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150 years @ Fraternity

On the 26th of October the Provincial Grand Master, John Thompson, had the pleasure of leading his team of Provincial officers to the Lodge of Fraternity.  Both members and visitors had gathered to celebrate a very special milestone in the history of the lodge; Lodge of Fraternity was consecrated one-hundred and fifty years ago in 1873.

All of the visitors were warmly welcomed into the lodge by its members and were then treated to a presentation led off by the Worshipful Master, Richard Barlow, and supported by his team of lodge officers.  The presentation gave snippets of the lodge history through the years touching on founder members, membership during war time, some callouts to individual lodge members on various topics as well as peaks and troughs in membership over the time. 

As part of the history it was highlighted that back in 2007 the lodge applied for membership of a new initiative from the United Grand Lodge of England. The initiative being the Universities Scheme, as a means of introducing Freemasonry to younger members.  The lodge has a wide demographic ranging from 20 to 85 years of age.  All of the brethren showed their appreciation of the presentation, and the hard work that has gone into it, in a manner usual among masons. 

During the second rising Richard had the pleasure of presenting a cheque to John for masonic charitable purposes to the value of £1,418; which is the number of the lodge as a mark of the occasion.  John was also able to surprise Richard by presenting him with a signed and framed certificate from The Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham for the lodge commemorating their 150 year achievement.

Downstairs at the festive board everyone in attendance was gifted a 2024 pocket calendar, a pen and also a booklet to commemorate the 150 years of the Lodge of Fraternity.  John responded to his toast and thanked the lodge for their 150 years of service in the Province of Durham. John also highlighted what a proud achievement it is and how appreciative he was able to be there celebrating with the lodge members and visitors.

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What a find

This old handwritten Vellum Certificate measuring 18cm x 14cm dated 1775, was acquired by Stewart Bell in his usual search for Antiquities                        

The Lodge Number was 475, changed in 1780 to 380 and in 1781 to 381, it operated for 16yrs being erased by the Premier Grand Lodge on the 10th of February 1790. The new meeting place mentioned above burnt to the ground engulfed in a major fire on the Monkwearmouth Shore. A list of Lodge members on closing, recorded Cresswell Bell (Tradesmen) as the Lodge secretary who signed the above certificate.

In a quest to find out more, Stewart enhanced a digital copy of the certificate and sought the help of PGLD Library & Museum to research this further. We believe this certificate belongedto Wm Weilands, who was a member of the Lodge of Harmony meeting in Monkwearmouth in the County of Durham. The certificate is dated January 19th (AL5775) 1775 and bears the Lodge seal.

Prior to 1774 There was no mention of Freemasons in Monkwearmouth until the Lodge of Harmony was constituted, a Warrant obtained on the 22nd of November.

The Lodge of Harmony was a Moderns’ Lodge and consisted of a small band of members from King Georges’ Lodge (now Phoenix) and the Sea Captain’s Lodge {now Palatine), formed as they felt the journey of crossing the River Wear particularly hazardous in Wintertime. There was no bridge until 1796 and the only way of crossing the River Wear was by means of a rowing boat.

The Lodge first met in the Sun Inn, Thomas St. Monkwearmouth Shore, but then moved to a new purpose build private lodge rooms at Palmers Hill, described in a Newspaper at the time as “Last week an elegant room was finished at Monkwearmouth Shore for the use of the Free and Accepted Masons known by the name of the Lodge of Harmony. It is looked upon to be the most complete and best adapted for that purpose of any of the kind ever built in the North of England.”

The Provincial Archivist, Adam Lamb thanked Stewart for his kind donation to the Provincial Museum and bringing this certificate back to Sunderland after 248yrs.

Stronger Together

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Earliest records to 1734

old durham map

Durham Freemasonry from earliest records to 1734

The Masonic Province of Durham has strong and firm Masonic foundations and a rich history. Only seventeen years after the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717, Joseph Laycock was appointed the first Provincial Grand Master for the County of Durham in 1734. Prior to this, a number of Lodges were operating independently in the County and the newly appointed Provincial Grand Master was given the task of persuading them to join the Grand Lodge and to form new lodges.

