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The consecration of the Woodstock Lodge on the 30th January 1964, was the culmination of months of hard work and planning by a group of dedicated masons, who had gathered together under the initial guidance of W. Bros Bryan Lucas and Tommy Midwood.
ln the event not all of those who had attended the various meetings became founders of the Lodge. Several dropped out for a variety of reasons, and ultimately eighteen petitioned Grand Lodge for the authority to found a Lodge under the sponsorship of the Ditton Lodge No 4143.
In his Consecration Oration, W. Bro. Rev. A. B. Carver, the Provincial Chaplain commented on his research into the name and crest chosen by the founders in the following terms.
“According to my authorities — Brayley’s ‘A Topographical History of Surrey’ and John Evelyn, the author of the great classic on English Forestry called ’Sylva’ written in the year 1664 — according to those two writers the word Woodstock means ‘a place in the woods’. It is an old Saxon word in origin, and dates back a very, very long time. And both authorities also say that your Surrey Woodstock originally came from a Woodstock in Oxfordshire, which was the earliest park in England. As such it was a famous royal residence. King Alfred lived there. It was Henry I’s favourite residence. Queen Elizabeth I was confined there during the reign of her sister Mary. References to this Woodstock go back a very long way, certainly to the Doomsday Book.
Now some time during the Tenth or Eleventh centuries, nobody seems quite sure when, the word Woodstock is discovered in Surrey. A Woodstock in Surrey, for instance, is referred to in the history books as being granted to one Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent, an uncle of the King, at the beginning of the reign of Edward Ill in 1327. There is reference also to the fact that King Henry ll., 1154-1189, afforested the whole of the Woodstock area, as far as the Manors of Guildford, Woking and Brookwood, and he declared the whole area a Forest.
In the year 1561, Woodstock was disposed of to a George Evelyn, that is John Evelyn’s father. It became the Evelyn seat. George Evelyn, by the way, was the first maker of gunpowder in England.”
W. Bro. Carver continued, ”When we jump across the centuries to more modern times, say to the 19th century, we find printed on the 1850 maps of Surrey a Woodstock Lane. It passes through a heavily wooded area leading from Ditton to Stoke, near Cobham. On these maps, there is also shown a crossroads where Woodstock Lane crosses Clayton Road. On all sides of this crossroads, the maps show extensive areas of withy beds, from which obviously withies were cut. Thus there are two suggestions as to how the old Saxon word Woodstock originated in Surrey. It is either a corruption of the two words Wood and Stoke, or it may be a word which refers to a heavily wooded area, to the Stock of Wood, Wood-stock, stock of wood on the withy beds so vital for the production of gunpowder.
If we accept this suggestion, it enables us to say that the Surrey Woodstock was originally an area situated on the western boundaries of the Parishes of Long Ditton and Hook, and on the Eastern boundaries of Hinchley Wood and Claygate.
In the passage of years, each of these four places or parishes has encroached, so that the original area of Woodstock has been so reduced, as to leave only a Lane left, though a very well known Lane, which runs from the church of St Mary, Long Ditton almost to Claygate — a distance of approximately three miles long. To this day, it still resembles, in great measure, a country scene of peaceful tranquillity and serenity, and that in spite of its very close proximity to the present Kingston By-Pass Road, which, by the way it crosses.
The Founders of this Lodge wanted their Lodge to have some close link with the name of Ditton; and as it is the Ditton Lodge which are sponsoring you, what more natural request than to ask that you be allowed to call yourselves Woodstock.
The focal point of the whole area is the ancient church of St Mary. The present building dates from 1880 only, but the Doomsday Book refers to a Church on this site; and so again very naturally, you obtained permission that a design of the Church should form the centre-piece of your Lodge Badge or Crest.”
