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Vernon Lodge No. 2774

Consecrated April 1899

Meeting at: Johannesburg - Freemasons Hall, 8 Park Lane, Parktown

Meeting Dates: 3rd Wednesday (ex July Aug Dec) Inst Apr

Contact 079 254 0013

Lodge History

Vernon Lodge was the last to be consecrated in the Transvaal prior to the outbreak of the South African War. Its first minute book has been lost but the District year book for 1899 indicates that the lodge operated under a provisional charter pending the issue of the warrant, and the date of Consecration was in April - the most likely day being the 21st.

The Charter Master, W Bro F M Blood, was a medical practitioner by profession and apparently, a speculator by choice! The nineteen petitioners included some prominent brethren - in particular W Bros J Waldie Peirson and G S Burt Andrews, both later to become District Grand Masters, and in all eleven accountants.

The lodge was named after the son of the Charter Master and the banner - for some unknown reason - bears the heraldic arms of the George Richards' family, although R W Bro Richards was not a member of the lodge. Because of the war the lodge, which met briefly at Plein Street, and then at a hall in Sivewright Avenue, Doomfontein, went into early recess. After the war it resumed meeting at Plein Street but in 1908 moved to the "Corona Temple", as it was called, in Berea: then in 1937 to Kerk Street and finally to the new District headquarters in Parktown designed by W Bro Gordon Leith, of Vernon (a Grand Officer, and one of South Africa's leading architects).

In 1905 Vernon Lodge sponsored a lodge - Outpost No 3132 - to meet in Bellevue, then a separate township from Johannesburg. But the outbreak of the First World War had an adverse effect on the membership of Outpost and it handed in its warrant in 1916. (See 'Casualties on the Way').

Over the years Vernon has had periods of prosperity and depression but it has always worked to keep its brethren interested. Its founding and joining membership has included five District Grand Masters, and its own most senior members have been W Bros Dick Webster and Gordon Surnmerley. Dick Webster was initiated in Vernon in 1922, and although then already 40, was to achieve over 50 years of membership, including some 20 years as an acting District Officer. In this capacity, he was the Assistant, and later the Deputy District Grand Master thoughout the Second World War, when travelling was very much more difficult than it is today; and he followed this by being President of the Board of General Purposes for eight years.

Other Grand Officers in the Lodge have been W Bros J T Goldsbury, F E Roberts, Maldwyn Edmund, W A Morison Abel, W K V Fowler and J L Downie - the last named being one of those honoured to mark the 275th anniversary of United Grand Lodge. Maldwyn Edmund was the Mayor of Johannesburg at the time of the royal visit to South Africa, just after the Second World War. Another Vernon member, Bro H J Lamb (WM 1905/6) had been the Mayor many years earlier.

The lodge has always taken its ritual seriously, and perhaps never more so than during W Bro Bertram Mitchell Hunter's twenty demanding years as Preceptor. (The story goes that one evening the lodge started to open before his slightly delayed arrival, and was soon disturbed by unauthorised banging on the door and a loud voice saying: 'You can't start yet, it's me, Bertram.')

Vernon had one of its best periods after the Second World War, when it gained the membership of many wellknown business and professional men who, inter alia, demonstrated their harmonious friendship by meeting regularly for lunch at the Rand Club - in a comer of the dining room which came to be known as the 'thieves kitchen.'

The lodge has long enjoyed a warm relationship with Corona Lodge No 2731, including for many years playing an annual golf match for the Verona Cup which, by tradition, always ended in a draw. So when the two lodges decided, in 1967, to form a new lodge the name, inevitably, was Verona.

In 1975 the lodge committed itself to a strong measure of practical charity by forming an Action Group, which has sought out means of assisting charitable organisations by providing labour and materials for the refurbishment of childrens' homes, hostels, remedial schools and any deserving institution which could not undertake these tasks alone. Over ten charities have been helped, and the involvement of the brethren, and their wives, has demonstrated that there can be a most effective practical side to Freemasonry.

Today the lodge has some 60 members and is fully confident of its future.

Reference: 'A Century of Brotherhood' by A A Cooper & D E G Vieler