Hampshire & Isle of Wight Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge No.9263

On 2nd July 1986, W.Bro. James Edward Bullen was installed as Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master for the Masonic Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight at Southampton Guildhall. An experienced and well respected Freemason, R.W. Bro. Bullen's knowledge of the Province was unsurpassed and his influence was considerable. He had decided, prior to his installation, that the Province would benefit from having a Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge on its roll of lodges, and one of his first tasks as PGM was to request the Assistant PGM, W.Bro. R J McGarel-Groves, to make contact with other Provinces which had Provincial Grand Stewards Lodges, and to obtain such information as was available to assist him in deciding upon the format of the Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge, which he had decided would be consecrated within his Province.

In early 1987 the PGM spoke with W.Bro. Wilks and mentioned his decision to consecrate a Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge within the Province. There followed a discussion and on 9 February 1987 W.Bro. Wilks wrote to the PGM with his thoughts and visions for a Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge. W.Bro. Mike Wilks along with W.Bro. Tony Haines and W.Bro. John Woodward had been appointed Provincial Grand Steward at the Provincial AGM in Southampton on 4 July 1984 in recognition of their work for the 1984 Festival and they were all to become leading lights in the founding of our Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge

On 13 February 1987 R.W.Bro. Bullen and W.Bro. Wilks met formally in Fareham when the PGM passed over all the paperwork which had been accumulated by W.Bro. McGarel-Groves and asked W.Bro. Wilks to become the Organising Founder of the proposed Lodge. The PGM had formulated the aim and purpose of the Lodge and its rationale and these were laid down very clearly at this first formal meeting:

The Lodge was to be the premier Lodge in the Province. It would be expected to set the highest standards and be a role model for all other Lodges. Its joining members would be selected especially by the PGM, based on his assessment of the ability of the Brother concerned and his likely future contribution to the Province.

The Lodge was to have specific duties which were laid down by the PGM and which included in particular the provision of demonstration teams when required. This was a reference to the Province's need during the previous year to demonstrate the ritual with the penalties removed from the obligations. W.Bro. Bob Mills-Goodlet had organised the demonstration teams with members from various Lodges around the Province; how much easier the task would have been if appropriate teams could have been provided by a single Lodge.

W.Bro. Wilks  turned immediately to those two firm friends who had been appointed Provincial Grand Steward with him in 1984 - W.Bro. Tony Haines and W.Bro. John Woodward. The then Provincial Grand Secretary, W.Bro. Ron Champion suggested that W,Bro. John Oliver, who was to be appointed Provincial Grand Steward at the Provincial AGM in 1987,  be approached to become the fourth member of the Founders Committee.

The proposed Lodge needed Founders and the Founders Committee canvassed as many members of the Province as possible, who were eligible, to become Founders.   In February and March 1987 W.Bro. Wilks wrote to all group area representatives asking them to recommend suitable Founders and to the Secretaries of all Lodges within the Province asking that the letter be passed on to Past Provincial Grand Stewards who might be interested in becoming founder members of the new Lodge. Active Provincial Grand Stewards of the year were also contacted.  The response from Group Representatives, Grand Officers, Lodge Secretaries and Past Provincial Grand Stewards was very gratifying. By April 1987, 38 Brethren had expressed an interest in becoming founder members of the proposed Lodge and all were invited to attend the first Founders Meeting called for 1st May 1987 at Chandlers Ford.  The meeting was attended by 25 Brethren who arrived keen and left enthusiastic. Each Brother who attended pledged his full support. There was considerable excitement amongst all those concerned and it was clear that it would be possible to form the Lodge as required by the PGM later that year.  A second Founders Meeting was fixed for 29th May 1987 when the Petition was to be completed and signed for presentation to the members of our sponsor Lodge. The Petition was presented to the members of Kings Court Lodge at their regular meeting on 19th June 1987.  We are very grateful to Kings Court Lodge for their ready acceptance of our invitation to sponsor the Lodge and that the Petition was signed and submitted to enable the new Lodge to be consecrated before the end of 1987.

There was considerable work carried out by the Founders in preparation for the Consecration which was set for 30th November 1987 at The Masonic Hall, Lake Road, Portsmouth. The PGM honoured the Lodge by acting as both Consecrating Officer and as Installing Master and started a tradition that all subsequent Masters of the Lodge have been installed by the Provincial Grand Master. The Lodge was given custody of the Provincial Grand Lodge Bible which had been presented to the Province many years previously.

With a view to cementing the relationship between the Lodge and the Province, the Founders decided to offer Honorary Membership to members of the Provincial Executive and during Lodge business immediately after the Consecration ceremony the Provincial Grand Master, the Deputy and Assistant PGMs, the Provincial Grand Secretary and the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies were elected Honorary Members and Honorary Membership has been offered to and accepted by all subsequent holders of those offices.