He met with little success but in 1735 Joseph Laycock ‘constituted’ the existing Lodge at Swalwell, as a regular lodge under the Grand Lodge of England. He also formed another, “The Fountain” in Pipewellgate, Gateshead.

The Lodge at Swalwell has minutes dating from 1725 and had evidently been in existence as an active organisation long before that year. Essentially operative in character, the Orders of Antiquity, the Apprentices Orders, and other documents point at least to the seventeenth century.

The Swalwell Lodge provides a most interesting study of this early period and possibly points out the link between operative and speculative Freemasonry. This lodge is now known as the Lodge of Industry, No.48 at Gateshead, and still meets today.

During this earliest period, the lodge at Swalwell believed that the patent of 1734 gave them the right to elect successive Provincial Grand Masters, as documented in their history and minutes.

However, from 1755 to 1787 two further Grand Lodge appointees managed to recruit or consecrate eleven more Lodges, seven of which are still operating today.

Continue… 1734 – 1787 >

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Our History 1788-Present

Interior of Durham cathedral medieval religious building

1788 Durham

William Henry Lambton was installed at the First meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham in ample form with the accustomed honours on 9th September, in the presence of more than 150 brethren.

Provincial Grand Masters
Grand Lodge of Durham (1788 to date)

1787 William Henry Lambton M.P.
William Henry Lambton M.P.
1798Sir Ralph Milbanke Bart,Took the Name Noel 1815
Sir Ralph Milbanke Bart,
Took the Name Noel 1815
1818John George Lambton1st Earl Durham
John George Lambton
1st Earl Durham
1841Sir Hedworth Williamson7th Bart
Sir Hedworth Williamson
7th Bart
1845 John Bowes
John Bowes
1847John Fawcett
John Fawcett
5th Marquess ofLondonderry
5th Marquess of
1885 Sir Hedworth Williamson, 8th Bart
Sir Hedworth Williamson,
8th Bart
Rt Hon 9th Lord Barnard
Rt Hon. 9th Lord Barnard
Gerald Wellesley Liddell
Rt Hon. Gerald Wellesley Liddell
6th Baron Ravensworth
Sir Herbert Conyers Surtees
Brig. Gen. Sir Herbert Conyers Surtees
1935 Cuthbert Wilkinson
Cuthbert Wilkinson
Robert Wilkin Ernest Dixon
 Robert Wilkin Ernest Dixon
Col. Frederick Walton
1969 Rt. Hon. 11th Lord Barnard
Rt. Hon. 11th Lord Barnard
Dr Alan Martin Davison
Dr Alan Martin Davison
Derek Richmond
Derek Richmond
Norman Eric Heaviside
Norman Eric Heaviside
John Arthur
John Arthur
John Paul Thompson
John Paul Thompson

Over these 235 years 226 Lodges and 82 Royal Arch Chapters have been consecrated.

 Interesting events from the rich historic tapestry of the PGLD 1788 to date


On Tuesday, the 24th of September,  Rowland Burdon M.P, Master of the Sea Captains Lodge (now Palatine Lodge) laid the foundation stone of Wearmouth Bridge with full ceremonial honours, in the presence of the Provincial Grand Master, William Henry Lambton, M.P. and the Officers of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham. Subsequently, three years later, he had the pleasure of acting as Provincial Grand Master, in the presence of HRH Prince William of Gloucester, declaring the bridge open to the public of Sunderland. Its construction “proved to be a catalyst for the growth of Sunderland” since access between Monkwearmouth and Bishopwearmouth had previously only been possible by ferry, with the nearest bridge being at Chester-Le-Street. The Bridge cost an estimated £33,400 to build at that time.


Stephen George Kemble, Actor-Comedian, was initiated into Phoenix Lodge, and became a joining Member of the Marquis of Granby Lodge, Durham. He was Deputy Provincial Grand Master of the Province from 1803 to 1808 and died at Durham in 1822. He was interred in the Nine Altars Chapel in Durham Cathedral.


