Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Independent Freemasonry: Bogus, Clandestine or another alternative for the Craft by Dr David Harrison

During the eighteenth century in England, there were three Grand Lodges in operation; the ‘Moderns’, the ‘Antients’, founded in 1751, and the Grand Lodge of All England held at York, otherwise known as the York Grand Lodge, which declared itself as a Grand Lodge in 1726. A Freemason could move between the three Grand Lodges with ease, and there are quite a few examples of this, a more well-known example being William Preston, who had dealings with all three Grand Lodges at certain points in his Masonic career, eventually being a prominent figure behind the foundation of another independent Masonic body; the Grand Lodge South of the River Trent. Antient Masons who wanted to join a Modern lodge had to undergo a ‘remaking ceremony’, and there is plenty of evidence of Modern, Antient and York Masons visiting each other’s lodges and enjoying Freemasonry side-by-side in harmony at local level.

Today, the York Grand Lodge, which came to an end at the close of the eighteenth century, is a Masonic body that eagerly attracts the interest of Masonic researchers and is held in high regard, the York Grand Lodge having an early history that can be traced back to 1705 at least, before it called itself a Grand Lodge. What is interesting is that when an independent Grand Lodge emerges today, it is immediately termed as ‘bogus’ or ‘clandestine’. Websites appear to denounce them, announcements are made in Masonic Magazines to warn the unsuspecting Freemason not to become entangled with anyone from these pretend Grand Lodges at all costs, and aggressive campaigns are launched to discredit them.

Recent examples of these independent Grand Lodges can be seen with the emergence of the Regular Grand Lodge of England, which was founded in 2005. There was a revival of the Grand Lodge of All England held at York later in the same year, and there was the Grand Orient of the United States of America, founded around the same time. There are others, but in all cases, they have quickly been denounced as bogus, clandestine and pretend Grand Lodges. Formed by Freemasons who may have been dissatisfied at how mainstream Masonry was going or disgruntled by certain events that had occurred. Whatever the reason, like the York Grand Lodge in the eighteenth century, these new Grand Lodges acted as an alternative.

More Grand Lodges produce a choice as they offer a different forms of Masonry. Perhaps the emergence of independent Grand Lodges is part of the evolution of Freemasonry; many of the young men that join Freemasonry today seem to want more than just a dining club and are searching for enlightenment, a spiritual pathway that can produce a greater meaning to their lives. Perhaps the formation of these Grand Lodges are Masonic experiments that need to be done as a means of searching and revaluating the true meaning of Freemasonry – to experiment in ritual or administration, to do so without the restraints of rules and regulations that are enforced by an older generation of Masons from a different time.

After the Union of the ‘Moderns’ and the ‘Antients’ in 1813 in England, the Liverpool Masonic rebellion led to the reformation of the ‘Antients’ in the north of England in 1823, the rebellion leading to changes in the regulations of the recently formed United Grand Lodge of England, changes such as the relaxing of rigorous ritual rules and changes in administration, an example being the division of the large Lancashire province into East and West provinces. This rebel Grand Lodge survived in the Lancashire town of Wigan until 1913, when the last surviving lodge reconciled with the UGLE, the last of the ‘Antients’ being brought back into the fold. This reminds us that whatever Grand Lodge we are under, be it a regular Grand Lodge or an independent Grand Lodge, we are all Freemasons, and we are all on the square, searching for what was lost.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Lodges That Meet Outside - an article taken from the book A Quick Guide to Freemasonry by Dr David Harrison

COAZ outdoor lodge
 at the TNT Ranch,
Gypsum, Colorado
(photo by David Moran)
There are some lodges that meet on ranches, hilltops, caves, and in other outside areas, and actually confer degrees and conduct ceremonies outside. Some outside meetings have become traditional for certain lodges, such as the Castle Lodge No. 122, in Eagle, Colorado, which meets outside on a private ranch annually during the summer.[i] There is also a lodge in Montana, which still meets outside and has Tyler’s mounted on horseback, with custom-made aprons for the horses!

There are many traditional outside meeting places for Masonic lodges in the US; one of the more famous examples being Independence Rock, in central Wyoming, which was a landmark and way-station on the old Oregon Trail, and became the first meeting place for Freemasons in what was to become the State of Wyoming. A similar site exists in Montana at the summit of Mullan Pass, which was the first recorded meeting place of Freemasons in the State in 1862. A stone alter and stone Officer’s stations have been erected there.[ii] In Indiana, a rock quarry was used as a meeting place for eighteen hundred Masons in 1967, using forty-five Tylers positioned around the rim of the quarry, and at a quarry in Marietta, Ohio, Tylers on horseback shouted from the rim of the quarry to report. Caves are also a common meeting place for lodges in the US, for example, in Kentucky, Masons met in Mammoth Cave, in Oregon, Malheur Cave has been the site of meetings of the Robert Burns Lodge No. 97,[iii] and in New Mexico the Carlsbad Caverns have also witnessed lodge meetings.[iv]

In England, for a lodge to meet outside is now unheard of, but there was a lodge under the Grand Lodge of Wigan that did meet under a bridge by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal near Wigan. This particular lodge called the Rose Bridge Lodge, was quite short lived, but was an interesting reminder that lodges could once meet this way. Apparently the lodge posted a Tyler at either end of the canal towpath to keep out intruders.[v] Meeting outside, under the sun, the moon and the stars, is for a lodge to meet under the active, natural Universe itself, and as long as the weather is good, there would be no place better.

