Our story perhaps belongs in the Mystery & Detective category as after discovering our founders chairs after perhaps a period of some 100 years and finding them in Solihull! - It begs the question
‘WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO OUR CHAIRS?’
So our story begins back in the year 1898 when the Albert Lucking Lodge No 2717 was consecrated and the three lodge chairs came into being.
The now famous chairs in Saxon Hall
The chair plaques identifying who they were presented by...
We think it would be fair to say that the chairs would not have been used in the consecration ceremony but presented at a later date. The lodge was consecrated in the Westcliff Hotel and during 1900 they moved to a purpose built Masonic Hall in Whitegate Road off the High Street in Southend; is it possible the chairs may have been introduced during this time?
Whitegate Road Masonic Hall
The building was demolished in 1909 and so the lodge moved again this time to the Victoria Hotel at the top of the High Street until 1924 when it moved once more before finding a long term residence at the Masonic Hall below one of Garon’s Restaurants further down the High Street; within this period the First World War took place so could this have played a part with the chairs disappearance?
Southend High Street then
The next move was 33 years later in 1957 to the new Masonic Hall in Woodgrange Drive; we are confident that the chairs did not reach Woodgrange Drive.
Woodgrange Drive Masonic Hall
We now bring our story right up to date as during September 2016 our Secretary, W. Bro Paul Thurgood received a message via his website contact form from a W. Bro Simon Westwood of the Shenstonian Lodge 5544 (Warwickshire) informing him that he was in possession of three chairs which appear to belong to our Lodge. Following several emails and telephone calls between Simon & Paul arrangements were made for the chairs to be collected and delivered to Saxon Hall our permanent home since 2006.
The Shenstonian Lodge meet at the Silhillians Sports Club and have to set their lodge room for each meeting. Following a recent refurbishment of the Sports Club the new storage area was far to small to accommodate the chairs hence W. Bro Simon was given the job of suitably disposing of the chairs. It was at this point he noticed the small plaques on the chairs and after closer inspection made his discovery.
The rest as they say is now History!
By chance W. Bro Simon was being installed into the chair of the Shenstonian Lodge during Monday 10th October 2016 which was an opportunity not to be missed for W. Bro Paul and W. Bro Stuart James our Treasurer who proudly attended the ceremony as representatives of our lodge
We in turn invited W. Bro Simon to Southend to attend our installation meeting the following Saturday. Needless to say the meeting was a great success and W. Bro Simon our VIP guest was given an extremely warm welcome.
Simon and our WM Barry Nichols in Southend
The Masters chair
in Saxon Hall
Simon and Paul in Solihull
The Old Silhillians Association
An Old Boys Club in 1921 was formed for former pupils of the Solihull School and later during 1948 the name was changed to the Old Silhillians Association with a modern set of rules; the main object of the association being to aid the school in every way possible.
The Shenstonian Lodge was formed by friendships during fund raising activities for the Solihull School Parents’ Association; parents, school staff and Old Silhillians also found they had a common bond with Freemasonry.
Therefore during 1935 it was resolved that an Old Silhillian Lodge be founded, named after the poet Shenstone.
The Lodge meets at the Old Silhillians Memorial Clubhouse on the second Monday in October, November, February and March.
Membership is open to Old Boys, past and present members of school staff, past and present Governors and parents of pupils.
For Reference: Solihull and those born in the town are referred to as Silhillians.
Our Master, Wardens & Secretary trying out the chairs when they arrived in Southend
To help with our enquiries W. Bro Simon thought it might be helpful to give a little more history of the Shenstonian Lodge venues which provides a little more insight into our chairs travels.
The Lodge was consecrated on 13th September 1935, in a ceremony that took place at the School, attended by c. 250 brethren. The first regular meeting took place at the Masonic Hall within The George Hotel in Solihull. As this was a regular Masonic meeting place, it seems unlikely that they would have had to source their own chairs.
In 1937, the Lodge changed their regular meeting place to the Assembly Rooms, Public Hall, Poplar Road, Solihull, except for the installation meetings which continued to be held at the George Hotel, by dispensation. We do not know whether the Assembly Rooms were set up as a Masonic Temple; if not, this may have been the time that we would have needed our own chairs.
We only lasted there until the outbreak of WW2, when we returned to the George Hotel. Apart from some meetings that took place at the school, we remained at The George Hotel until October 1951, when we moved back to the Assembly Rooms; now referred to as the Council House, with some special meetings still held at the School.
Once again we returned to The George Hotel, this time to the newly refurbished Masonic Temple within the Hotel. This happened in 1957 and continued until October 1977, when we made the move to the Old Silhillians Clubhouse where we still meet. So our Lodge has actually met continuously in Solihull since our consecration, but we have moved about a bit within it, but not by more that about two miles at most.
As far as I know, we have used these chairs since 1977; certainly continuously since at least 1993. Whilst all this is interesting, it doesn’t get us much closer to any indication of when we needed our own chairs!
This then brings our story to a close for now! - The mystery however goes on…
Where have the chairs been during those missing years?
How did they travel some 160 miles to end up in Solihull?
These are just two of many questions that we would like answered but… for now, we can only resort to trawling our lodge minutes looking for any possible mentions and hopefully if there is anyone reading this, perhaps another Lodge secretary or Lodge historian who may have some information, we would be pleased to hear from you and together we may be able to complete the story.