The Abbey Lodge No. 1592

Date of Warrant, 13th December, 1875. Consecrated, 19th February, 1876.

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In 1874, the Royal St Edmund’s Lodge, No.1008, the only Lodge in Bury St Edmunds at that time, was flourishing with membership of nearly 100. It was determined that there was a need for another Lodge, so a petition was made to Grand Lodge by members of Royal St Edmund’s Lodge for a new Lodge to be formed. The petition was successful and a Warrant was issued on 13th December, 1875. The first meeting was held on 14th February, 1876, five days before the actual Consecration.

The meeting had been called by the Master Elect, W.Bro. W. H. Lucia, by arrangement with the Province, for the purpose of Consecration, but unfortunately Lord Waveney was unable to attend. The meeting went ahead and conducted ordinary business in the form of 15 propositions for new members: 11 from Royal St Edmund’s Lodge and 4 Initiates. The Consecration was later performed by Lord Waveney on Saturday, 19th February, 1876, who declared the previous meeting valid and signed the minutes.

The first subscription was ten shillings and sixpence per annum. The first Master, William Hubbard Lucia (1821-1883) was a man of his day. Invested with Grand Rank in 1878 as Past Grand Sword Bearer, he was born in Great Yarmouth and moved to Bury St Edmunds in 1856 to manage a wine merchants shop. His brother, Thomas Lucia, founded the Bury and Norwich Post in 1855. As well as being a founder member of Abbey Lodge, William was also founder member of Royal St. Edmund’s Lodge in 1864.

The regular day of meeting of Abbey Lodge has changed three times. From 1876 to 1897 it was the second Monday, then until 1912 it was the second Thursday, from 1912 to 1919 it was the second Friday and since 1919 it has been the second Thursday. Various items of Lodge furniture were donated by the Brethren including the Tessellated Pavement, a Bible, a pair of Wardens pedestals, Gauntlets and the Chairs used by the Immediate Past Master and the two Wardens. By dispensation from Grand Lodge, Abbey is one of a handful of Lodges to perform the Traditional Installation ceremony, which takes place every February, and is particularly popular among Past Masters. The first 40 years proved difficult for the Lodge, with early attendances of around 12 to 15 members per meeting the finances were always stretched with arrears causing problems and it is recorded that, in 1883, the Lodge was indebted to the bank with the members agreeing to subscribe an extra five shillings per quarter with the result that, eventually, by 1886 the Lodge had a small credit balance. On taking Office, members paid a fee of honour; the Master 10 shillings, the Wardens 5s and the other Officers 2s 6d. Officers absent without apology also had at one time to pay a fine, with the money being given to charity.

In July 1881, Provincial Grand Lodge was held in Bury St Edmunds under the banner of Abbey Lodge and mention is made in the ‘Free Press’ report of the meeting of the beauty of the new banner which had been given to the Lodge by W. Bro. W. Chapman in 1881.

At this time there was always a service either at St Mary’s or St James’ Church in connection with Provincial Grand Lodge, when Brethren would process to the church in their regalia, with the last service of this kind taking place in 1903. In 1887, Royal St Edmund’s Lodge were meeting at the Angel Hotel and Abbey Lodge at the Suffolk Hotel. Resolutions were passed by both Lodges and plans prepared for the direction of a Masonic Temple in Bury St Edmunds. Whilst this project was never carried out, the old Six Bells Hotel in Chequer Square was purchased and adapted.

The furniture for the Lodge room was selected from both Lodges with any surplus to remain the property of the respective Lodge. The Owen Clarke Lodge of Instruction is first mentioned in May 1927 when a lecture with lantern slides depicting ‘Old Tracing Boards and Cloths’ was given. Owen Aly Clarke, MBE had been a member of both Lodges, Deputy Provincial Grand Master and Provincial Grand Superintendent, Mayor of St Edmundsbury for a number of years and granted the Honorary Freedom of the Borough. The Lodge of Instruction continues to the present day and worked by both Lodges. In 1939, meetings took place during the hours of daylight, closing no later than 4.30pm, with tea being served after each meeting.

No meetings were held between May 1940 and January 1941 owing to war conditions. During the latter years of the war, American Brethren from Mildenhall and Lakenheath airbases were welcomed in the Lodge. In 1946 the Lodge was concerned to receive a letter from the Provincial Grand Secretary stating that singing in the Lodge should not be permitted unless permission was granted from Grand Lodge. The matter was hotly debated for a long time. 1950 saw the end of clothes rationing and Grand Lodge once again decreed the usual dark clothing, but the wearing of black dinner jackets ceased in Abbey Lodge, except for Officers at the Installation meeting only. In the 1960s the generous action of W.Bro. D. H. Raphael in purchasing property adjoining the Masonic Hall and gifting it to the Masonic Hall Company was gratefully acknowledged.

This land was eventually sold for development, with the proceeds applied to fund essential maintenance and improvement of the Masonic Hall. The Centenary meeting of the Lodge was held at St James’ School in April,1976, when the Lodge was honoured with the presence of the Provincial Grand Master, the Earl of Stradbroke, together with his Deputy, W.Bro. R. W. Elliott, and the Wardens, W.Bros. C. Burgess and H. J. Lucas. A dinner was afterwards held at the Athenaeum. The Masonic Hall at Chequer Square had provided excellent service and accommodation, but by the early 2000’s was becoming very costly to maintain. Combined with the difficulty of finding suitable parking nearby for members and visitors, it was decided that new premises would be acquired. Thus on 14th July, 2011, the purchase of a large commercial unit, with ample parking and good road access on the outskirts of town, was completed. The property was re-named Ashlar House and after substantial work soon became the new home of Freemasonry in Bury St Edmunds.

The purchase was funded from the sale of the Masonic Hall in Chequer Square, along with generous loans from many members. Lodge Officers continue to put great effort into performing ritual which reflects and respects the history and traditions of the Lodge for the benefit and enjoyment of its members and visitors, but most importantly its candidates. The Lodge has a long and rich history, during which it has continued to adapt to the times and needs of its members and is looking forward to celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2026.