Do lodges meet outside in other countries?

Lodges have been known to meet outside in India, and in Australia, one New South Wales lodge has met a couple of times in a large cave, and there is a Mark Lodge, which has met in a quarry in Australia. The quarry had supplied the stone for the Grand Lodge building in Brisbane.

(photo by David Cook)
On the 18th May 2013, the J W Jackson Lodge of Mark Master Masons No.32 on the Roll of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of Queensland, held an Advancement to the degree of Mark Master in the quarry at Yangan, north-east of Warwick, Queensland. This is the same quarry that provided sandstone for the Ann Street Masonic Memorial Temple, Home of the UGLQ. This Mark Lodge is named after James Watkin Jackson, a pioneer of Freemasonry in Queensland. He was the founding Master of North Australian Lodge No1 UGLQ, consecrated 13thJuly 1859, six months before the state of Queensland was proclaimed.


[i] The Castle Lodge No. 122 in Eagle, Colorado, hosts the outdoor lodge event annually with permission of the Colorado Grand Lodge AF&AM.  It is put on at Bro. Larry Trotter’s TNT Ranch outside of Gypsum Colorado named ‘COAZ’.
[ii] For the history of the Mullan Pass Historic Lodge No. 1862 which presently meets on the historic site, see http://www.helenamasons.org/MullanPass05.htm [accessed on the 30th of December, 2012]
[iii] For the history of the Robert Burns Lodge No. 97 and the Malheur Cave, see http://www.burnslodge.org/malheur.html [accessed on the 30th of December, 2012]
[iv] K. Arrington, ‘Highest Hills or Lowest Vales’, www.masonicworld.com [accessed on the 30th of December, 2012]
[v] See Harrison, The Liverpool Masonic Rebellion and the Wigan Grand Lodge, p.59.  In England, Pseudo Masonic clubs, such as the Hell Fire Club, also known as the Monks of Medmenham, certainly met in caves on the estate of Sir Francis Dashwood in West Wycombe during the mid-eighteenth century, and it has been suggested that the cave-like tunnels of Joseph Williamson in Liverpool, constructed in the early nineteenth century, were used as a meeting place of some sorts, but there is no evidence for Masonic meetings in caves in England.  See Harrison, Genesis of Freemasonry, pp.139-141.  There have been religious gatherings held outside in England, such as the Primitive Methodist meetings of the early nineteenth century held at Mow Cop, the rugged outcrop that straddles the border of Cheshire and Staffordshire, and more recently, the New Age gatherings of Stone Henge during the Summer and Winter Solstice, though in the US, especially in the western States and rural areas of the south, it was common to hold religious meetings outside and conduct baptisms in rivers.

The above article is copyright to Dr David Harrison, 2013.
The article has previously appeared in the book A Quick Guide to Freemasonry by Dr David Harrison, published by Lewis Masonic and priced £9.99.
It has also appeared in The Square, 2014.
Many thanks to David Moran and David Cook for the use of the two photographs.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Historic Lodge of Lights has rare minute book repaired by Dr David Harrison

The Lodge of Lights No. 148, based in Warrington, one of the oldest lodges in the West Lancashire province, constituted in 1765, is celebrating the conservation of two its earliest surviving minute books, the earliest of which dates from 1791.  Their first minute book has long since disappeared, so to see two minute books fully repaired by an expert conservationist from the Museum of Liverpool was cause for celebration.   The lodge was awarded £250 to pay for the conservation from the United Grand Lodge of England.  It is hoped that all the lodge’s minute books will be eventually repaired, conserved and digitalised for future historical study.  The conservationist Sharon Oldale said that it was an honour to work on such historical documents.

Indeed, the historical associations of the Lodge of Lights are well documented; the membership book reveals a lodge at the centre of its community, with its membership ranging from working men to industrialists, from teachers of the famous Warrington Academy to local watchmakers.  Academy teacher John Reinhold Forster was a member of the Lodge of Lights, now more famous for accompanying Captain Cook on his second voyage as Botanist.  Reinhold Forster went on to publish ‘A Voyage Around the World’.  Famous Warrington brewer Sir Gilbert Greenall was also a member, Greenall becoming a Conservative MP and his son the first Lord Daresbury.  Watchmaker Edward Harrison was also a member, an example of his work; a rare late eighteenth century pocket watch being on display at the local museum.  Another member of note is William Williams, who left the Lodge of Lights in 1838 to form another Warrington lodge; the Lodge of Knowledge, which was a lodge under the rebel Grand Lodge of Wigan.  Williams went on to become Grand Master of the rebel Grand Lodge in 1853. 

