The Lodge: 1930 - 1939

By 1930 the Lodge was well established and enjoying a strong membership. Meetings continued to be held at the Masonic temple within The Black Horse Hotel, at which venue the Festive Boards were also held. Double ceremonies continued to prove necessary to cope with the number of candidates and the practice continued at such meetings of one ceremony being performed by the Master and his Officers whilst the other would be performed by a team of Past Masters and other brethren. On a few occasions a ceremony might be carried out under the direction of or with the assistance of brethren from another lodge. In January 1931 the Master and Wardens of March & Darnley conducted a Second Degree; in July 1931 a double First Degree was conducted by a Past Master of The Royal Albert Hall Lodge No. 2986 and in November 1931 the Master of Gordon LodgeNo. 1726 conducted a First Degree.The reason for such invitations was usually because of some strong family connection with a candidate or other personal connection with the reigning Master or a member of Richard Collyer.

In 1930 a proposal - never accepted - was put forward that each Master, on vacating the Chair, should sign the Lodge Warrant. In 1938 the Warrant was subsequently cleaned, framed and hung in the Temple - previously it had been unprotected, being unfolded and folded at each meeting, and thus suffering from increasing wear and tear. 

The Master for the Masonic year 1930 - 1931 was P.A.Tharp who wrote the following letter of appreciation (printed in the Summons for May 1931) to the Lodge members on conclusion of his year in office:

"Brethren, at the close of my year as W.M. of this Lodge I want to thank you all for the honour you have done me and for your support. I should especially like to express my gratitude to those brethren who at great personal inconvenience travel long distances to attend our meetings.

As Headmaster of the School I am proud that we possess this Lodge, and that Freemasonry affords yet one more rallying point for Collyerians. I am very conscious of the fact that Collyer's School will always have cause to feel gratitude to those who have laboured to found the Richard Collyer Lodge."

1932 was to be a year of celebration for all connected with Collyer's School as it was the four hundredth anniversary of its foundation and the occasion was celebrated at Founder's Day that July and recorded in a special souvenir publication and marked by the setting up of the Fourth Centenary Appeal.

In January 1932 the Lodge regretfully accepted a letter of resignation from the Revd.W.M. Peacock who was still based overseas and unable to visit the Lodge with any regularity. In recognition of his services to the School and of his encouragement and support for the founding of the Lodge he was accorded Honorary membership of the Lodge in 1933.

Emergency meetings were still occasionally required to cope with the number of candidates awaiting ceremonies. In July 1933 a special dispensation was required to enable the Lodge to initiate its first (and only) candidate under 21 years of age, Leslie Tidey, who was joining the Royal Air Force as an aircraftsman. An emergency meeting was held in August to conduct his Second Degree and he was to have had his Third in September but his service duties delayed this until November. Tragically he was killed in a flying accident in 1938.

January 1934 was to be the first occasion since the founding of the Lodge when a meeting was held when there were no candidates awaiting a ceremony, a situation being subsequently repeated in March and again in January and July 1935. On such occasions it would be customary to try and have a second lecture or alternatively to enlist the services of a few brethren to perform some interactive part of the ritual such as test questions and answers or to read some of The Antient Charges of Freemasonry. Whilst not requiring such extensive learning these items would allow Lodge members to play some small part who might not otherwise have the opportunity of participating in the ritual. The agendas for the meetings had settled into a set pattern with ceremonies and/or lectures being conducted at most. The March meetings included the additional agenda items of the Reading of The By-Laws, Approval of the Lodge's Annual Accounts and the various Elections for the coming Masonic year. May was of course reserved for the Installation of the new Master.   

The inclusion of lectures ("ten minute talks") continued to be a feature of the agenda for most meetings but this was temporarily discontinued as a regular feature from January 1934. Attempts were made to revive them from May 1936 onwards and a new lecture programme was published for the meetings from May 1936 onwards but this seems to have been abandoned after that May meeting. This may in part have been due to a period of illness for Bob Greenop who was a regular contributor to the lecture programme. Lectures were eventually resumed in earnest from February 1939 onwards. Sometimes lectures formed the main agenda item for a meeting (often in place of a ceremony), other times they were additional to the ceremony or ceremonies being performed.    

The Lodge's charitable efforts continued during this period with specific support being given at this time to the "RMIB" - The Royal Masonic Institute for Boys - (which ran the former Masonic School for Boys at Busheyin Hertfordshire untilclosure in 1977) and The Masonic Hospital (It had been suggested by Province that a "Sussex" ward might be established at the Hospital, supported financially by Sussex freemasons but this did not come to fruition until the 1950's). Brethren were encouraged to commit to regular donations towards the RMIB and in 1931 29 members who made this commitment were accorded the title of "Stewards" in recognition of their efforts. Over the period 1931 to 1934 the Lodge committed itself to donate a minimum amount of£ 100 guineasto the RMIB. A few small hardship payments were approved from Lodge funds for the benefit of some members of the Lodge who were judged to be "in distress".

