• Lodge of King Solomon's Temple lodge room, Hunter St, 1912
  • Lodge of King Solomon's Temple lodge room, Christleton, today

The Founders

Once the idea of forming a Lodge to commemorate the Temple of King Solomon was conceived by W. Bro. A.J. Thompson (Shelley-Thompson) it caught the imagination of Freemasons from around the world who were anxious to have their names and that of their province or country associated with it. The Founders hailed from Calcutta, British Columbia, Jerusalem, South Africa, Jamaica, New Zealand, Buenos Aires as well as from many parts of the United Kingdom. Why Chester was chosen for the ‘temporary’ home of the Lodge may not immediately be apparent but it was and still is, of course, the county town of the oldest Province in England, a purpose built Masonic Hall had just been opened there and the Lodge was also sponsored by Bohemian Lodge (3294), Birkenhead, Cheshire.

There seems to be some confusion as to the actual number of Founders; one source giving 71 (Potter, F.F. The Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple, No. 3464 1910-1935: A Brief Record), The Consecration Programme lists 70 with 5 more names written in pencil at the side – thus making 75 (in the copy preserved in the Minute Book) which corresponds to the 75 names appended to the ‘petition praying for a lodge to be called The Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple’ as mentioned in the front of the Lodge’s large photo album, whereas the Liverpool Courier of 20 October 1910 refers to 76 Founders. However, of the 70 names listed in the Consecration Programme, 2 were actually recorded later as Joining Members and of the 71 names recorded by Potter, 2 different names on his list were later Joining Members. A comparison of the 2 lists shows that 5 from the Consecration Programme (including the 2 Joining Members) do not appear on Potter’s list and 5 from Potter’s list (including the 2 different Joining Members) do not appear in the Programme list. Of the 5 names written in pencil at the side of the Programme list, a search of the Minutes has revealed that 4 of these, at least, were later Joining Members!

Following a detailed examination of a photocopy of the original Petition sent to Grand Lodge, which contains a number of corrections and additions, 71 names have been identified which correspond to the number referred to on the back of the Petition itself where the cost incurred had been worked out:

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Publicity regarding the founding of the Lodge must have been by word of mouth on the Masonic grapevine as there was little mention of it in The Freemason magazine. However, on 15 October 1910 just 4 days before the Consecration, The Freemason printed, what it described as, ‘a complete list’ of the Founders – this was an exact copy of the list in the Consecration Programme and it went on to report:

‘We are pleased to be in a position to supply our readers with the foregoing information, just as we have been equally pleased to keep them informed of the progress of the earlier efforts to secure such a desirable Lodge. For all the particulars given from time to time we have relied upon outside sources, as those in charge of the arrangements appear to have consistently ignored THE FREEMASON. We can only trust, however, that the whole of the labours put forth to consummate the desire of the Founders will be crowned with abundant success.’

The Petition was recommended for the favourable consideration of the Most Worshipful Grand Master by the Officers of the Bohemian Lodge (3294) of Birkenhead and dated 14 June 1910. This recommendation was further endorsed by the Provincial Grand Master of Cheshire, Lord Egerton of Tatton, on 23 June 1910 and was received by Grand Lodge on 21 July 1910. The warrant, dated 19 August 1910, was sent to the Province of Cheshire on 21 September 1910. The Petition was asking for permission to form The Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple with power to meet as a regular lodge at The Masonic Hall, Hunter Street, Chester on the second Saturday of every month (the lodge never actually met on a monthly basis). It is interesting to note that the first signature at the top of the Petition was that of William Hesketh Lever (Manufacturer). The following Officers were recommended and nominated:


Robert Freke Gould – First Master
Albert Ephraim Coveney – First Senior Warden
Albert James Thompson – First Junior Warden

Only Master Masons were allowed to petition for a new lodge and every brother signing the Petition automatically became ipso facto a Member of the Lodge and it was only the brethren who signed the Petition as Petitioners who would become Founders of the Lodge. The logistics involved in getting 71 men, not only from around the country but from around the world, to sign the Petition must have been tremendous – in some cases brethren were able to sign on someone else’s behalf but Grand Lodge certificates had to be checked as did their current membership status. There was much crossing out and the addition of other names; brethren flocked to have their name added to the Petition. Next to T.W. Christopher Smith’s name on the Petition is a note which reads ‘2 years in arrears to Dec 09’. This obviously caused some consternation and a quick response, for in a letter dated 25 August 1910 to the Grand Secretary, Sir Edward Letchworth, A.J. Thompson wrote:

‘Re the case of Bro: T.W. Christopher Smith.

