Lord Ripon's Masonic Life
When Viscount Goderich was admitted into the Lodge of Truth in 1853 he joined a Lodge which was markedly different from the one today. For a start the Lodge of Truth then met in a room which had been specially built at the Rose and Crown, an important posting and commercial house at the lower end of Kirkgate.
The Rose and Crown was opposite what is now the Huddersfield Hotel. The Rose and Crown was demolished some time ago and gave way to the Palace Theatre and now serves as a bingo hall..
The Lodge of Truth was only eight years old when Ripon joined in 1853, however it had a membership of sixty-three. The membership had seen a massive boost from a humble eighteen in 1851 to fifty-two "in the remarkable year of 1852" (Simpson pp. 27-33). In 1852 Brother John Sykes, a joining member from the Lodge of Harmony, was in the chair. During his year there were thirty-three initiations, twenty-nine passings and twenty-three raisings!
Even the lodge number was different in those days. Ripon joined The Lodge of Truth No. 763 of the United Grand Lodge of England: the lodge numbers were reallocated in 1863.
From the minutes of one-hundred and fifty years ago it becomes obvious, at least in the first few years, that attendance was not as regular as it is nowadays. Unfortunately this situation is exacerbated by the fact that the names of Brethren attending the Lodge are not recorded in the minutes.
The Initiation of Lord Ripon
The story of Ripons Masonic career starts on 27th April 1853 when, he wrote a letter to Brother John Sykes, the same John Sykes who had initiated thirty-three candidates the previous year.
I doubt Ripons letter to Brother Sykes still exists, which is a shame because it may have contained some valuable information. However, on the following day of 28th April 1853 Brother Sykes wrote a letter to the then Worshipful Master, Brother Thomas Robinson nominating Ripon as a candidate for Freemasonry. In this letter, a copy of which is given in Appendix A of this paper Brother Sykes states:-
... and having long contemplated joining our honourable fraternity, his Lordship has evinced such a strong desire to become a Member of the Lodge of Truth, as expressed in a letter from his Lordship to Br. Sykes, P.M. dated London April 27th 1853. (Letter duplicated in the minutes previous to the minutes taken at the regular lodge meeting of Friday 6th May, 1853)
This letter has nine other names of members of the Lodge of Truth on the bottom, in addition to that of Brother Sykes.
... and we affectionately request that you will cause his Lordships name to be inserted in the next summons for the regular Lodge Meeting of Friday the sixth of May... (Letter duplicated in the minutes previous to the minutes taken at the regular lodge meeting of Friday 6th May, 1853)
Ripon was indeed balloted for on 6th May 1853 at the next regular Lodge. At the tender age of twenty-five he was initiated as the 91st member of the Lodge of Truth on Tuesday 17th May 1853 at an Emergency Lodge. The reason an Emergency Lodge was called, something far more common in those days than today, was that Ripon was unable to attend the regular Lodge meeting owing to parliamentary duties.
According to Simpson (1945, pp. 35-36) the honour of initiating Ripon went to Brother Hardy, a Past Master of Fortitude and Old Cumberland Lodge No. 12. Brother Hardy had become a joining member of Harmony in 1852, thence a joining member of the Lodge of Truth only three months before Ripon was initiated, in February 1853. Hardy was the Head of Huddersfield College and, according to Simpson was a "man of literary attainment and apparently well-skilled in the noble order".
I think Simpson may have jumped to an incorrect conclusion. In the very short minutes of Ripons initiation it merely states that "Brother Past Master Hardy very pleasingly illustrated the First Tracing Board". These minutes are duplicated in Appendix B. There is no mention of who was in office that night and, from what I can see, no evidence to suggest anything but that the officers of the year took part in the ceremony.
Ripon's Affinity for Freemasonry
Changing tack slightly, there are two questions surrounding Ripons application to join Freemasonry which I have often speculated about. The first of these is what attracted Ripon to Freemasonry in general, and secondly what attracted Ripon to join the Lodge of Truth in particular.
