A Brief History...
A Brief History Of The Domus Dei Lodge No. 5151
The Founding of the Lodge:
Our Founders met on six occasions prior to the Consecration Ceremony and, among the many decisions made, one of the earliest concerned the name of the Lodge. According to the Founders’ Minutes, Grand Lodge did not agree to the first proposal, which was to name the Lodge “Hubert Giles Lodge” after the then, Deputy Provincial Grand Master. W.Bro. A.H. Stripe, in a moment of inspiration, proposed that, as the Lodge meetings would take place in Old Portsmouth and near to the Garrison Church, a most appropriate name would be “Domus Dei”. The Founders agreed, Grand Lodge approved and this is the name we now proudly bear. Grand Lodge also agreed that the Lodge could use as its crest, the seal of the old Domus Dei. The Provincial Grand Secretary, in a letter to W.Bro. Stripe (the Secretary to our Founders) indicated that “...as a rule, a cross is not allowed in a Masonic design but, having regard to the name of the Lodge, the Grand Secretary does not think the usual objections would hold and he returns it to me with the information that the design is approved.” It may well be that our Lodge is unique in bearing a cross in its crest.
The motto, “Docendo Discimus”, which may be freely translated “Through teaching we learn”, is particularly indicative of our hopes and aspirations.
The Consecration Ceremony:
The Petition having been accepted, the Founders could proceed to make all the necessary preparations for the Consecration Ceremony. The following article appeared in “The Masonic Record” in April 1930, and captures the spirit of the occasion:
"Domus Dei Lodge No. 5151
The above Lodge was consecrated with all solemnity and dignity at the Masonic Hall, Highbury Street, Portsmouth on Wednesday, February 12th, 1930.
The ceremony was performed by the R.W. Prov. G.M., the Rt. Hon. The Earl of Malmesbury, P.G.W. (Eng.), who was attended by the Deputy P.G.M., W.Bro. Comdr. Hubert G. Giles, R.N., P.G.P. (Eng.); the A.P.G.M., W.Bro. Sir Thomas A. Bramsdon, J.P., P.G.D. (Eng.); the Prov. G. Treas., W.Bro. W.A. Rowe, J.P., P.A.G.D.C. (Eng.); the Prov. G. Sec., W.Bro. Rear-Admiral C. Stevens, C.B.E., R.N., P.A.G. Supt. Wks. (Eng.); the Prov. G.D.C., W.Bro. G. Wright, P.Dep.G.Swd.Br. (Eng.); and the rest of the reigning Provincial Officers.
The Lodge takes its name from the old Portsmouth Domus Dei or Hospital of St. Nicholas, which was founded by Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, about the year 1212, and for more than three centuries ministered, not merely to the bodily, but also to the spiritual needs of the sick, suffering and the poor. All that remains of this ancient Institution is the present Garrison Church, in and around which, such memories linger as should hallow the spot for all time.
The government of the old Domus Dei was vested in a Master; brethren aided by sisters, carried on the duties of nursing, prescribing for the sick, cooking etc; while the spiritual care of the hospital was entrusted to the priests. The ancient seal of the Hospital attached to the surrender in the Record Office is the usual monastic shape surrounded by the words: “Sigillum Commune De Domus Dei de Portesmuth.” (The common seal of the Domus Dei of Portsmouth). The Lodge Jewel is a replica of the old seal of the historic Hospital.
Among the visitors were the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Bro. J.E. Smith, J.P.; the Mayor of Southampton, W.Bro. H. Young; representatives of Grand and Provincial Grand Lodges and the reigning Masters of practically the whole of the local Lodges. After the Consecration the D.P.G.M., W.Bro. Comdr. H.G. Giles, impressively performed the ceremony of installation of the first W.M., W.Bro. P.H. Childs, J.P., P.P.S.G.W., who had been nominated for the position by the 22 Founders. The Asst.P.G.M., W.Bro. Sir Thomas A. Bramsdon, impressively delivered the addresses to the W.M., Wardens and Brethren.
W.Bro. P.H. Childs subsequently appointed and invested his officers for the year as follows: W.Bro. J.L. Dyer, M.B.E., I.P.M.; Bros. E.A.G. Wright, S.W.; W.I. Finemore, J.W.; the Rev. J.A. Moore, Chaplain;W.H.P. Ward, J.P., Treas.; H.C. Hurst, Sec; W.Bro. Dr. T.A. Monro Forde, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., P.P.S.G.W., D.C.; Bros. C.J. Emery, S.D.; F. Funnell, J.D.; W.Bro. F.O. Goodman, P.P.S.G.D., A.D.C.; Bros. A.E. Price, Almoner; G.E. Rourke, Orgt.; W.E. Lakin, I.G.; S.M. Moseley, E.W. Williams, C.C. Coles, Stewards; F.C. Havers, P.G.T., Tyler.