I immediately wrote to the brother who obtained his signature and have had the following reply:-

“This is very absurd re 2279, for if Bro: Smith is in arrears so am I ditto. As it is innocent and easily righted I have today sent the Secretary my cheque for five guineas, for Bro: Smith and self, so this will be in order. Apart from this both Bro: Smith and I are subscribing members of St George Lodge No: 431, N. Shields.

(signed) J. George Gibson”

Hoping this will put the matter right.

Yours faithfully A.J. Thompson’

Although only 7 signatures at least were required, this number of 71 Petitioners was said at the time to be a record for the Province of Cheshire.

In addition to these, Potter records Osborne, G.E., P.P.G.Stewd. and Captain Smith, T.G.L., Royal Crown Lodge (3133) whose name was actually crossed off the Petition although he does appear on the Consecration Programme as a Founder (his name was also sent to Grand Lodge appended to a letter dated 22 August 1910 and so he may well have been an actual Founder; this must in fact be the case as his name appears amongst the 9 Brethren actually named on the Lodge Warrant). Omitted from Potter’s list however, are Boddington, M. (Calcutta) and Oppenheim, G.E.

This ‘supposed’ number of 71 Founders led W. Bro. Michael Stratton, P.P.S.G.W. to speculate in his paper ‘The Search for Lodge No. 1585’ (Transactions of the Manchester Association for Masonic Research, Vol. LXXXV 1995) that this number was chosen to represent the number of the Grand Sanhedrin. This was actually not the case.

The Consecration Programme Founders’ list does not include, Currie, H., Wighton, E., Gasking, S. (who is later recorded in the Minutes as a Joining Member), Strachan, J. and Boddington, M., whereas the names written in pencil at the side of this list are Strachan, Brown, Hook and Hardman (all of whom are later minuted as Joining Members) and Bloom. Included in this list, and who do not appear on the Petition, are Hensman, E.G. (960 Jerusalem) and McLeod, A.N. (3294) – both Joining Members according to the minutes, Smith, T.G.L. (3133 London) whose name was crossed off the Petition (but his name was sent later) and Thompson, J.B. (3294 Birkenhead) – a Joining Member according to the Minutes. It is of interest to note that of the two extant copies of the Consecration Programme, one contains the name of Hook as a Founder (but with a line through it), whereas the other copy does not have Hook on the list! From this it can only be concluded that there was a second printing of the Consecration Programme.

A further list of 75 Founders numbered 1-75 and in Hebrew as well, is to be found on a scroll in the Masonic Museum, Cheshire View, Christleton, Chester. This list is one of 4 pages of information associated with the Consecration. Arnold Bloom, P.P.G.D. appears on this list – his only other mention was in pencil appended to the Consecration list! The other names which were not on the petition were Rev. J. Carnegie Brown, Jerusalem; Lawrence Holt Hardman, C.M.S., Jerusalem; E. George Hensman, Jerusalem; W.W. Hook; A.N. McLeod; J.B. Thompson and Captain T.G. Lumley Smith. Missing off the Petition list however are Ernest Wighton, Rev. S. Gasking, H. Currie and M. Boddington. Thus, the original 70 Founders on the Consecration list plus the 5 written at the side in pencil would appear to make up the complete set of 75 Founders as the Lodge saw it at the time and so for completeness it is now reprinted below (in alphabetical order) as what was probably the official list of Founders according to the Lodge as each of these Brethren was given a number from 1 to 75:

