Grantham Civic Society Column: Hidden history which is just out of view

Ruth Crook, of Grantham Civic Society.
Ruth Crook, of Grantham Civic Society.
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There is a hidden passage behind St Peter’s Hill, now locked away from public view in what was Hand’s Yard, where there are symbols on the wall to mark what was, in World War II, the Isaac Newton Masonic Lodge.

The first mention of a Masonic Lodge in Grantham was by Dr William Stukeley, who kept a notebook in which he recorded that he assisted in founding a Masonic Lodge in Grantham in June 1726. He wrote ‘I expected my great friends who encouraged me in the pursuit of Antiquarian Studys, would have made some provision for me. But seeing no probability of that after 7 years waiting I was resolved to provide for myself and get a little money in the country where I could confine myself to practise & indulge in the pure simple way of the country life at the same time. I chose Grantham, because a very pleasant place, in a very fine country, in my own county & near my estate & place of nativity at Holbech. Here I set up a lodg of Freemasons, wh. lasted all the time I lived there’. The Lodge was well supported by the gentry of the area and raised ‘a little money’. He moved to Stamford in February 1730.

On 22 September 1791 a petition was forwarded to the Grand Lodge requesting a Lodge to meet in the George Inn in Grantham. Shortly afterwards a warrant was received from the Deputy Grand Master, Sir Peter Parker, dated 1 October 1791. A preliminary meeting was held on 5 October and at a further meeting on the 13 October, when the Master of the Lodge in Newark, Sherbrooke Lowe and Bro. W. Gibson, as well as eight other Brethren, invested the Master and Officers of the Doric Lodge in Grantham. The first Master was John Dodsworth.

On 21 June 1792 the members of the St. Matthew Lodge, Barton on Humber, the Prince of Wales Lodge of Gainsborough and the Doric Lodge of Grantham met at the George Inn, Grantham, to install their first Provincial Grand Master, and to assist in the formation of the first Provincial Grand Lodge of Lincolnshire. No mention of this was made in the Minutes of the Doric Lodge and the Brethren, with the exception of Bro. Langwith, who was a loyal supporter for many years, and Bro. Bradley, did not attend 
the second Provincial Grand Lodge held at Barton in August 1793.

On 14 March 1794 the Lodge moved to the Ship Tavern and this was the last recorded meeting before the Lodge was disbanded. A notice was placed in the Stamford Mercury on 23 May 1796, and a letter was sent from the Provincial Grand Master, the Rev. W. Peters, to the Prince of Wales Lodge, dated 18 April 1796. The letter said, ‘The Doric Lodge at Grantham having ceased to meet or refused to comply with the laws of the Provincial Society of Freemasons founded on the Constitutional Law of the Grand Lodge of England, is by the Provincial Grand Master’s command erased 
from the list of Provincial Lodges’.

The Masonic Lodge today is in Faraday House on Chambers Street, but during World War II, the premises on Hand’s Yard were used as a meeting place. Masonic symbols can still be seen on the wall.

How many other unseen treasures are hidden away in the passages and yards of Grantham, just out of view?