Before venturing an opinion as to what attracted Ripon to Freemasonry it is important to establish the context in which Freemasonry existed in the early nineteenth century. The public perception of Freemasonry in todays society appears to be one of institutionalised nepotism; the "Mafia of the mediocre" with bizarre rituals and secrets, an organisation to be simultaneously ridiculed and feared. Freemasonry has neglected relations with the community in which we live. The perception of Freemasonry in Ripons time, however, seems wholly different from todays. The Times, for example, described it as "... a harmless and kindly association" (Saturday 5th September, 1874). To be a Freemason was to be the quintessential Englishman, a part of the establishment at the height of the British Empire (which was why his conversion to Catholicism was such a shock for Victorian England).
It is interesting to note that Ripon held high public office, was an active Freemason and indeed went on to become Grand Master apparently without challenge. I doubt Freemasonry could get such a favourable opinion printed in The Times today and is in contrast with the recent publication of the Home Office Select Committees report on so-called "secret societies" (The Times Wednesday 26th March, 1997, p.2). This demonstrates that whilst the Craft has not changed the mostly favourable opinion of our Order prevalent at that time unfortunately has.
Freemasonry in Ripons time was seen as a somewhat radical organisation which held progressive ideas on how society should be organised: an essentially democratic view which today one takes for granted. In particular Freemasonrys egalitarian principles were at odds with the ruling class at that time.
To make a comparison of a famous predecessor, Robert Burns died thirty-one years before Ripon was born. According to a posting on the internet, the National Museums of Scotland states that "Burns was a man of strong and passionately held views on the issues of his day. His commitment to Freemasonry at that time marked him as a man of liberal and egalitarian views".
Being the voracious reader he was, Ripon may well have read one of the many exposés of Freemasonry, the first of which was by Samuel Prichard and appeared as far back as 1730 in the Daily Journal. If indeed if he did read the exposés, he may well have come across such sentiments as are conveyed in the presentation of the Second Degree Working Tools:-
...The Level points out or denotes that we have all sprung from the same stock, are partakers of the same nature, and sharers in the same hope, and that whatever distinctions amongst men in society may be necessary to preserve subordination or reward merit and ability, yet there is no eminence or station should make us forget that we are Brethren, and that he who by fortune is placed in the lowest sphere of existence may be equally entitled to our regard with the most exalted. (Lodge of Truth Ritual).
As a radical and essentially egalitarian person who was interested in introducing democracy to the masses he would have found Freemasonry in tune with his own philosophy. It is probable then that Ripon would have agreed with such sentiments:-
... [Ripon] was then still a Christian Socialist and a Republican, and he found much to attract him in the broad [range of interests] and simple ethics of Masonic teaching. (The Freemason, 27th May, 1922, pp.633-634).
Ripons deep religious and political convictions were the cornerstones of his purpose in life, he found Freemasonry to be entirely empathetic with his persuasion:-
A constant theme in his speeches and writings is the desire to pursue policies which would "bind" men together in unity and common progressive purpose, guided by the fraternal Christian ethic. (Denholme, 1982, p.ii)
Having proposed some reasons why Ripon might wish to associate with Freemasonry, one has to ask why Ripon chose to join to Lodge of Truth. Ripon wrote his letter of application to Brother Sykes on 27th April from his London residence of 5 Whitehall Yard; this was merely four days after being elected to parliament as the M.P. for Huddersfield.
It may have been an "extension of his lively interest in borough affairs" (as Denhome put it) that Ripon chose to join a Lodge in his constituency, joining a fraternity the philosophies of which he so readily identified. Here was an opportunity for him to meet and associate with the influential townsfolk, however, one thing is for sure it was not one a decision he took lightly.
If one reads between the lines of the letter from Brother Sykes reproduced in Appendix A it does not appear that his proposer, Brother Sykes, actually knew Ripon. For example, Sykes does not propose and second Ripon in the normal manner, instead he nominates him. Additionally Sykes adds seven other members names to his motion, as if he were submitting a petition. These extraordinary lengths would not have been required had the normal rules of the Book of Constitutions applied and the request to join the Lodge of Truth may well have been have a bolt out of the blue.