Balch, Ralston, 1671, London, (Journalist)
Beales, W.H., 3098, London, (Theatre Proprietor)
Bell, W.T., 2433, Birkenhead, (Borough Treasurer)
Bentley, H. Keays, P.P.G.Std., Ches, Bohemian Lodge 3294 Birkenhead, (Physician and Surgeon)
Bloom, Arnold, P.P.G.D., Birkenhead
Bowen, the Rev. Canon, D. Prov. G. Master of Pembroke, Pembroke
Boyd, Andrew, 477, Birkenhead, (Lumber Merchant)
Broadsmith, F., Prov. G. Sec. Ches. P.A.G.R., Bowdon, (Solicitor)
Brown, J. Carnegie, Rev., Jerusalem
Bruce, Ernest A., 1158, British Columbia, (Mine Owner)
Carapiet, Car. M., 2441, Calcutta, (Gentleman)
Clark, Herbert E. of Jerusalem, 3294, Jerusalem, (Gentleman)
Clarke, Joseph, P.P.G.D. Cheshire, Birkenhead, (Accountant)
Collier, F., 3294, Liverpool, (Draper)
Cooke, F.K., P.P.G.D. East Lancs., Levenshulme, (Chartered Secretary)
Coveney, A.E., P.P.G.W. Cheshire, Birkenhead, (Manager)
Darby, William, P.P.G.D. Cheshire, Birkenhead, (Cashier)
Gibson, the Rev. J.G., L.L.D., P.P.G. Chap., Durham, Ebchester, (Cleric)
Goldin, Horace, 3294, (Illusionist)
Gould, R.F., P.G.D. Eng., Woking, (Barrister)
Haarhoff, H.S., 3294, Liverpool, (Gentleman)
Harding, Alfred, 3236, Birkenhead, (Merchant)
Hardman, Lawrence Holt, C.M.S. Jerusalem
Hargreaves, J. Mason, C.C., 2294, Gateacre, (Manufacturer)
Haycock, H.S., 3294, Liverpool, (Jeweller)
Hensman, E. George, Jerusalem
Hewitt, D.L., P.P.G.W. Cheshire, (Mayor of Chester)
Hook, W.W., Altrincham
Hughes, J., 241, Liverpool, (Master Mariner)
Jones, W., 3294, Liverpool, (Theatrical Painter)
Kerr, W.J., P.G. Treasurer, W.L., 3294, Liverpool, (Poor Law Officer)
Keyser, Charles E., P.G.D. Eng., D.P.G.M. Herts., Reading
King, C.H., P.M., 2290, Liverpool
Kitchen, Fred., 3294, London, (Playwright)
Le Fre, Albert, W.M., 3435, London, (Actor)
Legh, Lieut. Col. H. Cornwall, D.P.G.M. Cheshire, (Army Officer)
Lever, William Hesketh, P.P.G.W. Cheshire, Thornton Hough, (Manufacturer)
Liverman, P., 3236, Birkenhead, (Cabinet Maker)
Little, Gilbert S., 1356, Liverpool, (Chief Engineer)
Martin, W.B., 3054, Calcutta, (Gentleman)

Mathison, G., S.W., 2294, 3294, Birkenhead, (Gentleman)
Mathison, H., S.W., 3294, LiverpoolMcLeod, A.N., Birkenhead
McLeod, J.M., P.G.Swd.B., Eng., (Secretary of the R.M.I.B., London)
Mitchell, A.E., P.M., 1714, Jerusalem, (Professor at English College)
Nolan, James, 1769, London, (Journalist)
Oppenheim, G.E., P.P.G.Std., Cheshire, 3261, Didsbury, (Merchant)
Parry, Richard, P.P.A.G.D.C., Cheshire, Birkenhead
Paynter, the Rev. F.S., 3183, P.P.G.Chap., (Priest in Holy Orders)
Pringle, Sir John, District Grand Master for Jamaica
Pryce, W.J.R., P.M., 3236, Birkenhead, (Teacher of Shorthand)
Reed, Leiut. Col. J. Ranken, District Grand Master New Zealand
Richmond, W., (J.P.) 1061, P.P.G.W. Cheshire, (Justice of the Peace)
Roberts, W.H., (‘Atlas’) 3435, London, (Music Hall Artiste)
Robertson, M.M., W.M. 2657, Liscard, (Manufacturer)
Romer, H.R., P.J.G.D., 3294, Liscard, (Merchant Tailor)
Ross, H.L., P.M., 2977, Birkenhead, (Accountant)
Saunders, G.R., P.P.G.D., Surrey, Sutton, (Gentleman)
Sayles, C.P., 1713, Liverpool, (School Master)
Smith, T.G. Lumley, Captain
Smith, T.W. Christopher, 431, Stocksfield, (Gentleman)
Stephens, C.G.R. W.M., 3236, Birkenhead, (Carriage Proprietor)
Strachan, J., P.G.Reg. (Eng.), (Barrister K.C.)
Sunderland, Clement S., 2690, West Kirby, (Merchant Tailor)
Swift, J.F., P.P.G.O., W.M. 3261, Port Sunlight, (Composer & Organist)
Tafner, W.S., P.P.G.Std. Cheshire, W.M. 3294, (Hosier)
Thompson, A.J., P.P.G.W. Cheshire, (Managing Director - later Barrister)
Thompson, J.B., Birkenhead
Walker, Walter F., 2517, Buenos Aires, (Gentleman)
Wallace, A.C.G., P.P.G.D. Cheshire, Birkenhead, (Solicitor)
Walmsley, David, P.M., P.J.D.C., 287, Stockport, (Gentleman)
Wilkinson, the Rev. H.C.P., 257, Oxford University, (Theological Student and Organist)
Woods, C., W.M., 2345, London, (Associate College of Preceptors)
Wright, A.T., 3294, Liverpool,(Cinematographer)
Yates, the Rev. Canon W.R., 2520, Jerusalem

