W.Bro John May - Founding WM 1960
“Planning to set up a Lodge connected with the East Ham Grammar School and the Old Esthameians Society began in the 1930s.
Regrettably there are no known records of those early discussions. Only the names of John May and John Weir are known from the original group. John May had been a pupil at the school when it was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1905, (then known as the East Ham Technical College), and John Weir was the senior French master in the 1930s.
The outbreak of the Second World War brought the plans to a halt, but John May did not forget the dreams of the 1930s and, as soon as practicable, he started again. By then John Weir had died, leaving John May to gather together the group who ultimately became the Founders of the Lodge.
Essex or London?
It was agreed the Lodge should be in Essex rather than in London and that its base should be at Chingford, thus facilitating the continuing support given by Hainault Lodge No. 4367, the Mother Lodge of two of the Founders and, ultimately, the sponsoring Lodge.
The Old Esthameians was to be a 'closed' Lodge with membership restricted to Old Esthameians and to very close family relations; Taylors ritual was agreed; the Lodge would aim to establish its own Lodge of Instruction but initially members would be encouraged to link with the Metropolitan Lodge No. 1507 LOI.
The Old Esthameians Lodge No. 7693 was consecrated at Chingford Masonic Hall on 7 March 1960 by the RW. Provincial Grand Master, the Rev. Canon R. Stafford Morris. W.Bro. S. A. Williams, APGM, installed W.Bro. John May, PAGDC, as first Master.
W.Bro Reginald. Turner
W.Bro William Benham WM 1960
At first, the 'closed' Lodge presented no problems - Old Esthameians wishing to join the Craft had been awaiting the advent of the Lodge. After the first surge, however, Initiations dropped to one per year and, in this sense, the Lodge has lived from hand to mouth - though never without a Candidate in the pipe-line. Two external factors were influential here. The first of these was the failure, in comparative terms, of the link between the Lodge and the Old Esthameians Society, although some Initiates did come from this connection. The Society had its own difficulties in keeping alive, and these were not helped by Old Boys of the school moving away after going through university or college.
An even more telling blow was the change of status of the school, from the proud grammar school as it was originally to that of a comprehensive school under the postwar educational reforms. Whatever opinions may be about those reforms, there is no denying that the especial link between the school and the Lodge had become stretched.
The later absence from membership of the Lodge of any masters of the school was a further obstacle - the late Bro. Dr. Joe Whiteley, Founder and Headmaster in 1960, and his successor, W.Bro. Dr. Simon Amstell, a Joining member, were able to identify potential members from those in later years returning to the school for any reason. This has not been followed up by the current members of the school staff.
The Lodge was therefore forced to review its position and it was decided that 7693 should become 'open'.
Very early in its history the Lodge joined the Federation of School Lodges, and has continued despite the fact that the widening of the membership qualification has somewhat diluted the 'school' designation.”
Copyright (c) Old Esthameians Lodge 7963 Oct 2015
Chingford Masonic Hall
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