Back to the Future Royal Colonial Institute Lodge
By W Bro Andrea Gabrielli
My recent visit to the Royal Colonial Institute Lodge No 3556 has set a completely new standard in my personal Masonic journey.
When, one night at The George, my good friend Lui Hui (whom I afterwards found out is DC of the Lodge) told me about this unit, it might have been the very fine dining, it might have been the history, but I really couldn’t resist.
I found myself surrounded by a bunch of highly skilled and, above all, enthusiastic Brethren who welcomed me in great fashion.
The main item on the agenda was a 30-minute morality play performed by members of Lodge of Asaph entitled “The Fight”. Set at the end of a Festive Board of the Lodge of Falmouth (Massachusetts) just prior to the War of Independence, it was an excellent production which included sound, period costume, lighting and props. Two members of the Lodge – W Bros Stratton Richey and Tim MacAndrews were volunteered to dress up and take part – which they did admirably!
The Royal Colonial Institute Lodge is a Metropolitan Lodge, meeting at Freemasons’ Hall twice a year. The June meeting is aligned to UGLE’s Quarterly Communication, so that members and brethren visiting from abroad can maximise their time in London.
It attracts Past Masters with an appetite for finer dining across London in a more relaxed atmosphere, with Festive Boards held at private clubs and non-mainstream specialist venues. On this occasion we dined at the Royal Automobile Club.
The Lodge does not take Initiates and therefore performs no ceremonial work other than the annual Installation. Instead, the aim of the Lodge is to have fun, unique, and educational meetings.
Aiming to reach 100+ members by the end of this year, the RCI supports the development of the Commonwealth Lodges’ Association (of which it is a member).
W Bro Richard Criddle gave me the background to this extraordinary Lodge. It was consecrated on 10th January 1912 for the purpose of enhancing the ties of the then Empire and Craft; and between the resident and non-resident Fellows and Members of the Royal Commonwealth Society (formerly the Royal Colonial Institute).
Connections with brethren abroad remained strong throughout the First World War and when, in 1939, the Duke of Connaught resigned as Grand Master of UGLE, he remained as Worshipful Master of the Lodge and was able to welcome the District Grand Master of Japan, as well as representatives of the Grand Lodges of Cuba, Peru, Greece, Yugoslavia and more. Upon Connaught’s death in 1942, the Grand Master noted at his successor’s Installation, “…it is the meeting place of brethren who are now in London but whose homes are many thousands of miles away… Though the members of this Lodge may be drawn from many parts of the Empire, they meet in lodge on common ground and for a common purpose.”
It was in the 1950s that the Lodge began a tradition of hosting talks and lectures. Fast forward to 1972, and the links with the Commonwealth were further strengthened at an emergency meeting of the Lodge where members were joined by 203 members of other Commonwealth Lodges. This meeting was to be the forerunner of the Commonwealth Lodges’ Association, a relationship which the Royal Colonial Lodge proudly still retains.
The Centenary History of the Lodge, written in 2012, concludes: “…the Lodge has provided a meeting place for Commonwealth brethren through two World Wars and through times of hardship, financial depression and financial prosperity… Perhaps in looking back we can gain more strength to move forward.”
What finally struck my attention was that the brief list of distinguished Deputy (1912-1942) and Past (1942 onwards) Masters features distinguished members from Masonic administrations as far afield as (credited in names used at the time) Madras, New Zealand, Ceylon, Punjab, Bombay, Bengal, Hong Kong & S. China, Nigeria, Pakistan, Zambia, East Africa, S. Australia, W. Australia, New South Wales, and Tasmania; as well as Suffolk, Herts and Northants & Hunts.
On the night I visited, 10 joining members were accepted and the names of 26 prospective members read out.
The journey continues.
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 52 August 2023 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 52 here.