Lodge meeting venues
Consecrated on the 29th October 1898 the Albert Lucking Lodge first met at the Westcliff Hotel in Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff-on-Sea near Southend-on-Sea. In 1900 a purpose built Masonic Hall was constructed in Whitegate Road off the High Street in Southend
However, in 1909 it was demolished and a shop was built on the site. It is unclear from our records why this came about but it is thought the premises became too small for the increasing membership of the fraternity. The above picture clearly show’s that the hall was the size of a detached house similar to many houses still standing today in that area of Southend. Along with the picture to the left with the members standing outside, it doesn't take much to assume that the fraternity had out grown the site.
In 1909 existing lodges found accommodation, as did the Albert Lucking Lodge in the Victoria Hotel at the junction of the High Street and Victoria Circus and continued to meet there until 1924 when it moved to the Masonic Hall in the High Street below one of the Garons restaurants.
It was situated through a covered walkway between the then Garons cinema and the Garons delicatessen. We had a neon sign in the form of a square & compasses above the entrance to this covered walkway.
I use the word Masonic Hall lightly as I was reminded by W. Bro. Maurice Sharpe that we had to set out the hall as a Masonic temple for our meetings and that the hall was also used for whist drives. This prompted me to recall on our way out from the meetings we sometimes used to pass by a queue of people waiting to enter the whist drive that was being held directly after we had finished. It was no doubt a fact that Lodges could not overrun in those days. We had a club next door and a room for interviewing candidates.
In the mid fifties an old church in Woodgrange Drive came on the market which it was thought could be converted to a Masonic Temple. A committee was set up to consider the feasibility of the project. The cost to purchase and make essential alterations was borne partly by mortgage and donations; all freemasons who met in the Garons Masonic hall were asked to subscribe one pound each towards the purchase of the premises.
£1 at today’s values would be equal to £26.41 approx.
This received great support and following the necessary alterations, Albert Lucking moved to the new Temple in 1957. During the transfer to the new centre the late Morris Woolf, an Assistant Provincial Grand Master (I and many new him as Morry) was able to procure some fold up seats from the then defunct Garon’s cinema and have them installed in the Temple. When we moved to Saxon Hall the Temple committee considered that these seats, although very comfortable, were too worn to be taken there. The fate of the seats is unrecorded. I think they must have been demolished with the building.
The fold up cinema seats are shown here along with some of the stained glass panels bearing the lodge logos (these are mentioned a little further in this history)
It is interesting to recall how we came to have the dining room area surrounded by mirrors which were installed during the alterations. It appears that Morris Woolf spoke to a W. Bro. St Anne who owned a large hardware shop in the London Road, Leigh–on-Sea. He asked him what he thought about the idea of having some mirrors around the dining room? St Anne said he thought it was a good idea and agreed that the mirrors should be large silver centre with light blue mirrors bordering them. Morris asked St Anne if he could supply and fit the mirrors and St. Anne said he could but who was going to pay for them? Morris said "You are!!..."
St Anne confirmed to me that he did in fact pay for them.
Over the years further alterations were made including an additional wing which held a second bar and some undercover space for parking. To the left of the bar in the Regency room (right) was the access to the LOI room which was on the 1st floor of the house next door, at 1 Honiton Road. The downstairs of the house was used as a library but in later years, with more lodges now meeting at the centre, it was used as another LOI room.
The heating of the dining room was somewhat oppressive, being provided by radiators and these were later replaced by warm air vents in the floor behind the top table. In order to improve the atmosphere in the dining room a series of rotary fans were introduced but were later added to with an air conditioning system which included the Chapter room upstairs at a cost of £35,000.
I think our last innovation was made when a series of stained glass panels bearing the logos of most of the forty six lodges that met in the temple were set into the recesses in the walls of the original church. They were illuminated from behind by fluorescent tubes which really brightened up the temple. They have now been transferred to Saxon Hall.
Woodgrange Drive hasn’t been without its mishaps. During the mid fifties there was a fire in the kitchen which resulted in the festive board having to be cancelled. Again, in the mid sixties the gas heating in the main temple went wrong and a flame came out of the gas heater and one of the beams caught fire, however the gas was turned off and the mini fire extinguished itself. A new heating system was introduced into the building later.
During the 1970’s we were plagued by power cuts on account of industrial action by the electricity workers and we had to organise our meetings around the power cuts.
In 2003 part of the roof in the building was lifted in a rain storm and foul water seeped in to the temple causing some internal damage and soaking the chapter robes. All the damaged robes therefore had to be professionally cleaned.
The Chapter room (where by the by our Chapter moved to during February 1987) had no separate dining room so the room itself had to be cleared of the chapter paraphernalia before the dining tables could be laid up for the festive board. Being on the 1st floor dinners were served from the ground floor kitchen via an inner staircase and dumb waiter.
The centre has been the venue of many events like the entertainment of the widows at lunchtimes, children’s Christmas parties for Masons off-springs, Lodge of Instruction ladies nights and other social events, all adding to the many happy memories during occupation by the many lodges that met there.
However, with the passage of time and the ever increasing cost of maintenance it was decided to sell the Woodgrange Drive centre and seek new premises with better facilities.
Impressive entrance to Woodgrange Drive
which was demolished in January 2006
Flights Health Club came on to the market and after much deliberation by the temple committee in consultation with all of the fraternal membership it was decided to purchase the premises in Aviation Way, Rochford and convert it into the New Masonic Centre (soon to be known as Saxon Hall): part of the cost being borne from the sale of the Woodgrange Drive centre. Operating as a limited company the scheme went ahead to convert the hall into a Masonic centre. Apart from two temples; one of which may be divided into two smaller temples the premises include facilities to hire for commercial gain which help towards the purchase, running costs and maintenance of the premises There is parking space for 175 cars; compared with the Woodgrange Drive Centre which had only about six parking lots.
UPDATE - 2006 to date…
Since the above was written the centre has gone from strength to strength and become one of the top freemasonry centres in Essex. There have been various settling in changes and improvements that have taken place with the largest being the re-taking back of the area for sole commercial use and having it transformed into a large new function and banqueting room now called the Jubilee Suite. The suite can comfortably accommodate large Provincial festive boards, Lodge Ladies evenings and has increased in commercial hire immensely. Overall this has enhanced the centres already top status to even greater success.