History of Freemasonary in Stokesley

Cleveland Lodge 543

The Lodge was constituted 7th October, 1847.  Its meetings were regularly held at the Golden Lion Hotel, Stokesley, until the year 1894, when the present Masonic Hall was built and where they have since been held.  At the enumeration of Lodges under the United Grand Lodge of England, in 1863, the original number of the Lodge, viz. 795, was altered to its present number of 543 on its register.  The Lodge decided in 1865 to meet on the Monday nearest the full moon, instead of on the first Monday of the month, as mentioned in the original warrant.  This practice is still maintained.

The first Worshipful Master to be installed in 1847 was a young doctor, John Hepburn Handyside who had recently come to Stokesley from Edinburgh where he had been initiated into the Lodge of St.Andrew, Edinburgh in 1837.  At that time the area had little contact with Freemasonry.  Just over the northern boundary, at Stockton, the Tees Lodge had been constituted two years earlier and was hardly over its teething troubles, whilst on the eastern extremity, the Lion Lodge of Whitby was entering on its fiftieth year.  Between the two, however, was a stretch of almost 40 miles, with no opportunity for Masonic intercourse.  W.Bro Handyside led the way in developing Freemasonry in the Cleveland Area of what was then the North Riding of Yorkshire.  In the period until his death in 1902 he was elected W.M. no less than 6 times, the last occasion being in 1897.

Over the years Cleveland Lodge has thrived celebrating its Centenary in 1947 and 150 Years in 1997.  It has long been successful in attracting candidates and at present we have some ninety members.

What has been stated above is just a brief precis.  History documents were compiled for the Centenary in 1947 and for the 150 years in 1997.  These documents have now been reproduced in personal computer format and will be made available to new members and other interested individuals in the near future.

Over time we've welcomed in Cleveland Centenary Lodge No.6249. 

The copyright of these belongs to Cleveland Lodge No.543


Cleveland Lodge was formed in 1847 on the initiative of Dr John Handyside, a general practitioner and Freemason who came to Stokesley from his native Edinburgh.  In its early days, before the formation of other lodges in the area, members of Cleveland Lodge commonly travelled to meetings from the outlying district on horseback or by pony and trap.  This was before the introduction of street lighting and widespread use of the motor car and it gave rise to the lodge's custom of meeting on the Monday nearest to the full moon.  So, the timing of lodge meetings has no sinister implications and was probably arrived at for the added reason that Stokesley auction mart was held on a Monday.  Doubtless it suited farming members to stay on in the town and attend the monthly meeting of their lodge in the evening.

During the first 46 years meetings were held in the old Golden Lion Hotel, now Chapters Restaurant, but in 1893 at a public ceremony attended by the local Volunteer Band the foundation stone was laid of the present Masonic Hall on West Green.  The premises were extended in 1957 following the purchase of the adjacent Corner Cafe and now provide dining facilities for over 100 members and visitors from other lodges.

The first banner of Cleveland Lodge was made in London in 1849 and presented to the lodge by George Marwood of Busby.  When asked to suggest a design associated with Cleveland, he could think of nothing for which the area was famous except Cleveland Bay horses.  However, because the horse is regarded as a symbol of war he considered it unsuitable and chose instead the symbol of peace: a dove bearing an olive branch.  Nowadays the old banner is kept in a display case and it is complemented by a later version presented in 1990 by Harry Tarran of Hutton Rudby to mark his fifty years of lodge membership.

The development of Freemasonry continued throughout the one hundred and fifty nine years since the foundation of Cleveland Lodge and today the twenty seven lodges shown below meet within the area bounded by Stokesley, Middlesbrough and Saltburn.  Some have adopted the name of their town or village and others like Roseberry, Saltscar, Huntcliffe and Hazelgrove have taken theirs from local landmarks.  The iron and steel industry provided the names of Ferrum and Vulcan Lodges, whilst Captain Cook, Zetland, Ronaldshay and Marwood Lodges each bear the name of a local personality or a prominent local Freemason.

Stokesley Guisborough
Cleveland (1847) Zetland (1849)
Captain Cook (1924) Lofthouse (1946)
Cleveland Centenary (1947) Old Guisborian (1962)
North York (1852) Vulcan (1923) Dundas (1964)
Ferrum (1879) Ronaldshay (1931) Ashbrooke (1997)
Orde Powlette (1891) Peace (1919) Acklam (1946)
St Hilda (1948) Linthorpe (1950)
Redcar Saltburn Great Ayton
Marwood (1868) Handyside (1876) Ayton (1996)
De Brus (1921) Huntcliffe (1923)
Saltscar (1930) Hazelgrove (1947)
Philosophy (1945)
Kirkleatham (1946)
Roseberry (1974)
Coatham (1996)

The list also shows the year in which each lodge was founded.  It may be interesting to note that a quarter of local lodges came into being in the early years after the Second World War.  These and many similar lodges were formed in response to applications for membership from large numbers of ex-servicemen.  Doubtless after the turmoil of the previous years many were attracted by an organisation with charitable aims that continues to offers fellowship and respect for different political and religious beliefs amongst men of all races.

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