Winston will have been aware of the high Masonic standing of his far-removed ancestor Lord Henry John
Spencer-Churchill (1797-1840), fourth son
of the fifth Duke of Marlborough. A captain in the Royal Navy, he was a member of the household of his Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex at the time when
the Duke was Grand Master.
He was a member of the
prestigious Lodge of Antiquity No.2 and became Deputy Grand Master in 1835, when the Earl of Durham was compelled to resign on being appointed ambassador to Russia. Lord
Henry had already been honoured with the rank of Past Senior Grand Warden in
1832 and served as President of the Board of General Purposes in 1834.
On 2 September 1836 he was appointed Provincial Grand Master for
Oxfordshire and served
his Province well until his
untimely death in action, on board HMS Dolphin in the China Sea, on 2 June 1840.
A large, well-kept gravestone marks his burial in the rather small and hidden-away Protestant
cemetery in Macao. His memory was immortalised in Churchill Lodge No. 702 (now No. 478), which was founded in 1841 in his honour.
It is only appropriate
that Winston's father,
Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-1895), and his uncle, Randolph's elder brother George Charles Spencer Churchill (1844-1892), the Marquis of Blandford, should both be initiated in Churchill
Lodge on 9 February 1871.
The two brothers were excluded on 22 January 1883
- together with eleven other brethren, Oscar Wilde among them - for non-payment of dues. The brothers were subsequently reinstated, as they had been in South Africa on Her Majesty's Service.
Some ten years later another member of the Churchill family came into the Lodge when Charles Richard John Spencer Churchill (1871-1934), ninth Duke of Marlborough, and first cousin of Winston, was initiated on 7 May 1894, aged 23.
By 1911, Winston Churchill was well on his way to political success and fame, and in October 1911 was
appointed First Lord of the Admiralty.
In the knowledge that he would no longer be able to take any part whatsoever, he resigned from Studholme Lodge in July 1912, but continued his membership of the Craft.
In January 1918 a petition was presented to Grand Lodge for the formation of a new Lodge to be named Ministry of Munitions Lodge. An explanatory letter to Grand Lodge stated that 'members stationed in
London away from home', who had been brought together in the Ministry of Munitions of War, felt the need to meet in a Masonic
It also proposed Armament Lodge as an alternative name. A total of 95 brethren signed the petition, including Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, Parliamentary Secretary to the ministry, and Winston
Grand Lodge refused the
petition in a letter dated 14
January 1918 addressed to
Lieut. Alfred Lewis, Senior Warden-designate, and signed by the Grand Secretary,
P Colville Smith:
Dear Sir and Brother,
The petition for the proposed Ministry of Munitions Lodge has considered
... & I regret to have to inform you that ... the prayer thereof [cannot] be acceded to [on the grounds that] the policy of the advisors of the Grand Master has always been to decline to recommend the printing of a warrant for a new Lodge where it was intended that the membership thereto be restricted to the members of any particular department of the Civil Service
of the crown.
This was not, however, the last of Churchill's
involvement with petitions to Grand Lodge. During
this period of tension and patriotic fervour, Clementine Churchill, Winston's energetic and supportive wife, often visited munitions
factories throughout England.
In early November 1917
she visited the Rees Roturbo
Manufacturing Company, known as the Ponder's End Shell Works, near Enfield in North London.
Prompted by some of the
workers, she wrote to Churchill's private secretary, Eddie Marsh, on 5 November, seeking Winston's assistance on their behalf.
The workmen of Ponder's End Shell Works have sent a petition to the Grand Lodge
of the Freemasons asking that a local lodge which they are starting may be called after Mr Brindley: they want it to be called the 'Bickerton Brindley Lodge'.
The men are afraid that the Grand Lodge may turn down the request as Mr Brindley is not apparently a very important Freemason, and they asked me if it would be possible
for Winston to write a line to the Duke of Connaught, who is the Grand Master, to say that he thinks Mr Brindley is a very suitable man and that it will give great pleasure to the men he employs if the Lodge is given his name.
The Grand Lodge meets on Friday next when they think that the request will be considered. All the Freemasons in the Works will of course be members of this Lodge.
Please be very kind and see that Winston does this
If you want more explanation do ring me up.
Winston Churchill's response and subsequent efforts are quite extraordinary. Within two days, on 7 November 1917, he wrote to the Grand Master, the Duke of Connaught, as follows:
I should be grateful if I might be allowed to call Your Royal Highness' attention to the request which I understand will come before the meeting of the Grand Lodge of the Freemasons on Friday next, that a local Lodge about to be
inaugurated at the Ponder's
Shell Works may be named the Bickerton Brindley Lodge after the Manager of the Factory.
Mr Brindley's energy and ability have proved of the highest value to the Ministry of Munitions, and he has succeeded in a remarkable degree in enlisting the enthusiasm of the workers in
the manufacture of shells. If
the proposed compliment could be allowed, it would be a source of much gratification to them, and a valuable stimulus to the increase of their output. It is on these grounds that I venture to ask if Your Royal Highness would feel able to advance the matter
I am Sir
Your Royal Highness' most obedient servant
Winston S Churchill
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