There may be a number of possible connections and this is, I would emphasise speculation. In the previous year on 14th April 1852 the Provincial Grand Master the Right Honourable the Earl of Mexborough attended a Provincial Banquet which was hosted by the Lodge of Truth. 1852, you may remember, is the year that our old friend Brother Sykes was in the chair and apparently initiating, passing and raising the whole of the borough Huddersfield.
In the circles that Ripon moved in he probably knew the Earl of Mexborough and that was the Provincial Grand Master. It may have been on Mexboroughs recommendation that Ripon joined the up and coming Lodge of Truth.
We also have to look at the application for membership from the Lodges point of view. Whilst he may well have been the son of a nobleman he was also a young man, as we have seen of "persistently held advanced opinions" whose uncle would not sponsor for a seat in the Houses of Parliament. At this time Brother Sykes could not have known whether Ripon would turn out to be a loose canon or a future Grand Master and we have to acknowledge Brother Sykess sound judgment in this matter.
Membership of the Lodge of Truth
Ripon was passed on the 12th October 1853 and raised one month later on 25th November, both at Lodges of Emergency (probably owing to his parliamentary duties). Hardy gave the second degree tracing board but unfortunately the minutes do not reveal who took part in his Lordships raising.
Two years later, in 1855 Ripon was installed into the chair of King Solomon as the tenth Worshipful Master. This means it took him just over two years to get to the chair, having spent the obligatory year as a Warden.
Although his officers were invested in December, Ripon was not installed until June of the following year. Simpson states:-
"there is nothing to show why this Installation Ceremony was deferred from December 1854 to June 1855: perhaps [Ripon] was away on Parliamentary duty..." (Simpson, 1945, p. 36).
From Denholme we know Ripon had actually been holidaying in Pau in November 1854 and was also in the Pyrenees in March 1855 (Denholme, p.50 and p.87). It appears Ripon may have been on an extended holiday!
The year that Ripon was in the chair was a very significant one for the Lodge of Truth for it was during his term of office as Worshipful Master that the Lodge moved to Fitzwilliam Street in Huddersfield. The removal of the Lodge had first been suggested in open Lodge on the 25th November, 1853 (the same night as Ripons raising), although no doubt many informal discussions will have preceded.
The foundation stone to Fitzwilliam Street was laid on Wednesday 27th December 1854 on the Festival of St. John. by Brother George Wright. He was Ripons predecessor in the chair and would have probably been deputising for him in Ripons absence. Friday 5th October 1855 was the first regular Lodge meeting held at Fitzwilliam Street and the Deputy Provincial Grand Master "allowed a dispensation of [Ripons] presence when the motion of removal is made" (Simpson p.38). Coincidentally, this makes Fitzwilliam Street one of the oldest purpose-built Masonic temples which is still in active use in the Province of Yorkshire West Riding.
Ripon was away in Scotland at the time of the first meeting, however the Worshipful Master sent a cheque towards the building of the new hall for £20. In todays money this donation would be worth about £1,000.
In the following year of 1856 and having completed his year in the chair Ripon was given Grand Lodge honours and became the Senior Grand Warden. The following year Ripon became a joining member of the Wakefield Lodge No 495. This decision coincided with two events, first he was returned as Member of Parliament forYorkshire West Riding and a local land owner and colliery owner called Col J C D Charlesworth had joined Wakefield Lodge two months earlier.
Ripon's Rise to the Provincial Grand Master
In 1861 the Earl of Mexborough died and was succeeded to the high office of Provincial Grand Master by Ripon who was now thirty-four years old. Ripons appointment to Provincial Grand Master proved to be most popular in the Province:-
... and was fully justified by the active interest he took in the affairs of his Province. To this day many of the Yorkshire Lodges have extracts from his Masonic speeches inscribed on their walls, and the skill and impressiveness with which he gave ritual are still recalled by the older Brethren as an example to new Masters. (The Freemason, 27th May, 1922. pp.633-634)
Strenuous efforts were made to host the installation in Huddersfield and the three Huddersfield Lodges at that time, Harmony Huddersfield and Truth combined to lobby Province. But it was not to be. The Leeds Committee sent representatives to The Lodge of Truth to say that Leeds possessed superior accommodation in the form of Victoria Hall, and that if the Huddersfield Lodges would withdraw its claim they would allow His Lordship to be installed in Leeds under the Banner of The Lodge of Truth; the Officers of the Lodge to open and close the Lodge.
