Today Northumberland Freemasons join in congratulating Pons Aelii Lodge No.4523, which meets at Fern Avenue Masonic Hall on celebrating their centenary.
It is a historial fact that the Romans, militarily speaking, had more influence in the North of England than anywhere else in the Country. Straight across the narrow ‘neck of England’, the Great Wall of Hadrian ran from Wallsend on Tyne, the ‘Segedunum’ of the Romans, to Bowness on Solway, called ‘Maia’ by them. There it ran for some seventy three miles, a symbol of the strength and power of Ancient Rome.
The Wall, as locals have always called it, lasted for almost four hundred years until the Roman were recalled to defend Rome against barbarian invaders. It was too late, for by 476 AD, the last Emperor, Romulus Augustus, was deposed and the once mighty Roman Empire was divided into the Eastern and Western Empires. The Romans soon became a distant memory; for although for the most part, their Rule had been tolerable, the people of Britain were left to their own devices against a different type of foreign invader.
Two thousand years later, the evidence of the Roman civilisations is still to be found n the Cities and Towns of England; most major centres of population were founded on Roman townships and, in many cases, retained their Latin name, but translated into modern English. Thus, Londinium became London, Aquae Sullis became Bath, Deva Castria became Chester, and so on.
The Roman name for Newcastle was Pons Aelii, and has two meanings; firstly it was the name for the first wooden bridge across the River Tyne, and secondly it was named after the family name of the Emperor Hadrian.
Local Freemasonry has of course, adopted many Roman names for their Lodges or Chapters. There are several instances of this; Nepos No.6570, Corstopitum No.9019, Segedunum No.4313. Vallum No.6208, Hadrian No.6772, Vindobala No.5480, and Severus No.7864.
A number of interested Brethren held a meeting in the Conservative Cub, Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne on 2 October 1922, with a view to forming a new Lodge. The Chairman, W Bro, James Anderson intimated that the intention was that the new Lodge be small in numbers and that the candidates would undergo a careful selection process.
The name of the new Lodge was considered, and a suggestion was put forward that it be named the ‘Charles W Hodgson’ Lodge, after the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Northumberland, but this idea was dropped when Grand Lodge decreed that no new Lodge could be named after any living person. Grand Lodge conveniently forgot that rule when the Napier-Clavering Lodge No.3428 was consecrated in 1910, just after the appointment of Charles Warren Napier-Clavering as Provincial Grand Master for Northumberland… and he was still Provincial Grand Master in 1922!
After some discussion it was proposed by W Bro, J B Clark that the Lodge be named the ‘Pons Aelii’ Lodge, after the Roman name for Newcastle. This suggestion met with general approval and a petition for the new lodge was duly signed and presented, by 14 Founders from various lodges, and John Page Lodge No.3619 agreed to act as Sponsors.
The Consecration Ceremony was held at the Old Assembly Rooms, Westgate Road, Newcastle on 27 April 1923, the ceremony being performed by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, V W Bro. Charles W Hodgson, assisted by the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, W Bro David Myles.
The First Master of the Lodge was W Bro. Joseph Carr, the First Senior Warden W Bro, Robert Bradbury and the First Junior Warden W Bro. George Cole, with the Provincial Secretary of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Northumberland, W Bro. George F Bryce, appointed as Immediate Past Master. Following the Consecration Meeting, a meal was provided at Tilley’s Restaurant at the cost of 8 shillings and sixpence each!
For the next forty years, meetings of the Lodge were held at the Old Assembly Rooms, although it had been mooted, at the original Founders’ Meetings, that the Lodge should be held at the Masonic Hall, 18 Grainger Street West, Newcastle, this idea seemed to have been abandoned.
During the first year of existence, there were six Initiations and five Joining Members.
In 1964, the Lodge moved to 57 Grainger Street, and moved again, in 1976, to Neville Hall, and finally to Maple Terrace in 2012.
The Golden Jubilee of Pons Aelii Lodge was celebrated on 27 April 1973 in the presence of the Provincial Grand Master, R W Bro. J M S Coates.
Congratulations, once again, to Pons Aelii Lodge from everyone at Northumberland Freemasons on their magnificent achievement.
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