R.W.Bro. Bullen honoured the Lodge in a number of respects. In particular members of the Lodge are permitted to wear their red Stewards' regalia (notwithstanding their holding a higher rank) at Regular Meetings of the Lodge and when representing the Lodge at other Masonic meetings. Subsequent Provincial Grand Masters have  honoured the Lodge by allowing those privileges to continue and by continuing "the tradition" of the PGM installing the Master of the Lodge.Since 1988 only Past Masters have been appointed Provincial Grand Stewards within the Province. Those Master Masons who would previously have been appointed Provincial Grand Steward active or past, would in future be appointed to the rank of Past Provincial Assistant Grand Standard Bearer.   It was also at this time that members of the Lodge donated to the Province their Active Provincial Grand Stewards Collars and since this time Brethren being appointed Provincial Grand Stewards receive from the Province not only the Provincial Grand Stewards Jewel but also an Active Collar, which are loaned to the Brother concerned for his year of office.

The Lodge had acquired, or received by way of gift, much of the Regalia and furnishings necessary but it was not complete without a Lodge Banner, and Bro. Ken Walkden set about the task of producing the Banner, which is a superb example of the embroiderer's art bringing colour into the Lodge Crest. The predominant colour of the background of the Banner is crimson or "Stewards red". The outline of Hampshire and Isle of Wight is surrounded by the garter blue of Provincial Grand Lodge, and the compasses are in gold. The fruit spilling from the horn of plenty is brought to life by the creative skill and the dexterity of the embroiderer.  At the same time as the Banner was being made, the Bible cushion and drop, together with the Secretary's tablecloth - each in crimson and bearing the Lodge Crest - were completed so that whenever the Lodge meets within the Province the Temple takes on the distinctive style which is the hallmark of the Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge.   The Banner was dedicated at the Regular Meeting of the Lodge in Lymington on 7th July 1989 by R.W.Bro. James E. Bullen, and the dedicating Chaplain, V.W.Bro. Rev. Dr. Michael Morgan then Assistant Provincial Grand Master and an Honorary Member of the Lodge.

The Most Excellent Grand Superintendent, E.Comp. Rev. Dr. Michael Morgan, at a meeting of Domus Dei Lodge in Portsmouth on 1st November 1995, asked W.Bro. Mike Wilks to organise the founding of a Provincial Grand Stewards Chapter within the Province. The Lodge responded admirably to the Grand Superintendent's wishes and twelve months later, and nine years to the day after the Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge was consecrated, the Provincial Grand Stewards Chapter was consecrated at Lake Road, Portsmouth comprising 42 Founders, 34 of whom were members of the Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge. At the Consecration ceremony the Grand Superintendent emphasised the strong connection between the Lodge and the Chapter by inviting the PGM, R.W.Bro. Alan Chun, to give the Invocation; and the Past PGM, R.W.Bro. James Bullen to present to the Founding First Principal the Charter of the Chapter, which was a very moving experience for all concerned. The PGM said:

"......the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent said in his oration that he did not know why this date, 30th November, had been chosen for your Consecration. Perhaps I can enlighten him. On this day, the 30th November 1987, the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge was consecrated by me. You were installed into the Chair of King Solomon by me. The Warrant or Charter from the Grand Lodge of England was presented to you by me and from the foundation laid that day you and the Founders have raised a superstructure perfect in its parts and honourable to the builder. Now on this day, the 30th November 1996, the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Provincial Grand Stewards Chapter has been consecrated. You have been installed into the First Principal's Chair and the privilege of presenting to you the Warrant or Charter from the Most Excellent First Grand Principal has been given to me and may you and the Founders raise a superstructure similar in all respects as that in the former; may the seed which has been sown today bear a harvest of great bounty."

The MEZ in his response referred to the enormous support which the Lodge had received from the Past Provincial Grand Master since its Consecration 9 years previously, to the great emotion which he felt personally on receiving the Charter of the new Chapter from the Past PGM, and to the wonderful kindness shown by the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent in delegating that part of the ceremony to the Past Provincial Grand Master. The MEZ pledged that the new Chapter would be a credit to the Lodge and to the Province.

Membership of the Lodge has increased from 31 Founders in 1987, to 192 members by 2006, with 26 Honorary members, and is increasing on average at the rate of 10 per year. The Lodge has become a major part of the Masonic life of many of its members. It is important that those members and those Brethren who become Joining Members in the future are made aware of our beginnings, our progress over the years, our achievements and, possibly just as importantly, our aspirations for the future.

Ian McKiver, PPJGD, PPGStwd