The Early Years: 1927 to 1929

Following the successful Consecration meeting, the first regular meeting of the Lodge took place in the Masonic temple at The Black Horse Hotel, West Street, Horsham in May 1927. The business to be transacted at this meeting (and all subsequent meetings) was detailed on an elegant Summons with an embossed crest printed by F.C.Holmes of Horsham (sadly the fine paper dies used then no longer exist). The Summons was a four-sided publication and included details of the business to be transacted at each meeting, a list of the Lodge Officers (and, as their numbers gradually grew, a list of the Lodge Past Masters and Honorary members) together with details of the lecture programme and books available  from the Lodge reference library. The Ceremony conducted at that first meeting was a double Initiation conducted by the Worshipful Master. Lodges normally prefer to initiate only one new member at any one meeting (with the exception of special Lodges such as Apollo University Lodge No.357 at Oxford which regularly initiates multiples of candidates at once!) but such was the number of candidates waiting for Initiation that it was considered necessary to conduct double ceremonies. The 8 applications for membership put forward at the Consecration were considered and approved by ballot (7 for Initiation and 1 as a Joining member) and it was clear there was to be a steady stream of more candidates to come.

Annual membership of the Lodge cost two guineas (£2.2s.0d) exclusive of dining costs. The fees for Initiation were five guineas (£5.5s.0d) and the fees for a Joining member from another lodge were two guineas. For use of the Masonic temple the Lodge paid an annual rent to March & Darnley Lodge which rented the facilities from The Black Horse Hotel. This was originally fixed at £17.10s.0d per year. It also appears from the Lodge financial records that it was the practice at the start to pay the dining fees for candidates on the night of their initiation. This appears to have continued up to the outbreak of the Second World War.

The next meeting took place in July and was a busy occasion. Two candidates were initiated jointly, and the two Initiates from the May meeting were put through their Second Degrees in a combined ceremony. Applications for 3 more new members (2 Initiates and 1 Joining) were considered. The Provincial Officers who had taken part in the Consecration were in attendance and were each presented with a Consecrating Officer's (Founder's) Jewel. At the same meeting one joining member (R.W. "Froggie" Kenyon of Excalibur Lodge No.2959 and a newly arrived master at the School) was admitted to membership of the Lodge. The pattern of Lodge meetings for each year was also confirmed with meetings to be held on the Third Saturdays of January, March, May (to be the Installation Ceremony for a new Master), July, September and November. By-Laws were also approved by which various aspects of the operation of the Lodge would be regulated, which of course would be additional to the requirements imposed on the Lodge by the Book of Constitutions issued by The United Grand Lodge of England. Copies of the By-laws were later printed and presented to the Lodge members by F.C.Holmes, a local printer.

The transactions of each meeting, who took part and who did what, who attended etc - were all faithfully recorded by the Secretary (in long hand) in the Lodge Minute Book. The Minutes of each meeting would be read out and approved by the Lodge at the following meeting. Then, as now, the office of Secretary was a demanding job, requiring great concentration and attention to detail; good administrative skills to ensure the smooth running of meetings and to cope with the necessary returns and correspondence; efficient despatch of necessary Summonses and communications; an excellent memory and above all a sense of humour. Good eyesight was also essential to decipher the names, ranks and lodge details inscribed in the Attendance register by brethren (especially lawyers and doctors!) at meetings (this had then to be transcribed into the Minute Book). How much easier life is for the present-day Secretary with the benefits of computer technology!   

The September and November 1927 meetings were especially hectic: the programmes for both featured the workings of all Three Degrees, each involving two candidates. It is usual practice for a Master and his Officers to conduct one ceremony but it is rare for the same people to do more than one ceremony at a meeting (unless again it is somewhere like Apollo University Lodge, Oxford) and so the assistance was enlisted of two other teams of Past Masters and other appropriately skilled Master Masons within the Lodge for carrying out the other two ceremonies at each meeting. To prevent spirits from flagging during these busy afternoons it was customary for the Lodge to pause or "Call Off" for a tea break before resuming the business in hand.

At both the July and September meetings two of the candidates (J.I.Eager and the Revd. Morley Headlam) had been initiated by relatives (father and brother respectively). The term "Lewis" is traditionally given in Freemasonry to the son of a mason who joins the Craft and it is always a proud occasion for a father to be able to initiate a son. It was also not uncommon for siblings to become members such as the Griffiths brothers(Roydon and Edward both initiated in March 1928) and the Murcutts (Reginald and William, initiated November 1927 and February 1929 respectively). 

As the number of meetings held each year was determined by the By-Laws Provincial Grand Lodge approval had to be sought for a special or "emergency" meeting for December 1927. The occasion was to initiate into the Lodge the former Headmaster of Collyer's, the Revd. W.M.Peacock who was home on leave from Africa where he had taken up a new assignment as Headmaster of King's College Lagos, besides being a Canon of the Anglican Cathedral there. It is clear that he had originally intended to join the Lodge at the start but circumstances had unfortunately prevented this. Accordingly he was initiated at this meeting and put through his Second and Third Degrees in January and February (another emergency meeting) 1928 respectively to enable him to become a full-blown mason before he returned to Africa at the end of his leave.