In conclusion W. Bro. Carver said,
“1. The area of Woodstock produced withies — tough, pliable branches, which were used for binding bundles of wood together, thus making them easier to carry. Might we not use this as an allegory, a symbol, and say that our hope is that this might be an omen, for binding still tighter together the strong bonds of faith and friendship that you already possess; and we will pray most fervently, that you will see to it, that this spirit of unity passes through this Lodge from generation to generation.
2. The memory of the great Masons who now lie at rest in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church; Their memory sets you, should set you, and does set you, a magnificent and splendid example, on which you may lay your foundation today, and on which it is hoped you will raise a glorious superstructure of your own. Each Lodge of course, builds its own superstructure but within the framework of Freemasonry it has its own ethos, its own atmosphere, and its own impact, which are peculiarly its own. So as I have just said, may you raise a superstructure, worthy of those who have gone before.
3. Your Crest. There is much I can say about your crest, but let me confine myself to just one word — CHARITY. I know that your crest can suggest, bickerings and squabbles, and disunion, but the more sensible of you, and indeed that must be all of you, to you your crest will also suggest Charity, both in word and deed. The Church of St Mary was in the first place, built out of charity, out of the contributions, many contributions both great and small, of all who lived in Woodstock in 1880. May that be an inspiration to you, not perhaps to build Churches, but to build up the four masonic charities.”
After this most impressive Oration by the Provincial Chaplain, the Consecrating Officers proceeded with the ceremony, and the Woodstock Lodge No 7948 was duly born.
After the Installation of W. Bro. B. C. Lucas as the first master of the Lodge and the appointment of the officers it was proposed and seconded that all the Consecrating Officers should be elected Honorary Members of the Lodge. This proposition was carried unanimously, and the Worshipful Master invited the R. W. Provincial Grand Master to accept an Honorary Memberships of the Lodge as a token of gratitude for the splendid manner in which the ceremony of consecration had been carried out. The R.W. Provincial Grand Master was pleased to accept on behalf of himself and all the consecrating officers.
Of the founders of the Lodge, only three remain on this twenty fifth anniversary, Bro. J. R. Collings, W. Bro. O. W. Gray and W. Bro. A. Ventham. .
W. Bro. Tommy Midwood was the first secretary of the Lodge, a position he held for ten years. It was due to his burning enthusiasm for masonry, together with his example in everything that he did, that became a guide and mentor for so many young masons, not only in the craft but in so many of the other degrees of freemasonry. He dedicated much of his time as secretary to the Provincial charities, and was appointed a Grand Officer in 1971. He was sorely missed by all when he passed away in 1978.
W. Bro. A. Ventham became secretary in 1974, a position which he holds to this day. W. Bro. Ventham was the first master to hold the office for two successive years. A mark of deep appreciation from the Brethren.
Bro. Jack Collings was appointed Assistant Secretary at the consecration meeting, a position he holds to this day. He was appointed Provincial Steward in 1982.
The first joining member of the Lodge, W. Bro. Gordon H. Jones, was elected Worshipful Master in 1972, and he also served two successive years as Master, and has subsequently received appointments both in Provincial Grand Lodge, and in Grand Lodge.
The first initiate of the Lodge was Dennis Bunch, who subsequently became Worshipful Master in 1976, and worked hard for the good of the Lodge until his untimely death in 1984.
In all there have been 37 Initiates, and 22 Joining members all of whom have served the lodge and masonry in general with zeal and dedication.
But let us now look at some of the highlights over the last 25 years.
Immediately after the consecration Bro. Jack Collings arranged for the printing of the Oration, given by W. Bro. A. B. Carver (Extracts of which are produced above).
In October 1964, Bros. H. F. Dunkley and S. C. Baker presented the Lodge Banner to the Lodge. At the dedication ceremony, once again carried out by W. Bro. A. B. Carver he commented as follows;
“What is a banner ?.-It is a piece of cloth attached to the end of a staff and serving as an emblem. There you have the official dictionary definition. A banner is a symbol. The idea goes back a very, very long way. Indeed we can trace the idea of a banner to the very earliest of times. In the Bible, that book about early beginnings, we read in the Book of Numbers, that not only the Jews of old, but also the Egyptians, and the Assyrians, and other ancient nations, all possessed banners. In the book of Isiah, we read that the banner of a tribe or clan, was the rallying point of all those who were members of that tribe or clan.