The minute books give an insight into a lodge operating in a time of war and social upheaval; with the French wars and radicalism in the air, there is a reference to the 1799 Unlawful Societies Act, and in 1801, a lodge night had to be postponed due to the amount of members who belonged to the local militia.  What is also interesting is that late nineteenth century Masonic historian John Armstrong, who was also a member of the Lodge of Lights, published excerpts from the lodge minute books in 1901, and his marks and rough notes are written in the margins of certain entries in the original minute books.   There are references to lodge members being fined for drunkenness and rowdy behaviour, lectures on Astronomy, and incidents of rather large bills for alcohol and tobacco; so overall the lodge night was educational, smoky and could possibly get a bit rough sometimes.  The Lodge of Lights, as a ‘Modern’ lodge, also had visitors from ‘Antient’ lodges, hinting at a harmony between Masons from both persuasions at local level, despite the tensions at Grand Lodge level.

A museum is being developed at Warrington Masonic Hall which aims to celebrate the unique history of Freemasonry in the town.  There is the original Lodge of Lights Bible on display at the Warrington Masonic Hall museum which dates from 1599, and according to lodge tradition, was the very Bible that Elias Ashmole took his oath on when he was made a Freemason in Warrington in 1646.

There is also cause for celebration as an early copy of the lodge by-laws has also been re-discovered, the by-laws dating to c.1770.  Considering the loss of the very first minute book, this discovery is important as it shines a light on the workings of the lodge prior to 1791.  It is hoped that with the aid of future funding, more minute books will be repaired, so the history of the lodge can be accessed by researchers for years to come.




Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Lord Leverhulme, Port Sunlight and Freemasonry by Dr David Harrison

The Masonic chair from
Leverhulme's old lodge room
William Hesketh Lever – the 1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851-1925) – was an industrialist, philanthropist, Freemason and art collector, whose soap factory and model village for its workers at Port Sunlight, near Birkenhead, Cheshire, UK, became a symbol for the improvement of the living conditions for workers during the later period of the Industrial Revolution. Using the themes and ideas of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement, Port Sunlight became a forerunner for the garden suburb, the landscape and architecture creating an aesthetic that, it was thought, would benefit the health and the overall lives of the workers.

Leverhulme was a very active Mason, founding a number of lodges that also conveyed the hierarchy of the workforce at Lever Brothers, the William Hesketh Lever Lodge No. 2916 and the Leverhulme Lodge 4438 being just two lodges he founded. Today the Lady Lever Art Gallery – famous for its Pre Raphaelite art - situated in Port Sunlight and surrounded by the beautifully rustic-looking old workers houses, can be visited for free, and Leverhulme’s old lodge room can still be seen, a number of Masonic items still on display. A walk around Port Sunlight is akin to walking around the mind of a genius - and a Freemason.
A bust - believed to be Pan - from the Lady Leverhulme Art Gallery
The dome of the Lady Leverhulme Art Gallery

Some workers houses from Port Sunlight

The Lady Lever Art Gallery, situated at the heart of Port Sunlight

Effigies of Lord and Lady Leverhulme at the Church at Port Sunlight


The website is up and running

My new website is up-and-running and I will be posting all new articles on there, along with news about my books, talks and lectures:


Saturday, 5 September 2015

The Liverpool Masonic Rebellion and the Wigan Grand Lodge by Dr David Harrison

Thomas Golightly
Liverpool Mayor and founder
member of the Merchants Lodge
On the 22nd of December 1823, a group of  Masonic rebels met at the Shakespeare Tavern in Williamson Square in Liverpool to re-establish the ‘Antient’ Grand Lodge, a Grand Lodge that had officially merged with the ‘Moderns’ ten years previously.  The group of Freemasons, led by local tailor Michael Alexander Gage, were rebelling against the central control of London and what they saw as the ‘tyranny’ of the Duke of Sussex, who had neglected their grievances concerning the ritualistic and administrative practices which had been imposed on them.  The rebellion in Liverpool was the culmination of discontent within the large Lancashire Province, which seemed to have been simmering since the Union of the ‘Antients’ and the ‘Moderns’ Grand Lodges in 1813.

