Thomas Henry Hall

Thomas Henry Hall

1843 — 1870

Although Thomas Henry Hall started his Cambridge career as a Trinity man, he did not stay long but migrated to King’s in 1816, the same year he matriculated.

It was the first year of the peace after Napoleon’s defeat. A near bankrupt Government was dumping discarded soldiers and sailors on the market, ushering in nearly two decades of economic and social distress. Coming onto an economy where wartime government contracts were cut off as with a knife; where farm incomes fell rapidly as corn prices slumped and where machinery was beginning to replace craftsmen in manufacturing, the ex-soldiers or seamen had little to look forward to. Remember, the ‘Manchester massacre’ known as ‘Peterloo’ occurred in 1819.

Hall became a Scholar of King’s and won the Browne medal. He took his BA in 1821, his MA in 1824, being called to the Bar in that year from Lincoln’s Inn, although he remained a Fellow of King’s until 1827. He was Initiated in Shakespear Lodge No. 156 (now 99) in 1827 whilst in practise as a Barrister at Law; became Secretary in 1831 and Master in 1832, the year that the long series of economic and political crises gave rise to Lord Grey’s Great Reform Bill. He was invested as Grand Registrar in 1842 and the following year he was appointed Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for Cambridgeshire to succeed George Adam Browne. He was the first Cambridgeshire Provincial Grand Master to be formally appointed by the United Grand Lodge and had no responsibilities for Huntingdonshire or any other areas outlying the County. The most striking thing about his appointment is the scrupulous care for legitimacy.

Not only did he have the support and authority of Grand Lodge, an authority shared by Eardley and Browne, but he had a formal and explicit Patent or Warrant as well. That document was read out to a fully representative group of Cambridgeshire masons and carefully transcribed for posterity in a record of the occasion. In other words, it was our first known and minuted Provincial Grand Lodge, and was held at the Lion Hotel, Petty Cury, on the 5th of February 1844. Before this, although it is highly likely that meetings called Provincial Grand Lodge had been held, we have no separate records of them. From now on we enter the ‘easy’ realms where records, though sometimes sparse, exist and are accessible.

Proceedings began with the Provincial Grand Master’s chair vacant, Thomas Henry Hall sitting on the left of it and his Deputy, Henry Francis Rowe (whom he had already appointed by patent) sitting on the right. Scientific Lodge being the senior Lodge in the Province – there were only three – the Worshipful Master thereof, one Thomas Robinson, had the honour of taking the chair, approving the reading of the patent, obligating and then Installing the Provincial Grand Master in a Board of Installed Masters. Hall then invested Rowe and afterwards appointed, as Provincial Grand Officers, two Wardens, a Chaplain, a Secretary (Martin Page), two Deacons, a Director of Ceremonies, a Sword Bearer, a Pursuivant and two Stewards. It took a little while for an understood and ‘traditional’ procedure to develop; after the first year only the DC and the Sword Bearer were replaced. In 1846 the list of officers shows seven ‘promotions’ and new names coming in as Pursuivant and Stewards. In 1847 the Officers were asked to retain their positions for the ensuing year, but eventually a pattern settled out. Aside from an occasional year when no meeting was called, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Cambridgeshire has been established and recorded ever since.

