A bit of history from the website of St. John’s Lodge No. 795.
In 1929 a permanent home for Wallingford Freemasonry was found after nearly fifty years of meeting in a variety of venues which included the George, Lamb, and Beau Regard Hotels, and the Town Hall.
It was at a meeting in the Town Hall on 30th September, 1929, that the members of St. Hilda Lodge No. 1887 decided to purchase part of the Wallingford Brewery buildings, together with the manager’s house, on the south side of Goldsmiths Lane. The opportunity arose as the brewery had recently been sold by the Wells family to Ushers in Wiltshire and the brewing operation transferred to Trowbridge.
The site where the Temple now stands was acquired for the sum of £451 and Bro. T. TalfourdCumming, a Reading architect and member of the lodge, was appointed to design and oversee the erection of the new building. By March 1930 plans had been drawn up and approved at an estimated cost of £1300. Tenders were invited from local builders and in June of that year the contract for the erection of the new Temple was awarded to Smallbones of Streatley for the increased sum of £1800.
In the meantime a building fund had been set up, £30 bonds issued and offered for sale to the members of the lodge, and a bank loan of £1200 obtained to furnish and equip the building.
The work was carried out in a first class manner and the Grand Opening took place on 16th April, 1931, as part of St. Hilda Lodge’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. With over one hundred members and visitors present the Temple was formally dedicated by the Provincial Grand Master, H.R.H. Prince Arthur of Connaught.
For the next eight years until the outbreak of war in 1939, St. Hilda Lodge and Chapter were the only masonic bodies meeting in the Temple, and to all accounts the cost of upkeep was already becoming a burden. However, at this point the building was taken over by the War Office for use as troop billets and was in use as such until it was handed back to the lodge at the end of 1945. Unfortunately the building and contents suffered considerable damage during this period, but the walnut panelling and oak floor of the Temple itself were saved from desecration by the American Commanding Officer, himself a Freemason, who appreciated their intrinsic and aesthetic value and had them covered with hardboard for the duration. In 1946 the decision was made to sell Brewery House which is the Georgian fronted building facing High Street. It was purchased by a member of the lodge for £2750, and became a furniture depository, and later offices. The first post-war meeting in the Temple took place on 9th October, 1946, with R.W.Bro. Charles Nicholl, Provincial Grand Master, present.
The Masonic Hall was an excellent venue for various activities. Dr. Edward Bach on 24 September 1936 presented the Wallingford Lectures in the Wallingford Masonic Hall. Dr. Bach was once a Freemason, although not affiliated with St. Hilda Lodge. He was initiated into Freemasonry in 1918 and belonged to three lodges while living in London. He ‘retained a fondness for the organization’ until his death in November 1936.
He moved to Brightwell-cum-Sotwell in 1934 and resided at Mount Vernon. His work has been carried on and the Bach Centre, on Bakers Lane, is still active at the Mount Vernon address.
Dr. Bach wrote The Twelve Healers and Other Remedies which covered the 38 remedies in his flower remedy system. All were based on natural herbs and were said to act on emotions and the mind to treat various illness. I wont provide further details, but the internet contains quite a lot of information on Dr. Bach.
Our Portcullis Lodge banner was crafted and embroidered by Anne Le Breton (prior to her marriage to John). Her husband, John Le Breton was a Jersey Mason who was a member of both the Wallingford Lodge of Mark Master Masons and St Hilda Chapter 1887, Royal Arch Masons. He first met his wife Anne in 2006 via a dating website. John was intrigued by Anne’s stated interests which included Freemasonry and some six weeks after first contact, John took a detour while on route to Scotland and met Anne in Wallingford.
That must have been a memorable meeting because Anne joined John in Scotland and on the way back John proposed marriage. They were married on 31st March 2007. John joined St Hilda Chapter on 28th November 2007 and became MEZ in November 2012. Anne has been an embroiderer for over 65 years and has made numerous banners, including the Berkshire Provincial Craft banner which hangs in the main Temple at Sindlesham. A keen lady Mason, her knowledge of masonry has enhanced her ability to make outstanding regalia.
The reverse of our banner gives the following information in beautiful embroidery:
Designed by WBro C F Parsons Executed by Anne Bertram Howard in memory of the late James Phil Howard Presented and dedicated during the mastership of WBro Barry T Townley-Freeman September 13, 1988
Source: Provincial Grand Chapter website and others
Further on Anne Le Breton - Article From the Jersey Evening Post – 5 May 2007
Within two weeks after meeting Anne, John was proposing as his new sweetheart, a former rally driver, was driving him down the M4 motorway. They married in Oxfordshire in March and simply could not be happier. 'I'm her toy boy,' said John, a retired Jersey bank manager. 'She's 20 days older than me!' Born in Flixton, Manchester, Anne has a wide range of interests and achievements. She was an international rally driver from 1967 to 1980 and commentator for 'motor matters' on BBC Radio Oxford.
