The Lodge was sponsored by Westminster and Keystone Lodge No 10. No 10 itself had first been consecrated in 1722 very soon after the formation of the first Grand Lodge. The Lodge Chaplain of Westminster and Keystone, Rev John Robbins, was one of the founder members of Canterbury Lodge and at that time there appeared an obvious need for new Lodges to be formed with an increasing interest in freemasonry. Canterbury was not the first choice name for the Lodge; the original chosen name was The Holy Sanctuary Lodge. The naming of Lodges may be suggested by their founders but in this instance an alternative name was sought. It appears that the Reverend John Robbins after a refusal in correspondence with the Grand Master and probably as an aside suggested “Would Canterbury do”? At least this is the theory and the Lodge history does not inform us as such. And so it was the Lodge became known as the Canterbury Lodge and probably at that time any links with City of Canterbury were tenuous, if at all.
On the 2nd November 1867 Canterbury Lodge No 1635 was consecrated by the Right Worshipful the Lord Skelmersdale, Deputy Grand Master at the Masonic Hall, Golden Square, Soho. Festive Board was held at the Café Royal, Regent Street. Although the Masonic Hall has now gone it is still commemorated by a Lodge using the name “Golden Square Lodge No 2857” which apparently uses the West End form of masonic ritual; Golden Square being very much in the heart of the West End.
So, the founders of Canterbury Lodge were;
- The Reverend John Robbins – Clerk in Holy Orders
- The Reverend Frederick Harford also a Clerk in Holy Orders (Minor Canon of Westminster Abbey)
- James Keene – Surgeon
- John Chynoweth – Gentleman
- Edward Vinen – Doctor of Medicine
- Lt Col H.S. Somerville Burney – H.M. Armed Forces
- Henry Evill – Manufacturer
- Edwin Matthew Lott – Organist
- Locock Webb Queens Counsellor
- William Chapman Grigg – Doctor of Medicine
These were just the petitioners and there were also a number of joining members who came in at the subsequent meeting which also included three initiates. There were casualties as well and one of the founders, James Keene died in 1878.
In terms of the topography of early membership residences there seems to be a cluster around the Bayswater and Kensington area as well as Mayfair (Curzon Street) and Lewisham. In 1867 these areas would be on the limits of the built up area of London. London’s development had been flourishing and a glance at a map of the period will show that the London Underground (Metropolitan Line) was firmly established. It would also show the location of the Work House still very much in existence and we can see that the forebears of Canterbury Lodge were, indeed, very much part of the Victorian establishment. Indeed, Edward Prince of Wales was Grand Master at this time. The Lodge continued to flourish with the mix of members occupations being exceedingly eclectic with one thing in common that they were all professional in what they did; Surgeons, Barristers, Military Officers, Artists amongst many other occupations listed, not to mention one or two who had been knighted.
Then the outbreak of the First World War made things difficult and the Lodge lost Brethren including one Brother who had been initiated in 1916 was killed. His passing had been arranged but because of an outbreak of spotted fever at Chatham where he was stationed, thus confining all to barracks, he was unable to attend. Also the son of Brother Axel Haig the Swedish born artist and illustrator a member of the Lodge was tragically killed. Even after hostilities several Brethren were still abroad.
Today the Lodge continues what its illustrious forebears started over 140 years ago; Current and past members have cherished their efforts, their skills and dare I say assiduity, by being part of the continuation of the Lodge; part of something that can be treasured as time goes on; part of the history of freemasonry in London.