History of Pentangle Lodge No 1174

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by White D Handley

Pentangle Lodge was consecrated at the Sun Hotel Chatham on the 2nd of July 1867.

To quote from the minutes –
‘A Great number of brethren from all parts of the Province of Kent assembled at the Sun Hotel at 2 o’clock this day for the purpose of assisting in the consecration of the “Pentangle” Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons. Brother Savage, Past Grand Warden was the officer nominated by the Provincial Grand Master, Viscount Holmsdale, M.P., to consecrate the Lodge.’ Brother R Harrison, Brigade Major, Royal Engineers, was installed as WM of the Lodge. (Part of the St Paul’s Cathedral, London choir performed in the ceremony.)

There were fifty-two subscribing members in 1867, all serving officers in the R.E, RN, R.M and Infantry except two clerks in H.M. Dockyard, Chatham, one Clerk in Holy Orders, one Assistant Purveyor and one Civil Engineer. There were nine meetings held after the first one, before the close of the year. The Lodge in those early meetings seems to have adjourned quite early in the proceedings from Labour to Refreshment but a lot of work was nevertheless carried out. (A Lodge of Instruction was formed in February 1868.)

The establishment of Pentangle Lodge was not a little controversial for a while the majority of the founders were already members of The Royal  Kent Lodge of Antiquity, No 20, or The Gillingham Lodge of Benevolence No 184, but they failed to gain sponsorship or support of either of these Lodges,  who felt that there was no need for a new lodge in the Medway Towns. Correspondence shows that the Provincial Grand Master was persuaded by the argument that the officers of the garrison needed a Lodge where they could meet without the presence of enlisted men and this view was endorsed by the Grand Master.

It is interesting to note that in July 1870 there was elected as a joining member one Henry Studholrne Brownrigg, A.D.C., of Government House, Chatham, his Mother Lodge being 278 Gibraltar. He was elected Master of  Pentangle  Lodge in 1872. Admiral Sir Studholme Brownrigg was C. in-C. the Nore at the outbreak of the Second World War and although he retired in 1940, the call of the sea was too strong for him to resist and he commanded Atlantic convoys at a reduced rank and eventually sank with his flagship in a storm.

Membership of the Lodge continued to be exclusively confined to the Services, however in October 1873, an important rule was passed that established the structure of the Lodge which was to survive until quite recently. It was agreed that in addition to ‘the Services’ that there should be eligible for election ‘such civilians as are in Holy Orders in the Established Church of England or the Protestant Church of Scotland and Ireland or members of either of Her Majesty’s Inns of Court practising the professions of a Barrister or Solicitor, Physicians or Surgeons of one of the Universities of or Colleges duly recognized by law, or Graduates in Arts of the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin or London’. After a lengthy discussion, Solicitors in practice on the Rolls were added to the list. The first civilian member to be elected to the Lodge was  Humphrey Wood, a Solicitor practising in Chatham. This was in April 1874.  He was the founder of the firm Wood, McLellan & Williams.

In 1877 uneasiness creeps in as to the suitability of the Sun Hotel as a venue for the Lodge meeting. To quote from the minute: ‘In consequence of the unfitness of the present Lodge known with regard to  cleanliness and  furniture and  for other  reasons well known to the members, the Lodge be removed to the Assembly Rooms at Brompton.’ A  committee was formed to look into the matter.

Nothing seems to have been resolved for meetings continued to be held at the Sun Hotel.

The membership during this period was very transitory with members being posted in and out of the military community, while the visitors represented  Lodes from all the far-flung corners of the Empire. Also reflected in the membership was the expansion of the Dockyard as it took over the functions previously undertaken at Woolwich and the establishment of a penal institution at Borstal whose inmates were involved in that expansion.

