Gloucestershire and Herefordshire Mark Provincial Grand Lodge Mark
A Short History of Mark Masonry in Gloucestershire and Hereford
On March 8th 1879 a meeting took place at The Masonic Hall, Portland Street, Cheltenham - the first purpose- built Masonic Hall in England. The Grand Secretary V.W.Bro. F. Binckes installed V.W.Bro. Revd. Charles Raikes Davy, Past Grand Chaplain, as the first Provincial Grand Master of the Mark Masonic Province of Gloucestershire. Two present-day lodges, one still resident in Cheltenham, predate the Province.
The first Mark Lodge in Gloucestershire, established in 1858, was Cheltenham Keystone No.10, operating as Lodge No 13 under a warrant from The Grand Chapter of Scotland. The second was Lyegrove Lodge No.218, which was consecrated in 1878.
The Davy Lodge No.299, named for the first PGM, met for a few years at Wotton under Edge before ceasing to exist. The more recent Lodge No.1449, also named for V.W.Bro. Davy, meeting at Chipping Sodbury, has a large portrait of our first Provincial Grand Master in its Temple.
The Province extended its reach when the Royal Forest of Dean Lodge No.340 was consecrated in 1884. The county of Herefordshire was added in 1887 when St Ethelbert Lodge No 243, originally consecrated by the Province of Worcestershire and meeting as an unattached Lodge in Hereford, asked to join the Province of Gloucestershire. Granting of this wished created the Province as it is today.
In 1888 R.W.Bro. The Baron Charles Conrad Adolphus de Bois de Ferrieres was appointed Provincial Grand Master. He donated the first of the Banners of the Province. He was succeeded in 1891 by Sir Richard Vassar Vassar-Smith, who, continuing in office until 1922, was our longest serving Provincial Grand Master.
In 1920 Sir Richard was appointed Deputy Grand Master, and his regalia was purchased for him by donations from the brethren of the Province. He also served as Deputy Provincial Grand Master for the Craft Province of Gloucestershire 1888-1916, and as Provincial Grand Master from 1916-1922, at the same time being Grand Superintendent of the Royal Arch Province of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. In business he was Chairman of Lloyds Bank, and a Director of the Great Western Railway.
The last person to occupy these three offices simultaneously was R.W.Bro. Capt. Francis Kenelm Foster OBE. He was Mark Provincial Grand Master from 1936-1950, and the Foster Lodge 1134, now meeting at Wotton under Edge, is named for him. By this time the Province had increased to 8 Mark Lodges.
In 1959 a Tewkesbury Abbey Lodge No.1238 was consecrated. There must have been a Mark Lodge in Tewkesbury before this, as Lechmere Lodge No.59 in Worcestershire warranted in 1863 use the Officers Jewels of the former Tewkesbury Lodge.
In 1968 R.W.Bro.James Hughes OBE was appointed as Provincial Grand Master and during his tenure of office the Province grew from 10 to 16 Mark Lodges and from 4 to 7 Royal Ark Mariner Lodges. In March 1979 he presided over the Centenary at a special meeting in Cheltenham attended by the then Grand Master, Rt.Hon. the Earl of Stradbroke.
In 1983 R.W.Bro Douglas Edwin Stafford Beckingsale was appointed as Provincial Grand Master, but he remained for only three years due to ill health. He was succeeded in 1986 by R.W.Bro George Stewart Lee JP, who was Provincial Grand Master for ten years. During this period he consecrated Leofric Lodge No 1650 in 1988 and then Silurean Lodge No 1677 in 1990, increasing the Lodge count to 18. He also consecrated St Ethelbert No 243 Royal Ark Mariner Lodge and Stroud Royal Ark Mariner Lodge No 1039, the 8th and 9th RAM lodges, both in 1991.
In 1996 R.W.Bro Joseph Owen Basil Barke was installed as Provincial Grand Master, and in 1998 consecrated the Portus Abonae Lodge No 1793 and in the following year Mount Sinai Lodge No 1803. He also consecrated the Installed Commanders Lodge of Reflection No 1429 in 2000.
R.W.Bro John Ernest Eley was Installed as Provincial Grand Master in 2004. He was succeeded in 2010 by R.W.Bro James Albert Green, and in 2015 by the present PGM, R.W.Bro. Frederick John Gillo.
The 20 Mark and 10 RAM Lodges now cover the whole of the two Counties from Avonmouth in the South to Bromyard in the North, and from Stow on the Wold in the East to Kington on the Welsh Borders in the West. The full minutes of the history of the Province from its inception are deposited in the County Archives in Gloucester and are available for public inspection.