Dr. William Reid Clanny, came to Sunderland to practice medicine. He was the inventor of a Miner’s Safety Lamp, one of the pioneers in the treatment of Tuberculosis and a founder of the Humane Society. He was Initiated into the Marquis of Granby Lodge and later became a joining Member of both the Phoenix and Palatine Lodges in Sunderland.


St Johns Lodge no 80 was Consecrated in 1806 and had a fine start – 7 meetings in the first month – 40 in the first year and at one meeting, three years later, 3 first, 5 second and 5 third degree ceremonies were performed. These must have been late nights and wives must have been very patient in those days. This was the only Lodge in Durham to operate under the Antients Grand Lodge prior to the Union in 1813. The Lodge moved to London in 2021.


The foundation Stone of Durham Gaol and Law Courts was laid, by Bro. Sir Henry Vane Tempest, Bart., in the absence of the Provincial Grand Master, Sir Ralph Milbanke, Bart., assisted by Ralph John Lambton, as Deputy Provincial Grand Master.

1818 Durham

John George Lambton MP (afterwards first Earl of Durham), perhaps our most famous freemason, was initiated into freemasonry in 1814 and four years later was appointed as the Provincial Grand Master for Durham. He was later appointed Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1834 and then in 1839 appointed Pro Grand Master. A great statesman, diplomat and politician, he died in 1840 at the young age of 48.

In 1844

Some four years after his death The Durham Monument was erected in memory for his services to County Durham. The Rt. Hon. Thomas Dundas, The 2nd Earl of Zetland, Grand Master, laid the Foundation Stone of the Durham Monument with full masonic honours as a Memorial to John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham.

1874 Durham Cathedral

A window was given  by Durham Freemasons to commemorate. Rt W Bro John Fawcett, the longest serving Provincial Grand Master of Durham from 1847-1880. During his time as PGM he installed HRH the Prince of Wales as WM of a Craft Lodge and assisted in the installation of the Prince of Wales as MWGM, which took place in the Royal Albert Hall on the 28th April 1875.At the time of his retirement, he was the oldest PGM in England. The panels of the window in the Chapel of Nine Altars depict:

Solomon building the Temple. Our Lord in the midst of the Doctors, hearing them and asking questions. The Angel showing St John the Heavenly Jerusalem.

The inscription on the Plaque below the window reads: – “To the Glory of God, and as a Testimonial of the affectionate esteem for their Provincial Grand Master, John Fawcett Esq A.D. 1874, being the twenty-seventh year of his rule over them.”

1880 County Durham

The Most Noble the Marquis of Londonderry, K.P., Lord Lieutenant of the County, was installed as Provincial Grand Master of Durham. He was also patron of the first Royal Masonic Institution for Boys festival in Durham which raised the sum of £661.

The RMIB  jewel  is currently displayed in the Provincial Library &  Musem.

1907 Sunderland

By 1906, Provincial membership had risen to around 5000 and it would seem reasonable to assume that this large organisation would be administered from suitable offices. However, the reality of the situation was that the whole administration of the Province was controlled from the front room of the Provincial Secretary’s home in Tynemouth. A special committee was therefore set up to address this problem, under the chairmanship of Lord Barnard. This committee concluded that the existing arrangements were most unsuitable and that the Province ought to have an office of its own. They reported that they had found suitable offices at 27 John Street, Sunderland, to be let on lease for three years, at £35 a year.

By 1908 edition No 2 of the new Gazette records that the Provincial Grand Master the Rt. Hon. 9th Lord Barnard, thought it desirable to now establish a Library & Museum of books and objects of interest for the brethren. By1938 the Office and Library & Museum had moved to its current location at The Esplanade, where, for more than 100 years, it has continued to develop and grow and now houses one of the finest and most impressive exhibitions of Masonic artefacts and books in the country, offering a wide range of resources to all, to facilitate a greater understanding of the heritage and rich history of the Province.

1918 County Durham

Freemasonry continued to develop in the Province and by 1918 there were 66 lodges and 9800 Members. Over 30 lodges had a membership of over 150 and 3 had a membership that surpassed 300.