T.H. Hall was at once faced with one of those embarrassing family rows which have occasionally bedevilled our Lodges. The Lodge of Three Grand Principles was struggling; there had been only two Initiates in the years 1842-45. Bro. W. Smith had been Installed as WM in 1843 and in March 1845 – there having been no Installation since – Smith delivered the keys and Lodge properties to one of those two Initiates, Bro. Matthew Allies, who was now the Senior Warden. Smith never attended Lodge again. He was summoned to appear before the Deputy PGM to explain himself but refused to do so, saying he wanted nothing more to do with Freemasons. Hall suspended him and wrote to the Grand Master saying that he had suspended Smith, not as punishment, for it was no punishment under the circumstances, but in order ‘to incapacitate him as Worshipful Master’, thus entitling the Wardens to summon a Lodge in order to elect a new Master. Such meeting was called for New Year’s day. On January 1st, 1846, the chair of the Lodge meeting was taken by W.Bro. H.F. Rowe of Scientific, Deputy Provincial Grand Master – himself a survivor of a disputed election in George Browne’s day. He requested the minutes of the previous meeting. Allies, the SW, said that the Minute Book was unavailable, but offered to read a copy from another book. The objections raised to this made the atmosphere, in what was meant to be a meeting of reconciliation, even more tense. When the time came to ballot for a WM, Allies refused to conduct the ballot. When that had perforce been done by others, Allies refused to read the PGM’s letter suspending W.Bro. Smith (only for two months) for neglect of duty and failure to appear before the Deputy Provincial Grand Master when required to explain himself. Rowe then instructed Martin Page, Provincial Grand Secretary to read the document, upon which Allies took off his apron and left the Lodge ‘in a most unbecoming manner’, apparently taking with him the Lodge books and his jewel and collar. Those items were never recovered, although Allies attended the next Lodge meeting after sending letters of complaint to the Provincial Grand Master criticising a number of brethren. W.Bro. Rowe, again in the chair of the Lodge as Provincial Deputy, called upon him to deliver up the books and other Lodge property. Twice he was asked; twice he refused, and the Deputy had to be content with that. Allies never attended Lodge again, but neither did the Lodge recover its property. For this reason, the first official minutes available to the Lodge date from January 1st, 1846.

Hall was much less accessible than Browne had been and as a result the Deputy, H.F. Rowe of Scientific, carried a great deal of the visiting and administration. Hall did visit his Lodges on occasion but liked it to be convenient, although he did attend INUL in November 1866 when they presented him with a Claret Jug (value £20) as a mark of appreciation and affection. His only visit to INUL which appears to he solely a routine visit to one of the Lodges of his Province, was in October of 1864. – On that particular occasion I suspect they would have preferred him to be somewhere else; the Treasurer had the embarrassing duty of reporting that the Collector who had been appointed to go round the members to collect substantial arrears had absconded with the takings! Scientific were swift to take note of INUL’s difficulty – the following year they abolished the office of Collector and made the collection of subs. solely the business of the Treasurer!

Cambridgeshire Masonry flourished under Hall; Scientific had their Centenary meeting on 29th March, 1854; Freemasonry returned at last to the North of the Province, the Lodge of United Good Fellowship being founded in 1860 and the University established a successful Lodge the year afterwards under the name of Isaac Newton, thus relieving Scientific of some of the stream of University members. – Mind you, it must have been quite pleasant to belong to Scientific at this period – they regularly voted that one bottle of wine per head be provided at dinner, and that the Lodge be closed after the Steward reported that the specified amount had been provided! No wonder John Deighton fell out of his dogcart.

The Centenary was a great occasion, attended by the Grand Master, the Earl of Zetland, who stayed with the Provost of King’s College overnight. The meeting was held in the Aldermans’ Parlour of the Town Hall and the newspaper report of the meeting is more extensive than the Minutes! Not that there was much masonic work save the Openings and Closings, separated by propositions and followed by the presentation of the Brethren individually to the Grand Master.

I doubt they confined themselves, on that occasion, to one bottle of wine per head!

The newspaper reported the seating and named all present before going on to detail the speeches and toasts offered. The Ball on the following day was equally fully covered. The affair was held in the Town Hall and opened at ten o’clock. There was vigorous dancing — polkas, waltzes and quadrilles ‘in rapid succession’ until 1.00am when supper was announced. Plenty of bumper toasts and food followed, after which, we are reliably informed, ‘dancing was recommenced with increased vigour’. They had the last dance at six in the morning. It was the ‘Sir Roger de Coverly’ please note, no placid Waltz, so they were still pretty vigorous! It seems incredible that brethren could go through two nights like that in succession.

