One thousand up for St Peter’s

This year the installation ceremony for St Peter’s Lodge No 4324 was also the 1,000th meeting of the lodge since it was founded in 1921. Following an excellent ceremony the members adjourned to a festive board, and after completing the usual formality all present were given a commemorative mug to celebrate the 1,000 meeting of the lodge. A short introductory talk was given from memory by John Doig, who then introduced Malcolm Myers to give a potted history regarding St Peter’s.

John Doig

John Doig

Malcolm commenced his oration with:

“Due to the unusual size of the Walton Lodge No 1086, a number of brethren got together and decided that their chances of reaching the chair were very slight. They therefore decided that their only chance was in the formation of a daughter lodge to Walton Lodge. They met many times during 1919 and 1920 and eventually decided upon the name of St Peter’s Lodge. This was taken from St Peter’s Church, which stood in Church Street and was the Pro-Cathedral of Liverpool.

Such is the explanation given by W Bro C.Thompson, PPrJGW for the golden anniversary in 1971 for the formation of St Peter’s Lodge No 4324. It is hard now to realise that these men probably had just returned from active service in the First World War and no doubt were still looking for the ‘land fit for heroes.’

What prompted our founders to select the name St.Peter’s is not known, but on a historical note it was derived from the ancient church which stood in Church Street. In 1699, when Liverpool was designated a distinct parish from Walton-on-the-Hill, a site across the Lord Street Bridge was chosen to build a new church, this was named St Peter’s and was consecrated in 1704. The church was a replica of St.Andrew’s in Holborn, London and was said to be the first church to be built in Lancashire after the Reformation. St Peter’s was demolished in 1922, and a brass cross set in the pavement on the former site in Church Street, is all that now remains.

A petition was forwarded to Grand Lodge with the names of the founders as signatories, and St.Peter’s Lodge No 4324 was consecrated at the Carlton Rooms, Eberle Street on 14 November 1921, by W Bro J.H.Burrell, PGD,(Eng), and DepPrGM,. The officials who were present are recorded in the minutes, followed by a short note about the ceremony itself and the lodge was declared duly consecrated. It is always invidious to mention names when listing presentations, suffice it to say that virtually all of the lodge equipment was presented by individual members of the lodge and much of that equipment is still in use today.

The somewhat nomadic, St Peter’s Lodge has met at a total of seven different venues since its formation. Firstly and for only a couple of years it was the Carlton Restaurant in Eberle Street, a venue that was returned to for a further two years after a two year stint at the Bears Paw Restaurant in Lord Street. The next move in August 1927 was to Reece’s Building in Parker Street a venue that was favoured for 27 consecutive years from 1927 to 1954.

There was then a strange venue for just one special meeting on 30 November 1953 which was at the YMCA in Mount Pleasant where there was a discussion on the subject of ‘Accommodation Changes.’ There followed a change of venue with the lodge going to the newly named Carlton Masonic Hall for a period of 15 consecutive years.

There was then one year back at Liverpool Masonic Hall, then another year back at Carlton Masonic Hall and then finally the lodge came its next destination, the Annex, Greenback Synagogue, Greenbank Drive where it remained for 13 years. It was in 1990 that St Peter’s Lodge returned to the Liverpool Masonic Hall where it has remained ever since.”

Malcolm continued by saying  that he thought a few statistics would help to describe the ’rise and fall’ of St Peter’s in relation to numbers of members and works carried out within the lodge meetings throughout the years.

“In the ten years following the formation of St Peter’s in 1921 it attracted 300 members, with the following decades showing a steady decline as commerce and industry left the city as the importance of the port also declined. During those first 30 years of the history of the lodge there are some truly amazing facts and statistics in terms of the numbers of meetings held, Regular, Special & Emergency Meetings alike. At the end of the first year there had been 12 regular meetings and seven emergencies, with 37 initiations, 24 second degrees, and 17 third degree ceremonies.

This high rate of regular meetings and emergencies continued for many years. The emergencies were usually, but not always, for seafaring brethren, and it should be emphasised that it was customary, as stated earlier, for the WM himself to work all three degrees at both the regular and emergency meetings. It is of interest to note that the first 15 worshipful masters who were founders initiated 332 members.

Malcolm Myers

Malcolm Myers

The ‘Old Masters’ performed multiple ceremonies at meeting after meeting after meeting. Observing at the records the masters that stand out and should be in the Guinness Book of Records are WBro P Taylor PPrGD, WBro R Davies PPrGDC. and WBro T J Wivell PPrGW; who were founder members and assumed the chair for the first three years after formation. It was not unusual to see multiple initiations, passings and raisings all at the same meeting.

At an emergency meeting held on 4 January 1924 WBro Wivell carried out the initiation of two candidates, the passing of four entered apprentice and the raising of three fellow crafts to master Mason. What a meeting that would have been, and what a marathon for WBro Wivell who would become a founder of the Methodist based Liverpool Epworth Lodge No 5381 in 1932, where he was equally as busy.

At the installation of Bro B S Bennett, in November 1937 it is mentioned that nearly 350 brethren and their guests were present and that this was a record number for such a ceremonial gathering. St Peter’s Lodge has always recorded the number of members present at the meetings in the Tyler’s Register; regrettably these have not been kept and it is only occasionally that we get the numbers of brethren attending. It would appear that in the 1940’s the normal attendance would be in the region of 90 to 100, and it would appear that numbers were maintained through to the 1970’s at least.

On the subject of family connections, in 1938 Bro Bennett had initiated his son Bro H S Bennett into the lodge and 1991 saw a similar event taking place. In September of 1951 Robert Spencer and Norman Spencer were initiated on the same night. What makes this event remarkable is the fact that Robert and Norman were father and son. So a father and his son were then brothers in Freemasonry !

WBro J A Doig PrDGSwdB took the chair and initiated his son, Alistair, into the lodge, with his father, WBro S Doig PPrJGW acting as senior warden, thus we had the distinction of having three generations of the family, not only as members of the lodge at the same time but also of all taking part in the ceremony. In January 2002 another son of WBro John Doig, Peter Doig, was also initiated.

In the years 2003 and 2005 WBro M Myers had the pleasure of initiating both of his sons (Christopher and Wayne) into Freemasonry, while in January 2009 WBro Alan Armstrong was present when his grandson Stuart Kidd was initiated into Freemasonry at the age of 19 years.

In the years 2008 and 2009 brothers Kenneth and Stephen Davies were initiated into St Peter’s Lodge and they subsequently went on to occupy the chair of King Solomon in the years 2013 and 2014 respectively. There are, historically, many other instances of other relatives in the lodge.

There has been a total of 22 chaplains over the years; the longest serving of which was WBro T Jackson PPrAGStdB who served in this role from Nov 39 – Nov 52

18 brethren have served as secretary; the longest serving of which was WBro J Archer who served from Nov 1935 to Nov 1963, a staggering 28 years in that office. Malcolm Myers is now the second longest serving secretary. In the role of director of ceremonies 24 brethren have served; the longest being WBro Alan R Armstrong ( Stuart Kidd’s grandad) who led the ceremonies for 15 years. From 1930 to 1948 the treasurer was WBro K Davies who managed the accounts of the lodge; and there have been a total of 16 brethren who have held that office.”

Malcolm concluded by saying that despite reducing attendees and lack of candidates, St Peter’s Lodge is still with us and hopefully will be celebrating their centenary in 2021. St Peter’s is widely known for its charitable giving and for its hospitality. Every visitor to St. Peter’s has remarked on the warmth of welcome, friendliness and hospitality.