This was indeed done on the 22nd May, 1861. However, owing to a regrettable oversight the brethren of the Lodge of Truth were not allocated Banquet Tickets.
Ripon was most apologetic about the incident and that:-
... he had learnt with the deepest regret that there had been a misunderstanding with reference to the Banquet Tickets; he said that it was a source of great disappointment to him, not to meet with the Brethren of his Mother Lodge at the Banquet, and he asked the Brethren not to permit it to produce any want of harmony and union, so that the matter could be speedily forgotten. (Simpson, 1945, p.50).
His appointment as Provincial Grand Master seems to have enlivened Ripon, and in addition to the Lodge he had joined at Lincoln two years previous (Witham Lodge No. 297 in Lincoln) he joined two other London Lodges. On 11th June 1861 he joined the Lodge of Friendship No. 6 (a Red Apron or Grand Stewards Lodge) and on 2nd July he joined Royal Alpha Lodge No. 16. Royal Alpha is the Grand Masters personal lodge and Ripon made it a point to be at each installation. He was its Worshipful Master three times, namely the year after he joined in 1862, then again in 1870 and 1874.
As we have seen from the extract from The Freemason the Provincial Grand Master Ripon was highly involved in the affairs of the Province. On 19th April, 1865 at a Provincial Grand Lodge held in Huddersfield he laid the foundation stone for The Mechanics Institute at Lockwood. As we have seen Ripon had an abiding interest in education and Mechanics Institutes were the only place adults could receive education outside London and was twice chairman of the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics Institutes.
Appropriately enough to this paper the Mechanics Institute in Lockwood, with its fine façade, was restored in early 1997 and has been converted into flats. A far more appropriate use than the empty shell it was when I first visited it in 1996. I think Ripon would have thoroughly approved of the University of Huddersfield a mile down the road which dwarfs this small building which was, nevertheless, a testament of the first step towards providing local adult education.
Ripon's Rise to Grand Master
In the same year that he become Provincial Grand Master Ripon was also appointed Deputy Grand Master by The Right Honourable the second Earl of Zetland. On 2nd March, 1870, on the retirement of Zetland, he succeeded to the Grand Mastership, and was in due course installed to the throne of King Solomon on the 14th May 1870 (Masonic Year Book 1991-92, p.814 Outstanding Masonic Events)
As the magazine the Freemason stated:-
His tenure of office, though lasting only four and a half years, was unprecedently brilliant and fruitful. He had never been a fainéant Mason. Indeed, so earnest and punctilious was he in all the offices he held in the Craft that his private secretary, Seton, found it necessary to become a Freemason in order to keep up with his chiefs engagements. (The Freemason, 27th May, 1922, pp.633-634)
As an example of this "brilliant and fruitful" period he introduced the then Prince of Wales (afterwards King Edward VII) to Royal Alpha Lodge.
[Letter from the Prince of Wales]
Sandringham, Kings Lynn
22nd April, 70
My dear [Ripon], - Many thanks for your letter and for giving me all the information I asked you concerning the approaching Masonic festival........
I have the greatest pleasure in accepting your kind offer to make me a member of the Alpha Lodge. I had long wished to belong to a London Lodge. I am sure I could not belong to a better one than the Alpha Lodge.
I remain, yours very sincerely,
(Source: The Freemason, 27th May, 1922, pp.633-634)
HRH Albert Edward, Prince of Wales was not initiated in England but in Sweden. On a visit to Stockholm in December 1868 he was put through all eleven degrees of the Swedish system by the King of Sweden. On the news reaching England, he was, in 1869, elected an honorary Past Grand Master of our Grand Lodge. The other Royal Princes, the Duke of Connaught and his younger brother, the Duke of Albany, also joined the Craft during Ripons Grand Mastership.
All three princes were loyal supporters of the Craft and indeed the Duke of Connaught succeeded his brother as Grand Master in 1901 on Albert Edwards accession to the Throne. This period of time thus lead to an unprecedented level of support for Freemasonry by the Royal Family.