The ‘Moderns’ or ‘Premier’ Grand Lodge claimed to be the official body of English Freemasons; formed in 1717, they had been central to the modernisation of Freemasonry.  However, in 1751, the ‘Antients’ Grand Lodge was formed, which rebelled against the ‘Moderns’ for what they saw as their tampering with Freemasonry.  Both Grand Lodges existed side by side throughout the remainder of the eighteenth century, operating as rivals, but in 1813, they came together and formed the United Grand Lodge of England, though, as we shall see, some lodges in certain areas on England were not happy with this move.  The ‘Antients’ had different ritualistic views; for example besides having the usual three Craft degrees, they practised a fourth degree called The Royal Arch, though the Moderns used The Royal Arch ritual as an awkward ‘add-on’ to their third degree.  Administration was also different, both Grand Lodges having different methods of running their lodges; the ‘Antients’ having travelling Warrants which meant a lodge could in effect travel around the country.  The lodge could also die out, but its Warrant could be purchased and a lodge set up elsewhere.[1]

The Lodge of Friendship No. 277 in Oldham had witnessed disruption a few years after the Union in 1817, the bickering between the brethren splitting the lodge in two, the rift only being healed the following year after the direct intervention of the Provincial Grand Master, Francis Dukinfield Astley.[2]  Disruptions in Liverpool had previously taken place in 1806, when the Grand Secretary of the Antients Grand Lodge was forced to write a letter to Lodge No. 53b which met at the Cheshire Coffee House at Old Dock Gate, after receiving a complaint - apparently from other Liverpool Antient lodges - that the lodge was open at unreasonable hours and that several members of the lodge were confined for breaking into a warehouse and stealing.  The Grand Secretary requested that the lodge should suspend all Masonic business until they were cleared of the charges brought against them, but despite this request, the lodge continued to meet.  The Mayor of Liverpool became involved when he received a letter from the other Antient lodges of the port, and the Committee of the Masters of the Antient lodges in Liverpool started an official investigation which concluded that Lodge No. 53b had been involved in ‘unmasonic behaviour resulting in their Warrant being withdrawn by the Antient Grand Lodge in 1807.  The following year however, despite all the trouble, a number of the brethren of the erased lodge were desperately seeking a new Warrant to form a new lodge.[3]

The Liverpool rebellion of 1823 certainly reflected the spirit of internal bickering and ‘unmasonic behaviour’ that had resulted in the closure of Lodge No. 53b.  The rebellion was also tainted with an element of isolationism and networking ‘cliques’ within the lodges; some of the outlying industrial towns such as Wigan, Warrington and Ashton-in-Makerfield, had strong business links to Liverpool, mainly in relation to the cotton and coal trade, and these towns became the location for lodges which came under the sway of the rebels.  Many of the Liverpool lodges, like other lodges based in the neighbouring industrial towns, were also suffering from low membership and in the acrid climate where the threat of closure and the loss of traditional rights caused increasing dissatisfaction amongst the Masons, revolt spread quickly, gaining momentum and stamina.

Many of the Liverpool Masonic rebels, who were mainly a collective of Liverpool and Wigan based tradesmen and merchants, eventually returned to the United Grand Lodge renouncing their initial grievances and apologising.  But a hardcore remained, and under the leadership of the tempestuous Michael Alexander Gage, the rebels created the groundbreaking Magna Charta of Masonic Freedom and formed the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of England According to the Old Constitutions, which was later to become the Grand Lodge held at Wigan.[4]  The Magna Charta of Masonic Freedom was a bold Masonic statement for the time, the majority of which was probably written by Gage himself.  It reflected the rebels’ grievances and outlined their hope for an independent future, but it also reflected Gage’s egotistical personality, and set him up as a ‘founding father’ of the re-launch of ‘Antient’ Freemasonry.  Ironically, many of the Liverpool based Masonic rebels were originally from outside Liverpool, such as Gage, who was born in Norfolk, John Robert Goepel, a Jeweller who originated from London, and James Broadhurst, a watchmaker from Great Sankey near Warrington.

Broadhurst had settled in Liverpool in the early 1790s, where he set himself up as a watchmaker.  With the outbreak of the French wars, Liverpool was rife with press gangs, and Broadhurst was forcibly ‘inrolled’ into the Navy in 1795.  He served as an able seaman on the Namur, taking part in the decisive Battle of Cape St. Vincent on the 14th of February 1797, which was an outstanding victory for the British, revealing the brilliance of Nelson.  In the December of 1800, Broadhurst was transferred to the San Josef, one of the two captured Spanish ships from the battle, which displayed Nelson’s flag for a time in early 1801.  It would be another two years before Broadhurst was released from service, and he returned to Liverpool and to watchmaking.[5]  In 1817, like many veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, he entered into Freemasonry, joining the Merchants Lodge and in 1820; he subsequently joined the Ancient Union Lodge, where he was to serve as Worshipful Master.  Both of these lodges included members that became actively involved in the rebellion,[6] and Broadhurst, having served on the San Josef when Nelson had hoisted his flag on the ship, would have been seen as a local naval hero, giving him a respect which would have made him an obvious leading figure in the rebellion.[7]
Wigan Grand Lodge apron

Broadhurst, like Gage took an active part in the Provincial Grand Lodge meetings, and was quick to join his fellow Masonic tradesmen in the rebellion, sharing the same grievances, freely giving his signature to the document which outlined these issues.  The discontent had developed a year after Broadhurst had become a Freemason, and quickly gathered pace, the Lancashire Province suffering in part due to the neglect of its Provincial Grand Master, Francis Dukinfield Astley, who never took action in Liverpool or Wigan to diffuse the situation.   Perhaps, like his fellow tradesmen, after surviving through the Napoleonic Wars and hardships of the early decades of the nineteenth century, Broadhurst sought equality and freedom of speech, which was perhaps the initial attraction to a society which he felt held those qualities.

