The object of writing this history of the George Green Lodge is to acquaint the present and the future generations of members with the progress of our Lodge through all the vicissitudes of its first hundred years and beyond, including two World Wars and the great changes in Society during this past century, and so enable them to appreciate the effort and determination of members to overcome the problems of maintaining a Lodge in this troubled world.
Whilst there have been a host of Worshipful Masters and Lodge Officers particular mention must be made of W.Bro. Edwin A. Moir, the Lodge Secretary from 1926 to 1941, who recovered two Minute books covering the period from 1911 to 1932 from the ruins of his house which had been destroyed by enemy action on the 23rd June 1944; unfortunately the Minute book for the period of 1932 to 1939 was destroyed. Tragically his wife was killed in that same enemy action.
The Lodge which has a proud history was consecrated on Thursday 30th March 1911 and after the close of the First world War contributed to the building of the Peace Memorial which we know today as Freemasons Hall and was honoured as a Hall Stone Lodge. A Centenary Warrant was issued in September 2010.
Our Badge is the school badge surmounted by the crest of the Green family with a gold ornament incorporating the name and number of our Lodge. The former is the second Blackwall Flag, a St. George’s Cross over a smaller dark blue square on a white shield shaped ground with the motto ‘Fideliter’. The latter is a golden stag’s head.
An interesting story concerning the origin of the Blackwall Flag relates that the commander of the clipper purchased by George Green to start his Blackwall Line: the ‘Sir Edward Paget’ flew the St. George’s Cross as his house flag. The St. George’s Cross is considered as the peculiar property and prerogative of the Royal Navy. When arriving at Spithead the Port Admiral refused to allow the presumptuous vessel to enter the harbour until the offending flag had been hauled down. To solve the dilemma a dark blue handkerchief was sewn over the centre of the red cross and this became the Blackwall Flag until 1843, when the Green family and the Wigram family dissolved their partnership and the Wigrams gained possession of the flag by the spin of a coin. Mr. Richard Green, George Green’s eldest son, then ran a red cross over the blue square and this became the new house flag of F. Green & Co. which when superimposed on Anderson, Anderson & Co’s St. Andrew’s Cross was the Orient Line’s house flag until 1880.
Our banner has stood in our Lodge since the 18th October 1912 on which date at the installation of our second Master: W.Bro. Ernest J. Marsh, it was presented to the Lodge by him and W.Bro. Richard H. Green. The banner is in garter blue, has our Badge in colour in the centre and the month and year of the granting of our Warrant and Consecration in the left and right top corners respectively. It was renovated in 1963 and then again in 1992 at no cost to the Lodge by W.Bro.Tony Stanlic.
George Green was born on the 2nd November 1767 in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. At the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to Mr. John Perry, a well known shipbuilder of Blackwall Yard. These were formative years for the docks and ports of London and during the development of the first of the East India Docks George Green rose to a position of trust through his hard work, and in 1797 he was made a partner having married his employer’s daughter.
The firm progressed and other partners were admitted, including Sir Robert Wigram, with whom the Green family would have close ties in their commercial ventures. In 1843 the firm became a family partnership in the names of Richard and Henry Green. Richard was the sole survivor of the five children of George Green’s first marriage, and there is a statue of him with his dog outside Poplar Baths in East India Dock Road. Henry was the eldest son of George Green’s second marriage. The firm ceased shipbuilding about 1894 and an amalgamation with another large ship-repair firm in 1910 produced the famous and important firm of R & H Green and Silley Weir Ltd with its many dry docks and repair shops in the Port of London and in Falmouth.
In 1824 George Green had founded the Blackwall Line of passenger ships sailing to India and Australia, and in 1836 Frederick Green, the second of his sons by his second marriage established the firm of F. Green & Co. as brokers for that line. Foreseeing the future of steam ships, F. Green & Co. linked with Anderson, Anderson & Co. in 1878 to become joint managers of the now famous Orient Line. In 1919 the Green family sold their shares in Anderson, Green & Co. Ltd. to Lord Inchcape.
In 1839 at the age of seventy-one George Green retired and devoted his energies during the remainder of his life to the schools, sailors’ homes, almshouses and other benevolent institutions that he had established and endowed. He had created a dynasty which his family carried on after his death on 21st February 1849.
Although there is no recorded evidence that George Green was a Mason there is no doubt that he embodied all the qualities that Masonry supports and encourages. His charitable donations and endowments to the area of the east end of London improved the life and prospects of many of those fortunate enough to receive the munificence he had shown for so many years. In the freemason’s Chronicle dated 26th January 1929 it was written “he was a man of great wisdom, strength and beauty of character and his heart was actuated by the highest principles of benevolence and charity”. The Green family continued, after his death, to play an important and active role in the Institutions he had established and, indeed, they established other laudable causes to the benefit of their fellow man. When the Lodge was formed the name of George Green was suggested to Grand Lodge, and despite their reluctance and dislike of naming Lodges after individuals, such was the legacy that George Green and his family had left that they enquired into George Green’s philanthropy and prestige with the result that the Pro. Grand Master gave permission for our Lodge to be called ‘The George Green Lodge’.
George Green founded and endowed five schools in his lifetime. He opened Chrisp Street School in 1828 so that the local children could be provided with education and clothing in a deprived area of London.
When the Education Act of 1870 was passed, the George Green Foundation Committee decided that as elementary education was now to be provided by the State then their efforts should be directed towards satisfying the need for higher education. With this in mind a larger site at the corner of Kirby Street and East India Dock Road was acquired and a school was built which opened on 15th September 1884. The original Chrisp Street School continued until it was closed in 1981.
Henry Green J.P., grandson of George Green and later the M.P. for Poplar was the first Chairman of the Governors. The charitable ideas of the founder were maintained by the provision of a large number of free and half-free scholarships competed for each year amongst the pupils of the elementary schools.