Those who have studied the history of the banner, will know that in the early days, banners had pictures on them depicting figures of animals, such as the eagle, the wolf, the horse etc. There was a sense, a feeling, in which the eagle, the wolf, or the horse, were looked upon as being harbingers of strength and protection. Men in battle, and indeed men in peacetime, accomplished things under the protection and inspiration of their banners.
As we travel through history, we may note that the early Romans had banners. We may note that William the Conqueror had a banner on which was a Cross of Gold, with a blue border. And it is also recorded that this banner had streamers attached to a cross-bar, and fixed on a frame, on which it could turn or swivel.
As we travel on in history, we note that the Baronial families, City Guilds, Military Regiments, Royal Princes, all acquired banners, which in time of battle were the rallying points for the soldiers.”
W. Bro, Carver continued, “A Banner is the regiment, A Banner is the Lodge. You may come and you may go. Brethren may come and Brethren may go, but the banner, this banner, the great Symbol of the Woodstock Lodge No 7948 will go on forever.”
Thus on the 13th of October 1964 the new Banner was duly dedicated.
Other presentations have been made to the Lodge over the years.
The beautiful silver goblet used at the Festive Board by each successive Master was presented by W. Br. Gordon Jones in 1972.
The cushion on the Master’s Pedestal was presented by W. Bro. Harry Dunkley.
The Collar Stand by W. Bro. Roy Watts, and the new Charity “Steward’s collar and Jewel by W. Bro. Arthur Ventham all in 1976.
And of course there are all the unusual happenings that make the Lodge a never ending source of interest.
In 1960 the Lodge Benevolent Fund was registered with the Charity Commissioners as a Charity.
In May 1972 it was proposed that the Lodge should sponsor the Woodstock Chapter, and as a result many of the brethren are members of the Chapter.
In April 1973, the Lodge was in contact with the Woodstock Lodge of California, enquiring on the safety of their members following a disastrous aircrash about five blocks from where their Lodge was meeting. Fortunately no one was harmed.
In April 1974 a special presentation was made to W. Bro. Tom Midwood M.B.E. P.A.G.D.C. P.P.S.G.W. as a mark of the great sense of gratitude owed to him by the Lodge for his wonderful contribution to masonry in general and the Woodstock Lodge in particular. He remained a much loved member of the Lodge, and an inspiration to all, until his death in October 1978.
In January 1975, January 1976, and again in January 1977, Emergency Meetings were held in order to clear the backlog of work that had accumulated.
In October 1976 the Lodge joined The Surrey Halls Fund. At the Emergency Meeting in January 1977, it was announced that the Warrant of the Lodge had been stolen and until a new Warrant was issued the Lodge would meet under a Letter of Authority pending the issue of a new Warrant, which was received in November 1977.
In November 1980, it was agreed that the venue of the Lodge should in future be at the Guildford Masonic Centre, having met at the New Bull Inn in Leatherhead since its consecration, and the first meeting in the new venue was held in March 1981.
September 1983 marked the 100th Meeting of the Lodge and to mark the occasion the minutes of the Consecration Meeting were read, to the great enjoyment of all.
There have been two father and son members in the Lodge.
W. Bro. Cyril Darling and his two sons.
Bro. A. P. Hollis and his son.
W. Bro. Gordon Jones proposed and initiated his son-in-law W.Bro. John Stanbury.
Thus one comes to the end of the first twenty-five years. Like the flooring of the Lodge which symbolises the joys and sorrows of man’s existence, so these years have had their joys and sorrows.
May the years to come be blessed with peace, and may the Woodstock Lodge prosper, and steadfastly maintain the principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.