The Lodge of St. George is the second oldest Lodge in the Masonic District of the Eastern Archipelago (which broadly comprises Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand) and the second to be sponsored directly from London. The Petition for the formation of The Lodge of St. George No. 1152 E.C. was written in 1866 by a group of Petitioners who were primarily initiates of Zetland in the East Lodge which was consecrated in 1845. However, the Lodge itself was sponsored by Lodge Cadogan No. 162 E.C. at a meeting in London on 19 February 1867.
The Lodge received its warrant on 22 February 1867 (in the Year of the Tiger) and was consecrated on 22 June 1867 by R.W.Bro. W.H.M. Read, the first District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago, who was a founder member of the Lodge. He installed W. Bro. Felix Henry Gottlieb as the Founder Master of the Lodge.
The year the Lodge was consecrated was a momentous year in the political and governmental status of the island of Singapore. In 1867 the Straits Settlements (comprising Singapore, Penang and Malacca) was made a Crown Colony and its administration was transferred from Calcutta in India to the Colonial Office in London. This meant it was more than just a trading settlement – it now belonged to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Empress of India. On the 4th February by a “Letters Patent”, Singapore was granted a Colonial Constitution with powers concentrated in the hands of a Governor. This Governor was assisted by an Executive Council and a Legislative Council, the latter of which made all the laws in the colony subject to the Governor’s casting vote and his power of assent and veto on all Bills. The Governor was the most important person in the colony who made all the final decisions in the government.
The Lodge was named after the patron saint of England and therefore the Lodge’s annual installation meetings are held as near to St. George’s Day (23rd April) as possible. There exists no evidence as to why the petitioners chose to name the Lodge as they did. However, it was common practice amongst early Freemasons to name Lodges after Saints and Saint George was a particular Saint held in high veneration and esteem amongst English Freemasons.
There may also have been a supplementary reason to use the name “St.George” in that the Lodge’s consecration in 1867 coincided with the same year as the appointment of a new Governor of the Straits Settlements. This was Major-General Sir Harry St. George Ord GCMG, CB, RE (1819-1885). This was a significant appointment in the sense that until 1867 the Governor of the Straits Settlements was appointed by the British East India Company. However, from 1867 onwards the Straits Settlements became a crown colony and thereafter the Governor was appointed by the Colonial Office. Sir Harry held the post until 1873 and undoubtedly forged close working relationships with many members of the Lodge then in the upper echelons of society and municipal service. By way of example, we know he appointed W.Bros. W.H. Read and S.Dunlop, both members of St. George, to the Fire Commission, the forerunner of the Fire Brigade in Singapore (now part of the Civil Defence Force). Although Sir Harry was unpopular in the Straits Settlements, he was an ambitious and energetic man, who was ready to do what he could to restore order and promote trade in the Peninsula, given that conditions in Malaya at that time were extremely unsettled.
The early membership of the Lodge consisted of English nationals and perhaps one reason could have been to establish or reflect the essentially English nature and membership of the Lodge. The Lodge has retained a quintessentially “English” tradition ever since and still toasts with vigour to “the King and the Craft” at every Festive Board.
The 1860s and 1870s were years of great change for Singapore. First there was in 1867 the Transfer, then in 1869 the opening of the Suez Canal. In 1867 the record passage for a ship from the United Kingdom to Singapore had been 116 days. In 1870 the Shantung steamed from Glasgow to Singapore in 42 days. The telegraph cable service linked Singapore with Europe. On the oceans, sail was giving way to steam. The square-rigged ships that played so prominent a role in founding of Singapore were disappearing from the port. There was a demand for modern wharfage at Tanjong Pagar. As the Singapore Free Press said of the era of change in 1885, “Things now move a great deal too fast, and the race for a livelihood is too keen”.
The period of 1914-1918 marked World War I, and forever changed the face of world history. No longer was a conflict thousands of miles away in Europe something happening in a far off distant land to those European settlers in Singapore and the Peninsula. The wave of patriotic fervor that accompanied the commencement of hostilities in that awful war, duly found its way to the shores of the Far East and British European settlers in the region volunteered in considerable numbers to serve with the British Armed Forces in Europe. Naturally this had a detrimental effect on Lodge memberships in the District. At the end of 1918 The Lodge of St. George had 23 members on active service. As a result of the Great War, The Lodge of St. George became a Hall Stone Lodge (see insert, A Hall Stone Lodge).
In a terrible sign of things to come, the appalling human losses of the great battles of World War I were to have ramifications for everyone in Singapore. As the mechanized nature of modern warfare was beginning to dawn on military strategists, with tanks replacing cavalry, and the use of aircraft and ships to fight on multiple fronts, the importance of Singapore as a strategic destination became apparent. Accordingly the British Empire started to increase the number of military personnel in Singapore and develop it further as a naval and air base.
