Conception


Balsall Heath InstituteWhen we come to search for the origins of the Lodge, it is necessary to have regard for two significant events of the year 1883.  Firstly the opening of the Moseley and Balsall Heath Institute on Moseley Road.

On a marble tablet in the porch are recorded the names of the first officers of the Institute among whom are the names of three Brethren who became founders of Masefield Lodge: George Lingard, Hon. Treasurer; Sam Owen, Hon. Secretary; and William Hall, Architect. These three gentlemen were instrumental in securing the allocation of a room in the Institute, for informal meetings in the nature of a Lodge of Instruction (known provisionally as the Moseley Lodge). It must have been through their influence that this room was set aside for our Meetings; the room subsequently became known as The Masefield Room.

Silver trowelThe second event was the laying of the foundation stone of St. Agnes Church, Moseley, with full Masonic ceremonial on 3rd October 1883, by the Rt.W.Provincial Grand Master for Worcestershire, Sir Edmund Lechmere, Bart..

Prior to the ceremony a Craft Lodge was opened at the National Schools, Moseley, by the Master and Officers of Stability Lodge No. 564 from Stourbridge, followed immediately by the opening of Provincial Grand Lodge by the Provincial Grand Master and his Officers. Thereafter the formation of a procession to the site of the church took place and the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone by Sir Edmund using a silver trowel presented to him by Mrs. Charles Williams whose husband, a Past Master of Stability Lodge, became one of our founders. A full report of the procession was published in the Birmingham Gazette the following day.

In Memory of William Masefield, P.M. P.Z., P.G.S.B. of England, Deputy P.G. Master of Worcestershire.Influenced by these significant events it was decided to form a new Lodge under the guiding hand of W.Bro. Charles Williams to meet in the Moseley area in which he lived; the decision must have been made to abandon the name Moseley Lodge in favour of MASEFIELD in honour of one of the most prominent Masons in the Province at the time.

Photo Inscription - In Memory of William Masefield, P.M. P.Z., P.G.S.B. of England, Deputy P.G. Master of Worcestershire.
Born Jan 5th 1801 - Died June 28th 1890.
Whose distinguished services in Freemasonry endeared him to his Brethren who erect this tablet as a mark of their Brotherly Love.

There were twelve founders of Masefield Lodge, and when we come to look at their home addresses we find they all lived in or close to Moseley village, except two who lived at Kings Norton; and as the majority were engaged in professions or businesses in the city, we may reasonably suppose they travelled by train daily on the line through Kings Norton, Kings Heath and Moseley; which must have been the normal means of travel in those days, and was in fact in regular use by commuters until it was closed for passenger traffic in 1939.

So we may picture these Brethren joining company on the train day by day and discussing the possibility of forming a Lodge near their homes. No doubt they were reluctant to nominate one of their number as the first Master, so they approached a local Mason of some distinction, Dr. F.W. Underhill; who being in practice in Moseley, would not normally travel by train with them.

The petition sponsored by Stability Lodge No. 564 (a "daughter" of Harmonic Lodge No. 252 into which William Masefield was initiated in 1842) was presented to Grand Lodge in January 1884.  The warrant was issued on 15th February on the authority of the Grand Master, Albert Edward HRH The Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VII.

Harmonic Lodge requested the attendance of its Members at the coming consecration because the event honoured their senior and most highly esteemed Past Master, W.Bro. William Masefield.

Sir Edmund Anthony Harley Lechmere(Picture courtesy of Darryl Lundy, www.thepeerage.com)

The consecration meeting was held at the Moseley and Balsall Heath Institute on Tuesday, 6th May 1884 at 1 o'clock in the afternoon.

The R.W. Bro. Sir Edmund Anthony Harley Lechmere, Bart., MP, Provincial Grand Master, officiated assisted by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master W.Bro. A.F. Godson.

A banquet followed the Consecration Meeting at 4.30pm. Tickets (exclusive of wine) six shillings and sixpence each (32.5p). Details of the train service from New Street Station to the nearest local station, Brighton Road, were given with the summons for the benefit of visitors.

The first principal Officers of the Lodge were:

  • W.M. W.Bro. Dr. F.W. Underhill - P.M. of Leigh Lodge No. 887.
  • S.W. W.Bro. Charles Williams - W.M. of Alma Mater Lodge No. 664.
  • J.W. W.Bro. Rev. H.F. Coachafer - P.M. of Howe Lodge No. 587.

Let us now consider what kind of men were our founders. It is interesting to note they were all members of Lodges meeting in Birmingham.

Our first Master, Dr. Francis William Underhill,

Dr. Francis William Underhill was a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, living at Church Road, Moseley, and having a surgery at 310 Moseley Road. He was a Past Master of Leigh Lodge No. 887, and Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works. He died in 1927 at the age of 83, and according to an obituary notice in the Birmingham Post of 4th November 1927, he had been a church warden of Moseley Parish Church, and on his retirement went to live in Maidenhead. His son, Canon F.L. Underhill, was vicar of St. Albans, Conybere Street, and became Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1937.