In  November 1905 the Lodge held its first meeting at its new home, the Masonic Hall, Chatham, a tenancy at a yearly rental of £12.10s. (£12.50). The membership, a significant majority of whom were officers of the Royal Engineers, were clearly not happy with the venue at Chatham and in December 1911 the Lodge held its first meeting at the Masonic Hall, Old Brompton, the venue having been changed in consequence of a unanimous resolution carried at a Special Mcenng held the previous month. At about this time, there was no lack of candidates for initiation. Nearly all were happy with the venue at Chatham and in December 1911 the Lodge held its first meeting at the Masonic Hall, Old Brompton, the venue having been changed in consequence of a unanimous resolution carried at a Special Meeting held the previous month. At about this time, there was no lack of candidates for initiation. Nearly all were officers.  A number of Emergency  Meetings had to be held and several degrees were often worked at one meeting.


By dispensation dated 2 November 1914 the place of meeting was changed to the Masonic Hall, Chatham. By this time the First Great War was showing its impact and since the meeting place at Brompton seems to have been part of the Officer’s Mess it had become unavailable because of the influx of numbers into the service.

At a meeting held on 11 December 1914, it was resolved ‘that Brother Dinmer be congratulated  on his heroic conduct on the occasion of his gaining the most prized of all things to an Englishman, the Victoria Cross.’   Lieut-Colonel J H  G Dinmer, VC, MC, was later killed in action on 21 March 1918.

It is sad to read the minutes of meetings which record the names of Brethren who lost their lives as the terrible war continued. On 10 December 1915, the following resolution was carried ”that a note of greeting be sent to the absent brethren in appreciation  of the  noble devotion shown by those who are serving their Country in this crisis with the heartfelt wish for a speedy reunion at home.’ In addition, a Post Closing Ritual was used during which the names of fallen  Brethren were read and their whereabouts described as ‘they lie dead on the field of honour’.  Brethren serving in the armed forces were also remembered and special prayers for their safety were used. It was clearly a very difficult and poignant time.

The  Lodge renewed its meetings at the Masonic Hall, Old Brompton in December 1919 with the removal of the War restrictions. However, a dispensation to enable meetings to be held at the Masonic  Hall, Gundolph  Square, Rochester, was granted on 7 May 1920, because there were no longer any members of the Lodge who were dining-in members of the Royal Engineers Mess. Chatham  Masonic  Company offered the Lodge the facility to return on the same terms as hitherto but a minute instructs the Secretary to offer the Rochester Masonic Club Company he sure of £20 per annum for the use of the building at  Gundolph Square on each Friday throughout the year. This offer appears to have been accepted and this has remained the venue of meetings until today.

It is obvious that about this time the Lodge had reached a transitional and difficult period. The service preponderance of its members was rapidly diminishing, being replaced by a ‘professional’ clement, largely consisting of lawyers, doctors and surgeons.   There always seemed to be a prison governor or two on the strength and the church was well represented. In March 1927 Pentangle became a Hall Stone Lodge, and the Worshipful Master at a meeting of Grand Lodge was presented with the Collar and Jewel.

Nothing much changed until the Second World War in 1939 an edict had gone forth from Grand Lodge, commencing; ‘Having regard to the Emergency Orders of HM Government,  “I am to inform you that until further  notice all Masonic meetings are to be suspended.” This order was soon relaxed,  but so far as Pentangle was concerned its war activities can clearly be summarized by the wording of the single summons issued to the Brethren at the commencement of each Masonic Year, ‘Owing to the unsettled state of affairs very many of the Brethren will not be able to attend Lodge Meetings owing to absence on Military, Civil Defence or other important duties. The Worshipful Master, however, will attend at the Masonic Hall at 5.30 pm on  the following dates……..and hopes that a sufficient number of  Brethren will attend  to enable the Lodge to opened for ordinary business.’ A small and devoted number of Brethren, fortunately for Pentangle, managed to keep the flag flying so that there was something still alive when the skies began to clear in 1945.

The relationship with the military base had disappeared and Pentangle became known as a ‘medical and legal’ Lodge. A reputation well merited until the 1980s when although there was no deliberate policy, the membership base began to expand. This began it seems with family members who were not members of these professions and has gradually been extended. So Pentangle remains today,  surprisingly the membership has never varied much in numbers,  family ties remain important and we are proud of our history and reputation.