1937 Sunderland

Installation of R W Bro R W Ernest Dixon, as Provincial Grand Master. He had previously served as Provincial Grand Secretary for sixteen years, Deputy Provincial Grand Master for two years and as the Provincial Grand Master, guided the Province through the difficulties that World War II presented. A tremendously active force in the province until his death in 1959.In those 22 years of his mastership a further 54 new lodges where consecrated and the membership increased by 5600 to 19100.There were also now 56 Royal Arch Chapters with a total membership of about 5000.

1948 Durham

Sunday, 6th June saw another milestone in the history of Freemasonry in the Province of Durham when upwards of 2,000 Brethren attended a Memorial Service at Durham Cathedral. It was a memorable gathering and included Brethren from every part of the Province , all wearing their Masonic Regalia. V.W.Bro. The Rt. Rev. the Lord Bishop of Carlisle, D.D.Past Grand Chaplin gave a very instructive address. The Masonic Procession then following the Clergy and Choir left the Cathedral by the Southwest Door and proceeded to the Chapter House where the Provincial Grand Master unveiled a Masonic Memorial Window which was dedicated, by the Very Rev. The Dean Dr. Allington.

The Inscription on Plaque below window (in Latin) translates After the second Victory over the Germans the Freemasons set up this window in gratitude. 1948.

1963 Durham

The Marquis of Granby Lodge No 124 celebrated 200 years of continuous existence. A special meeting was held in the Chapter House at Durham Cathedral. The attendance of The Grand Master Lord Scarborough and the Grand Secretary VW Bro J W Stubbs honoured the lodge. 

However, the oldest record of the Lodge so far discovered, is contained in the first Minute Book of the Lodge and is dated 24th June 1738. The extraordinary thing is that the first Minute appears to be a confirmation of a previous meeting and that a Brother Thomas Craggs was made a Mason.

1975 Durham

Two new Provincial standards, (which are still in use today) were presented to Provincial Grand Lodge by the Brethren of the Province on 18th June. These replaced the original standards presented by Lord Barnard’s grandfather in 1901.

2000 Beamish  

The Foundation Stone for the Masonic Hall, moved from Park Terrace  Sunderland to Beamish North of England Open Air Museum, was laid by Rt W Bro Dr A M Davison, Provincial Grand Master with full Masonic honours. The amount raised by Durham freemasons to move this hall was £500,000.

2006 Beamish

It was a momentous day for the Province when the Masonic Temple at Beamish, North of England Open Air Museum was opened by the Grand Master, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent, KG, GCMG, GCVO, ADC, 19th April.  Nowhere in the British Isles has the opportunity to visit a Masonic Hall been given to so many people, over the last 17 years and millions of visitors have walked though these doors.


To commemorate 275 years of freemasonry in Durham.

The original Lodge room window, a plain leaded glass construction erected in 1869, had seriously deteriorated, a decision was taken to replace it with the aim of completing the work during 2009, to coincide with the existence of Durham as a Masonic Province for 275 years. W Bro Tom Coulson of Lambton Lodge was asked to design a new window. His remit was to produce a design incorporating all the elements of Craft Freemasonry and the Royal Arch Chapter, a representation of the other Masonic Orders meeting in the building, and finally something for everyone to look at and contemplate during the ceremonies, instead of reading the honours boards.         

2015 Durham

in 2017, United Grand Lodge of England celebrated the 300th anniversary of the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge in 1717. To mark this occasion, all Provincial Grand Lodges were encouraged to commemorate this milestone in the history of Freemasonry by some special project or event. Whilst considering many options available, it was discovered that Durham Cathedral had recently launched their £10 MILLION “Open Treasures Appeal,” the greatest development programme ever undertaken by them. This ambitious project was designed to provide access to hitherto inaccessible parts of the Cathedral by way of a new exhibition gallery. The high point for visitors from all over the world would be entering a restored magnificent Great Kitchen with its high vaulted ceiling, in which the most important and valuable treasures of the Cathedral would be displayed within a specially controlled environment. The restoration of this room, which was to be the main focal point of the exhibition area, would include a superb new floor using the best Dunhouse stone from the quarry at Staindrop which the Province agreed to finance and the project which was achieved record time.

