In the early 1800’s Grimsby only had a population of 1,524. The town began to recover from a long period of commercial depression due to its natural haven being silted up and when work on the dock, now known as the Riverhead, was opened; it attracted many business men from other parts encouraged by the possibility of increased trade. Among them were masons from Hull whose lodges had been in existence from about 1760. The foremost Freemason at that time that came to Grimsby was David Simpson who was a member of the Humber Lodge in Hull.
The first two lodges were the Spurn and Humber Lodge No. 61 which was formed in 1801 and lasted until 1823 and the Apollo Lodge No. 510 which survived from 1810 to around 1834.
The first building that they occupied was the Crown & Anchor Inn in Silver Street which was later called the Prince Albert and then the Mason’s Arms. That was before the 1800’s but the first building we know existed was at 170/172 Burgess Street near the central market in 1805.
The population increased to 8,638 in 1851 and by 1881 had reached to 57,000. It is during that period the Pelham Pillar Lodge No. 792 was formed in 1859 and which of course is known as our Mother Lodge.
When Pelham Pillar Lodge was formed it held its first a service at St James Church in full regalia and then retired to the Chapman Hotel for a dinner costing 4 shillings per head. The lodge then moved to Parker’s shop which was on the corner of the Bull Ring before eventually a new building was built in Osbourne Street in 1877 the year in which a well-known brother John Sutcliffe died and whose stone tablet is now laid in the North East corner of the present lodge room in Grimsby.
The growth of Freemasonry can be assessed by the intervals in which the following lodges were consecrated and in which of course still exist.
Pelham Pillar in 1859, St Alban’s in 1870, Smyth in 1888, Earl of Yarborough in 1899, Astral in 1918, Lord Heneage in 1944, our own Saint James in 1956, Wellow Abbey in 1979 and Daylight Lodge in 2002.
It was in the early 1950’s when Freemasonry was very buoyant in membership following the ending of the 2nd World War where membership in Pelham Pillar was well over 100. There was a long period of waiting for candidates to be initiated and between initiation and the chair.
The Pelham Pillar Standing Committee considered the formation of a new lodge for some years but there were many difficulties before eventually in 1954 a letter was sent to every member of the Pelham Pillar Lodge giving reasoned details and suggestions for the formation of a new lodge.
In this circular there were two proposed names Saint James Lodge and Wellow Abbey Lodge. Saint James Lodge was so named because it was the name of the Parish Church and the Choir Schools.
It is interesting to note that the Masonic Window in St James Church in the south west corner of the south aisle was designed as a Masonic window at the invitation of the then vicar, Canon Augustus Markham. This apparently was dedicated with full Masonic ritual and attended by all brethren in full regalia. Again the link strengthened with the Parish Church when the same vicar invited Lord Yarborough, the then Provincial Grand Master to lay the foundation stone on the 24th April 1920 for the Memorial Chapel for the departed in the 1st World War.
Unfortunately the said window was destroyed on 13th July 1943 but was restored and dedicated by the masons of Grimsby on 11th November 1951.
It is no doubt because of that link that the first choice of those who responded to the circular was Saint James with 29 brethren agreeing to be the founders of the new lodge.
It was on the 3rd August 1955 that Grand Lodge accepted the request to form a new lodge and a warrant No. 7415 was granted. Accordingly the lodge was consecrated by the Provincial Grand Master the Rt. Hon. Viscount Crookshank and the first Master of the Saint James Lodge, W. Bro Eustace R. Hossell was installed by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master W. Bro. F. G. Stennett (an old boy of St James School).
Founder Members of the Saint James Lodge were:
A. P. Falconer, J. H. Trolley, E. Goodhand, B. White, R. C. Green, N. G. Gowen, I. Abrahams, W. Doig, C. A. R. Taylor, H. S. Lidgard, W. Mitchell, E. H. E. Wilson, E. R. Hossell, J. Staples, W. J. J. Stevens and W. M. Seager.
J. W. Sleight, J. F. Pye, A. Fish, H. R. Hossell, N. J. Smith, T. A. Mackrill, J. Bratton, H. R. Smith, L. S. Wrightson, F. M. Bucknall, L. C. Greaves, T. R. Sprott and R. Wood.
Worshipful Master – Bro. Eustace Hossell
Immediate Past Master – W. Bro. J. H. Trolley
Senior Warden – W. Bro. E. H. E. Wilson
Junior Warden – W. Bro. J. Staples
Chaplain – W. Bro. H. S. Lidgard
Treasurer – W. Bro. C. A. R. Taylor
Secretary – W. Bro. W. Mitchell
Director of Ceremonies – W. Bro. R. C. Green
Senior Deacon – Bro. J. Bratton
Junior Deacon – Bro. H. R. Smith
Assistant Director of Ceremonies – W. Bro. W. J. J. Stevens
Almoner – W. Bro. B. White
Ass. Secretary – Bro. R. Wood
Inner Guard – Bro. L. S. Wrightson
Steward – Bro. F. M. Bucknall
Steward – Bro. L. C. Greaves
Tyler – Bro. J. C. Harmer
Ten days after the consecration the first lodge meeting was held on Tuesday 20th March 1956 and was a business meeting in which the draft by-laws were approved and propositions were received. A second meeting April which followed was for approving candidates, two honoury members, five joining members and initiating the first candidate Bro. Ron Peters, who became the Master 11 years later.
Sadly the Worshipful Master Bro. Eustace R. Hossell died on the 8th August 1956 having taken only one lodge meeting after his installation and it was left to the Past Masters to conduct the lodges until the installation of W. Bro. E. H. E. Wilson.
The finances of the lodge at that time make interesting reading for the warrant cost 10 guineas, the founder’s fee were 3 pounds, 12 shillings and sixpence and the proposal forms were 8 shillings. The first installation dinner was held in 1957 and cost 1 pound including wines and the first annual subscription was 3 pound, 3 shillings. This was then increased in 1965 to 5 pounds, 5 shillings.
The first ladies festival was held on 29th January 1958 with the tickets costing 1 pound and 15 shillings (about £1.75 in today’s money) and it was on that particular occasion that the then W. M. Bro. Jack Staples introduced the St James Choir which continued until 1986.
In the original circular from Pelham Pillar Lodge it mentions that many members were old boys of St James School. Although there is no direct connection with the Church or School there has been a friendly feeling from the lodge towards the Church over many years and in 1968 the lodge made a special donation of £800 towards the goodwill visit to Iceland and in 1976 donated the provision of new cassocks for the choir.
The lodge meetings were held in the Old Hall in Osbourne Street until 1971, with average attendance in those days of around 30. The festive board was held in the ante-room for the ordinary lodges.
The foundation stone of the new Masonic Hall on Cambridge Road was laid on Saturday 1st October 1970 and this is where we now meet, every third Tuesday from September through to May except for December when we have our ladies festival.