The resurgence of Freemasonry in the North of the Province may well have had more to do with the coming of the railway than the efforts of the Provincial Grand Master, nevertheless the distinction of restoring both Wisbech and the University to the Masonic mainstream must go to Hall since both fall in the middle of his period of office. The Lodge of Strict Benevolence had expired and in due time been removed from the roll of Lodges. Masons who came to settle in the Isle of Ely would find little Masonic comfort and would mostly have turned to King’s Lynn or perhaps to South Lincolnshire. Two such Masons, who became eminent citizens of Wisbech, were medical men, Dr. John Whitsed and Dr. H.T.L. Rooke. Both had begun their masonic careers in London, the former in Nine Muses No. 286 and the latter in Jerusalem No. 233. They were the active leaders in the proposal for a new Lodge and they found encouragement and support from Lynn and Norwich as well as Cambridge, where the Lodge of Three Grand Principles was the official sponsor. For many years Philanthropic Lodge in Lynn was thought to be the Mother Lodge, but research by the Historical Committee showed differently and 441’s part is now recognised.

Hall did not attend the Consecration of Lodge of United Good Fellowship No. 1111, (now 809). A ‘sudden and severe indisposition’ caused it to be left in the hands of his Deputy, W.Bro. A.R. Ward, Grand Chaplain, with John Deighton and Arthur Westmorland, the Provincial Grand Wardens. All four were, later that evening of the 11th April, 1860, elected Honorary Members. Later still, seven candidates were Initiated by Dispensation. It is a very happy fact of record that William Bell of Wisbech, then ninety-four years of age and a Past Master of the original Lodge of Strict Benevolence, was not only able to attend the Consecration of the new Lodge but was able to hand over to them the fine old batons, once carried by the Wardens, and the banner of the Astley family, which may perhaps have been the original Lodge banner. The Lodge still uses the old Mercury emblems for their Deacons, and a Trowel jewel for their Entered Apprentice. These too are thought to have come to 809 through William Bell. The Lodge has thrived since its inception. Although the brethren of Wisbech were not quite so quick off the mark as INUL in completing their Masonic unit, they were well aware of the necessity. However, it was nineteen years before Etheldreda Royal Arch Chapter was founded, being consecrated by John Deighton.

The Provincial Grand Lodge of 1861 was unusually early and unusually sited. It was held on January 3rd, and in the Rose and Crown, Wisbech, in ‘the Lodge room of the Lodge of United Good Fellowship No. 1111’. The Deputy, Arthur R. Ward, was in the chair and apologised for the unusual timing. He explained that the increasing pressure of his professional duties compelled him to resign his office. It was therefore important to hold a Provincial Grand Lodge for the immediate appointment and investiture of his successor. The venue was, presumably, a compliment to the newest Lodge in the Province. John Deighton’s warrant of appointment was read and he was obligated and invested by his predecessor. Of that year’s Provincial Officers, five were Wisbech masons (1111), nine from Scientific (105) and three from Three Grand Principles (645). At the next Provincial meeting, in May 1862, there was a staggering change. Twenty Provincial officers were appointed, fifteen of them labelled with the number 1161! Isaac Newton University Lodge had arrived on the scene.

INUL has always had a reputation for doing things a little differently. Its very inception marked that slightly eccentric orbit. At The Red Lion, 6th March 1861, with ‘Bro. Duke of St. Albans WM by Dispensation’, a ‘Lodge of Emergency’ assembled and the Dispensation from Thomas Henry Hall was read, authorising the Lodge to function until the Warrant should be formally made out and delivered. Hall himself was one of the petitioners and the Dispensation states that the Grand Master had received and approved the Petition. Deighton, the Deputy and also a petitioner, became INUL’s first Secretary and officers were appointed. A number of Joining Members were elected, a committee established to purchase Lodge Furniture and six men proposed as candidates. By the date of the Consecration, on May 21st, there had been four emergency meetings and 17 candidates had already been made masons, most of them having been Passed at their second meeting, three of them being Raised at the fourth meeting. The practice of working three degrees at a meeting was very early established! Hall himself signed approval of the minutes of all four meetings at the Consecration on May 21st at The Red Lion Hotel. For the first time locally, visiting PGMs (from Oxford, Essex and Durham) feature in the minutes. The Consecration was carried out by T.H. Hall, and the Duke of St. Albans was at last placed in the Chair of a properly Constituted and Consecrated Lodge. To complete matters, Euclid Chapter was proposed as early as November 1861 and was consecrated the following year!