At a Provincial Grand Lodge meeting held at Ye Spread eagle Inn, Hanging Ditch, Manchester, during the October of 1818, a motion was passed which declared that any lodge whose membership is reduced to less than seven, should not be considered as a regular lodge and the Warrant be declared void.  This motion, which was seen as a move to correct a defect in the New Constitution-Book, was actually made by Michael Alexander Gage with the overwhelming support of his fellow brethren.  This motion was then duly passed on to the Board of General Purposes, but instead of it being presented by them to the United Grand Lodge, the motion was not reported and the Board remained silent on the issue.  Certain Liverpool lodges, such as the Ancient Union Lodge No. 348, an old ‘Antient’ lodge, only had ten members at the time and the lodge had held an emergency meeting prior to the Provincial Grand Lodge meeting, sending a brother to attend, keeping an eye on the proceedings.[8]

Many lodges at this time, especially in the industrial areas of Lancashire, had suffered a decline in the wake of the Unlawful Societies Act of 1799,[9] Freemasonry suffering stagnation in the province, with only a scatter of new lodges actually being founded in the area during the early decades of the nineteenth century.[10]  When the Unlawful Societies Act had been passed in July 1799, Freemasonry was unavoidably affected, Masonry having to adapt to what many saw as an oppressive legislation.  The original proposal of the bill would have completely banned Freemasonry along with other oath taking secret societies, but the Earl of Moira and other leading Freemasons from both the ‘Moderns’, the ‘Antients’ and the Scottish Grand Lodge prevailed upon Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger to amend it by exempting Masonic lodges ‘sitting by the precise authorization of a Grand Lodge and under its direct superintendence’.[11]

In the wake of the Act, the decline continued, especially in the industrial areas of Lancashire, and the majority of the Liverpool lodges, some suffering more than others from low attendance, bonded together.  The low attendance leading some Freemasons to join other lodges as well as their existing lodge, such as when Broadhurst and some other brethren from the Merchants Lodge - who were to play an important role in the rebellion - joined the Ancient Union Lodge, a move, which ensured not only the survival of the struggling lodge but would have created greater bonding between the brethren.[12]

In September 1819, it was proposed by Gage that a letter should be drafted,[13] addressed to the Grand Master himself – the Duke of Sussex, which would thus outline the grievances of Gage and his supporters; focussing on the fact that the motion passed during the meeting the previous year had not been presented by the Board of General Purposes to the United Grand Lodge.  In the letter to the Duke, the rebels also referred to an incident in Bath, were Petitions for Royal Arch Chapters were dismissed by the Grand Chapter because it was:


‘not desirable to make the Number of Chapters in any place equal to the Number of Lodges’.[14]


The rebels seized upon this example, and, being of ‘Antient’ persuasion, they indicated that they saw the Royal Arch as part of Craft Masonry, and the rejection of the Petitions was an abuse of power.  The Duke of Sussex however, did not reply to the letter.  Indeed, the Masonic historian Beesley puts forward that the letter may have been destroyed as it was addressed directly to the Duke of Sussex and not addressed through the normal administrative channels of the United Grand Lodge.[15]  The fact there was no reply only intensified the anger of the rebels and culminated in a decisive meeting in the Castle Inn, North Liverpool on the 26th of November of 1821 which would launch the revival of the ‘Antients’.

The Duke seemed to have been quite dismissive of any disagreeable elements within Freemasonry and had little sympathy for rebels within the society.  Such was the case with the outspoken Freemason Dr. George Oliver, whose removal from his Provincial office was engineered by the Duke after Oliver incurred his dislike.[16]  The letter had been extremely direct and revealed the anger felt by the rebels, complaining how certain ‘Modern’ practices were being enforced and how new rules concerning the Royal Arch conflicted with the ‘Ancient Landmarks’.  Gage and his fellow rebels had given the Duke plenty of time to reply, but with no response, it could be said the Duke had played into their hands.

This period was certainly a sensitive one, and certain local lodges had their own, slightly different – almost eccentric practices.  Hampered by the increasing neglect of the Provincial Grand Master within the rebellious areas of Liverpool and Wigan, and with a growing feeling that their rights in the society were being eroded by the tampering of London based officials, the Liverpool rebels grew extremely sensitive to the transition of the Union regarding the ‘Antient’ and ‘Modern’ practices.  Trouble had been simmering slowly during 1819, with disruptions in Liverpool with the Merchants Lodge, the Sea Captains Lodge and the Lodge of Harmony, and with Lodge No. 394 in Chorley, near Wigan.  It had been thought that the trouble had been settled by a visit from the Provincial Grand Secretary in the May of that year, but it was just a sign of more serious trouble to come.