Learning Masonic ritual is akin to learning the lines of a play and most lodges provide some informal meetings or rehearsals, known as "Lodges of Instruction" to assist brethren to learn their lines and carry out the parts of their rituals and practice for meetings. At this time Richard Collyer did not specifically run such meetings other than a rehearsal before each business meeting and so to encourage this aspect of Masonic advancement, March & Darnley Lodge invited Richard Collyer members to attend their Lodge of Instruction. Discussions were held in 1928 with a view to formalising the setting up of a proper Richard Collyer Lodge of Instruction and it was formally agreed in November 1928 that this should be done. It was to be under the direction of "The Past Masters of and in The Lodge and its Wardens". A Director of Ceremonies -traditionally known as "The Preceptor" in a Lodge of Instruction - was appointed to take charge of the ritual to be rehearsed and a Secretary appointed to take charge of Minutes and other administrative matters. It was originally determined that it would meet on the Thursday before the Third Monday of each month from September through to May and in those early days an annual subscription of £0.2s.6d was charged to cover its costs (chiefly hire of the Masonic temple).

Apart from the ceremonies carried out at meetings it is also important for members to learn about the history and philosophy behind Freemasonry and this aspect was incorporated into the Lodge's programme from November 1927 with the inclusion of a lecture (it seems a maximum ten minute limit was set) at each meeting on some Masonic topic delivered by one (or sometimes two or more) of the brethren (who would either read a published paper or in a few cases actually research and deliver an original paper or possibly simply deliver part of the lectures included in the Masonic ritual book). Occasionally one or more of the Antient Charges of Freemasonry might also be read to supplement the programme. Masonic meetings follow a fairly well-established agenda and in common with all democratic organizations important items of business are notified in advance to enable members to consider them fully before decisions are voted on. One agenda item which was common then but which has since disappeared from the agendas of recent years was to read the Lodge By-Laws at each March meeting. The treatment of this varied from year to year and on occasions a sample By-Law only would be read in view of time constraints or they would all simply be "taken as read". The expenditure incurred in the running of the Lodge was managed at this time by approving for payment at each meeting all bills received from creditors.As previously mentioned charitable giving has always been a key component of Freemasonry and so each meeting also included an opportunity for alms-giving and on occasions resolutions and votes would occur to make charitable grants to specific charities or other worthy causes. The Lodge chose to make donations to the Royal Masonic Institute for Boys but also on occasions made donations to brethren in distress.

The January 1928 meeting again featured the working of all three Degrees, with the Third Degree ceremony being conducted by the Provincial Grand Master of Sussex himself. A record was set of having 3 candidates in one ceremony, with the Passing of 3 brethren and this record has never been beaten. It is worthy of mention that these meetings would start at 4 pm, stop for a tea-break at 5.30 pm and still finish in time for dinner at 7.45 pm which was no mean achievement. Whilst certain parts of the ritual attached to each of the ceremonies may have been omitted it still required impressive stage management skills to fit all of the work being undertaken into this relatively tight timescale. All of these meetings also included an item of "Masonic learning" or lecture as mentioned above in addition to the regular administrative items of business.

To encourage the Lodge members to deepen their understanding of and research into Freemasonry, the Lodge decided to set up a Masonic reference library (sadly this - and its collection of books - has long since disappeared) and over a period of time several books were acquired or donated to establish a useful resource for the brethren. One of the brethren - Don Chart (a draper of Tanner & Chart renown)- became the Lodge librarian in January 1929 and the library was housed at8 North Street, Horsham (the offices of the well-known Horsham Solicitors, Eagers). In May 1928 the Lodge became a subscribing member of the leading Masonic research group, Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 to further the opportunities for Masonic learning.    

All lodges have - or should have - a "General Purposes Committee (GPC)" - usually made up of the Master, Wardens, Past Masters and perhaps two other brethren - which serves as an advisory body to discuss matters affecting the lodge, items specifically referred to it by the lodge, to review lodge finances, consider applications for financial support from brethren in distress and to interview applicants for membership. The Richard Collyer Committee first met in December 1928 at the old School boarding hostel located in Hurst Road virtually opposite the School (this had previously been the old Horsham Cottage Hospital which was subsequently taken over by Collyer's partly for dormitory accommodation for pupils from the less accessible parts of the County or who had no family to stay with in Horsham. After the Second World War it was taken back by Horsham Hospital as the need for boarding disappeared with improved public transport). In March 1929 it met at Collyer's in the main part of the School but thereafter met at The Black Horse Masonic temple. Meetings took place in the months of January, March, May and July and the Committee was required to submit regular reports of its proceedings to the main Lodge meetings which were tabled as agenda items at the regular meetings.

The May Lodge meeting each year was to be set aside for the Installation of a new Master for the ensuing Masonic year (Masters serving a 12 month term of office) and no other ceremony would be conducted at such a meeting.