The ceremony was followed by a Banquet at which upwards of 160 Brethren were present. The usual loyal and Masonic toasts were honoured and the R.W. Prov. G.M., the Earl of Malmesbury, wished the new Lodge a long career of usefulness and prosperity. The W.M., W.Bro. Childs, in acknowledging the compliment, referred to the spade work leading up to the formation of the Lodge, and paid a warm tribute to W.Bro. A.H. Stripe, who was practically responsible for its inception, and as secretary to the Founders, had been most enthusiastic and energetic."
There was general agreement among the Founders that the membership should be drawn from the professions and that, in particular, a candidate for initiation should be “A man who would be acceptable at the proposer’s home.” This latter condition has had a most interesting sequel in that no less than twenty sons of members of the Lodge have, themselves, become members of Domus Dei! This figure includes Bro. Ernest Wright who, in 1931 had the singular honour of being installed into the Chair of the Lodge by his father, who was not only a Grand Officer, but also an Honorary member of the Lodge.
In 1993, Bro. J. Morris was initiated into the Lodge by his son, W.Bro. D.B. Morris, the then W. Master; and in 2010 Jordan Fretter was initiated by his father Adrian who took the chair especially for the occasion. A dispensation was needed, as Jordan, the first initiate under the University Lodge Scheme was not 21 years of age. The first person requiring a dispensation for this reason, was W.Bro. Julian Linington, who was 20 when he was initiated in 1939. The Cocks, Christopher, Wilson and Stone families alone have honoured the Lodge with a father and two sons. A Secretary of the Lodge, W.Bro. M.J. Coles was delighted to discover that his great uncle, W.Bro. C.C. Coles was a founder of the Lodge.
To ensure that every member who so wished (and had the qualifications) could attain the Chair, the Founders also agreed that the Lodge should only admit one joining member each year, and that the total membership should not exceed 60. Once the Lodge had become established, the latter rules were relaxed. In fact, in 1935 the membership attained 60, when 2 joining members were admitted, and has rarely fallen below that figure since.
The present membership is 57 but, there have been over 150 candidates for Initiation and about 90 joining members and although many members are no longer with us, remarkably, the Lodge only lost one brother as a result of the Second World War, when Bro. J.E.C. Merrifield was killed through enemy action. A particularly sad occasion was the meeting held on 5th October 1966 when W.Bro. J.W. Briggs, having given the Traditional History of the Third Degree, was taken ill and died in the Temple.
Without doubt the most distinguished member of the Lodge is V.W.Bro. Rev. Dr. Michael Morgan who was Grand Chaplain 2 years running, Asst. Prov. Grand Master Hants & IOW, Prov. Grand Chaplain Hants & IOW, Royal Arch Grand Supt. Hants & IOW, Past Prov. Grand Master Prov. Grand Lodge of MMM Hants & IOW, Grand Prelate Supreme Council 33 degrees, Grand Imperial Viceroy Grand Imperial Conclave RCC, Prov. Prior K. T. Hants & IOW, etc,…..
U.G.L.E. University Lodge Scheme
In November 2008, the Lodge was granted approval by RW Bro. David Williamson, Assistant Grand Master to participate in the United Grand Lodge of England University Lodge Scheme. This participation enables the Lodge to Initiate University Graduates and Undergraduates into Freemasonry who would otherwise be barred from membership due to having not reached 21 years of age. The success of this scheme has necessitated the re-introduction of multiple ceremonies to accommodate new members, 10 Brethren having been admitted under the scheme to date.
The Lodge began its meetings at the Masonic Hall, in Highbury Street, and the Consecration Ceremony was made possible through the kindness of St Georges Lodge No.1958, who changed the date of their regular meeting for the occasion.
In 1937, W.Bro. Finemore gave a Notice of Motion “That this Lodge shall remove to the Masonic Hall, Albert Road, Cosham.” His objective was to endeavour to make such a saving in the annual rent, as would enable the Lodge to purchase its own accommodation within a decade. In fact, the motion was subsequently lost (by two votes) and the Lodge was destined to remain at Highbury Street for twenty more years, save for the War period, when meetings were held at the Masonic Hall, Derby Road. In 1956, Domus Dei Lodge, with others, was required to vacate the premises at Highbury St. Our sponsors, Phoenix Lodge No.257, kindly invited us to use the Phoenix Rooms at 110 High Street for our meetings. Our first meeting there took place in October 1956 and now, almost half a century later, none would wish to give up this special privilege.