It appears that attendance was an issue as the May 1932 Summons contained a letter bemoaning the poor attendance at the Lodge of Instruction meetings (meetings usually held monthly September to May) and also at the regular Lodge meetings. The General Purposes Committee had already felt it necessary as early as November 1931 to question the value of continuing the Lodge of Instruction due to poor attendance (often only half a dozen members would turn up). Efforts were made to investigate the cause in the hope of finding a remedy and a questionnaire was circulated to all members. The Lodge of Instruction meeting nights were changed to the Tuesday before each Lodge meeting from September to April in the hope of attracting more support but this was abandoned in 1935 in favour of the previous arrangement. During the 1930's total Lodge membership remained in the low 50's, having started with 52 members in 1930, rising to 55 by 1933 before sinking back to 51 by 1939. The Lodge had managed to attract 30 new Initiates during the 1930's (but no Joining members) but this had unfortunately been countered by the loss through death, resignation or exclusion for non-payment of subscriptions of 29 members (7 Founders, 17 Initiates and 5 Joining members). Non-payment of subscriptions is always a delicate matter to resolve and during this period the Secretary of the time was urged to use all his inter-personal skills to try and bring defaulters back into the fold. The Lodge was far more tolerant at this time in its attitude to arrears and in 1935 the Lodge accounts show arrears of subscription (including several for more than one year) totalling nearly £59 which was a significant amount of unrealized income for the Lodge.

Attendances at meetings (members and visitors) remained generally healthy: Installation meeting numbers slipped from 86 in 1930 down to 60 in 1933 before recovering and by the end of the decade new Installation attendance records were set - 93 in 1938 and 102 in 1939. Emergency meetings were also attracting higher attendances but total attendance at regular meetings fluctuated widely from a high of 54 in July 1931 to a low of 12 in July 1935 (this may have been a seasonal factor). The middle years of the decade seemed to coincide with a fall in attendance by both members and visitors.Generally total average attendance was in the region of 23 members and 7 visitors for the regular meetings and 15 members and 3 visitors for the emergency meetings (emergency meetings tended to be more "in house" affairs. During the period the lowest recorded number of visitors at any one regular meeting was 0, the highest being 27 (emergency meetings 1 and 7 respectively).As with the Installations, there was an improvement in attendance at regular meetings in 1938 and 1939. Average Installation attendance was 30 members and 47 visitors. Visitor numbers at regular meetings were also variable with no visitors at all recorded at the January and July 1935 meetings (possibly seasonal factors again), many meetings with less than 10, and only two meetings where visitor numbers exceeded 20. 

The number of ceremonies being carried out had certainly dropped over the period 1933 to 1936 with only 14 ceremonies being conducted over the course of 21 meetings. This decline was arrested from January 1937 when two Degree ceremonies (many for two candidates) were conducted at all of the meetings from January 1937 through to February 1938, before a reversion to single ceremonies in 1939. March 1937 had featured the working of all three Degrees with two candidates each for the Second and Third Degree ceremonies. A printed membership list appeared for the first time in January 1938, incorporated in the Summons.

One aspect of concern for some Lodge members was the clash of dates each November between the Old Collyerians' Association Winter Reunion and the Lodge's November meeting. This was to be a problem for several years until the Lodge eventually abandoned its November meeting. The annual dinners of the London branch of the Old Collyerians' Association which had been formed in 1924 and was eventually disbanded in the early 1970's did not appear to have caused a similar problem as they were held during the week.

The Annual subscription paid by a member did not include any provision for his dining and in March 1933 consideration was given to changing it to become an inclusive "Dining" subscription but this idea did not find (and never has found) favour with the members. Inspite of the difficult economic times the Lodge subscription remained unaltered through the 1930's at two guineas. In September 1933 it had been agreed to set the subscription for overseas members at one guinea to reflect their only very occasional attendance and perhaps to dissuade them from resigning.

The Festive Boards continued to offer excellent dining at The Black Horse (still at a cost of £0.2s.6d) and in those care-free days cigars were included as part of the experience (nowadays smokers are fast becoming social outcasts - then smoking had apparently even been tolerated at Lodge of Instruction meetings). Entertainment was still being provided at the Installation banquets.

It is not entirely clear from the records of the time whether the concept of the Ladies' Night had been formally established as no documentary evidence exists from the time for such events. In 1933 a suggestion was made to hold a combined Ladies' Night with March & Darnley but it is not clear if this was the first initiative for such an event within the Lodge or merely a reaction to poor attendances at previous Ladies' Nights. There was also support forthcoming from the Lodge for the Sussex Provincial (Lawn) Bowling and Golf Fellowships which had been recently started and in March 1939 J.I.Eager was elected the Lodge representative to the Golf Fellowship. 

