The Lodge: 1990 - 1999

The reduction in support was sadly to continue through the 90's. Membership declined further to 40 by the end of the Millenium. During the period 10 new candidates were initiated into the Lodge and 5 Joining members were admitted but 21 members were lost mostly from resignations. Installation attendances have varied from a low of 53 to a high of 83 and attendance at regular meetings varying from a low of 33 to a high of 57, generally being around the 40 mark. The average number of members attending was in the region of 25. The pattern of four regular meetings and the Installation meeting continued. The March meeting continued to be a Past Masters' Night whenever possible.

In January 1990 the General Purposes Committee recommended the adoption of the Grand Lodge Model By-Laws, which move prompted a row within the Lodge with some members feeling the Lodge's independence was being challenged by such a step. Unfortunately one member felt so strongly that it prompted his resignation but the majority agreed it was not a contentious issue and a version was subsequently produced which permitted a feel of independence whilst embodying the general requirements laid down in the Grand Lodge model.    

Following contacts made by W.Bro. A.S.Hoad, who had been posted to Belgium to work, the Lodge was visited in March 1990 by members of the European Masonic Association but this contact did not lead to any lasting relationship between the two bodies.

Subscriptions continued their upward spiral during the decade rising from £47 in 1990 to£95 in 1999. A significant jump in municipal rates calculated on Denne Road was partly to blame but the upward trend in Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge dues, together with substantial expenditure proving necessary for the upkeep of Denne Road were also significant factors in this rise. New Dining chairs had been purchased which had exhausted the Masonic Hall Company's reserves. The kitchen needed refurbishing to bring it in line with Health and Safety requirements. Annual Hall rent was now the equivalent of a cost to the Lodge of£30 per member and Grand and Provincial Lodge dues£18 per member. To ease the burden on brethren the facility to pay the subscription in instalments was introduced in 1993.

A successful solution towards helping with the costs of refurbishing Denne Road was devised in 1995 when The Reg Bennett Bequest was set up as a charitable mechanism for receiving donations raised by the local lodges for The New Samaritan Fund. For every pound paid into the Bequest, Provincial Grand Lodge was able to release a matching pound for refurbishments at Denne Road, thus significantly increasing the amount of investment that could be put into Denne Road to address many long overdue improvements. The Richard Collyer target was to donate £5,400 but the Lodge succeeded in raising a total of £7,200 by the time the Bequest closed in December 1998.Whilst highly successful the level of the expenditure needed during this period was unfortunately so great that in 1998 the Masonic Hall Company found it necessary to impose a £5 per capita increase on Lodges meeting there to raise additional funds. The Lodge held 322 shares in the Company at this time.

Inter-lodge relations were maintained through invitations to the Installation meetings with the Master of March & Darnley usually acting as Senior Warden and the Master of either In Deo Fidemus or Honor Deo as Junior Warden for part of the ceremony. In November 1995 faced with falling numbers the Honor Deo Lodge voted to surrender its Warrant and amalgamate with The John Carpenter Lodge No.1997, a logical move that has proved very successful and led to the continuance of a very strong lodge. At its last meeting the brethren of Honor Deo presented to Richard Collyer Lodge one of its fine wooden gavels which features an elegant carving of the Mercers' Company "Maiden". This is now used at each Richard Collyer meeting by the Master.  

In October 1990 the Lodge decided to purchase a new Banner and W.Bro.A.Reed-Brooke (later Secretary) located an embroiderer based in Norfolk who could design and make a new Banner. It was finished and officially dedicated by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, V.W.Bro.R.H.Mosse, accompanied by a full team of Provincial Officers, at the January 1993 meeting.  

Concern was expressed in January 1992 when the Director of Ceremonies appeared at a meeting dressed in Dinner Jacket and Bow Tie. The Lodge has never dressed that formally and it was feared that such a standard of dress was to become mandatory. In the event it was discovered he merely had a formal dinner to attend elsewhere after the meeting and was simply saving time in not having to change later!

In March 1992, in common with many other lodges and individuals, the Lodge purchased a jewel commerating the 275th anniversary of United Grand Lodge and this jewel can be viewed in the Lodge's collection.

In October 1992 the Lodge trialled its first "White Table" meeting (the first being for members and their partners only). This was a normal Lodge meeting (with a very brief agenda) followed by a dinner to which partners and non-masonic guests could be invited. This proved a very popular event and has continued as a permanent feature of the Lodge programme to the present time.

