On 15 June 1920 he was initiated into Rahere Lodge No.
2546, named after the founder of St. Bartholomew’s priory
and hospital in 1123. In October he was passed and later made
a Master Mason on 10 May 1921. He was elected and served as
Master of the Lodge in 1932. By then he had become a Royal
Arch Mason, exalted into Rahere Chapter on 8 March 1922
with equal enthusiasm and served as First Principal in 1937.
This was only part of his extensive Masonic involvement.
On 3 May 1923 he was advanced in the Mark Degree at
Abernethy Mark Lodge, then No. 722, consecrated in
1920 as a medical Mark Lodge associated with Barts. He
was installed as Master on 24 November 1933.
In 1936 the Lodge amalgamated with Sir Joseph Dimsdale
Lodge No. 569 and, rather unusually, took on the earlier
number, retaining its own name. He also joined both Sancta
Maria Lodge No. 2682 and St. Mary Magdalen Lodge No.
1523. He progressed to become Master of both Lodges.
The former Lodge was founded on 15 November 1897 to
celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and consisted entirely
of medical staff and students.
Spilsbury became Master in May 1941, the year of the
tragic death of his son Peter, who had been initiated in Apollo
University Lodge No. 357, Oxford, and who was also a
member of St Mary Magdalen Lodge. This Lodge was
founded in 1874 and consisted of members of Magdalen
College, Oxford who had moved to London. On 21 December
1923 Spilsbury was informed that a knighthood would
be conferred on him in the New Year’s Honours list. It was
a well-deserved recognition.
Meanwhile, his Masonic career progressed with equal
success. In 1935 he was appointed to Grand Rank as a Past
Junior Grand Deacon. Supreme Grand Chapter made him a
Grand Officer in 1939 when he was appointed Past Assistant
Grand Sojourner. It is not clear why he joined both the
Chapter and Lodge of Friendship No. 6, in that order, in 1939
and 1940 respectively. He resigned from both in March 1946.
Among the thousands of cases in which Spilsbury
participated, two are of particular Masonic interest. In the trial
of Herbert Rouse Armstrong for murder, an extraordinary
number of the key participants were Freemasons. Let it be
emphasised that Freemasonry played no part whatsoever
in any of the proceedings and is mentioned merely as a
Altogether ten of the individuals concerned in the case
happened to be members of the Craft. Herbert Armstrong,
an English solicitor – the only known solicitor to be hanged
for murder – was at the time a Past Master of Loyal Hay Lodge
No. 2382 in Herefordshire. He was brought to trial in 1922
for the murder of his wife Katharine and the attempted
murder of Oswald Martin.
Curiously, Armstrong would have got away with his first
crime but for the attempted poisoning of his rival solicitor
Martin, a fellow member of the same Loyal Hay Lodge.
When suspicion of attempted poisoning fell on Armstrong,
his wife’s body was exhumed and traces of arsenic were found
by Spilsbury, who had only become a Master Mason in May
of that same year. Dr Wilcox and Dr Webster, who were
the additional pathologists who gave evidence, were both
Freemasons as was Hincks, the doctor who had treated
Mrs. Armstrong during her last illness.
Armstrong had claimed to have purchased arsenic in order
to make his own weed killer. The ever-increasing quantities
of arsenic were purchased from the local pharmacist, Bro J F
Davies, Martin’s father-in-law, who alerted the police as to his
suspicions. Davies had resigned from the Loyal Hay Lodge in
Sir Bernard Spilsbury in his laboratory at St Bartholomew's Hospital
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