In July 1933 the Lodge members rewarded the long service to the Lodge of its Tyler, H.C.Teague, who had been accorded "Provincial Grand Rank" by Province, by voting to purchase and present him with the regalia necessary for his Provincial rank. In 1934 the proposition was considered - but not accepted - that such regalia would be purchased by the Lodge for any Master who was to receive a Provincial appointment.

The close link with the Brethren of Honor Deo LodgeNo.3562,the Lodge of former pupils and staff of The Mercers' School in the City of London was formalised from January 1936 into an annual reciprocal visit between the two Lodges.At that meeting the Master and Officers of Honor Deo processed into the Lodge to a warm welcome, heralding a long and close relationship for many years ahead. In 1938 a formal invitation was extended to the Master and Wardens of March & Darnley to attend the March meeting whilst a similar invitation was extended to the Master and Wardens of Honor Deo to attend the May Installation meeting.

In October 1936 the Lodge held a collection to purchase a collarette for the President of the Old Collyerians' Association which is still worn by current Presidents.

Nationally during this period Freemasonry suffered the loss of two of its foremost members, Lord Cornwallis in 1935 and in1936King George V and the Lodge members, in common with freemasons throughout the land, were requested to observe a state of mourning (marked by affixing black rosettes to their aprons) for each distinguished brother.

A significant development for Freemasonry in Horsham was the decision by the March & Darnley Lodge to build a new Masonic Hall as the facilities at The Black Horse were no longer considered suitable. A Building Committee was set up on which the Lodge was represented by its Treasurer, W.Bro.R.C.Agate. March & Darnley had originally obtained some premises in North Street as early as 1927 where they could establish their own temple but this was never progressed. In 1937 they gave this site up, purchasing instead part of the Horsham Vicarage garden. Horsham Masonic Hall Company Limited was formed and the new hall and temple (where the Lodge now meets) built at a cost ofunder £5000. The new facilities were to have been officially opened on September 17th 1939 by the Provincial Grand Master, Major R. Lawrence Thornton but thededication of the new building was postponed by the outbreak of War until September 1940. The new facilitiesThe first Richard Collyer meeting was held at the new Masonic Hall in October 1939. A dispensation had been obtained from Province to hold this meeting at the new venue although the Lodge omitted to pass an internal resolution to approve such a move, a step which had to be rectified retrospectively. The cost to the Lodge for using the new temple was fixed at £25.0s.0d per year. The Lodge was also encouraged to purchase shares in thenewly formedHorsham Masonic Hall Company Ltd and a first purchase of 10 shares was made in July 1939.included: a large temple with a capacity of about140,foyer (which for many years also served as the bar), kitchen, cloakrooms and a dining roomseatingover 100.Many items of furniture were donated by local masons and from Richard Collyer, H.C.Hunt donated the Lodge carpet and underlay, T.L.Lane - chairs for the Deacons and E.E.Lawrence donated the organ. The legal work had been done free of charge by the Eager brothers. Individual brethren were invited to provide one or more chairs for a guinea each in return for which their names would be recorded on nameplates affixed to the chairs. Pride of place in the temple was the magnificent Chippendale Master's chair which had been used by the Prince of Wales in 1902 at the laying of the foundation stone of Christ's Hospital School.

With the increasing political tension in the late 1930's The United Grand Lodge of England had taken the unusual step of issuing a public statement in August 1938 (to be read out in every Lodge) which restated its attitude "towards political affairs and of the principles which govern our Grand Lodges in the recognition of other Grand Lodges" to make it clear to the Country where English Freemasonry stood in the light of the anti-masonic propaganda and persecution being promulgated in Europe, chiefly by the Nazis, and the increasingly uncertain times.

1939 dawned with the impending likelihood of war on the horizon and whilst Neville Chamberlain and his Government sought to avoid war through the policy of appeasement, most people probably realized the inevitable outcome of that policy and tacit - and sometimes not so tacit - preparations were being undertaken to prepare for the inevitable.In July 1939 a fund raising event was staged in Horsham to raise money towards the war effort which seemed increasingly likely to become necessary under the banner of "Horsham Weapons of War Week" and the Lodge purchased 50 savings certificates in support of this cause. Masonically the year was a lean time for the Lodge with only two candidates being processed necessitating alternative agenda items or shortened meetings to make up for the lack of ceremonies. H.C.Teague resigned as Tyler in that year having served the Lodge loyally in that capacity since the Consecration and a testimonial was instigated for him to which 30 members subscribed raising just over £10.

With the declaration of War on 3rd September 1939, all Masonic meeting throughout the land were suspended by order of United Grand Lodge albeit the suspension was only to last for three weeks. In those dark and foreboding times the Lodge could count itself fortunate it could still meet but clearly difficult times lay ahead.