already booking their places for the Aigburth Lodge bicentenary.