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March & Darnley  Lodge No 1141

Masonic “The Friendship” Lodge in Horsham



March & Darnley Masonic Lodge No 1141

Normandy Centre, Denne Road, Horsham, RH12 1JF

MARCH & DARNLEY LODGE – NO 1141 in the Register of the GRAND LODGE of ENGLAND

The first-ever recorded Freemasons’ Lodge in Horsham was the March & Darnley Lodge No 805 which met regularly in the town between 1825 and 1832. Practically all the records of this ancient lodge have been lost with the passage of time, though one or two ancient artefacts still remain in the ownership of the Lodge. Even the Archives of Grand Lodge contain only copies of letters, the originals of which are in the care of our Lodge.

Consecrated in 1825, at the King’s Head Inn, March & Darnley 805 met at there until 1828 when it moved to a New Masonic Hall that they had built on the Carfax to the North side of Albion Road in the old town centre. This building later became the Women’s Institute Market Hall, which itself was later flattened for the town centre redevelopment roughly on the site of what is now Pyries Place. In 1832 the Lodge lost its Charter, for defiance and for non-payment of its fees to Grand Lodge since the formation of the Lodge in 1825. Some would say that we have a tradition of positive conflict in this Lodge, and we are proud of it! But we still survive.  Provincial and Grand Lodge subscriptions have never been popular with the M&D members and our contributions to the Sussex and UK organisations is at least as great as our internal costs!    

In 1912 some documents relating to this previous era were discovered, including a list of the members dated 30th April 1828. The relics of the original lodge which we still have, are the Poignard (or dagger) which is stamped “M&D 805” and is used to welcome Initiates to the 1st Degree, and several antique “firing glasses” that still occasionally come out to the “Festive Board” tables during supper after most Full Meetings; some are stamped “805”, others “1141”. In 1890, some further missing Firing Glasses engraved “M&D 805” were discovered during a visit to South Saxon Lodge No 311. This was no doubt a result of the ancient custom of “borrowing” firing glasses from other lodges on Installation evenings! All attempts to get these Artefacts returned were resisted. These glasses were again observed during a lodge visit in 1932. Some of these have now been returned to our Lodge, but many are still trophies in other lodges!  

From 1832 to 1867 there was no documented Masonic lodge in Horsham. In my view, they went underground. On 20th October 1866 Yarborough Lodge no 811 sponsored the formation of a new Horsham lodge, consecrated as the Mid-Sussex Lodge no 1141 on 1st February 1867 at 1:30pm and about 80 brethren attended the ceremony including 2 surviving members of the original March & Darnley Lodge no 805. The lodge met at the King’s Head Assembly Rooms on the 1st Friday of each month – 12 times annually.   

After the Consecration, no less than seven more men were immediately nominated as prospective members. They were all initiated at the same ceremony in March 1867, under a special Dispensation, as the official maximum number to be so initiated all at once was then five. A further five prospective members were then nominated at that March meeting. Those seven good men initiated in March 1867 were later all Passed together into the 2nd Degree and subsequently all Raised together into the 3rd Degree. Lodge no 1141 was thus firmly established with a core of brothers of common experience.   

On 19th January 1867 the lodge purchased a Complete set of Lodge furniture and Regalia second-hand, including a set of three splendid, heavy, antique & genuine Chippendale Masonic chairs, dating from around 1660 and ten new officers’ jewels and collars. In 1902 these chairs were lent for the foundation stone ceremonies at Christ’s Hospital School and on that occasion the chairs were strengthened and re-cushioned. The lodge also obtained a “Breeches Bible” from a 1557-1591 Geneva edition which is in regular lodge use at our Full Meetings. We still use the Chippendale chairs in the Horsham centre, and we have made them available to all.      

From May 1867 until 1872 the Lodge usually held its meetings on the 2nd Tuesdays, when lodge meetings were briefly moved in April to the 2nd Monday and then from June 1872 moved to Lodge 1141’s current schedule on the 3rd Monday of each month (except when it isn’t!) until 1879. From 1880 the lodge did not meet during the summer months. In 1889 an attempt to reinstate 12 meetings a year failed by one vote. The next failed attempt at establishing regular monthly meetings was not until January 2006. In my view, the old ways were better - the more often we meet the more we learn. The more often we socialise, the stronger the bond.  

