1767 - 1866, the early years
When the Warrant of Lodge of Fidelity was withdrawn, the handsome furniture, some of which had been obtained from Lodge No. 92 at Exeter, was scattered far and wide. The Worshipful Master’s chair and canopy had been purchased by Loyal Industry at South Molton. Brother Sharland heard of this and induced the Master of that Lodge to sell it to St. Peter’s Lodge.
In January 1867, the St Peter's Lodge urgently considered the question of premises, for the rooms at the Three Tuns could only be regarded as a temporary expedient. They had before them proposals to erect a new building on a site adjacent to the Infirmary in Bampton Street and, alternatively, to rent a building in Beck Square from Mr. Physick. The capital cost of the former was estimated to be £400; the annual rent of the latter £21.5.0d. It was decided to take the Beck Square offer.
Before the St Peter's Lodge was able to take possession of its new premises, disagreement with the landlord of the Three Tuns forced a temporary removal to the Athenaeum, where the Lodge fore gathered until the first meeting in Beck Square on the 21st July 1867. In its first year the Lodge initiated 24 members and, despite a difference of opinion as to the election of Master for 1869, it continued to prosper. The Lodge had met in Beck Square for three whole years before the Provincial Grand Master (The Rev. John Huyshe) was able to attend to dedicate the building in accordance with ancient form. It was fitting that John Sharland, a founder of the Lodge, should be Worshipful Master and no more than his just reward to have the privilege of being the first member of St. Peter’s to be given provincial honours. He was, on the day of dedication, elected Provincial Grand Treasurer (not the gift of the Provincial Grand Master BUT elective and by the unanimous choice of the brethren present ) for the year and invested with the insignia of his office.
Worshipful Master Sharland described the ceremony of dedication as solemn and impressive-and such it most certainly must have been, for a copy of the programme is still in the possession of the Lodge. The subsequent proceedings have been admirably and vividly described by the Worshipful Master in the following words:-
“ At length this imposing function came to an end, and the grand procession to St. Peter’s Church took place. A fine band preceded us playing Masonic Tunes- visiting brethren next, then your humble servant as the Worshipful Master, his chaplain by his side, robed and with the bible on a crimson cushion, then the officers of our Lodge and members in due order. Crowds lined the streets and the bells struck out. As every brother wore his Masonic clothing ( a sight the oldest inhabitant had not seen before ) it was no matter of surprise that the Church on the occasion was well filled. Our banquet at the Athenaeum and was largely attended by the brethren from all parts of the province. Those from South Molton chartered a four-horse break and excited much attention, as they drove through the streets to the Palmerston Hotel.”
Let us pause to remember that these happenings in Tiverton occurred less than two weeks before the first shots of the Franco-Prussian War were fired.
As Masons we are charged at Initiation never to lose” sight of the allegiance due to the sovereign of our native land” and the early brethren paid heed to this charge. On the 22nd January 1872 a Lodge of Emergency was called for the sole purpose of adopting and signing loyal addresses to H.M. The Queen and H.R.H. Albert, Prince of Wales , on the occasion of the latter’s recovery from serious illness. The Addresses engraved on vellum and beautifully illuminated were signed by the brethren.
In 1873, the brethren provided funds for a portrait of our first Master, Worshipful Brother Reed, to be painted by a local artist Mr. George Fare. The portrait was presented to Worshipful Brother Reed in open Lodge and he requested that it should hang in the Lodge for as long as the Warrant remained within the borough of Tiverton. This can be seen over the Ante Room
It was in the year 1873 that the Lodge, following the lead set by Loyal Industry, South Molton and other Lodges, held its first “after--lodge meeting” or supper as we know it to-day. It appears that the Stewards were not only charged with providing and serving the meal, but wholly responsible for ensuring that the cost thereof did not exceed the available funds. There is no record of the Catering skill of these brethren, but the profits in the years 1891-1893 amounted to £7.16.8d and required the addition of only £5 to purchase the magnificent pillars which adorn our Lodge room.
A Petition was sent in June 1875 to Grand Mark Lodge requesting a Warrant to hold a Mark Masters Lodge in Tiverton, the Annual rental to be £1.
In the year 1889, the lease of the Lodge premises was renewed for a period of 21 years and enabled the brethren to undertake substantial repairs to the assembly room, ante-room and cellar.
Twice within the space of a year the Lodge again demonstrated its affection for the Monarchy. In May 1900 a message was sent to H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, congratulating him on his escape from assassination and only nine months later a loyal address was sent to him, expressing sorrow at the great loss both he and the nation had sustained by the death of Queen Victoria.
1904 - 1910, Brother Lionel Walrond MP for Tiverton