The decisive meeting at the Castle Inn, North Liverpool, in the November of 1821, set the final scene for rebellion.  A document was drafted with 34 signatures, including Gage and Broadhurst, outlining the dissatisfaction felt by the rebels.  The other lodges included in the rebellion were Lodge No. 74 and Sincerity Lodge No. 486 (both based in Wigan), as well as a number of brethren from the Liverpool based Mariners Lodge No. 466, the Ancient Union Lodge, the Sea Captains Lodge and the Merchants Lodge.

Broadhurst was the Worshipful Master of the Ancient Union Lodge in 1821, and along with a number of brethren including William Walker and Thomas Berry, he represented their lodge in the rebellion, adding their signatures to the Castle Inn document.  Broadhurst, apart from being the senior member of his lodge, became vital in gaining support for the rebellion from the Ancient Union Lodge, and would have been secure in gaining an important role in the rebel Grand Lodge.  Representatives from Broadhurst’s original lodge; the Merchants Lodge, included liquor merchant John Eltonhead – who later was connected to the Castle Inn as landlord,[17] tailor Daniel Mackay, tanner John Manifold and excise man Samuel Money Blogg.

The 34 brethren who signed the document were subsequently suspended by the United Grand Lodge, and Gage’s lodge, Lodge No.31, was erased, an action that mirrored the erasing of Lodge No.53b in 1807.  This action created further isolation for the suspended rebels as they were not allowed to visit any other lodges, ultimately providing greater bonding between them and giving them further cause to complain about the ‘tyranny’ of the United Grand Lodge.  The dissent spread rapidly through Liverpool as certain lodges began to support their fellow brethren.  The Liverpool based Sea Captain’s Lodge No. 140 threatened to separate itself entirely from the United Grand Lodge if Lodge No. 31 was not re-instated, and by the middle of 1822, an increased number of 65 brethren from Liverpool and Wigan were recorded as being suspended.

Gage’s Lodge No. 31 had been the ‘senior’ lodge amongst the ‘Antient’ lodges in Liverpool, having the oldest Warrant, and therefore having the position to settle the disputes that occurred within other ‘Antient’ lodges within the town.  The lodge had been called Lodge No. 20 before the Union, but had been subsequently re-numbered, and, in doing so, had lost some of its local prestige.  This re-numbering was obviously a sore point for the lodge as they reverted back to No 20 on the creation of the rebel Grand Lodge in 1823.  The Warrant for Lodge No. 20 had been purchased by a number of brethren from the Ancient Union Lodge shortly after it was founded in 1792, and, with the original Warrant dating from 1753, Lodge No. 20 became the oldest ‘Antient’ lodge operating in Liverpool, out-dating and thus displacing the local St. George’s Lodge, which, despite being founded in 1786, had a Warrant which dated from 1755.[18]  St. George’s Lodge became extremely aggressive in its attitude to the rebels, particular against the conduct of Gage and Lodge No. 31, and when looking at the membership makeup of the St. George’s Lodge, a greater number of local gentlemen are evident, whereas in Lodge No. 31, the membership makeup had a greater number of tradesmen, such as Gage who was a tailor.  There was a clear issue of class within the dispute, and this may explain the anger felt by Gage - a man with aspirations.

On the 5th of March, 1823, the United Grand Lodge finally expelled 26 brethren, stating that the rebels had:


 ‘been found guilty of various Acts of insubordination against the Authority of the Grand Lodge, and having been summoned to show cause why they should not therefore be expelled from the Craft; have not sent any sufficient apology for their late misconduct’.


Their rebellious activities were described as an ‘insult’ by the United Grand Lodge and the brethren, having ‘violated the laws of the Craft’, were ostracized.[19]  Gage and his followers were now free to proceed with their master-plan – to resurrect the ‘Antient’ Grand Lodge.  The plan was certainly to go national and to spread the influence of the rebel Grand Lodge, and it was declared that the causes which led to the re-establishment of the ‘Antient’ Grand Lodge were to be advertised in four of the London Papers, a public declaration which would be guaranteed to reach the eyes of the leaders of the United Grand Lodge.

