In what can only be described as a very sad occasion, the brethren of Mariners’ Lodge No 249 met for the last time. The WM Ted Mercer opened the lodge and private business was conducted. The presence of Assistant Provincial Grand Master Kevin Poynton and guests were announced and were admitted in due form.
Kevin was given a warm welcome by Ted who then offered Kevin the gavel of the lodge which he returned with thanks to the WM. Ray Erskine, IPM of the lodge, was then asked to read a dedication to Mariners’ Lodge.
Commencing Ray said: “In the brief time I have had, I have taken most of the information from the brief history of the lodge that was written by Alan Morris to celebrate the lodge bi-centenary in 1983. On the first day of March 1783 a warrant of consecration was issued by the Premier Grand Lodge sanctioning the formation of a new lodge at Liverpool as Number 450 on the roll. Having met at the Mariners’ Compass, New Dock, Liverpool, the lodge became known as the Mariners’ Lodge. At the time the population of Liverpool was less than 60,000 and the slave trade from Liverpool was at its height.
The warrant constituted John Posnett worshipful master, James Gregory senior warden, John Mann as junior warden and William Sanderson, Thomas Hart, Thomas Palmer and James Palmer into a regular lodge of free and accepted Masons to be held at the house of Mrs Ann Mann known by the sign of the Mariners’ Compass.
Over the years the lodge relocated no less than 26 times. In 1808 it moved to Nile Tavern in Marshall Street and met there for three years and the lodge summons was produced there. The lodge has been accorded five numbers. The re-numbering was caused by the fact that lodges ceased to exist or transferred allegiance to the new grand lodge and by the re-allocation of numbers by both the premier Grand Lodge and the United Grand Lodge, to produce an up to date and consecutive numbering of existing lodges. Consequently, the lodge’s original number 450 was altered in 1792 to 362 and on the formation of United Grand Lodge of England on 27 December 1813 the lodge was re-numbered 466. It was changed again in 1832 to 310 and in 1863 on the general alteration of numbers it acquired it’s present number of 249.
As the lodge’s name implies it originally had the majority of members as seafaring brethren, some however were surveyors in the Customs House, grain merchants and shipping clerks. In order to accommodate everyone the lodge met 12 times a year until 1976. Records show that there was a desire to find a permanent home and that contributed in no small way to the founding of the Masonic Hall in Liverpool. In 1853 the WM James Hamer and others formed a committee which was empowered to find a suitable private meeting place avoiding the taverns and hotels. The Masonic Hall in Hope Street was opened on 8 October 1858 and Mariners’ was one of the first four lodges to hold its meetings there until 1968, 110 years consecutively when a disastrous fire in 1968 caused a temporary move to The Masonic Club in Eberle Street. This fire destroyed many of the early records of the lodge.
In 1823, members of the lodge were involved in the so called Liverpool Rebellion in the formation of the Grand Lodge at Wigan. The lodge that led the revolt was founded in London in 1753 and opened in Liverpool in 1792. This lodge had no name but was known as lodge number 31. The artefacts and regalia owned by the lodge are well known. Historically perhaps the most significant are the punch bowl and jug presented to the lodge in 1813 by Squire Hargreaves and are rare examples of Liverpool Porcelain produced at the Herculaneum Pottery. Both the punch bowl and jug are decorated with Masonic symbols and on the inside of the bowl is the following inscription: ‘The gift of Brother Squire Hargreaves as a token of his respect for the Society of Freemasons belonging to Mariners’ Lodge No 362 and presented at the Festival of St John the Evangelist December 27 1813 then held at Freemasons Tavern, Sir Thomas Building, Liverpool.”
The date of 27 December 1813 is significant as it coincides with the formation of the Grand Lodge of England.
In December 2013 Mariners’ celebrated the 200 anniversary of the presentation of the bowl and jug. In 1968 a new punch bowl and two jugs was commissioned, designed by Mrs Julia Carter Preston and presented to the lodge by the social committee. Other artefacts of significant interest include masters and wardens jewels and those of the deacons and inner guard. The master’s gavel was presented by a brother by the name of Washington of Temple Lodge No 1094 on 5 November 1874 and replaced the previous one which had been made from timber from HMS Dreadnought which fought in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 having been the flagship of Admiral William Cornwallis. The ship’s bell, always present at the festive board was presented by C Rogers on 3 January 1935; however, many of the heirlooms were destroyed in the fire of 1968.
Records show that James Hamer, WM in 1851 and 1852, became Provincial Grand Secretary; he consecrated the Hamer Lodge No 1393 in 1873 and was involved in the founding of the Hamer Benevolent Institution.
In the last 30 years with the changing social habits, domestic requirements and changing population the lodge has found it difficult to maintain membership and several attempts at recruitment have been unsuccessful. Since 1985 the number of initiates has been 27 and only three of those 27 are still members and only two regularly attend, Ted Mercer WM and Doug Lace secretary. In 2008 the lodge amalgamated with Walton Priory Lodge No 5992, 12 members were admitted to Mariners’ Lodge and only two are still members.
Mariners’ Lodge has encompassed and upheld all the traditions and precepts which Masonry stands for. For the last two years the brethren have deliberated and agonised at several meetings as to the best way forward and despite the members best efforts a satisfactory solution has not been forthcoming. 232 years ago, seven brethren met and a new lodge was consecrated and on this occasion only nine members have met to decide that regrettably the working life of the lodge must come to an end.”
After the dedication had ended the lodge was duly closed. Kevin Poynton asked some pertinent questions of the treasurer and secretary to ensure that all debts had been paid and explained to the members the meaning of ‘unattached Mason’. The WM then handed to Kevin the lodge warrants.
With great sadness Kevin attended upon the WM and they stood at the door of the lodge with the warrants whilst members and visitors retired for their last lodge festive board.