One bright moment during this period was the Lodge’s Jubilee which happened to coincide with the Bi-Centenary of the First Assembly of the United Grand Lodge of England. The 24th June 1917 fell on a Sunday, so the District Grand Master (R.W. Bro. F.M. Elliot, himself a St. George Past Master) celebrated both anniversaries by attending The Lodge of St. George on the previous Saturday.
When Singapore celebrated the Centenary of the founding the modern city by Stamford Raffles on 6 February 1919, the multi-racial Settlement had 300,000 people. It was enjoying what was described as “unexampled commercial prosperity”. However following the Great War came the Great Depression of the mid-1920s and that prosperity was severely affected by a dramatic fall in tin and rubber prices – the two industries on which the economy in Singapore and the Peninsula largely depended. Business only really began to pick up in the mid-1930s after the lifting of the worldwide depression.
The Hall Stone Jewel was conferred on The Lodge of St. George No. 1152 by the Grand Master in 1928. The Lodge of St. George is the only Hall Stone Lodge in Singapore and one of only five Hall Stone Lodges in the District of the Eastern Archipelago.
The Hall Stone Jewel has an interesting history. At a special meeting of Grand Lodge in June of 1919, the Grand Master, the Duke of Connaught, expressed his desire that a memorial be established in recognition of those brethren who had made the ultimate sacrifice fighting in the Great War. That very same month had also seen the formalization of the permanent end of hostilities as embodied in the Treaty of Versailles.
It was determined that the memorial should take the form of a central home for Freemasonry in London. The Masonic Million Memorial Fund was established in September 1919 to raise funds for this endeavour, with brethren from both the United Kingdom and its overseas Districts encouraged to contribute to the £1m needed to finance the work.
It was further decided that individuals and lodges that had contributed to the Memorial Fund would be recognized and awarded a commemorative jewel. The design of the Hall Stone was decided by an open competition with a £75 prize for the winner, and at the Grand Lodge meeting in June 1921 it was announced that the design selected was that submitted by Cyril Saunders Spackman.
To qualify, a Lodge had to contribute an average of ten guineas (about £380 at today’s value) per member and such lodges were then known as Hall Stone Lodges (thus giving the jewel its name). A total of 1,321 lodges qualified as Hall Stone Lodges and their names and numbers are inscribed on commemorative marble panels in the main ceremonial entrance of Freemasons’ Hall in London.
The Hall Stone Jewel is rich in symbolism. On the side squares are inscribed the dates 1914-1918, denoting the duration of the Great War. In the centre is a winged figure, representing Peace and supporting a Temple. This alludes to the gift of a new temple by members of the English Craft to commemorate the sacrifice of their brethren in the Great War. The jewel is suspended from a Square and a pair of Compasses and is attached to a ribbon.
When the Master of the Lodge wears the Hall Stone Jewel, it provides ample proof that the Lodge has adhered to its fraternal obligations. The Hall Stone Jewel is also a reminder and exhortation to all brethren to place service before self. This Jewel is considered part of the attire of the Worshipful Master of the Lodge and is transferred to the new Worshipful Master at each Installation, in a line of continuity never to be broken, until time with us shall be no more.
When liberation came to Singapore with the landing of Commonwealth troops on 5 September 1945, the island and its people, the civilian internees and prisoners of war were in a sorry state, short of food and almost everything else after more than three years of oppressive Japanese occupation.
The Lodge of St George resumed its regular meetings at Freemasons’ Hall on 22 September 1945 and, in spite of many difficulties there were meetings until the first post-war regular Installation on 22 June 1946.
The British Military Administration came to an end on 1 April 1946 with the appointment of Sir Franklin Gimson as the first Governor of Singapore. Most of the Brethren who had been interned or who had been in prisoner-of-war camps had been sent away for medical and recuperative treatment soon after the liberation. On their return to jobs in Malaya and Singapore they had much to occupy them, including the restoration of temples and resuscitation of lodges. Financial aid for rebuilding was received from Grand Lodge.
The annual report for 1947 noted the Lodge had resumed completely its normal activities, having received its Warrant of Confirmation and restored the regalia for its officers. The Lodge had been fortunate to recover some of its property, including the Working Tools, Columns and silver Offertory Plate, one of the Lodge’s oldest possessions. The Secretary’s Desk, presented by the Lodge, had also been found. But the Lodge suffered the loss of most of its pre-war records.
The early 1950s were a period of intense growth for The Lodge of St. George. In 1952 there were 128 Members, including 17 Subscribing Past Masters. Ten Past Masters of and in the Lodge held active District Office. The influx of candidates resulted mainly from the presence of large numbers of the British Armed Services stationed in Malaya and Singapore from 1945 to 1971. British Servicemen, side by side with Malayan forces (civil and military) were engaged in the 12-year Emergency in Malaya resulting from a bloody communist insurrection. During this period, many Brethren, some not long out of internment, went armed and in armoured cars, to their Lodges from rubber estates and tin mines.
