“Forged in War : United in Peace”
“In all cases of difficulty and danger, in whom do you put your trust?”
Every Freemason knows — and has given — the response to this question, asked of him at his initiation.
Never will the words “In God” have been uttered with greater fervency than by those initiated into the Craft during the war years 1939-1945, when for many men — both civilians and those serving in the Armed Forces — “difficulty and danger” were real facts.
It was against this background that Erdemont Lodge No 5865 was consecrated on 15th April 1943, the first in the Province of Kent and only the third in England, following the outbreak of World War II.
As reported in the Freemasons’ Chronicle of 15th May 1943, the Lodge was conceived by its founder members (predominantly brethren of Neleus Lodge, No 3062 and Lesney Park Lodge of Erith, No 3965) “to cement within Freemasonry friendships made by local associations among brethren from other parts of the country who had changed their former residence owing to the war”.
The Crayford-Barnehurst-Dartford area of North West Kent was the location of many engineering concerns engaged on vital work — among them, Vickers — and, together with London's Docklands, was a strategic target for the Swastika-marked bombers of Hitler’s Germany.
The taint of wartime hardship dominates the early history of the Lodge, which was granted its Warrant on 3rd February 1943; ‘dispensation’ from the United Grand Lodge of England for the conduct of Lodge business was, to use the modern vernacular, the “buzz word”, and frequently invoked in its formative years was Rule 160 in the Constitution of Grand Lodge governing the initiation of candidates “in cases of emergency”.
Dispensation was granted (for the first time) not to hold the Ceremony of Consecration at Dartford (named the meeting place of the Lodge in its Warrant) but at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street. The occasion was attended by the Right Worshipful the Provincial Grand Master, the Right Honourable Lord Cornwallis, MC DL, 24 Founders, 110 visiting brethren, 14 Consecrating officers, six Grand Lodge officers and 35 officers of London Grand Rank/Provincial Grand Rank.
A poignant reminder today of a Britain then ‘under siege’ — but remarkable at that time — was the brief notation included on the Summons for the Consecration advising that a pre-ceremony luncheon (held in the Connaught Rooms) would be served “in accordance with the regulations of the Ministry of Food”.
Preceding the first Regular meeting of Erdemont Lodge, which took place at the Masonic Centre, West Hill, Dartford, on 2nd October, 1943, a meeting was held on 27th July to ballot for, and initiate, two candidates proposed under Rule 160 — “as a matter of emergency arising from the uncertainty of their future movements at this critical time, both being liable to be called for service, and the unavoidable delay that would ensue if their proposals, etc, were carried out at regular meetings of the Lodge”.
One of the two candidates initiated on this occasion was Mr Gerald William Pudduck, who was eventually installed as Master in 1951.
Throughout the remainder of 1943 and for much of 1944 a number of such ‘ emergency meetings’ were held, a reminder today of the difficulties under which Freemasonry, in common with all forms of social activity, then operated.
The Minutes Book for the period records the initiation of Alfred William Emptage (6th November 1943) “as a matter of urgency, he having lost his sight as a result of enemy action, and serious hardship might arise if his initiation be delayed”, and the initiation of Roy Ernest Bawcutt (31st May 1944) “arising from the uncertainty of his future movements at this critical time, he being on leave from H M Navy”.
The records of the Lodge show that the overtones of war-time hostilities continued in evidence . . . the Charity Box at the first Installation meeting (held on 7th October 1944) was donated to the King George's Fund for Sailors, and that of the meeting held on 2nd December 1944, to provide a stained glass window to be erected in St Paulinus Church in memory of the ladies of the WVS who lost their lives at Crayford through enemy action.
Not very often are Freemasons permitted to wear their regalia in public; Erdemont Lodge members had the distinction of doing so, under a dispensation granted by Provincial Grand Lodge, at the Easter Sunday Service held in St Paulinus Church on 15th April 1943.
In the post-war years, Erdemont Lodge began to develop along more traditional lines . . .
In October 1945, members supported a petition to be forwarded to Grand Lodge for the formation of a ‘ Daughter Lodge’ to be called Saint Martins, Barnehurst Lodge. In December 1946, the Worshipful Master of Erdemont Lodge and his Wardens were authorised to sign the petition for a Royal Arch Chapter bearing the same name/number of Erdemont Lodge.