Every Founder Member would have a copy of this list which included the Founders’ addresses next to their names thus allowing correspondence between Members and making it a truly universal organisation – the forerunner of an internet lodge! It is interesting to note that the Summons for the second meeting listed 100 members of the Lodge; it included the majority of the Brethren who had not yet been balloted for, but were balloted for at this second meeting! These Brethren probably applied to be Founders but were too late to be added to the original list; there does seem to have been much confusion about who was a Founder Member, Honorary Member or Joining Member. Another complication is the fact that at the Second Meeting of the Lodge (8 April 1911), the following Brother (whose name, up until now, had not appeared on any lists) was recorded in the Minutes as a visitor:

Charles John Doughty (Proscenium Lodge, 3435)

However, at the same meeting Doughty proposed 4 Brethren as Joining Members and acted as the seconder for 5 more! In the Summons for 13 June 1913, Doughty is numbered 38 on the list of 215 Members of the Lodge implying that he was a Founder Member although his name never appeared on any of the initial lists as a Founder or as a Joining Member. Doughty was also a Founder Member and First Secretary of Chelsea Lodge (3098) as well as being a member of Proscenium Lodge (3435). He seems to be an enigmatic character as Chelsea Lodge has very little information on him except to say that he was ‘independent’ – probably implying that he was of independent means. On the list of the 75 Founders of the Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple (3464) the address of Albert Le Fre (an actor) is given as c/o C.J. Doughty, 14, Rostrevor Road, Fulham – this suggests that perhaps Doughty was a theatrical agent or in some way connected with the business side of the theatre as 7 of the 9 Brethren he either proposed or seconded as Joining Members at the second meeting of the Lodge were in ‘Variety’ or ‘Music Hall’. There was obviously such a stampede to join the Lodge that some of the paper-work and records seem to have been either by-passed or overlooked.

The Warrant of the Lodge, signed ‘Arthur’ by the Grand Master, H.R.H. The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, states:

‘Know Ye – That we by the authority and under the sanction of the United Grand Lodge of England vested in us for that purpose and at the humble petition of our Right Trusty and well beloved Brethren Robert Freke Gould P.G.D., Albert Ephraim Coveney, Albert James Thompson, William Hesketh Lever, Rev. John George Gibson, Thomas Gabriel Lumley Smith, Hon John Pringle K.C.M.G. District Grand Master of Jamaica, Alfred Elias Mitchell, Daniel Johannes Haarhoff District Grand Master of South Africa Central Division and others do hereby constitute the said Brethren into a Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons under the Title or Denomination of Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple.’

Amongst 75 Founders it is obvious that there is going to be quite a diverse array of professions and trades represented by very different characters and personalities. This is well exemplified in the following biographies of some eleven of the Founders arranged, again, alphabetically:

WILLIAM RALSTON BALCH (1852-1923) was born in Leetown, West Virginia, the son of Rev. Lewis P.W. Balch and his wife Emily. He married Elizabeth Singerly and they had one daughter, Eleanor. Very little is known about Balch except that he enjoyed a long and successful career as a journalist and author. He spent thirty-six years in Europe, the pinnacle being as World War I correspondent for the Boston Evening Transcript and he was also the Managing Editor of The American.

As an author, his works include – The Life of James Abram Garfield, Late President of the United States … Philadelphia PA: Hubbard Bros. 1881, Life and Public Services of General Grant … Philadelphia: Aetna Publishing Co. 1880, An American Career and its Triumph: The Life and Public Services of James G. Blaine … Philadelphia: Thayer, Merriam & Co. 1884, The Busy Man’s Hand-Book … London: Griffith, Farran & Co. [1891], An Every-Day Dictionary of the English Language edited by W.R. Balch, London: [1888], The Mines, Miners and Mining Interests of the United States in 1882, Philadelphia: Mining Industrial Publishing Bureau 1882.

Balch was a Founder Member of the Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple (3464) and at the time was living at 10, Stonecutter Street, London. He was the Immediate Past Master of Mizpah Lodge (1671) and a subscribing member of the Lodge of the Rock (260), America Lodge (3368) and Quatuor Coronati Lodge (2076).


ALFRED WILLIAM HENRY BEALES (theatrical name HARRY BAWN) was born on 5 March 1872 in Knightsbridge, London and was educated at St Mary’s College, Chelsea.

Sidney Bernstein’s father, Alexander Bernstein, had a flair for social planning and it was this that brought him into the entertainment business. When a plot of land in Edmonton became available he decided to create a parade of shops and a theatre to attract both traders and customers alike. Knowing nothing about running a theatre he employed an impresario to work for him but their views were so different that Alexander stormed out of a meeting and vowed to take on the responsibility himself. Instead, he exacted his revenge by employing the impresario’s assistant, none other than Harry Bawn (A.W.H. Beales). The Edmonton Empire Theatre which they built, on a site opposite the Great Eastern Railway’s Lower Edmonton Station, was Bawn’s for the running at a cost of £900 per year. The Edmonton Empire was opened on Boxing Day 1908 with a special invitation to every child in the area. A circus act featuring a troupe of performing elephants was ordered for the grand opening ceremony and packets of sweets were handed out to each child as they entered the theatre for the first time. Among those employed to hand out the treats was Alexander’s nine-year old son, Sidney. He had been given his first taste of showbiz.
Beales’s recreational activities included riding, motoring and golf. He married Mae Rose Baker who apparently performed under the name of My Fancy! It would also appear that Harry Bawn was not only a theatrical proprietor but that he did appear on stage singing such songs as The Man That Kissed My Wife and That Pretty Little Wife of Mine.