Lodge charitable giving was directed towards a variety of charities - the New Masonic Samaritan Fund, Trinity Hospice in Clapham, South London, Barford Court in Hove (the Lodge became a Patron of the Association of Friends in 1998), St.Catherine's Hospice in Crawley, The Salvation Army and The Queen Elizabeth II School in Horsham. The Lodge also continued to provide a prize at Collyer's - now valued at £25. Previously known as "The P.A.Tharp Memorial Prize", its name was imaginatively changed in 1997 tothe "Student's Annual Award". In 1998 the Lodge also committed itself to concerted support for the Sussex RMBI 2004 Festival.

An unfortunate disagreement broke out in 1993 prompted by a Joining member over an aspect of Lodge ritual which was deemed by him and certain other brethren to be at variance with the ritual as laid down by Grand Lodge. The point at issue was the long-standing tradition of the Lodge to seat a new brother next to the Master after completion of his Initiation ceremony - a seat normally reserved for Grand Officers (This practice still persists in some lodges which have resisted such pressure for change). The tradition had grown up on the premise that the new brother was on such an occasion of such importance to the Lodge that he merited this honour. The Lodge had never previously attempted to obtain formal approval for this variation and although conflicting opinions had been voiced on the rights and wrongs of this custom, it was generally considered that it should not be allowed to become a source of division (although sadly one brother felt it necessary to resign over the issue). The outcome of this was the forming of yet another committee (in 1996) to record the traditional Lodge ritual but again this failed to produce any definitive document and the issue was quietly forgotten. The Committee was disbanded in 1999 but it is not clear what it found to talk about in its three year's existence!

For the first time in its history the Lodge held a meeting at Collyer's in November 1995. The Master at the time, W.Bro. R.J.Phillips, wanted to hold such a meeting there in his year of Office and so a dispensation was sought (and granted) from Provincial Grand Lodge to hold an emergency meeting in the Duckering Hall. Appropriate furniture and equipment was borrowed and either transported from Denne Road or kindly loaned by Christ's Hospital Lodge. A Second Degree ceremony was conducted there. 40 brethren attended what was a unique meeting (and probably never to be repeated). Catering proved impossible to arrange at the School so the brethren dined at Denne Road afterwards with the meal taking the form of a "White Table" banquet (which in this year replaced the now customary October dinner).

This same Master had become involved in the vagaries of Oxfordshire masonry and inspired by the unusual working of the Apollo University Lodge No.357 and ever mindful of old Richard Collyer traditions organised an agenda for the January 1996 meeting comprising of two ceremonies, a First and a Third, one carried out by his own team of Officers, the other by a team of Past Masters. Unfortunately it was announced at almost the last minute that the Lodge was to be honoured by a visit that evening from The Provincial Grand Master, who for some strange reason was not impressed at finding his attention detained by such an extended programme!   

In February 1995 a very enthusiastic Secretary started a newsletter which was circulated with each Summons. This was continued by his successor but has now been discontinued with the latest change of Secretary. A further change was the introduction of the practice of circulating the Minutes of each meeting to the brethren before each meeting and thus dispensing with the need for the Secretary to read the Minutes at each meeting. This has proved a very popular and efficient way of dealing with such matters.

In 1996 11 brethren of the Lodge provided by private subscription a mounted Lodge crest which was hung in the main temple at the Brighton Masonic Centre. This was in addition to a donation which had been made by the Lodge in 1994 to the Sussex Masonic Temple Appeal Fund. The Lodge also later donated £70 to the Chichester Cathedral Millenium Appeal in 1999.  

In March 1997 and again in September 1998, due to close links which had been forged with the United Technical Lodge No.8027, two ceremonies (a Second and a Third) were carried out on behalf of that lodge. In 1998 the Lodge voted to appoint a permanent Tyler (currently W.Bro.K.Cohen of Carfax Lodge) after a couple of years of filling in with Past Masters in that role.

During the 1990's several members of the Lodge achieved 50 years membership of the Lodge and Freemasonry: In 1993, W.Bro.Bill Saunders; in 1997 two members, W.Bros. R.N.Rapson and O.J.Street, followed by W.Bro. F.C.Tilling in 1998 and W.Bros.J Coombes and J.G.Puttock in 1999. Whilst separate presentations were made at the appropriate times the brethren concerned were assembled for a group photograph which is on display at Denne Road today.