            Gage took on the role of Deputy Grand Master, while George Woodcock Esq. was duly elected as the Grand Master of the Rebel Grand Lodge.  Woodcock was a prominent member of the Barnsley based Friendly Lodge No. 557 and fully supported the ‘Antient landmarks of Freemasonry’.  He was in correspondence with Gage and Lodge No. 31 in Liverpool from early 1823, Woodcock seeking writing an eight part resolution which outlined the ‘sorrow and regret at these severe measures which the G. Lodge has thought it proper to exercise towards Twenty-six respectable members of the Society’.[20]  Woodcock struck up a long-distance friendship with Gage, with the new Grand Master seeking advice from him on numerous occasions in regard to the administration of the Rebel Grand Lodge.  The correspondence continued between them until Gage distanced himself from Freemasonry; in a letter to Woodcock dated June 1828, Gage declined meeting Woodcock and the brethren of the Barnsley lodge in Manchester, and also declined an invitation by Woodcock to spend Christmas at Barnsley.  Gage also outlined in the letter how he had been putting Masonry before business for too long, and that he must now start devoting himself to the inhabitants of Liverpool and concentrate on his ‘plan of Liverpool’.[21]

            The new Grand Master was listed as a Gentleman in the minutes of his lodge meetings, but he worked as a bank manager for a fellow member of the lodge; John Staniforth Beckett – a member of a local banking family.  Despite this, Woodcock appears to have been in control of the lodge and certainly engineered the lodge joining the rebellion; a decision that split his lodge in two, mirroring the incident which had occurred at the Lodge of Friendship in Oldham.  Woodcock certainly shared the same spirit as his fellow rebels in Liverpool and Wigan, though events were to dampen the fire of revolt.

 The new Grand Lodge soon ran into trouble; at a meeting of the Grand Lodge held at the Cross Keys in Wigan on the 23rd of June, 1824, the ex-Grand Secretary John Eden was:


 ‘for ever expelled…in consequence of his having Embezzled the funds of the Grand Lodge for his contempt of Summonses and other unmasonic conduct.’[22]


Eden had been a member of Gage’s lodge, and this would have been a personal blow to the leader and would have created difficulties for the financial status in the early days of the rebel Grand Lodge.  Part of the Grand Secretary’s job would have been to assist in looking after funds, and Eden had certainly abused the trust that had been placed in him.  The returns paid to the Grand Secretary from certain lodges under the sway of the new rebel Grand Lodge, such as the Barnsley lodge, had not been passed on to the Grand Treasurer, Eden fraudulently using the funds. It seems that this incident had certainly shaken the fledgling rebel Grand Lodge, affecting the brethren deeply, some of whom became quickly disenchanted.

During the same year, James Broadhurst turned his back on the rebellion and conformed.  Along with a number of other rebels, Broadhurst presented an apology to the United Grand Lodge, which brought them back into the fold.  He immediately rejoined the Merchants Lodge, but his payments ceased in 1826, the experience of the rebellion and the subsequent fall out perhaps affecting the camaraderie of the lodge. Out of the original rebels representing the Ancient Union Lodge, only Thomas Berry remained to become an active member of what would become the Grand Lodge of Wigan, Berry having attended the first meeting of the rebel Grand Lodge at the Shakespeare Tavern in 1823 and serving as Secretary in the March meeting of 1825.

George Woodcock’s Barnsley Lodge became alarmed at the financial irregularities occurring in the administration of the rebel Grand Lodge and formally separated themselves from their Lancashire brethren in 1827, Woodcock going on to resign his office as Grand Master.[23]  The Barnsley lodge – being the only Yorkshire lodge in support of the rebellion – thus styled themselves as ‘The Yorkshire Lodge of Ancient Masons’, and Woodcock continued to lead his lodge in isolation until his death in 1842.[24]  Gage himself seemed to have slowly distanced himself from the rebels, and it was if the Liverpool brethren became disillusioned, the energy of the rebels quickly ebbing away.


