A Masonic Lodge existed in Newcastle at an early period. (fn. 1) The records of St.
John's Lodge, the first held under the Grand Lodge of England, commence in the
year 1725. In 1730, the Brethren of this Lodge met in the Flesh Market, and ordered a play, called "The Committee," at the Moot-hall theatre. They afterwards
assembled at various places until the year 1777, when they erected an elegant Masonic
Hall in Low Friar Street. It contained an excellent organ, and two paintings by
Bell; one representing St. John, the other a portrait of Mr. Francis Peacock, roper,
the Grand Master of the Lodge. In front of the building was a Greek inscription,
signifying, "The darkness comprehendeth it not." At its dedication, an excellent
band, and the best vocal performers from the choir of Durham cathedral, assisted.
"A pathetic exhortation was delivered by Mr. Huntley, and an elegant oration, displaying the antiquity, progress, and excellence of the order, by the Rev. Dr. Scott of
Simonburn. The festival was held in the new Assembly-room, when near four hundred of the brethren dined together at three tables." In a short time, extravagance
and the introduction of politics ruined this Lodge; and Alderman Blackett, who had
a mortgage on the hall, sold it and the other property of the Lodge for £320.
St. Nicholas' Lodge was established in Newcastle on November 29, 1764, and appears to have been first held in a house on the Quayside, from whence it was removed
into the Flesh Market in December, 1770. It was afterwards held at various places,
until its final incorporation with the Athol Lodge.
The Athol Lodge (fn. 2) had a very humble beginning. One Cockburn, a Quayside labourer, having, in 1804, taken offence at the conduct of St. Nicholas' Lodge, to which
he belonged, resolved to erect one of his own. His first pupil was William
Brown, a cooper, who was instructed in the Butchers' Field. Candidates were afterwards admitted at the Barley Mow in Sandgate; and the number of these spurious
Masons increasing, the Brethren of St. Nicholas' Lodge became alarmed, seeing "the
craft was in danger." But the outlaws, despising all threats, boldly removed to the
Star and Garter, in Mosley Street; after which they sent a deputation to a Lodge
belonging to the 2d regiment of Lancashire militia, then stationed at Sunderland,
by whom were made Masons legitimately. On their return, they remade the rest of
their brethren. By the influence of this military lodge, they procured a charter, No.
131, under the constitution of the Duke of Athol. After this, the Athol Masons
removed to Mr. Lowes', the Half Moon Inn, Bigg Market, where they remained
until 1808, when they took possession of the Masonic Hall in Bell's Court. The
rivalry between this Lodge and St. Nicholas' continually increased, and Masonic
processions became very frequent. At length, in 1814, the Duke of Athol resigned
his supremacy over his sect of Masons, and the Prince of Wales did the same over
his portion of the mystic craft; when the Athol and St. Nicholas' Lodges were
united under one charter (No. 26), granted by the Duke of Sussex as the sole Grand
Master of the order. A union also took place between St. Edwin's and the Union
Masonic Lodges in Gateshead. The united brotherhood in Newcastle continued
their meetings in Bell's Court until the year 1824, when they removed to the old
library-room of the Literary and Philosophical Society, in the Groat Market. But,
since the union, the spirit of Masonry has greatly declined in Newcastle.
An Orange Lodge, No. 69, was established in Newcastle in June, 1807, and which
is now held at the Cock Inn, Head of the Side. It is governed by a Master, Deputy
Master, Treasurer, Secretary, and a Committee of five members. His Royal Highness the late Duke of York was Patron of this fraternity; and the late Sir Thomas
Burdon, Knt. was at one time Deputy Grand Master of the northern district. This
"Loyal Orange Lodge" consists of above 700 members, of whom upwards of 200
compose a benefit society.
A member of this Lodge writes, "This is exclusively a Protestant association,
whose object is to protect every loyal subject, of whatever religious persuasion he
may be, from violence and oppression. We assume the name of King William the
Third, Prince of Orange, whose glorious memory we will perpetually cherish, as the
establisher of the true religion in this United Kingdom."
Another Orange Lodge, No. 74, was formed at Mr. Newton's, sign of the New
Dolphin, in the Close, above two years ago. There is also attached to this Lodge a
select benefit society, consisting of above 90 members.
Anciently, men of almost every trade or mystery of any consequence had some
peculiar sign and pass-word. Hence, a Scotch Gardener, by a motion, could instantly
discover whether a stranger had entered the profession regularly. This simple sign
of recognition received some additions, and, being in late times engrafted upon Free
Masonry, and formed into a system of degrees, is now known by the name of Free
The St. Michael Pine-apple Lodge of Free Gardeners, in Newcastle, was first
formed in 1812, by warrant from the St. George's Lodge of North Shields, which
derived its existence from a Lodge composed of soldiers belonging to the Forfar regiment of militia. This Lodge, which is numerous, meets at the Nag's Head, in the
Old Flesh Market. Solomon's Lodge of Free Gardeners, which assemble at the sign
of the Angel, in the Butcher Bank, was instituted in 1822, by warrant from the
Venerable Bede's Lodge at South Shields.
The Melon Lodge of Free Gardeners, in Gateshead, was formed on February 8,
1813, by warrant from the St. Michael Pine-apple Lodge of Newcastle, with the approbation of the Old Adam Lodge at Sunderland.
FREE AND EASY JOHNS.
The Newcastle Lodge of Free and Easy Johns was the third Lodge of the kind in
England, being No. 3, and preceded only by those of London and of Dover. It
was first formed in 1778, and could soon boast of consisting of more than 1000 members. It is an association merely for convivial purposes; but there is a ceremony of
initiation, a pass-word, grip, &c. In August, 1784, Charles Brandling, Esq. M. P.
presented this Lodge, of which he was a member, with a large silver goblet, on which
his arms were engraved, with a suitable inscription. This Lodge assembles at the
Blue Posts public house, in Pilgrim Street. Another Lodge, No. 13, has since been
formed, and meets at the sign of the Cock, in St. Nicholas' Square. There is also a
Lodge of Free and Easy Johns in Gateshead.
ODD FELLOWS' LODGES.
The First Northumberland, the Second Northumberland, the Albion, the St. Mary's,
the Trafalgar, the Wellington, and the Mariner's Lodges of Odd Fellows, meet at
different inns and public houses in Newcastle, and the Burns Lodge in Gateshead.
A new order of Odd Fellows have lately opened the Tyne Union Lodge in Newcastle,
and St. George's Lodge in Gateshead. The latter Lodges have adopted some new
ceremonies, and profess to be very particular in the admission of members.
The ceremonies of different Lodges have never been uniform. In general, the
officers are, a Noble Grand with his two supporters, a Vice Grand and two supporters,
a Noble Father who is a past Noble Grand, a Secretary, a Warden, and a Tyler or
Guardian. All the officers excepting the Warden and Guardian, when admitting a
member, wear scarlet robes, variously ornamented. The Warden wears a cocked hat,
and the Guardian a black robe and a mask, representing a merry devil's head, with
two horns. The Noble Grand's mask resembles a very old man's face, with a long
beard and nose. The Warden the same. The Vice Grand's resembles an ugly old
man's face, with a tremendous nose. The brothers wear all sorts and sizes. The object being conviviality, the ceremonies are brief. (fn. 3)