Abbot Baldwin Lodge No. 8656

Date of Warrant, 15th June, 1975. Consecrated, 25th October, 1975.

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The Founders of Abbot Baldwin Lodge had a very clear vision of the kind of Lodge they wanted to create. It was to enable more prospective candidates from Bury St Edmunds and the surrounding area to be made Freemasons. It would satisfy the wish of more Freemasons to occupy the Chair of King Solomon; and would encourage Masonic research.

The Founders’ preferred name for their new Lodge was ‘Mary, Queen of France’, after the sister of Henry VIII, who was buried in the Abbey and reinterred in St Mary’s church after the Dissolution. This proposal did not find favour with the Grand Secretary, and was refused. Abbot Baldwin, their second choice, was successful. Baldwin was Abbot at the time of the Conquest, and was responsible for the design and layout of Bury St Edmunds as a model town to serve the Abbey.

The Grand Secretary gave no reason for refusing the first choice of name, but if it was due to the French connection, he clearly did not know that Abbot Baldwin was a Frenchman. The Secretary, W.Bro. Walton, had already designed a badge for ‘Mary, Queen of France’, but when the name was disallowed he had to think up a new design for Abbot Baldwin. The badge is surmounted by Baldwin’s mitre, below which are two swords in saltire separating a scrip purse and trowel.

The swords represent the Tyler’s defence of the Craft, while the scrip purse refers to Abbot Baldwin’s charity in providing safe shelter for the weary traveller, and the trowel represents his role as builder of the town as a service community for the abbey. The rod and entwining serpent, the rod of Asclepius, refers to Baldwin’s skills as a physician and healer. The symbols are of course used throughout Freemasonry. The whole is enclosed by a ribbon bearing the Lodge name, number and year of consecration.

The Lodge was consecrated on Saturday, 25th October, 1975, in the main hall of Thurston Upper School, by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, W.Bro. R. W. Elliott, assisted by 16 consecrating officers. There were present a total of 130 Brethren, of whom 82 were visitors and 28 were Officers and Members of the new Lodge.

The oration was given by W.Bro. Rev. W. Davis, the Provincial Grand Chaplain, in which he emphasised that the real purpose of Freemasonry is to ‘provide and impart spiritual knowledge, as exemplified by the principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth’. During the early years, the Lodge relied on the generosity of the other four Lodges for all artefacts, such as working tools, and over time Brethren have added to the tangible assets by subscription, but there have been a number of generous gifts. At the second meeting of the Lodge, successful ballots were held for Mr Roger Walton, the son of the first Secretary, as the first initiate, and for seven joining members.

The original objective of presenting research papers at regular meetings did not transpire owing to the high demand of candidates for initiation, which, with only five meetings a year, led to a two-year waiting list. It became clear that it would not be possible to satisfy the objectives of being a research Lodge and enable young Masons to progress. The issue was partially resolved in 1991 by introducing an additional meeting, to be held on the first Monday in March, which would be dedicated to a Masonic lecture.

At the 150th regular meeting, held on 3rd February, 2003, the Treasurer informed the Brethren that the widow of W.Bro. George Bellamy, who joined the Lodge in April, 1976, had died and bequeathed what was understood to be a substantial legacy to the Lodge. This was recorded in the audited accounts to 30th September, 2004, to be £111,879.29. At the Permanent Committee meeting of 8th September, 2003, it was agreed that the legacy should be left in the Grand Lodge Community Chest to accrue interest. The annual income to be used by the Worshipful Master to donate to charities of his choice, subject to the approval of the Lodge.

The Bellamy Legacy had an immediate and profound effect on the Lodge’s charitable donations. In the first two years the Lodge donated £1100 and £880 respectively to non-Masonic charities. At the Installation meeting on 1st October, 2007, it was announced that the Permanent Committee had advised, and the Worshipful Master had directed, that a memorial bell, suitably inscribed, should be placed in front of the Master at the Festive Board, which he would ring to announce the toast to Absent Brethren, and that this evening would be the inaugural ringing of the ‘Bellamy Bell’.

The tradition continues as a lasting reminder of the generosity to the Lodge of W.Bro. George Bellamy and his widow. From its inception in 2004 until 2017, the legacy enabled the Lodge to donate an additional £40,291 to worthy local non-Masonic causes.