As the second oldest lodge in the District, the Brethren of the Lodge have played a prominent role in the work of the District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago. Nine of its members, including five Past Masters, have served as District Grand Master. Eleven members have been Deputy District Grand Master, eight have served as District Grand Secretary and others have been Presidents or members of the Boards of General Purposes and Benevolence.
The Lodge of St. George has sponsored six daughter Lodges namely: Read Lodge No. 2337 in 1889 in Kuala Lumpur, Lodge St. Michael No. 2933 in 1902 in Singapore, Lodge Elliot No. 3557 in 1912 in Malacca, Johore Royal Lodge No. 3946 in 1919 in Johore Bahru, Lodge Kinabalu No. 7047 in 1951 in Kota Kinabalu and Oldham Lodge No. 9961 in Singapore. In turn many other lodges have “stemmed” from The Lodge of St. George.
Singapore’s history is full of the influences of members of The Lodge of St. George. In fact, many street names in Singapore are named after the Lodge’s members, such as Braddell Road, Dunlop Street, Napier Road, Read Bridge and Read Street in Clarke Quay. In addition, and further afield, Mitchell Park Zoo in Durban, South Africa is named after Lt. Col. Sir Charles Bullen Hugh Mitchell, who joined the Lodge in 1895.
In 2017 The Lodge achieved another milestone, its 150th anniversary. However, we must be mindful that old age alone has little to commend it. Long life is of no distinction unless accompanied by honour. This Lodge, like Freemasonry itself, is both ancient and honourable, and the honour of its past is only of any utility provided it is reflecting itself in the character of its present members.
Masonic Timeline of The Lodge of St. George
When the Earth was believed in conventional theology to have begun. Craft Masonry’s calendar commences with the creation of the world and uses the term Anno Lucius (A.L.) – “In the year of Light”. To arrive at this date they add 4000 to the common time. Therefore the year 2017 becomes 6017.
The building of King Solomon’s temple begins.
Construction of King Solomon’s Temple completed.
Building of the Second Temple completed during the reign of Darius.
First evidence of the island of Singapore being inhabited.
Commonly accepted period for the birth of the man who would ultimately become Saint George. Born to Gerontius who was a Roman army official from Cappadocia and Polychronia, his mother, who was from Palestine.
Death of Saint George.
The Freemason and Mason Company of London comes into in existence, probably as a craft Guild. The first known use of the word “Freemason” is recorded in the City of London Letter Book H. The word is later stricken off and replaced with the word “Mason”.
Guilds were town organizations where it was customary for each of the trades common to that town to elect two representatives who became members of a Common Council. Together these formed the town government/ administration. However the stonemasonry trade did not lend itself easily to such organization as the nature of their work (the construction of the medieval castles, abbeys and monasteries) often required itinerant labour to remote places. It was in those places, where there was no other kind of trade organization, that the masons, who were engaged on those construction works for years on end, formed themselves into lodges, in imitation of the guilds, so that they had some form of self-government whilst they were away from all other forms of trade control.
Premier Grand Lodge founded (the “Moderns”) on 24th June (St John the Baptist’s Day) in London. Their coat of arms was three castles or towers and a square.
The Grand Lodge of Ireland is formed.
The Grand Lodge of Scotland is formed.
The full three degrees with the Hiramic legend was developed in Craft masonry.
Grand Lodge of England According to the Old Institutions was formed (the “Antients”). Formed by a faction or schism from the Premier Grand Lodge who were concerned at proposed changes to the Landmarks and gave the older or “Premier” Grand Lodge the derogatory name of the “Moderns”. Their coat of arms was the ox, man, lion and eagle (symbols representing the Royal Arch). It became successful in its own right and the two grand lodges became fierce rivals.
Masonic Hall is dedicated at Great Queen St, London, England.
The Two Grand Lodges unite to form the United Grand Lodge of Antient, Free and Accepted Masons of England on 27th December (St John’s Day) under HRH the Duke of Sussex as Grand Master. The Coat of arms was an amalgamation of the two Grand Lodges.
The United Grand Lodge of England, Grand Lodge of Ireland and Grand Lodge of Scotland sign the “International Compact” in which they agree on basic points of Freemasonry.
The new Book of Constitutions is issued by the United Grand Lodge of England.
Treaty signed between Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (on behalf of the British East India Company) and Sultan Hussein Shah to develop the southern part of Singapore as a British trading post. Singapore’s population is approximately 1000 people.
