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At a meeting held at the Chapter Clerk’s office in York Minster on 2 August 1889 it was unanimously agreed that a new Masonic Lodge be established in York. Permission was granted by The Most Worshipful Grand Master of England, Brother W. Lawton, on 8 September and on 22 October the founders held their first meeting, prior to the Constitution and Consecration of the new Lodge on 26 November 1889.
The Albert Victor Lodge was named after Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), who was at that time stationed in York with the 10th Royal Hussars. Prince Albert Victor and the Earl of Zetland, the masonic Provincial Grand Master in the North and East Riding of Yorkshire, were among the first honorary members of the new Lodge. Other notable members included the Editor of the Yorkshire Gazette, Thomas Bowman Whitehead, who was instrumental in the Lodge’s foundation and served as its first Senior Warden, Sir Joseph Terry (1828-1898) of chocolate makers Terry’s of York, Sir Edward Bairstow (1874-1946), composer and Master of Music at York Minster, Canon J. S. Purvis (1890-1968), York Diocesan Archivist, and the architect George Pace (1915-1975).
Meetings of the Lodge were held at the Masonic Hall in St Saviourgate from its foundation until 1906 when the Lodge moved to the Freemason’s Hall in Duncombe Place, York. Membership of the Lodge grew slowly and in its early years drew principally from the church, medicine, banking, law and the army. By 1900 the Lodge had 30 members and numbers largely ranged between 45 and 60 members in the period up to 1989. It also had its own Lodge of Instruction from 1914. In 1895 a ceremonial sword was presented by the Brethren for use of the Lodge’s Tyler, the traditional outer guard or sergeant of a Masonic Lodge, and in 1930 the Lodge acquired its own distinctive banner based on a design by J. W. Knowles and Sons, the York stained glass manufacturer.
Albert Victor Lodge is a ‘non speaking’ and ‘non singing’ Lodge, a time saving custom that was a consequence of the Lodge originally holding their Festive Board before the regular meeting, rather than afterwards as is customary. In addition to its ceremonial and ritual life the activities of the Lodge have traditionally focused on education and charitable giving. Among the lectures given at the Lodge was the 1959 annual Prestonian Lecture by member Canon Purvis entitled ‘Some Notes on Medieval Freemasonry,’ which was attended by members from a number of other Yorkshire Lodges as well as officers from the Grand Lodge and Grand Provincial Lodge.
The Lodge’s charitable fundraising was formalised in 1931 with the establishment of a trust named The Albert Victor Benevolent Fund and the appointment of Trustees. In 1934 the fund was divided into two distinct bodies, The Albert Victor Benevolent Fund which was to receive the income from the charity box collections for the use of distressed brethren and their families, and The Charity Representative’s Fund which was to receive all charity subscriptions for distribution to masonic charities. The choice of charities would be decided by an annual vote. The system remained in place until 1978 when the two funds, and their various causes, were amalgamated into The Albert Victor Benevolent Fund.
Today Lodge meetings are once again held at the St Saviourgate Masonic Hall in St Saviourgate. Albert Victor Lodge continues its charitable activities, acting as Grand Patron for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys and operating their benevolent fund for distressed brethren and other masonic, local and regional charities.
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F. N. Lee-Oldfield, ‘Albert Victor Lodge 2328. Centenary 1889-1989’ (York, 1989)