Even in those early days the Lodge seemed to suffer from the erratic availability of its Officers and the tag ‘Pro tern’ frequently appears after the name of an Officer — including the Provincial Grand Master of Jamaica being called upon, though a visitor, to act as SW in May of 1862. The Duke of St. Albans, of course, was unable to complete his year as an active Lodge WM, being appointed Provincial Grand Master of Lincolnshire in January 1862 and leaving the Revd A.R. Ward to act for him most of the year. There is also the regular use of Dispensations to permit the Initiation of under-age Candidates and the processing of numbers of Candidates through the various Degrees. There was never any difficulty about it, for the Dispensations invariably came from the Provincial Deputy, John Deighton, who was the Secretary for the first eight years of the Lodge. Since they always carry the same date as the Lodge meeting, he probably wrote and signed them at the table to suit the evening’s requirements.

By 1862, the Provincial organisation was settling down. Detailed By-laws were adopted resulting in major increases in ‘Fees of Honour’ and the establishment of regular Provincial Dues (at 6d per quarter per subscribing member), together with Annual Returns and Reports from Masters. The following year, orders were read from Grand Lodge requesting a copy of the Provincial By-laws, laying down the system of Provincial Returns, minutes and lists of Officers which form the basis of our modern administration. In 1864, just another year onwards, the situation becomes almost completely familiar to us. At that significant meeting, held in Wisbech, the Lodges appear for the first time under the reformed numbers we now use. T.H. Hall presided over these three important steps linking the past with the present.

John Deighton presided at the 1865 meeting, the RW sending his apologies, ‘being prevented from attending by reason of a severe domestic affliction’, This was the loss of his wife and the Provincial Grand Lodge passed unanimously a message of condolence to the Provincial Grand Master on his sad bereavement.

R.W.Bro. Hall returned to his duties in time to have the unusual distinction of Consecrating a Lodge at Freemasons’ Hall in London. The Oxford & Cambridge University Lodge No. 1118 was sponsored by Isaac Newton, its purpose being to enable University men of both centres to continue their masonry in London without breaking all their old ties, but the petitioners listed came from Apollo, INUL and Lodge of Antiquity No. 2 in equal numbers. John Deighton, our Deputy PGM, assisted at the Consecration together with the Deputy PGM of Oxford, the Grand Secretary and the Grand Director of Ceremonies.

Hall was able to preside over his Province’s annual meetings in the following four years and to see the change to a new meeting place at 29½ Green Street, where the next few meetings were held. These rooms were settled on after INUL had moved out of The Red Lion to No. 1 Hobsons Place, for which decision a Lodge of Emergency was held at 48 Jesus Lane in October 1863. Hobsons Place sufficed for a year or two but they began to look for ‘a proper place to hold the meetings of the Lodge’ in 1865 and took to meeting in Bro. Carter’s rooms at King’s. There, a year later, they agreed to take a lease for a term of years on the two rooms in the Philosophical Society’s house in All Saints Passage but the following Installation meeting was ‘at the new Lodge Rooms at 29½ Green Street’. This site lay behind the old Stag’s Head public house (which became the delivery/warehouse gates for Eaden Lilley) and had been a Livery Stable at one time, flanking onto the site of Macintosh’s Foundry yard. The upper floors had been converted into a chapel by the Baptists, who moved out when their new ‘Eden Chapel’ was built on the corner of Burleigh Street and Fitzroy Street (that chapel is now a restaurant in the Grafton Centre, with a new Eden Chapel built at the further cud of Fitzroy Street). After 1866 the Reform Club took over the Green Street Chapel rooms and it became the regular INUL and periodic Provincial meeting place. It is now built into Eaden Lilley’s department store — or was, before the 1993/4 reconstruction probably removed all traces of it.

Hall presided at the first two Provincial meetings in this new centre. His health was beginning to fail however and he died in 1870, leaving something of a hiatus. The 1870 meeting, held in his absence but before his death, carried a motion ‘that Provincial Grand Lodges shall be held at such times and at such places in the Province as the Provincial Grand Master shall from time to time appoint, but one such Lodge at least shall be held in every year in conformity with the Book of Constitutions.’ yet there is no further minuted Provincial Meeting until the Installation of Viscount Royston in 1873, with Deighton still Deputy Provincial Grand Master.

Extract from “Cambridgeshire Encompassed” by kind permission of W.Bro. Jim Whitehead