Old Palace Lodge No.7173


Club of instruction

In common with other traditional ceremonies, rehearsal of the words and movements is an absolute essential, so that practise outside the structured timetables of the regular lodge becomes a necessity. To this end, several members attended the inaugural meeting of the “Old Palace Lodge of Instruction” in May 1954, to achieve and maintain a high standard of Lodge workings. Interestingly, during the summer of 1954, normally the “off-season” in Lodge terms, the title was changed to “Club of Instruction”, possibly to emphasize the social and informal nature of the meetings.

Within the Club, the tasks of secretary and treasurer were combined, whilst the guiding hand was that of the “Preceptor”. W/Bro Berners-Price undertook the former post and W/Bro Wisby the latter. Again, continuity was the key, W/Bro Berners-Price was able to establish the system for the office of Secretary/Treasurer, handing over to W/Bro Clarke in September 1954, for the next ten years!


The enthusiasm of the other members was demonstrated by the generous donations to the Club’s working equipment. At the very first meeting, W/Bro Busby presented the Club with a set of Tracing Boards, and at the second Bro Hollands gave a volume of the Sacred Law, a twenty-four inch gauge, a chisel and cable tow. These were able to be kept together in the Lodge Box made and donated by Bro Jeffs. In the next few months a complete set of tools and regalia found their way into the box, some made by members, some passed on by other Lodges. From the outset, a Club Fund and a Charity Fund were established and continue to this day. The Club Fund was utilised for informal awards to members, examples being greeting cards and bouquets for several weddings, hospital gifts, and a presentation to John Smart for twenty-five years of virtually unbroken attendance at the Club.


In order to achieve a high standard of work, a definitive reference is required, such a manual being the Book of Emulation Ritual. The most recent edition of this was compiled by the Emulation Lodge of Improvement and one of its mentors was our own W/Bro D Kidd. Such was his own impeccable standard that Doug was awarded the highly esteemed “Silver Matchbox”, given by the Lodge of Improvement for a perfect ceremony. One advantage the Club has is that it meets, on average, around twenty-nine times a year, as opposed to the four meetings of the regular Lodge. This gives the opportunity for members to change roles on a regular basis and adds interest to the regular attendee. Of course, this workload requires even more dedication from the Club Secretary and Preceptor, but again the group was well served by the senior Lodge members, any absences being suitably covered by the members present.


Over the years, many names spring from the pages of the Minutes Book. W/Bro Frank Martin was the first joining member who could always be relied on for advice and direction, some, it has to be said, quite individual! W/Bro Jack Garner took over the task of Secretary for fourteen years, whilst the end of the fifteen year stint by W/Bro Whisby as Preceptor saw W/Bro Doug Kidd take the reins in an accurate but ever helpful manner. Gallant work by the likes of W/Bros John Hensley, Stan Parren, ‘Don’ Donati, Ken Francis and Reg Woodjetts continued to shape the Lodge into the eighties, and acting as backbone to the frame, W/Bro ‘Bill’ Whittaker, in later years our own Grand Officer continued to support and advise. W/Bro ‘Bill’ joined Old Palace in October 1964 after serving as W/Master in the Campanile Lodge No. 5507 and Tooting Bec Lodge No 6857. He then became a regular Club member for the next thirty-five years, right up to his sudden passing in 1999. It was fitting that a presentation was made to W/Bro ‘Bill’ in May 1999 to mark his fifty years in Freemasonry. Alongside him through this four decade period, Bill’s natural brother, Bob, also supported both the Club and the regular Lodge in numerous capacities, and will celebrate his fiftieth year as an “Old Palace” member in 2006 – a superb family record! On an “operative-masonic” note, it is recorded that the Bros Whittaker repaired the main Lodge carpet – “in proper manner” – no doubt using the skills and working tools of their trade.


Attendance at the Club was not always without its mishaps. A long-lasting power cut in 1961 caused the Secretary to record that the Club was closed “in due form and darkness”, whilst even when a day-long blizzard in 1969 brought Croydon to a halt, several Club members still managed to hike through the chaos to attend the meeting. A Club Supper has been a regular event for many years.

With its firm foundations and a core of keen members, the future of “The Club” looks set to continue into the next fifty years.