He was initiated into Earl’s Court Lodge (2765) and was a Founder of Chelsea Lodge (3098) and of Chelsea Chapter. He was W.M. of Chelsea Lodge in 1910/11 and was a Founder Member of the Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple (3464) and was certainly present at the first three meetings of the Lodge. At the second meeting he brought a member of Chelsea Lodge with him, Bro. Benjamin James Whiteley, an acrobat. Beales died on 28 October 1928 aged 56 years.


ALBERT EPHRAIM COVENEY, P.P.G.W. (1847-1912) was one of the most highly respected and esteemed members of the Masonic fraternity in Cheshire. For many years he was the manager of the wine and spirit department of the Birkenhead Brewery Company. After being initiated into Combermere Lodge (605), where he eventually became Worshipful Master, he rose to be a Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden, Chairman of the Board of Benevolence of Cheshire and a Director and Treasurer of the Birkenhead Masonic Hall Co. Ltd. He was a Founder Member of the Wirral Lodge No. 2,496, the Randle Holme Lodge (3261) and the Lilley Ellis Lodge (3236) and in 1911, to commemorate his long and distinguished service to the craft a lodge was founded which bore his name, the Albert Coveney Lodge (3519). Coveney was also a member of the Birkenhead Lodge (2826), the William Hesketh Lever Lodge in Port Sunlight, the Unity Lodge of Crewe (341) and was the Founding Senior Warden of the Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple (3464). In 1912, whilst Master of the Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple, he died of heart disease in his 66th year.

Albert Coveney

Poster of Horace Goldin - Illusionist

HORACE GOLDIN was a world famous illusionist. Born in 1873 in Vilnius, Russia (now Lithuania) he emigrated to the United States with his parents when he was 16 years old. He developed a rapid presentation style and became known as ‘The Whirlwind Illusionist’. In 1901 he came to London where his shows made such impact that he was invited to do a private show for King Edward VII at Sandringham in November 1902; altogether he performed for The King 4 times earning the billing ‘Royal Illusionist’. He also appeared before 2 American Presidents, Harding and Wilson. When on a tour of the Far East in 1918, the boat carrying his equipment sank at Lahaina, Hawaii and as he kept all his money with him, reputedly in gold, he was forced into bankruptcy. Goldin is credited with inventing the ‘Sawing a Woman in Half’ illusion but the first presentation of this type of trick was by P.T. Selbit, a British Magician. However, Goldin improved and developed the illusion because in his version the ‘assistant’s’ head, hands and feet remained visible all the time. He successfully applied for a patent for his illusion and he was involved in many lawsuits during his career in efforts to safeguard his invention. The ruling in one case on appeal stated he had:

‘Satisfactorily established that he is the originator of the illusion in question, which has achieved a great success under the title devised by him of Sawing a Woman in Half … and that his creation of the illusion has been so universally recognised that the title thereof is in the public mind associated with his own name’

However, he was unsuccessful in suing the makers of ‘Camel’ cigarettes who ran adverts showing the secrets behind famous mysteries using the slogan ‘It’s fun to be fooled … It’s more fun to know’. They had used a picture in one advert showing the workings of a version of ‘Sawing a Woman in Half’. In later years he used a ‘buzzsaw’ blade which appeared to cut through the ‘assistant’.

It is said that he earned as much as $2,000 per week. He toured extensively and in his later years Goldin became a British citizen. On 21 August 1939, following a show at the Wood Green Empire Theatre, London, Horace Goldin died. Twenty-one years earlier at that same venue a magician named Chung Ling Soo had been killed while performing the illusion of catching a bullet in his teeth; Goldin had carried out the trick successfully but died in his sleep that night.

In the 2006 film The Illusionist, the character Prince Leopold says ‘He tries to trick you … I try to enlighten you. Which is the more noble pursuit?’ This reference is to the slogan used by the cigarette company (quoted above) – the impetus for this was a tribute to the popularity of the one and only Horace Goldin. He was a Founder Member of the Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple (3464).