[1] See David Harrison, The Genesis of Freemasonry, (Hersham: Lewis Masonic, 2009).  Also see David Harrison, The Transformation of Freemasonry, (Bury St. Edmunds; Arima, 2010).
[2] See Minutes of the Lodge of Friendship, No.277, Masonic Hall, Oldham, 26th of February, 1817 – 20th of May, 1818.  Not Listed.
[3] Letters concerning the Lodge at the Cheshire Coffee House, Old Dock Gate, No. 53b [erased], Liverpool Annual Returns, AR/906, 1797-1809, Library and Museum of Freemasonry, UGLE, Great Queen Street, London.
[4] The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of England According to the Old Constitutions, first met officially in Liverpool in the July of 1823, which resulted in the declaration of the ‘Magna Charta of Masonic Freedom’ which was read out in the aforementioned meeting in the Shakespeare Tavern the following December.  The ‘Magna Charta of Masonic Freedom’ was a document which put forward the theme of a new dawn in Masonry; free from what seen as the ‘despotic power’ of the United Grand Lodge.  The Grand Lodge first met in Wigan on the 1st of March, 1824, and with no mention of the Grand Lodge meeting in Liverpool again after 1825, it became known as The Wigan Grand Lodge.
[5] See 1841 Census for Liverpool, Lancashire.  Liverpool Library.  Ref: HO107/561/15, where Broadhurst is still working as a ‘Watchmaker’ aged 69.
[6] Family papers of James Broadhurst. Private collection.  Not Listed.  See also Minutes of the Ancient Union Lodge no. 203, 1795-1835, Garston Masonic Hall, Liverpool. Not Listed.
[7] Nelson hoisted his flag on the San Josef in January, 1801, after arriving at Plymouth, but transferred his flag to the St. George less than a month later.  The respect for able seamen who had served under Nelson is displayed in early nineteenth century literature, such as in Redburn by Herman Melville.  Redburn was based on Melville’s own visit to Liverpool in 1839, and in the book, on arriving in Liverpool docks, a description of the ‘Dock-Wall Beggars’ is given.  The sailors walking past the beggars ignored them, except for one; ‘an old man-of-war’s man, who had lost his leg at the battle of Trafalgar’, his wooden leg being made from the oak timbers of the Victory.  This beggar was respected by the sailors and ‘plenty of pennies were tost into his poor-box’ by them.  See Herman Melville, Redburn, (Middlesex: Penguin, 1987), p.261.  A reference to the status of being a naval hero is also made in Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield, by Mr. Micawber, a character who is down on his luck but who is also honest.  Micawber describes himself as ‘a gallant and eminent naval Hero’, see Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, (New York: Sheldon and Company, 1863), p.138.
[8] E.B. Beesley, The History of the Wigan Grand Lodge, (Leeds: Manchester Association for Masonic Research, 1920), pp.2-4.
[9] See David Harrison and John Belton, ‘Society in Flux’ in Researching British Freemasonry 1717-2017: The Journal for the Centre of Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism, Vol. 3, (Sheffield: University of Sheffield, 2010), pp.71-99, and David Harrison, ‘Freemasonry, Industry and Charity: The Local Community and the Working Man’, in The Journal of the Institute of Volunteering Research, Volume 5, Number 1, Winter, 2002, pp.33-45.
[10] A somewhat rare example of a surviving lodge that emerged during this stagnant period was the Blackburn based Lodge of Perseverance No. 345, constituted in 1815, a lodge that certainly lived up to its name.
[11] See L.A. Seemungal, ‘The Edinburgh Rebellion 1808-1813’, AQC, Vol. 86, (York: Ben Johnson & Co. Ltd.,1973), pp.322-325.  Also see Harrison, Transformation of Freemasonry, pp.5-10.
[12] See A List of the Members of the Ancient Union Lodge No. 203, 1792-1887, Harmonic Lodge No. 216, 1796-1836, & St. George’s Lodge of Harmony No. 32, 1786-1836, C.D. Rom: 139 GRA/ANT/UNI, The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, UGLE, Great Queen Street, London.
[13] Beesley, Wigan Grand Lodge, pp.4-5.
[14] A Copy of the Address to His Royal Highness Prince Augustus Frederick, The Duke of Sussex, Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of England, in Beesley, Wigan Grand Lodge, p.132.
[15] Beesley, Wigan Grand Lodge, p.5.
[16] R.S.E. Sandbach, Priest and Freemason: The Life of George Oliver, (Northamptonshire: The Aquarian Press, 1988), p.99.
[17] Liverpool Mercury Friday 16th of May 1823, Issue 624, in which is stated that ‘A well accustomed Inn, known by the name of the Castle Inn North, situated on the West side of Scotland Road, now in the occupation of Mr John Eltonhead, with good stabling for 7-8 horses and rooms over.’ Also in the Liverpool Mercury 4th of November, 1825, issue 754, which recorded the death of Mary Kirby age 67, widow of Thomas Kirby and mother of John Eltonhead, Castle Inn North, on the 29th of October 1825.  Family papers of John Eltonhead.  Private collection.  Not listed.
[18] St. George’s Lodge of Harmony No. 32 had been No. 25c, changing to No. 38 in 1814.  It was renumbered again to No. 35 in 1832, and changed to its present number in 1863.  See Lane’s Masonic Records 1717-1894 online: <http://freemasonry.dept.shef.ac.uk/lane/>   [accessed 25th of January, 2010]
[19] Beesley, Wigan Grand Lodge, pp.16-19.
[20] Will Read, ‘The Spurious Lodge and Chapter at Barnsley’, in AQC, Vol. 90, (Abingdon: Burgess & Son, 1978), pp.1-36, on p.10.
[21] Ibid., p.26 and p.31.
[22] Beesley, Wigan Grand Lodge, pp.46-47.
[23] Read, AQC, Vol. 90, pp. 16-17.
[24] Ibid., p.23.
This article is the copyright of Dr David Harrison, 2013.
The above article has previously appeared in The Philalethes Journal and The Square. The paper was also presented to the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire in March 2010 and was subsequently published in their journal.
The book 'The Liverpool Masonic Rebellion and the Wigan Grand Lodge' by Dr David Harrison is available from Arima Publishing price £9.99