Singapore holds its first census. It has a total population of 10,683 with 74 Europeans, 16 Americans, 15 Arabs, 4850 Malays, 3317 Chinese, 756 Indians and 1925 Bugis.
Singapore becomes part of the British Straits Settlements.
The Petition for the formation of The Lodge of St. George No. 1152 E.C. was written.
The Lodge of St. George No. 1152 E.C. receives its warrant from the United Grand Lodge of England on 22 February 1867 and is consecrated on 24th June 1867. W. Bro. Felix Henry Gottlieb becomes Founder Master of the Lodge.
This occurs under the reign of Queen Victoria and under the government of Prime Minister Edward Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby.
Opening of the Suez Canal, which dramatically reduced the sailing time of vessels from the United Kingdom to Singapore.
Freemasons’ Hall in Coleman Street, Singapore is consecrated on St. John’s Day, 27 December 1879 and becomes the spiritual home of the Lodge. The building was built by Thomas Cargill, a civil engineer, who was to become Worshipful Master of the Lodge in 1884. The Lodge subscribed to the largest number of shares to fund the project.
The Lodge of St. George assists in the consecration of its first daughter lodge, and the first lodge to be established in Kuala Lumpur – Read Lodge No. 2337. Named after RW Bro William Henry McLeod Read (the first District Grand Master and a member of The Lodge of St. George), the lodge was established to serve the growing community of British Officers of the Selangor State Government, miners, planters and merchants in Kuala Lumpur. Of the seven petitioners, five (including the first Master – Thomas de Multon Lee Braddell) were from The Lodge of St. George.
St. George Chapter of Royal Arch Masons is founded. The first Principal Z was E. Comp Evan Ormiston, who was Master of the Lodge in 1894.
The Lodge’s second daughter lodge and Singapore’s research lodge (originally for Installed Masters only), Lodge St. Michael No. 2933 is consecrated.
St. George Member Sir Walter Napier (PM 1895) becomes Attorney-General of Singapore.
The Lodge’s third daughter lodge, Lodge Elliot No. 3557 is consecrated in Malacca.
Centenary of the founding of modern Singapore by Sir Thomas Raffles. The population of the Island now stood at approximately 300,000. Johore Royal Lodge No. 3946, the fourth daughter lodge of The Lodge of St. George, is consecrated on 26 July.
The Hall Stone Jewel is conferred on The Lodge of St. George by the Grand Master. The Lodge is the only Hall Stone Lodge in Singapore and one of only five Hall Stone Lodges in the District of the Eastern Archipelago.
World War II reaches Singapore culminating in the Battle of Singapore. The British surrender the island to the Imperial Japanese Army on 15 February 1942.
Singapore is repossessed by the British Army in September. The Lodge resumes its regular meetings at Freemasons’ Hall following liberation from Japanese occupation.
The Lodge’s fifth daughter lodge, Lodge Kinabalu No. 7047 is consecrated.
The Gottlieb Bible is recovered and restored to the Lodge in a special ceremony at the Regular Meeting of 28 August 1959.
Singapore gains independence as the Republic of Singapore on 9 August 1965 with Yusof bin Ishak as president and Lee Kuan Yew as prime minister.
Centenary Warrant is issued on 22 June. The Lodge of St. George No. 1152 E.C. celebrates its centenary at Freemasons’ Hall, Singapore on 24 June 1967.
The Lodge’s first daughter Lodge, Read Lodge No. 2337 celebrates its centenary. A special oration is delivered at its Centenary Meeting on 21st October by W. Bro. Eric Jennings PSGD and a PM of St. George.
Centenary of The Lodge’s attached Chapter, St. George Chapter of Royal Arch Masons No. 1152 E.C.
W. Bro. MPH Rubin (PM 1985) awarded The Meritorious Service Medal by the President of the Republic of Singapore for his contributions to the Singapore Judiciary.
W. Bro. Lim Hon Chee (PM 2002) awarded the PBM (public service medal) by the President of the Republic of Singapore for his contributions to Society.
The Grande Loge Nationale Française consecrates the first French-speaking lodge in Singapore, Lodge Wandailan-Fleur d’Asie No 1636. Its founder master, V.M. Stephane Benoist, was a member of and initiated in The Lodge of St. George. A total of 18 Brethren of The Lodge attended the consecration ceremony, led by then Junior Warden Saptak Santra who presented a set of Square & Compasses on behalf of The Lodge that are still proudly used by Lodge Wandailan to this day.
The Lodge of St. George celebrates its 150th Anniversary. Concurrently, the Lodge’s “sponsoring Lodge”, Cadogan Lodge No.162 celebrates its 250th anniversary and the Grand Lodge of England celebrates its 300th anniversary.
The Lodge’s sixth (and so far, final) daughter lodge, Oldham Lodge No. 9961 is consecrated. This is the first old-schoolboys Lodge in Asia.