The cessation of hostilities did not bring immediate relief from wartime austerity, but it did not take the Lodge long to institute what is now an established social event in its calendar; a Ladies’ Night - over which W Bro Leslie Sabben, a Founder member who was installed as Master in October 1948, presided with Mrs Sabben.
The Lodge's distinctive Banner (which had been designed and purchased at an estimated cost of £20!) was unveiled at the Masonic Centre, Dartford, on 3rd June, 1950, by the Deputy Provisional Grand Master, W Bro Wing Commander Bertram Wilfred Noble, OBE, PGD and dedicated by W Bro The Rev. H Hebden Hurwood, MA PAGChap, PPGChap(Kent).
Today, when Freemasonry is perhaps less highly regarded by the Church than once it was, it is interesting to recall that Erdemont Lodge has numbered ‘Clerks in Holy Orders’ among its members. Initiated on 3rd June 1950, was the Rev Donald Mills, BD, AKC, the then Vicar of Slade Green, Erith.
Joining members of the Lodge have included Bro John Wesley, a direct descendant of the founder of Methodism.
In 1954, with the installation of Bro George B Hodgson as Master on 2nd October, the Lodge discovered, quite literally, fraternal ties with Lodge Nigel, No 847 (Scottish Constitution), Nigel, Transvaal, South Africa of which W Bro. Hodgson's brother — W Bro Harry Hodgson — was a past Master.
The Lodge marked its 21st Anniversary on 4th April 1964, with a Ceremony of Raising carried out entirely by Founder members. W Bro Rev P Churton Collins PPGrand Chaplain, Rector of Crayford, whose church, St Paulinus, is depicted on the Lodge Banner, acted as Chaplain.
In its first 21 years the Lodge initiated 76 candidates and over the period 29 brethren were admitted as joining members.
The 25th Anniversary of the Lodge on 6th April 1968, was marked in much the same manner as the 21st — with a Ceremony of Raising carried out by Founders and Past Masters.
Throughout its history, Erdemont Lodge has strongly supported both Masonic Festivals and charities as well as non-Masonic charities; it made a major contribution to the Province of Kent Festival (1950), became a ‘Founding Lodge 1956’ in the funding of a scheme to extend the Royal Masonic Hospital and made donations to the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys and Girls, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Association and has supported local hospices such as the Eleanor Foundation.
Sadly, all the Founder members and recently the first initiate W Bro Pudduck have all gone to the Grand Lodge above, so those with a recall of those troubled days are no more, but almost sub-consciously each new generation of Erdemont members has absorbed the faith of the spirit of those Founder members, and today, as has always been the case, visitors’ memories are of a genuine warmth of welcome and friendship that transcends even the very highest standards of ritual which, under the tutelage of some outstanding Directors’ of Ceremonies, many Masters have practised.
1066 and All That
Why “Erdemont”? The name sounds sort of French. What does it mean?
These are the ‘usual’ questions asked by visiting brethren to Erdemont Lodge . . .
For an answer (and perhaps it is the definitive one, as was suggested by the Freemasons’ Chronicle in 1943) it is necessary to look back to the time of the Norman Conquest. The, much was changed in South East England — including the name ‘Crecanford’ (as modern-day Crayford was known to its Saxon inhabitants), so-called for being the chief passage across (or rather through) the ‘Crecca’, a river later to be called the ‘Cray’ and lending its name to a number of locations in the district.
To the victors, the spoils — and the Normans were for change. ‘Crecanford’ at the time of the Conquest became known as ‘Erhede’ (or ‘Eard'), and was so described in ancient writings up to and inclusive of the time of Henry VIII (1509-1547).
To this appellation was subsequently added the word ‘ mont’ (or hill) indirect reference to the then (and still) prominent local landmark on which was first sited, in 1100, the ancient parish church of St Paulinus, dedicated to the third Bishop of Rochester, one of a band of missionaries who landed with St Augustine at Ebbsfleet in 596.
A representation of this church, which has stood in its present form since 1430, is depicted on the Banner of the Lodge and is further featured as the Lodge’s alms-box in the form of a contrived scale model made by Bro George Paine, a former organist of the Lodge and of St Paulinus Church.
Province of West Kent
Dartford Masonic Centre,
71 West Hill,
Tel: 01322 224007