Until 1965, our Lodge meetings were held from October to June in each year, the War years being exceptional, when the members agreed to meet from January to September (to save fuel). Thereafter, the June meeting was discontinued, so that now, we meet from October to May. April is reserved for the Installation Ceremony and only twice has it been necessary to request the reigning Master to continue in office for a further year. This happened in 1941 (JGF Winter) and 2004 (AC Fretter) when the agendas for those meetings carried the unusual heading: “To Appoint and Invest Officers.” (W.Bro. Paul Christopher, W.Bro. Charles Macrae, W.Bro. Chris Harvey, W.Bro. Derek Stone and W.Bro. Dr Bryan Olive have also occupied the Chair twice, but their terms of office were not continuous).
In the formative years, as well as the years immediately following the War, it was occasionally necessary to conduct “double” ceremonies. The last recorded instance was in 1947; since that date, it had been the practice to devote the evening’s ceremony exclusively to one candidate until the introduction of the University Lodge Scheme in 2009. In addition to the regular ceremonies, the Brethren have received a large number of lectures and addresses on Masonic themes as well as illustrative organ recitals.
The average attendance at Lodge meetings over the past 70 years has been about 30 members. Pre-War, the figure was about 29 and, understandably, during the War, the number fell to about 22. Since moving to the Phoenix Rooms in 1956, attendance increased to about 36 members, but has levelled off again more recently to around 40. The largest attendance of members ever recorded was 51 (at the 1960 Installation); the lowest was 7 in January 2010 due to bad weather.
Visiting is, of course, an essential feature of our Masonic way of life and, over the years, Domus Dei has welcomed many visitors to its meetings. The largest number of visitors ever recorded was the 142 who attended the Consecration ceremony. It would not be possible to receive this number of visitors in the Phoenix Rooms, as the accommodation there is now limited to about 80 people in the Temple and 65 dining.
A Final Thought
The R.W. Prov. G.M. the Earl of Malmesbury, at our Consecration, wished the Lodge a long career of usefulness and prosperity; may that wish continue to be the basis for our future.
Into The Space Age
In 1995, the SOHO(Solar Heliospheric Observatory) was launched as part of the ESA Horizon 2000 programme. This spacecraft, while being assembled at Matra Marconi Portsmouth, had etched onto one of its earth straps and framed by two “Square & Compasses” the names of three Portsmouth Lodges: Prince Edward of Saxe Weimar No. 1903, Prudence Lodge No. 7183, and Domus Dei Lodge No. 5151. The SOHO spacecraft orbits at the L1 Sun-Earth Lagrangian Point (gravitationally half way between the sun and the earth). It could be argued that now, Freemasonry is always at its meridian with respect to the sun!
The Garrison Church
The Domus Dei, or Garrison Church, as it is now known was founded between 1206 and 1212 by Peter des Roches, the then Bishop of Winchester as a hospice offering accommodation to travellers and pilgrims, as well as tending to the sick and the elderly. It was dedicated to St. Nicholas, who was looked upon as a special guardian of sailors and those in peril on the seas and because St. John the Baptist is often coupled with St. Nicholas in the old documents referring to the Hospital, the present church is dedicated to both St, John and St. Nicholas.
Like all these institutions, it was closely connected with religion and was under the control of a Master and Brethren. In 1214, King John confirmed by charter to the Hospital, the rent of a number of plots of ground in St. Mary Street and Ingeles Street, Portsmouth. Another plot was given by the burgesses of the town and it held, later on, large parts of the old manor of Fratton.
By 1229 it was powerful enough to cause some fear among those in charge of St Thomas’s that it was encroaching on the work of the Parish Church, but a friendly settlement of the points of dispute was arrived at. It continued to do its good work for many years, and only occasionally do we hear of any criticism.
In the middle of the 15th Century, there was a complaint that “the powr pepull has nott ther bred baked and ther drynke brewed in the howsse as yt was wont for to be”; moreover the master “kepyth there no ospitalite wiche ys a gret dekay to the towne.”
By 1540, the Hospital was still busy, but it was closed in accordance with the changes brought about by Henry VIII. Besides the main building, there was a Gate House, a Guest House, a Master’s Chamber, a kitchen, a Larder, a Nursery or Infirmary, a Bake-House and a Stable.
The Kitchen and Larder were large, because the number of poor people fed and tended was sometimes considerable. After a brief spell as an armoury, part of the Domus Dei became the residences of the Military Governors of Portsmouth. It was during this time, that the Chapel was used for the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza, the Infanta of Portugal on 21st May1662. This marriage heralded British interest in India, as part of her dowry included Tangier and Bombay.