In July 1909 the school was handed over to the London County Council, as it was thought that the existence of the school as a private foundation was no longer necessary. Richard H. green our first Worshipful Master was the Chairman of the School Governors at that time. In 1955 the Ministry of Education gave the school its own Articles of Government as a Voluntary Controlled School. In 1975 a new Comprehensive school was built in Manchester Road, Isle of Dogs.
The link with the Green family was maintained over the years, with members of the Green family serving on the governing body of the school. Indeed, the great-great Grandson of George Green: Mr. Richard Green is the current Green family representative as a sponsor governor on the Governing body of the school. Moreover up to the latest verifiable research in the 1960’s the pupils were still benefiting from funds provided by the Founder: George Green; for the Council invested some of the original endowment, setting aside the income from those investments to help the school, as well as enabling deserving scholars to continue their further education at University or other institutions for advanced academic work.
The school had a close relationship with the Lodge since the Lodge’s formation in 1911. Eight of our founders had close connections with the school, and some 108 members (about a third of our total membership) have been Masters, Old Boys, Governors, or had other close association with the school during our first 100 years.
However, just prior to the School moving to new premises on the Isle of Dogs and going Comprehensive in 1975 the new school authorities unfortunately decided that a Masonic association was considered not to be appropriate to their new comprehensive regime. As was especially prevalent at that time Freemasonry was not always viewed favourably.
In 1910 Bro. Charles Popplestone, the French master of George Green School suggested to his fellow Masons: W.Bro. Ernest Marsh and W.Bro. Thomas Scott, both Governors of the George Green School that a Lodge be formed for old boys of their school. Bro. Richard H. Green was asked to be the first Master and the help of eighteen other Masons was enlisted. Several Lodges were desirous of sponsoring our new Lodge and the Recommendation of our Petition was also signed by the Bishop of Barking Lodge No. 3050. All Saints Lodge No. 1716 was, however, asked to be our Mother Lodge because W.Bro. Scott was its Master, and Chrisp Street School was in the Parish of All Saints. Our Mother Lodge was very supportive during our early years and took great interest in our progress. All the preliminaries were completed by Bro. Popplestone and his efforts were bought to fruition when on 30th March 1911 our Lodge was consecrated in the Egyptian Temple at the Abercorn Rooms, Great Eastern Hotel, London.
Of the twenty-two Founders of our Lodge eight were directly associated with George Green School. Six were directly involved with the Green family shipping business, including Bro. Richard Green the great grandson of George Green, and grandson of Henry Green, Chairman of the Governors of the School and first Mayor of Poplar. Five were members of our Mother Lodge: All Saints Lodge No. 1716 which is no longer in existence.
Our Lodge was consecrated in the Egyptian Temple of the Abercorn Rooms at the Great Eastern Hotel, London on Thursday 30th March 1911 by V.W. Bro. Sir Edward Letchworth, who was the Grand Secretary at that time. He was supported by 14 other Grand Officers including the District Grand Master of the Argentine.
During this first decade seventy members were initiated and four members joined our Lodge.
The membership of our Lodge in 1930 was over one hundred and members realised that it would be many years before they had the opportunity to rise through the offices and reach the Chair of our Lodge. Bro. John Headworth was keen to advance in Masonry and he obtained the help and backing of twenty other Masons and asked our Lodge to sponsor the formation of a new Lodge.
Our Daughter Lodge: Fairbrook Lodge No. 5281 was then consecrated on the 17th July 1931 which is still a flourishing Metropolitan Lodge.
Fairbrook Lodge then went on to create two daughter lodges of its own, one of which King Harold Lodge No. 9006 was consecrated on 24th November 1981 is still going strong.
On the 31st of March 1996 the Lodge left the Gt. Eastern Hotel after meeting there in the Abercorn Rooms during the past eighty-five years. Our last meeting there was held on 15th March 1996. The Gt. Eastern Hotel’s Masonic rooms were closed for refurbishment, and unfortunately during a robbery at the site our Lodge lost the new columns which had been presented to the Lodge by the Lodge of Instruction inscribed to mark the death of W.Bro. George Finck – Bro. George had been involved in the L.O.I for many years, and his loss was severally felt by them. Also lost in that same robbery were the Lodge’s Tracing Boards.
A new venue was sought and the Meetings moved to 10 Duke Street, St. James’, London and at the same time the five meetings per year were reduced to three. The first meeting was held on 8th October 1996.
Thereafter the lodge started on a very slow decline and by 2019 had fourteen subscribing members but could only just about muster a quorum at the meetings.
From the end of 2019 under the auspices of the then Metropolitan Grand Inspector, W. Bro Jonathan Hillman who had overall responsibility for George Green Lodge a steering committee was formed comprising: W.Bros: Andrew Imber, the former Lodge SVO, Matt Gibbs the previous Lodge VO, Huw Pritchard the former Inspectorate Secretary and Steven Savvas the future Lodge Secretary to explore the possibility of giving George Green a renewed impetus by transitioning to a lodge under the auspices of the UGLE Universities Scheme.
After much preparation including surmounting the restrictions of the Covid 19 pandemic and with a host of new joining members, the Lodge will be finally accepted under the US Scheme just after the Installation Meeting held on the 12th October 2021 at which meeting W.Bro Jonathan Hillman will be Installed as Master and the fourteen existing subscribing members then all became honorary members.
However, Duke Street was unable to accommodate any change of dates and is closed on Saturdays. Subsequently, the Lodge as from Saturday, 22nd January 2022 at which meeting the first tranche of University Students are to be initiated, will change its meeting venue to Freemasons Hall in Great Queen Street, London WC2, holding four annual Saturday Meetings.