The Symbolic Stone laying ceremony took place in the Great Kitchen Durham Cathedral, performed by the PGM R W Bro Norman Eric Heaviside and the Dean of Durham V Revd Michael Sadgrove, who was presented with a cheque for £136,000 from the Freemasons of Durham.  

2022 Durham

The 2021 Festival Celebration dinner was held in The Bishop’s Suite at Ramside Hall, Durham on 30th July 2022. £3,477,877 being the total raised for the last (RMTGB) Festival, Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. The Provincial Grand Master J.P. Thompson, Mrs S Snowdon Lord – Lieutenant of Durham, RW Assistant Grand Master, Sir D.H. Wootton and Dep President of the MCF P William were in attendance along with families and friends of Durham Freemasons.

2023 County Durham

Since our first contribution to Masonic charities in 1880, which raised £661.0s.0d to our last Festival which raised. £3,477,877. The total amount raised by Durham freemasons to date being £13,462,732.

County Durham from 1734 to 2023 – 226 lodges have been consecrated in Durham.

97 of these lodges have met continuously for over 50 years ,76 for over 100 years, 3 for over 200 years,4 for over 250 years and one lodge for over 275 years.

< 1734 to 1787

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Our History 1734 – 1787

Billingham Masonic Hall

Provincial Grand Masters of County Durham (1734 to 1787)

1734 Joseph Laycock

1751 James Smithson

1775 George Thompson

 Some interesting events which took place from: 1734 -1787


The members of the old “Lodge of Philanthropy” assisted in the laying of the Foundation stone of Stockton Bridge, a bridge of five arches, over the River Tees at Yarm.


William Hutchinson the great masonic writer and antiquary, author of the world-renowned masonic book ‘The Spirit of Freemasonry’, was initiated into the Lodge of Concord no 231. Within ten years of his initiation, he’d been Master of the Lodge three times, and first Master of the new Lodge No.461 at Raby. Hutchinson’s work was held in such high esteem by Grand Lodge that much of his phrasing is perpetuated in present day ritual.


Prebends Bridge

A bridge over the River Wear (now called Prebends Bridge) belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Durham was rebuilt and the brethren of the Marquis of Granby Lodge moved in procession to lay the Foundation stone with full masonic honours. The inscription on Stone and Plate read as follows. “This Stone was laid on the 17th of August, Anno Domini 1772, and in the year of Masonry, 5772, by the Honourable and Reverend Spencer Cowper, Dean of Durham”.


On the 29th of May, Lodge No 263 (now 111) moved in procession to a new meeting room in Priestgate. It being “Oak Apple Day” it officially took the name “Restoration,” to commemorate the Restoration of the Monarchy (King Charles II). The Constitution was signed “Aberdour G.M.” and the Lodge has its continuous minute books from December 1769, when admission was ten shillings and six pence, and the Grand Lodge dues were two shillings and six pence.


The present Freemason’s Hall in Queen Street East, is believed to be the oldest building in England, especially dedicated to purely Masonic purposes and which has a continuous history from I785. The Hall is now designated as an “Ancient Building” and is protected by an Act of Parliament, ensuring its preservation for posterity.

< Earliest records to 1734

1788 – present >

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Our History

old durham map

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest secular fraternal societies. There are many legends linked to its birth but the general consensus amongst masonic scholars is that it descends directly or indirectly from the organisation of operative stone masons, those who built the great cathedrals and castles of the Middle Ages. However, evidence exists of gentlemen being made Freemasons in non-operative lodges, by the late 1600`s.

The original area of County Durham lies only 50 miles from the Scottish border and has within its boundaries many places of historic significance and great natural beauty. The limits of the original County were marked by the River Tyne to the North, the River Tees to the South, the North Sea Coast to the East and the Pennine Hills to the West.

The growth of Freemasonry in the county may be considered in three distinct parts

Earliest records to 1734

Earliest records to the appointment of a Provincial Grand Master in 1734.
Continued below…

1734 to 1787

The appointment of a Provincial Grand Master to the formation of Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham

1788 to date

Formation of Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham

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