In 1893, it was discovered that the King’s Head Assembly Rooms would become unavailable to the Lodge, and after Committee recommendation in January 1894, the Lodge moved to the Ball Room of the old Black Horse Hotel in April 1894 – in Black Horse Way, which still runs parallel with and to the South of West Street. The Lodge purchased land and erected a bespoke Permanent Lodge Room at that hotel, meeting there from 1896 until 1939 when this Masonic Hall was erected in Denne Road, on the site of the Vicarage Gardens which became available to us for £1080 with the building-works costing £4838, completed in summer 1939.  Requisitioned by the military during World War II, it was returned to us in 1945. The building was 100% owned by M&D then and is still 85% owned by the lodge, and the Articles of the management company, Horsham Masonic Halls Ltd, recognise this in that M&D has the Poll vote percentage shareholding – not that we ever use that authority unwisely, but as we bought the land and built the building, we cherish & retain responsibilities for it, though we seldom exercise our full authority. For example, in serious situations, M&D might veto an expensive repairs, increase rental costs, remove officers of the Company, or even dictate the sale  or forbid the sale of the premises. In practise, good management of the premises is delegated to the Board of Directors of the Company, though M&D representatives on the Board still hold the rights of veto in any matter, including any variations to the Articles of the Company.

M&D Brethren furnished the lodge - the large “squared pavement” carpet was donated by Brother Hunt. Mahogany “pedestals” to match the antique chairs came from Brother Jarrett and the Deacons’ chairs were donated by Brother Lane. Brother Goodman provided the Kneeling Stools. Brother Lintott (one of his descendants is still a member of one of our daughter-lodges, “Causeway”) provided a Mahogany Table matching the chairs, for use with the Tracing boards. Brother Lawrence supplied the Organ.  In 1905 we had bought a new Secretary’s Desk and this is still in use by all Horsham Lodges.  

The Tracing Boards are believed to be ancient, dating from 1825 - so they are as old as our old firing glasses!  The Tracing Boards were dramatically repaired and expensively, sensitively restored by M&D at high cost and are only used by M&D alone for special occasions: it’s amazing how much damage can be done unintentionally when using each other’s Masonic equipment. Our M&D Masonic ritual actually pre-dates Sussex & Emulation working, both of which now strongly resemble M&D working, but perhaps imperfectly! As an ancient lodge, we have the right to manage, modify and extend our own ritual, and we often refer to these documented and undocumented variations as “March & Darnley Working”, especially when Sussex Provincial visitors are present. The Rituals of our Lodge actually are fully documented and maintained - they are still to an extent "organic" as our ancient status permits us some genuine license and control over our own ceremonies. We operate our M&D rituals on the basis that although we know what our core rituals contain, we accept and encourage positive variations, and we adopt aspects that we see as improvements from other lodges.

In 1902 the Lodge again changed its name, back from “Mid-Sussex” to “March & Darnley” Lodge No 1141. This was done in honour of the Earl of March & Darnley who at that time became the Provincial Grand Master of Sussex. The lodge was originally so named because, at the time of its consecration in 1825, the 5th Duke of Richmond was Provincial Grand Master of Sussex – one of his titles is “Earl of March & Darnley” and that name you can see on the ancestral . The old Mid-Sussex Banner was originally purchased in 1886 – this was rediscovered in the loft, and renovated recently through WBro Ian Pass, and is now framed and permanently displayed behind the Master’s chair.  In 1903 the current March & Darnley Banner was obtained and we use this regularly.    

M&D formed Richard Collyer Lodge No 4905 in 1926, Causeway Lodge No 7588 in 1958, and Carfax Lodge No 7819 in 1961. Here on the Honours boards you will find the names of all M&D Past Masters since 1867. As the “Mother of all Horsham Lodges”, we ran out of space for the names of Past Masters in 2008 – the original names are now covered with oak panels onto which all the Past Masters’ names have been reformatted reprinted. WBro Brian Smith arranged the carpentry paid for by the Lodge, and WBro Ian Aird provided the sign writing. M&D owns the antique ballot-box, repaired and refurbished by WBro Ian Aird in 2013, the museum cabinet in the ante-room, and its contents, and several decades of collected Masonic books in the upstairs library.

As you have received this document, you may be considering joining the oldest Lodge in Horsham, indeed one of the oldest Lodges in the Province of Sussex. March & Darnley also strives to be one of the most outward and forward-looking of Lodges. Be proud of your potential membership and discuss it openly with friends and family. Encourage others to join us, by your example in life and by open invitation. Freemasonry within  March & Darnley is too good to be kept to yourself!


IAN AIRD © 2004


March & Darnley History