1928 was a busy year as the Lodge grew in numbers and confidence. Most members were locally based and their occupations covered a wide range of professions and activities. Besides the Revd. Peacock a few worked overseas and were only occasional visitors to the Lodge such asR.M.King who was a Superintendent of Education with the Colonial Administration in Nigeria and R.A.Murcuttwho was a cable operator with the Eastern Telegraph Company on distant Ascension Island. It was occasionally necessary to arrange special or "emergency" meetings to enable such brethren to complete their three Degrees whilst back on leave.

During the 1920's all of the regular meetings with the exception ofMay 1927 consisted of the working of at least two Degrees, with seven meetings incorporating three Degrees and, has been noted, this was only made possible with the involvement of a large number of Brethren. Three "emergency" meetings (which necessitated dispensations from Provincial Grand Lodge) were required to enable the sheer volume of candidates awaiting ceremonies to be processed in February, April and June 1929. During the entire period 24 new members were put through their three Degrees and with 8 Joining members in addition ( the Lodge had welcomed another Collyer's Master - F.A.Potter) to the 18 Founders the membership had reached 50 by December 1929 which fully vindicated the decision to form the Lodge. Some disquiet was expressed by members of March & Darnley that Richard Collyer was now attracting many of the younger element of candidate to their detriment but of course this only applied to former Collyerians so should not have seriously disadvantaged March & Darnley. 

Attendances at meetings varied - the lowest recorded being 15 for the January and February1928 meetings (possibly due to bad weather conditions) and the highest being 72 for the 1928 Installation meeting. Installation meetings have always attracted larger numbers of members and visitors. Attendance at emergency meetings of both members and visitors was invariably smaller than at regular meetings. Generally total average attendance was in the region of 24 members and 14 visitors for the regular meetings and 18 members and 3 visitors for the emergency meetings. Visitor numbers varied, with fewer at emergency meetings and many more at the Installations. During the period the lowest recorded number of visitors at any one regular meeting was 2, the highest being 30 (emergency meetings 0 and 6 respectively).  

The period for the Lodge's financial year end was fixed to run from March to February which caused extra administrative work as it was neither co-terminous with the Lodge's "Masonic" year which ran from May to April nor in line with the financial years of United Grand Lodge or the Sussex Provincial Grand Lodge. It was to be several years before this situation was resolved and all dates became co-terminous. It was customary for the Lodge's financial reports to be presented and approved at each March meeting following the end of the financial year (nowadays this takes place in September).

Mention ought to be made of the Dinners or "Festive Boards" which followed the meetings. These were held at The Black Horse Hotel and from the sample menu surviving from the 1929 Installation meeting (an attractive printed menu and toastlist) it seems that our ancient brethren dined rather well. It is customary at such occasions for the meal to be followed by several toasts which follow a well-prescribed formula but at this time there were possibly fewer toasts than today. The Black Horse Hotel was also of course the venue for what had become one of the leading annual social events in Horsham - namely The Old Collyerians' Association's "Private" Dance.  

Close links were enjoyed throughout this period with the "Mother Lodge", March & Darnley, and in November 1929 a Third Degree ceremony was performed in Lodge by the Master and Officers of March & Darnley. Close links were also forged between the Brethren of In Deo Fidemus Lodge No.3951, formed for the Old Boys of Varndean in Brighton with whom Collyer's boys had long maintained a fierce - but good-natured - rivalry particularly on the sports field. There was to be a regular exchange of visits between the two Lodges and at the March 1929 meeting the Master and Officers of In Deo Fidemus were invited to conduct a Third Degree Ceremony (a total of 18 of their brethren attended). Close links would also be forged with the Brethren of Honor Deo LodgeNo. 3562, for the Old Boys of The Mercers' Company School in the City of London (this Lodge merged in1995with The John Carpenter Lodge No.1997,formed for the Old Boys of the City of London School and since this amalgamation Richard Collyer has continued to maintain a close link. It is interesting to note that a member of John Carpenter had visited Richard Collyer as long ago as January 1929). Through memberships of other lodges held by Lodge members and by personal acquaintances with brethren in other lodges, a survey of the Lodge attendance registers shows that Richard Collyer Lodge enjoyed visits from many brethren from a very diverse range of lodges within England and Wales, from within the Scottish Constitution and from distant overseas Masonic territories such as Brazil (visiting brethren in 1927 and 1928 from Eureka Lodge No.3 and Sao Paolo Lodge No.8 for example).  

In 1928 at the suggestion of P.A.Tharp, a Lodge Honours Board, listing Masters of the Lodge, was hung at Collyer'swhere it was displayed for many years until its removal for storage at Denne Road in the 1970's (and sadly since lost),further cementing the link with the School.

Books known to have been available in Lodge Reference Library:

Cole's History of Freemasonry

Concise History of Freemasonry (Gould)

The History of Freemasonry (Mackey & Singleton)

The Master Mason's Handbook (Crowe)

"Things a Freemason should know"

Kenning's Cyclopaedia of Freemasonry