Founders Jewel

W.Bro. Charles Williams

The founder's Jewel of W.Bro. Charles Williams is to this day in the possession of the Lodge. In the inscription on the reverse of this jewel, W.Bro. Williams is described as "the Promoter and one of the Founders of the Masefield Lodge". So evidently he was the prime mover among the Founders.

The first Senior Warden, he lived at “Moseley Lodge”, Alcester Road, a coal merchant in business at Bordesley Street Wharf, initiated in 1869 at the age of 38 years, in Stability Lodge No.564, at Stourbridge, and became the Worshipful Master of that Lodge in 1875. He was also a member of Alma Mater Lodge No.1644 and was installed as W.M. of that Lodge on 15th January 1884.

Charles Williams expected to be the first Master of Masefield Lodge but his eligibility for this office was queered by Sir Edmond Lechmere with Grand Lodge who ruled that he could not be W.M. in two Lodges in the same year. Therefore Dr. Francis W. Underhill became the first Master and Charles Williams became the second Master in 1885. It was a great disappointment to Charles Williams as he was the prime mover among the Founders and if he had been aware of the objection to him being W.M. in two Lodges at the same time he would have postponed his installation into the chair of Alma Mater Lodge to a later date.

We have a copy of the original Petition together with a copy of the list of the twelve Petitioning with their signatures, details of their previous Lodges and their offices in them together with details of their professions or trade. The Sponsors were Stability lodge No. 564. It may be interesting to note that only one of the Petitioners was a member of Stability and that was, Charles Williams.

Click here to see copies of the Lodge Petition / Sponsors / and correspondence from Charles Williams, Sir Edmund Lechmere and Grand Lodge.

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Rev. Henry John Coachafer

The first Junior Warden was Rev. Henry John Coachafer, who lived in Trafalgar Road, and was at that time curate of Moseley, later becoming vicar of Kings Heath. It is interesting to note that he was one of the clergy named in the newspaper report of the stone-laying at St. Agnes Church in the preceding year; which is an additional item of evidence connecting the two events. He resigned from the Lodge only two years later in 1886; and although he rejoined in 1895 for a brief period, he never occupied the Chair.

Among the other Founders, there are perhaps three others who deserve special mention, namely:-

W.Bro. Edmund Worrall

W.Bro. Edmund Worrall lived at Elm Villa, Alcester Road, Moseley, and was an account book manufacturer in business in Crooked Lane. The business was later moved to Edmund Street, and was carried on there until about 1977. For many years the firm of Edmund Worrall provided our Lodge minute books and printed the summonses. When the business closed down, the executors handed us the ram's horn snuff box which is one of our treasured possessions; a fact which supports our belief that it was W.Bro. Worrall who originally presented a smaller horn snuff box to the Lodge. He came to us from Bedford Lodge No. 925, was in the Chair of Masefield Lodge in 1890, and became a Provincial Grand Warden.

W.Bro. T.R. Arter

W.Bro. ArterLoving CupW.Bro. T.R. Arter lived at 7 Park Hill, Moseley, and was a member of the firm of Daniel & Arter, spoon manufacturers, of Upper Highgate Road. He was also a member of Bedford Lodge, and subsequently joined Lechmere, a volunteer Lodge. He was the third Worshipful Master of our Lodge in 1886, when he presented the magnificent Loving Cup which is regularly in use on our Installation Nights. It is the tradition of the Lodge that at the Festive Board of the Installation Meeting, the Loving Cup is filled with sparkling wine. It is then passed around during the newly elected Master's response to his toast. Starting with the Worshipful Master, each member present takes a sip from the cup before passing it on. The Master is expected to time the conclusion of his speech to coincide with the return of the cup to his position.

W.Bro. J.S. Pritchett

W.Bro. John Suckling Pritchett, OBE, MA, BCL, S.G.D. 1918

W.Bro. J.S. Pritchett was probably the most distinguished of our Founders, although he never occupied the Chair of the Lodge. He lived with his three brothers in the family home at Eagle Cottage, Redditch Road, Kings Norton, and was a barrister in practice in Birmingham, later becoming Recorder of Lincoln and an Alderman of the City of Birmingham. He was for many years a stipendiary magistrate, and is said sometimes to have had a very short way with wrongdoers. To one prisoner he is reputed to have said "your wife doesn't believe you; the police don't believe you; and I don't believe you. Six months". In masonry he was appointed Senior Grand Deacon in 1918, and became Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Warwickshire. In 1928 he was elected an Honorary Member of the Lodge, and at the celebration of our Golden Jubilee in 1934 he was the sole surviving Founder of the Lodge.

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