ROBERT FREKE GOULD, P.G.D. (1836-1915) was a Lieutenant in the 31st Regiment of the British Army, later becoming a barrister. He is best remembered as an early proponent of the authentic school of Masonic research and for his three-volume History of Freemasonry (1883-1887). Gould was a Founding Member, in 1884, and the second Worshipful Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge (2076), London, the premier lodge of Masonic research, and he contributed twenty-five papers and many notes to Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge). Membership of this special lodge is limited to forty. In 1854 he was initiated into the Royal Navy Lodge (429), Ramsgate and in 1857 he joined Friendship Lodge, Gibraltar and became Master of Northern Lodge (570), Shanghai, China in 1863. He was also Master of a lodge in Poona in 1859. In 1901, Masons in Gibraltar founded a new lodge and named it the Robert Freke Gould Lodge (2874) in honour of him. In 1910, he became the Founding Worshipful Master of the Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple (3464).

Robert Freke Gould PGD

Charles Edward Keyser DPGM (Hertfordshire)

CHARLES EDWARD KEYSER was born 10 September 1847 and educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. He originally studied to be a barrister but this idea was soon abandoned and he contested the Parliamentary Seat for Reading three times without success. Ecclesiastical architecture became one of his major interests and he was an acknowledged authority on Norman architecture, mural paintings and other decorative art. In 1872 he wrote a List of Buildings in England having Mural or other Painted Decorations and in 1904 he brought out a profusely illustrated volume entitled a List of Norman Tympana and Lintels. He was President of the British Archaeological Association and the Berkshire Archaeological Society, a Vice-President of the Royal Archaeological Institute and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquarians. His residence was Aldermaston Court, near Reading and the house and grounds were regularly ‘thrown open’ for a variety of good causes and in 1898 he was High Sheriff of Berkshire.

His Masonic allegiance was divided between Berkshire and Hertfordshire as he was a Founder and Master in Lodges and Chapters in both counties and became Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Hertfordshire. His contributions to Masonic charities were unparalleled – in 1898 he built a Chapel for the Royal Masonic Institute for boys at a cost in excess of £10,000 and because of his donations he was the largest holder of Masonic votes.

He was a Founder Member of the Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple (3464) and when he became its Worshipful Master in 1912 it was the fourteenth time that he had been installed as the Master of a Masonic Lodge.


FRED KITCHEN was born on 15 June 1872 and shot to stardom in His Majesty’s Guests, the first comic play produced by Fred Karno. Kitchen’s slow speech and his shambling walk in enormous boots, as prescribed by Karno, made him an instant success. Karno’s ‘Army’ included many young comedians including Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, Will Hay, Sandy Powell, Wee Georgie Wood and Max Miller. It was Kitchen, himself a master of comedy, who taught Chaplin the basis of comic stage art. As a seven year-old boy he earned seven pence a week but in 1918 he got £450 a week at the Folies Bergère in Paris; he made the public laugh and cry – probably the main reason for his success. In 1912 he appeared in the first Royal Command Performance. Unlike many successful comedians at that time he never really ventured into ‘motion pictures’ although in 1914 he did appear in one film called Freddie’s Nightmare and in the 1930s and 40s he was an extra in a few B-films. He was the creator of the catchphrase ‘Meredith, we’re in!’ taken from one of his comedy sketches. An article in The Globe dated 18 July 1916 stated:

Fred Kitchen - Comedian

‘There is a newcomer in the West End who must have a paragraph all to himself. The pretence of “discovering” Mr Fred Kitchen shall not be maintained, for he is an actor of long experience and assured popularity elsewhere. But so far as a great West End producer is concerned, he is a newcomer – come to stay. He has some of old William Blakeley’s rare quality of unctuous humour, and an extraordinary voice that “pipes and whistles”. He figures in Look Who’s Here as a chronic out-of-work, full of humour and resource and shameless opportunity. He has solved the secret of luxury without toil. Every movement is a study; every line got its laugh. Probably the surprise of the evening was when Mr Kitchen and Mr [Billy] Merson, in the Barnet Fair scene, did a genuine acrobat act with skill and effect. The fact is that they are both old circus performers.’

In 1945, at the age of 73, he retired and died 6 years later in 1951 at Hampton Hill. He was a Founder Member of the Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple (3464) in 1910. His son, Fred Kitchen Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps as an actor; appearing in Old Mother Riley Overseas (1943), Z Cars (1963), The Four Just Men (1960) and other television plays.


ALBERT LE FRE P.A.G.D.C. (real name JAMES ALBERT DE VOY) was born 2 March 1870 and he made his first appearance on the stage as a dancer and skater when he was a child in pantomime at the Criterion Theatre, Sheerness in 1876. For many years he worked with the Le Fre Trio and in 1879 he made his first appearance in London at the Surrey Theatre under William Holland playing in the pantomime Aladdin. He toured in the United States with the Hanlon-Lees Troupe and later worked as a solo act, an original comedian with some excellent songs.