The Governor’s House survived until 1827 when it was demolished except for the Infirmary and the Chapel, which became the Royal Garrison Church. The Victorian Architect, G.E. Street, extensively refurbished the Chapel and Infirmary in the 1860s, but World War II bombs caused severe damage, which has not been repaired, the building being left as a memorial. The chancel still largely dates from the 13th century and the nave, which is now roofless, dates from the 19th century. The building remains a Consecrated Church.
While much of the furniture of the Lodge was purchased for the Consecration ceremony, a number of items have been donated by Brethren of the Lodge.
Bro. Rev. J.A. Moore presented the Bible which is used in our ceremonies and W.Bro. J.L. Dyer prepared the cushion for it. In 1953, W.Bro. W.H. Waring made a gift of the tablet which bears the names of the Brethren who have served the office of Master. Four years later, Bro. C.J. Ashton made a heavy maul which was donated to the Lodge by Bro. C.C. Coles. W.Bro. J.M. Childs kindly passed to the Lodge the jewels of our first Master, W.Bro. P.H. Childs. The gavels used by the Master and his Wardens were prepared from Victory oak by Bro. G.E. Rourke. A generous donation, made by Bro. H.C. Chatfield and by W.Bro. D.W. Wilson, was used to replace collars worn by age, although many of these were again replaced by the Lodge in 2003. The rams horn snuff mull used at dinner was presented by W.Bro. B.R. Olive to mark his year as Master and the goblets used by the Master and Wardens by W.Bro. B.F. Quilter the night he became a joining member.
Without a doubt, one of the Lodge’s most prized items was the Bible which King Edward VII had presented to the Royal Garrison Church. This Bible was formally handed to the Lodge in 1935, by W.Bro. Thorold, D.D. (Chaplain to H.M. King George V) who travelled from London for the occasion. Twenty years later, W.Bro. C.G. Wood constructed a box for the Bible, but the gesture was to be negated, for in 1968, the Bible, which had only been on loan “during the pleasure of the Chaplain General to H.M. Forces” was reclaimed and passed from our possession. The Banner of the Lodge is a painting of the Chancel of the Royal Garrison Church and was replaced with the existing one on the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary.
A feature of our meetings now is the Charity Trowel which was presented to W.Bro. A.C. Fretter during his year of Mastership by the Provincial Grand Master, V.W.Bro. Brian C. Bellinger at the meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge in July 2003. This is to be displayed at all meetings and is passed on from each reigning Master to his successor.
The Lodge, in taking its name from the old Domus Dei, is very sensitive to what that old institution stood for: a ministry to the sick, the suffering and the poor. Since the Consecration ceremony, the members of the Lodge have made many large contributions to Masonic charities. The Lodge is a vice-patron of R.M.B.I., a Grand vice-patron of R.M.I.B. and of the Hospital and was a founding Lodge of the Wakefield Wing Appeal of 1956. In addition, a number of Brethren are patrons at various grades of the different Institutions. In July 2003, the Lodge was awarded a Charity Trowel by the Provincial Grand Master at the annual meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge in Southampton in recognition of the Lodges’ contributions to the 2005 festival when we became a Grand Patron of the New Masonic Samaritan Fund. The Lodge went on to contribute £55,244.59 during that particular appeal and many members now wear the 2005 Festival Jewel, which was awarded permanent status by the Provincial Grand Master in 2006 to celebrate the success of that Charity Festival. Recently, in 2006 the Lodge embarked on sponsorship of an “Assistance dog” for a disabled person. This involved paying for the purchase and training of the animal, which was named “Domus” and required £10,000 in total – all paid for by Lodge members, who eventually pledged £10,940.32.
The Lodge Crest:
The Lodge enjoys the unique privilege of using as its crest the “Sigillum Commune”, the Common Seal of the old Domus Dei. At the top of this monastic –style emblem is a hand projecting from a cloud, symbolising the First Person of the Holy Trinity. Below this the Sun and the Crescent Moon enclosing a profile of the human face, between them in the centre of the Seal is a double Cross with worshiping angels, signifying the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Below the double Cross at the bottom is a roll of vellum representing the Holy Scripture inspired by the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.
A likeness of the Chancel of the Royal Garrison Church also appears on our Past Masters’ Breast Jewels. It is interesting to note that the Bible is opened to Ecclesiastes 12 in our meetings. This tradition heralds from the occasion when a very able Past Chaplain was “lost for words” during a ceremony and it was decided to open the Bible at future meetings to the passage from which this particular text was taken, to enable a prompt to be made, if necessary. The Bible remains open at that passage to this day.
Designed & Printed By W.Bro. M.J. Coles PPSGD on Behalf of Domus Dei Lodge No. 5151 ec.
Seventeenth Revision, May 2013