The Aldershot Military Lodge of Mark Masters No.54 was consecrated on the 10th May 1862, its first Worshipful Master being W.Bro. F. G. Irwin. The Lodge appeared to work for three years but the records for the years 1865 to 1873 are missing. The Lodge records resume in 1874 and the Lodge was finally resuscitated in May 1876 with V.W.Bro. F. Binkes, Grand Secretary, as the Worshipful Master. The Lodge was refused its Centenary Warrant in 1962 as it could not demonstrate 100 years of continuous working. However, the Lodge has proof of one hundred years of continuous working from May 1876, evidenced through old minutes and thus the Centenary Warrant was granted in 1976. Further research in the years since 1976 have now demonstrated continuous working of the Lodge from 1862, evidenced by the Register of Marks held at the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons.
Between 1862 and 1864 it is thought that meetings were held at the Royal Hotel in Aldershot, sometimes called Tillbury’s Hotel. This hotel was situated on the plot of land between the High Street and Wellington Street. In 1864 the Lodge moved to the newly built Masonic Hall in Victoria Road. Financial difficulties resulted in a further move by the Lodge in 1871 to the Wellington Hotel. The Lodge moved to the Masonic Hall, Imperial Hotel, on Barrack Road in 1880 where it remained until 1902. The first meeting to be held in the Masonic Hall, Station Road, was on 18th September 1902, when W.Bro. C. Cullen, was in the Chair. At the meeting held on 19th May 1904, it was proposed that the Lodge take 20 shares in the Aldershot Masonic Hall Co., 10 to be taken immediately and the remainder as necessary when funds became available.
At a meeting held on 22nd December 1914, it was reported that the Masonic Hall Co. had gone into liquidation and the Lodge resolved to move to the Assembly Rooms, Aldershot, as sub-tenants of the Aldershot Camp Lodge No.1331, the rental being £10 10s. 0d. per annum. The first meeting held in the Assembly Rooms, High Street, was on the 26th January 1915. The name was eventually changed to the Connaught Rooms and the summons for the meeting to be held on 22nd February 1916, was the first one to require the Brethren’s attendance at the Connaught Rooms.
A dispensation from Provincial Grand Lodge dated 25th August 1951, after an emergency meeting of the Lodge on 24th July 1951, decreed that the Lodge could meet at the Scarborough Rooms, and the meeting of 25th September 1951 was the first held there. Meetings remained at the Scarborough Rooms until 24th February 1959. A dispensation dated 24th April 1959 from Provincial Grand Lodge decreed that the Lodge could meet at the Panmure Rooms, the first meeting being held there on 28th April 1959.
In 1964 the Lodge moved to the Masonic Hall in Edward Street, Aldershot, with the first meeting being held on the 24th November of that year. In 1976 the annual fee to use the hall was £50. In 2011, the annual fee was £540. The Lodge has met at the Masonic Hall in Edward Street since 1964, except for a few years in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
From humble and somewhat fragile beginnings, the Aldershot Military Lodge of Mark Masters has grown to become one of the premier Mark Lodges in the Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight. Having almost disappeared a few years after its consecration, and survived two World Wars, the Lodge has ultimately prevailed, entirely due to its members and the tireless work of many Worshipful Masters and Officers over the years.
The Lodge was one of the original 9 that founded the Mark Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight in 1873, and has been privileged to count many Provincial Grand Masters and other distinguished brethren amongst its members and friends. The close relationship between the Lodge and the Province continues to this day and the Lodge has been fortunate to have many members and Past Masters honoured with Provincial rank.