Lodge History
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Although the origins of British Freemasonry lie deep in the Middle Ages (and possibly beyond!), its establishment as an organised network of egalitarian gentlemen’s clubs (Lodges) takes its foundation when four lodges met at the Goose and Gridiron tavern near St Paul’s Cathedral on 24 June 1717.  This meeting formed the “Grand Lodge”, with Anthony Sayer as the first Grand Master, and unsurprisingly one of the principle aims of them coming together was to organise a feast..!

We are extremely fortunate that in 1900 a lodge committee consisting of W. Bros. R.J Reece, E.H Cartwright and G.F Marshall published a book entitled “History of the Lodge of Unity No.69”.  The reason that this was fortunate is because in more recent history, one of our former Secretaries took and never returned many of the Lodge’s valuable records (including the early minute books up until 1966).  Many of these records still remain lost to us, however, some of the signature books from 5 December 1881 (with the exception of the ones covering 1908 to 1941) were recovered.

Bro. John Lane’s Masonic Record (1717 – 1814) informs us that The Lodge of Unity No.69 was constituted on 13 April 1742, under The Premier Grand Lodge of England (the “Moderns”).  Back then it was not know as The Lodge of Unit, indeed it may not have been called anything, as it was not uncommon in those early days for lodges to simply be known by the name of the tavern they frequented.  It was, however, registered as No. 190 and listed as meeting at the “Hoop and Grapes”, Greek Street, Soho.  A tavern by that name no longer exists in this location, however, there are two taverns from that era that are still in existence today, notably the Pillars of Hercules and the Coach & Horses – should any Brother wish to experience the (I know, I felt the need to visit them both frequently when researching this article...).

Unity’s ancestry prior to 1742 is hazy to say the least, however, we do know that in 1741 “The Union French Lodge” also met at the “Hoop and Grapes”, but moving to the “Cardigan”, Charring Cross the following year before becoming extinct in 1753.  In 1758 we adopted the name “The Old French Lodge” and because there is no record of another French Lodge existing in London at that time it has been speculated that in 1742 “The Union French Lodge” may have split into two Lodges.  The name “The Old French Lodge” possibly referring to its former roots.

According to Grand Lodge’s records on 14 June 1764 the eighteen named members of The Old French Lodge are:
John Mercer (Sr) - Newsman
John Evans - Turncock (opened and closed water supplies)
Hele Legg - Carpenter
John Mercer (Jr) - Carver & Guilder
Matthew Murray - Tallow Chandler (made / sold tallow candles)
William Lord - Vintner (wine merchant)
John Smith - Victualler (Innkeeper)
Thomas Capel - Carver & Guilder
William Hayward - Peruke maker (wig maker)
James Brown - Cook
James Smith - Gentleman
Adam Hanson - Gentleman
William Soper - Victualler
John Foxall - Gentleman
William Clay - Victualler
John Carpenter - Taylor
? Pindar - Victualler
Richard Wilson - Coachman

LODGE YEAR AND NUMBER

Lodge Year 1742 1755 1770 1780 1792 1814 1832 1863
Lodge Number 190 122 96 79 72 96 82 69

Warrant of the Lodge (.....if it ever existed...!)
Our present warrant is a “Warrant of Confirmation” and was issued on 24 April 1842 in response to a petition by the brethren of the Lodge in which they stated that the original Warrant had been lost or destroyed.  There is, however, a question mark over whether the Lodge was ever issued with a Warrant in 1742.  The postscript to the 1723 Book of Constitution makes no mention of the handing over of a document that would be called a “Warrant”, however, “Certificates of Constitution” were required to enable registration to take place. The earliest know “Warrant” in existence belongs to Palatine Lodge No. 97 and dates from 1757.  So we may have never been issued with a “Warrant”. 

Centenary Warrant
In 1842 the Lodge celebrated its Centenary, however, as a result of the missing records very little detail is known about what actually happened on that auspicious day.  We do know that a Centenary Warrant was granted and issued, because Grand Lodge records hold a letter from us from 1942 referring to the warrant, which unfortunately appears to have been misplaced while it was being framed.  It remains lost to this day, however, we continue to remain optimistic that one day it will be found.

Bi-Centenary Warrant
The Lodge’s Bi-Centenary in was commemorated at the Installation Meeting held at Freemasons’ Hall on 13 April 1942, when W. Bro. Fenn Kidson, C.B.E, P.A.G.D.C, was installed as Master by the Grand Secretary, V.W. Bro. Sydney A. White, P.G.D. in the presence of a number of Grand Officers and Brethren, among them R.W. Bro. A. Burnett Brown, P.G.W., Provincial Grand Master for Middlesex.  The Bi-Centenary Warrant was granted by the then M.W. The Grand Master, H.R.H. The Duke of Kent, K.G., but in view of the Second World War, the meeting was a simple matter and the formal presentation of the Warrant was postponed until August 1945, after cessation of hostilities.

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