Included among the sketches for which he achieved popularity were The Gentleman Scamp, The Professor and The Dancing Family, where he performed with his brothers. As a solo artiste he introduced That’s What You See in the Halls and The Tip-top Topper. He appeared on the theatrical stage in musical comedy and also in the 1936 film She Knows What She Wanted. His standing in the profession was recognised by his presence in the first Royal Command Performance at the Palace Theatre on 1 July 1912. In 1901/2 he played the Theatre Royal Edinburgh in The Invisible Prince and in 1925/6 he appeared with Will Fyffe in Humpty Dumpty.

Harry Stanley (magician), a Past Master of Chelsea Lodge (3098), said:

‘I remember Albert Le Fre “Father of Chelsea Lodge” at a Chelsea Ladies Festival Night at the Dorchester Hotel, London, when he gave an impromptu turn in the cabaret. He sang Give Me The Moonlight, Give Me The Girl, complete with straw hat, cane and a series of high kicks that Frankie Vaughan would envy. How old was he at the time? Ninety-six!

On giving a toast to the visitors at a Lodge meeting (and well into his nineties) he said “On my journey into Freemasons’ Hall today I travelled by train. At my local railway station I saw three very pretty girls and thought to myself, I wish I were ten years younger!”

He was initiated in the Lodge of St Asaph in the last year of Queen Victoria’s reign and was Preceptor of the Vaudeville Lodge of instruction, being himself a brilliant ritualist. He was the 2nd Master of Chelsea Lodge (3098) in 1906 and at one time or another he occupied all the offices of the Lodge. Arrangements were well in hand for him to occupy the Chair again in Chelsea Lodge in his centenary year – alas he sadly died on 14 December 1969, just 3 months short of his 100th birthday. He was a Founder Member of the Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple (3464) and became an Assistant Steward.


Portrait of Lord Leverhulm JGW

WILLIAM HESKETH LEVER, the first Lord Leverhulm, was born in Bolton in 1851 and educated at Bolton Church Institute. In 1874 he married Elizabeth Ellen Hulme (hence his future title Leverhulme). After training in his father’s wholesale grocery business, in 1886, along with his brother James, he established the soap manufacturing company called Lever Brothers (now part of Unilever). From 1888, Lever began to put his philanthropic principles into practice with the construction of Port Sunlight, a model community designed to house and support his workers who already enjoyed generous wages and innovative benefits. He was a lifelong supporter of Gladstone and the Liberal cause and was often called upon to contest elections – he served as MP for the Wirral between 1906 and 1909.

He had what can only be described as a remarkable masonic career. Lever didn’t join Masonry until he was nearly 51 years old when, in 1902, he was initiated into the newly-formed lodge already named after him: William Hesketh Lever Lodge (2916).

In a relatively short masonic career of some 23 years, he was a member of 25 craft lodges, including one Scottish lodge. Of these he was a Joining Member of nine and a Founder Member of 15, plus one for which he was a petitioner but died before the consecration. He was the worshipful master of three of them, and was appointed the first past-master of seven of the lodges of which he was a founder member. He was a member of three Royal Arch Chapters, for two of which he was a Founder, and he occupied the Principals’ Chairs of just one of those. He also joined two Mark lodges, and was a member of Knights Templar, Rose Croix, the Royal and Select, and possibly some other associated orders; a grand total of at least 33 different organisations. In addition he was also appointed Senior Warden of the Province of Cheshire in 1908, Junior Grand Warden of England and Scribe N in Supreme Grand Chapter in 1918, and Senior Grand Warden of the Mark Degree in 1919.

For many of the lodges, being a Founder appears to have meant simply lending his name to support their foundation, and in fact he never visited some of them, including surprisingly some of the lodges he joined. He did however fulfill many of the offices in the various degrees into which he was initiated, advanced, or perfected. Other than two nephews, there are no records of any of other members of his family joining the craft.

Lever was initially involved with Masonry in the Wirral, Liverpool and Chester areas. Following his move to London in 1919, Lever’s masonic efforts continued primarily in the London area right up until his death in 1925. He was a Founder Member of the Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple (3464) his name appearing at the top of the list of Petitioners presented to Grand Lodge and was one of the nine Brethren mentioned on the Warrant.

Sir William Hesketh Lever, JP, Baron Leverhulme of Bolton-le-Moors, Viscount Leverhulme of the Western Isles died in London on May 7th 1925. Following his death, Memorial Services were held both on the Wirral and at The City Temple, Holborn Viaduct on Wednesday May 13 1925. In his will he left a proportion of his interest in the company in trust for specific beneficiaries including certain trade charities and to provide for scholarships for research and education – thus the Leverhulme Trust was established.