Anne is a Freemason and classical organist and worked for Aere Harwell for 15 years as a nuclear reactor physicist. As a girl, she was trained in goldwire embroidery and has done work for the Queen and the Sultan of Oman. 'I'm still trying to catch up,' said John of his wife's abundance of skills. John and Anne, both widowed, met through www.match.com. 'I was terribly truthful in my profile,' Anne explained. 'I didn't want to meet idiots!' It was her involvement with the Freemasons that caught John's eye. 'I spotted that straight away,' said John, 'so I sent her an e-mail telling her that I was in the Freemasons too.
And Who Was St. Hilda?
Our sister Lodge, St. Hilda Lodge No. 1887 was the first Masonic Lodge in Wallingford, several Brethren of which later helped in founding our Portcullis Lodge.
St Hilda was born in 614 and was the grandniece of King Edwin of Northumbria; she was baptized at the age of 13 and in 649 was put in charge of a small group of women who were aspiring to the religious life. Her progress in this life led her to become the Abbess Hilda governing the monastery at Whitby. St Hilda was known for her ability to recognise spiritual gifts in both men and women. Her kind-heartedness can be seen from the story of Caedmon, one of her herdsmen, whose poetic gift was discovered and nurtured by Hilda. She encouraged him with the same care she would use toward a member of the nobility, urging him to use his gifts as a means of bringing the knowledge of the Gospel Truth to common folk. St Caedmon later composed the first hymns in the English language.
Almost all of our knowledge of St Hilda comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede and he is enthusiastic in his praise of her as one of the greatest women of all time. She was the advisor of rulers as well as ordinary folk; she insisted on the study of Holy Scripture and proper preparation for the priesthood. To quote the Venerable Bede, “All who knew her called her Mother; such was her wonderful godliness and grace. The immediate question that comes to mind was “how did the 7th Century Abbess Hilda of Whitby come to have a Lodge in Wallingford named after her?” The answer to that question seems to be the admiration of St Hilda by Major J.G. Shanks, the founding Master of St Hilda Lodge. He felt that her saintly life demonstrated the qualities that we, as Freemasons should aspire to, precepts which the founding members accepted and the St Hilda Lodge was so named.
Some historical bits follow about Goldsmith’s Lane where the Masonic Hall is located. Note that one of the well-known families shown produced ‘Tim’ Wilder, one of our Founding Brothers.
The Wallingford Museum Walkaround guide has this to say:
In medieval times, Goldsmiths’ Lane would have been the area where the gold and silversmiths worked. The Domesday Book entry for Wallingford in 1086 mentions a licenced moneyer in the town and we know that coins were first made here in Saxon times. The moneyer would almost certainly have worked in this area, minting coins that bore his name, the king’s name and head, and an indication that the coin was made in Wallingford. They had to be licensed by the king and Wallingford coins were produced from the 10th-13th centuries.
Goldsmith’s Lane and Church Lane are probably part of the town’s original 10th century street pattern. Historic properties in Church Lane date from the late 17th and 18th centuries, and are small in scale and open directly onto the pavement. Nos. 3 to 10 The Mint are grade II listed, and lie within a row of houses that formerly formed part of the Wells Brewery. On the other side of Goldsmith’s Lane stand the main brewery buildings.
The former Wells Brewery, Goldsmith’s Lane is notable for its use of red brick with random grey brick headers in English bond, and very distinctive half hipped clay tile cross gables fronting the street.
In contrast to the plain brickwork and design of the former brewery buildings in Goldsmiths Lane, the former Wilders Foundry building displays decorative brickwork and a pleasing rhythm of arched window openings which enliven the street scene.
This was the first of Wilder's foundries in Wallingford. The building used to belong to the Corporation of Wallingford, and William Hilliard leased it from them, and then let it to Leonard Wilder. His son Richard Wilder later bought the property and then the area behind. The foundry shop is now Louise Claire Millinery, while the forge is now a private house. The shop has a weather vane on the roof, and a street sign still bearing the Fish Street address.
Lister-Wilder sold agricultural machinery from next to Wilder's Yard in Crowmarsh Gifford, and Walter Wilder Ltd on the Beadle Estate conduct property management.
Wilder's New Foundry - Goldsmiths' Lane. This purpose-built foundry, built in 1869 for Richard Wilder's son, also Richard Wilder, supplemented the original Fish Street Foundry. It is now a series of flats. Amongst the many things cast by the Wilder foundry are the lamps on Wallingford Bridge, some of the railings at St Leonard’s Church, the elephant at the Maharajah’s Well in nearby Stoke Row and the arches supporting the Corn Exchange roof. When the foundry (Wilders in Goldsmith's Lane) was constructed about 50 burials from 12thC or earlier were found.
