Albert Victor Lodge. History and Traditions
In 1889 there was a widespread belief that the growing population of the city of York was sufficient to support another Freemasons’ Lodge. One of York’s leading Freemasons was Bro. Thomas Bowman Whythead, a member of both York Lodge No. 236 and a founder member of Eboracum Lodge No. 1611, who called a meeting to discuss the formation of a new Lodge on 2nd August 1889 in the Chapter Clerk's office of York Minster. Bro. Whythead was Editor of the Yorkshire Gazette, York’s weekly newspaper and therefore eminently well connected throughout the city; as such he drew in a number of the city’s leading figures as founder members including:
The V.Rev. Arthur Percival Purey-Cust, Dean of York.
William Lawton, Solicitor.
Thomas Bowman Whytehead, Chapter Clerk.
John Edmund Jones, Solicitor.
The Rev. Charles Edward Leigh Wright.
The Rev. Richard Blakeney.
Herbert Leeds Swift, Solicitor.
Ernest Ralph Dodsworth, Solicitor.
At the same time correspondence via the Provincial Office confirmed that H.R.H. Prince Albert Victor, who was at that time stationed in York with the 10th Royal Hussars, would allow the new Lodge to be named after him and would himself become an Honorary Member.
It became clear during those early days that membership from the Church, Medicine, Banking, the Law and Army was the pattern set, though we do not think consciously, and so this has continued, very largely, throughout the course of our history. Even today a majority of members will have connections with one of these professions.
Recorded in our centenary booklet is the view that ‘It was never intended that it (Albert Victor Lodge) should be a large Lodge nor have the numbers ever been large. It has been said, and I don't think unkindly, that the "mere making of Masons has never been the foremost object of the Albert Victor Lodge". If you study the Minutes of those early years it would not be difficult to come to the conclusion that the Meetings were more in the nature of a social gathering for a very few’.
Many visitors today are surprised to hear that Albert Victor is a ‘non-speaking’ (and non-singing) lodge. Again the centenary booklet explains this ‘Contrary to most local Lodges the Brethren dined before the Regular Meeting of the lodge and this in itself laid the foundation of one of the fundamental rules of Lodge procedure. As the Banquet was ample and the time short, the habit of "no speeches" was firmly set.’
Many distinguished Brethren have held office whilst members at Albert Victor Lodge. Over the years 26 have held office with the UGLE and 1 with the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Too numerous to list are those who have held office at Provincial level although mention must be made of His Honour Judge Gerald James Kay Coles, QC, who was Provincial Grand Master, Yorkshire North and East Riding, from 1995 until his death in 2002.
It is clear from this brief and very abridged history that the traditions that Albert Victor Lodge has today reflect the intentions that the founders had back in 1889, of a warm welcome to visitors and quiet enjoyment of both Lodge ceremony and Festive Board, of being active in the community whether Masonic or non-Masonic.
As we move towards our 125th anniversary we look forward to retaining these ideals as we meet the challenges upon both society and Masonry in the 21st century.