Perhaps the most conspicuous event in his reign as Grand Master was during his mission to the United States to negotiate the Washington Treaty. He was the first Grand Master to visit America, and both he and the American Lodges took care that the interesting event should be suitably celebrated. On 10th May, 1871, he was received with great splendour and enthusiasm by the Grand Lodge of Columbia in the presence of delegations from all the American Grand Lodges. Ripon made skilful use of the occasion to dilate on the civil allegiance of Freemasons and the application to their guiding principle to the cause of Anglo-American friendship.
Speaking on a familiar theme in reply to an address of welcome, he said:-
We all know that fraternity is the first principle of Masonry, and therefore it is that all must rejoice at everything that tends to bind more closely together the Masons of different nations and countries. A union between American and English Masons, a union which, for my part, I have always believed, and now I believe more strongly than ever, cannot be too close and fraternal. (The Freemason, 27th May, 1922, pp.633-634: The italics are the authors emphasis)
He went on to say:-
The leading principle of our ancient Craft is all of fraternity... whatever may be their race or nation. Masonry does not, however, cause men to forget their patriotism in a vague cosmopolitan feeling. Men are better citizens of the United States and better subjects of the Crown of England because they are Brethren of our ancient Fraternity.... I believe that it is for the highest interest of the highest civilisation of the world, I believe that it is for the highest interest of America and England, that there should be the closest and most intimate union between the two countries. (The Freemason, 27th May, 1922, pp.633-634)
In 1871 after his negotiation of the Washington Treaty he became the first Marquess of Ripon and on the 22nd January 1873 at a Provincial Grand Lodge held at Huddersfield a congratulatory address was made to Ripon on attaining his majority; he had been in masonry for twenty-one years.
On 4th March 1874 Ripon was re-elected for the fifth time as Grand Master. On this occasion he gave a speech expressing his deep gratitude:-
I am very happy to be able once more to congratulate you on the prosperous conditions of the Craft at the present time... I trust that we shall always bear in mind that the strength of the Order does not lie in the number of its Lodges or in the increasing roll of its members, but in the spirit by which its members are animated and which lives and breathes in our Lodges. It is because I hope and believe that these principles are deeply written in the hearts of all that I do esteem it a very great honour once more to be able to be called upon to preside over you. (The Freemason, 27th May, 1922, pp.633-634)
During Ripons reign as Grand Master the body of the Order flourished mightily. The number of new Lodges for which Ripon was privileged to grant Warrants reached a higher proportion than it had during any previous period. In fact, the number of the Lodges warranted by Ripon was two-hundred and sixteen.
Indeed during Ripons reign as Deputy Grand Master and Grand Master he warranted many local lodges to the Province of Yorkshire West Riding, for example Trafalgar and Scarborough in Batley; Mirfield Lodge; Saville at West Vale; Ryburn at Sowerby Bridge; Brighouse; De Warren at Halifax and last but by now means least, Thornhill at Huddersfield. A full list of Lodges he warranted is given in Appendix C.
Additionally there are six Lodges that I know of that were named after Lord Ripon. The first of these were de Grey and Ripon (No. 837) which meets at Ripon in the Province of Yorkshire West Riding. The second de Grey and Ripon Lodge (No. 905) was formed in 1862 and met at the Cafe Royal, London, this Lodge handed in its warrant in the early months of 2000. A third de Grey and Ripon Lodge (No. 1161) meets in Bridge Street, Manchester in the Province of East Lancashire and was formed from its mother Lodge Caledonian No. 204 in 1867, when Ripon was Deputy Grand Master. Finally, there is the Marquess of Ripon Lodge (No. 1379) which meets in Darlington in the Province of Durham.
The following year of 1868 Goderich Lodge (No. 1211) which now meets at Headingley in Leeds was consecrated. The name Goderich was probably chosen because there was already a Lodge named after de Grey and Ripon in the Province of Yorkshire West Riding. However, Ripon graciously consented the Lodge the privilege of using his coat of arms and crest and became the only Lodge in the country to be allowed to do this. Finally, during his reign as Grand Master the Marquess of Ripon Lodge (No. 1379) of Darlington, Province of Durham, was consecrated and is the only one to bear his marquessate title.