WILLIAM HEDLEY ROBERTS - ‘ATLAS’, was born in 1864 and as a ‘strongman’ he had established a ladies’ gymnasium in Abergavenny, South Wales. Here he met Kate Williams (1875-1946) who became the Champion Lady Athlete of the world; professionally she was known as ‘Vulcana’. Together they toured Music Halls in Britain, Europe and Australia performing as ‘The Atlas and Vulcana Group of Society Athletes’.

William Hedley Roberts (Atlas) - Strongman

Although they never married (they referred to themselves as brother and sister) they had 6 children, 4 sons and 2 daughters. The daughters, Mona and Nora, worked with their parents billed as ‘Sisters Atlas, England’s Champion Strong Girls’ and Nora went on to appear in the 1936 film Things to Come. One of the sons, Ernest Augustus Roberts also appeared in the family troupe as ‘Little Gus, the Boy Champion’. All the children eventually appeared in the family ‘Society Athletes’ as soon as they were old enough. Vulcana was a friend of the Music Hall artiste Belle Elmore, wife of the infamous Dr Hawley Crippen, and it was Vulcana who was the first to alert the police to Belle’s disappearance which ultimately led to the investigation and arrest of Crippen who was eventually hanged for his wife’s murder. Atlas and Vulcana moved permanently to London in the 1920s and retired from performing in 1932. Roberts must have been a keen Freemason; in 1911 he was the W.M. of Proscenium Lodge (3435), a member of the Liverpool Dramatic Lodge (1609), in 1914 W.M. of Chelsea Lodge (3098) and a Founder Member of the Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple (3464). He was appointed London Grand Rank. On the 8 April 1911 he proposed his son, Reginald Hedley Sherbourne Roberts, an Art Student and member of Proscenium Lodge (3435), as a Joining Member of the Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple (3464). Two years later on 13 June 1913 he proposed another son, Ernest Augustus (now known as ‘Gus Atlas’ a Vaudeville Artiste), as a Joining Member of this Lodge. Gus was also a member of both Chelsea Lodge (3098) and Proscenium Lodge (3435).


Albert James Thompson (Jerusalem 1909 in Native Costume)

ALBERT JAMES THOMPSON ‘SHELLEY-THOMPSON’ was the originator and formulator of the plan to establish a Masonic Lodge in Jerusalem. Following his visit to the Holy Land in 1909, where he was shown the underground quarries from which the stone was extracted to build King Solomon’s Temple, he conceived the idea of a ‘Universal Lodge’ catering for Masons from around the world and meeting in the figurative birth place of Freemasonry. He obviously did some forward planning as he brought back to England with him a piece of the Wailing Wall – sections of which were used to insert into the Lodge ashlars, the Lodge Jewels and to form a gavel. His Masonic credentials spoke for themselves as he was a Founder and First Master of Lilly Ellis Lodge (3236), a Founder and First Master of Randle Holme Lodge (3261) and a Founder and First Master of Bohemian Lodge (3294).

He was editor of both The Birkenhead News and The Northern Freemason, apparently the only paper of its kind in the North of England; he was also studying to become a barrister. As the Founding Junior Warden of the Lodge of King Solomon’s Temple (3464) his name appeared as such on the Petition sent to Grand Lodge (where his occupation was described as a Managing Director) and he was one of the nine Brethren mentioned on the Warrant. Shelley-Thompson designed the early form of the Lodge Summons, was the organiser of most of the early visits of the Lodge to such places as York, Shrewsbury, Thornton Manor and Lawton Hall as well as being the Secretary for Foreign Correspondence. This latter office was not inconsiderable bearing in mind the fact that Brethren came from all round the globe. In 1913, as a mark of respect and gratitude for all the work he had done in conceiving the Lodge, Shelley-Thompson was presented with a portrait of himself in oils painted by Mr J.V.R. Parsons. The list of subscribers for the portrait included H.R.H. Prince Frederick of Prussia, the Marquis of Zetland, the Marquis of Tullibardine, the Earl of Derby, Viscount Kitchener, Lord Egerton of Tatton, William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt.

A notice in The Times of 2 November 1911 recorded that Shelley-Thompson of the Middle Temple had passed his examinations in Criminal Law and Procedure, Constitutional Law and Legal History. On 13 January 1913 it was reported, again in The Times, that he had passed his final examination of the Inns of Court held at the Middle Temple Hall. In a ‘Breach of Promise Case’ (Cooper v Chapman) chronicled in The Times of 24 April 1915, Shelley- Thomson appeared for the plaintiff Miss Lillian Cooper. It would seem that from 1915 onwards, probably as a result of his legal career, he rarely if ever attended the Lodge again and the rest of his life, apart from the following incident remains a mystery. In July 1921 he had the honour of Installing H.R.H. Colonel Sir Ibrahim, The Sultan of Johore, as Worshipful Master of Johore Royal Lodge!

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