Some information on two of our Founding Brethren:
JHW ‘Tim’ Wilder was a founder of Portcullis Lodge. He became the Berkshire Provincial Grand Master and served from 1985 to 1994. Wilder Lodge No. 9471, founded in 1992, is named for him, as is a room in Sindlesham Court, the Wilder Suite. He was a local Wallingford man, and his father was also a distinguished Mason. Sadly, RW Brother Tim Wilder was called to the Grand Lodge above in 2004. Another distinguished founder of Portcullis was Lt. Col. RH Ingham Clark. RW Brother Ingham Clark was Berkshire Provincial Grand Master from 1960 to 1967. Our sister Lodge, Ingham Clark Lodge No. 8164, is named in his honour, as is a room in Sindlesham. One of the many ceremonies he performed as PGM was to lay the foundation stone for the Newbury Masonic Hall in 1961, which he dedicated in the same year.
Some Historic Dates:
1830 Hilliard's Brewery is established in Goldsmith's Lane - it runs until 1878.
1864 Wilder's foundry casts the iron elephant and canopy for the Maharajah's Well at Stoke Row, a gift from the Maharajah of Benares to Edward Reade, Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Province of India.
1930 Production of malt at Wells' Brewery ceases. Wallingford Workhouse is renamed Berkshire County Council Institution.
Brewing and Malting
Wallingford was once famous for malting and brewing. There were two major breweries, Edward Wells’s and Hilliard’s, both in Goldsmith’s Lane. The Wells brewery buildings still remain, as do the brewery worker cottages by the Coach and Horses pub on the Kinecroft. The Morrell brothers who set up the Morrells brewery in Oxford also came from Wallingford. The Wells family, including Edward Wells, ran the Wallingford Brewery from when it opened in 1720 until 1928 when it was taken over by Ushers, and brewing transferred to Trowbridge. The Wallingford Brewery and Mineral Water Company continued until 1958. In 1929 the main building was bought by the Freemasons to becomeWallingford Masonic Lodge, while other parts became dwellings in the 1980s. The cottages in KineCroft were built for brewery workers. Edward Wells himself lived at both Stone Hall, which faces onto the Kinecroft, and Brewery House, a Georgian fronted building facing High Street.
In our WMC bar we have an artifact of the Wallingford Brewery, one of the few still remaining. It is a glass panel and if you look to your left while standing at the bar you will see this. There used to be at least 17 maltings in the town, and Paul’s Malt or ABM, built in 1958 in Hithercroft Road, dominated the skyline (it was nicknamed “Wallingford Cathedral”) until its demolition in 2001.
Sinodun Players in the Masonic Hall
Some additional information on the Wallingford Masonic Hall, circa 1953………from recollections of the Sinodun Players.(http://www.brightwellcumsotwell.co.uk/pwpcontrol.php?pwpID=7616)
Although this (Pantomime) had taken place in the Brightwell Village Hall – to packed houses, it was time to make a move into Wallingford from where most of the audience came. The Masonic Hall became the main performing venue for the next twenty-nine years.
The Masonic Hall was the largest public meeting place in Wallingford. Situated in Goldsmith´s Lane and built in the garden of what had been one of the large and gracious houses to one side of the Kinecroft, the hall itself possessed a small stage within a Proscenium Arch with an 18 foot opening onto a stage 25 feet wide by 12 feet deep. To this could be added a 6 foot deep apron extension, used mainly for Pantomime and productions requiring a larger acting area. There were no Theatre facilities, and the Players rigged Front Tabs and lighting bars for each individual show.
If the stage at the Masonic Hall left a great deal to be desired, the Dressing Room facilities were worse. Both men's and women's dressing rooms were at the top of a flight of stairs with the mirrors and lights perched precariously on top of the gas stoves. These rooms were really the kitchens serving the hall for Masonic functions. Not only was there very little space in which to manoeuvre, but the omni-present smell of gas mixed with grease paint did nothing to calm first night nerves.
Despite the difficulties of mounting productions within a space not designed or equipped for theatrical productions, the hospitality and assistance provided by the Wallingford Masons contributed to our years with them as an extremely happy and satisfying period.
1955 was the 800th anniversary of the granting of a Royal Charter to the Borough of Wallingford by King Henry II. We are fortunate in possessing a film made by a local physician, Dr. Charles Wilkinson who recorded much of the preparation and some of the performance of this major town event in the grounds of the castle.
Note: Dr. Charles Wilkinson was the Master of Portcullis Lodge in 1963 (see the History section for more)
Site migrated 31st January 2016 Published 24th April 2016 Last update 15 November 2017