Craft Heritage

Craft Heritage

Founders and First Officers of Stuart Lodge in 1847

William Stuart Prov. G.M. (Herts.)
Henry Stuart, M.P. Worshipful Master (younger brother of William Stuart)
Rev. Edward Isaac Lockwood Senior Warden (Curate-in-Charge of St. Mary’s Bedford, before moving to Suffolk)
Rev. Charles Brereton Junior Warden (Curate of St. Mary’s  Bedford, Canon of Ely Cathedral, Asst. Classics Master Bedford School)
Thomas Riley Secretary & Senior Deacon (Headmaster of the General Preparatory School in Bedford)
John Trapp Junior Deacon (also a founder of Stuart Chapter)
John Nunn Organist (Organist of St. Paul’s Bedford)
William James Woodroffe Inner Guard (Architect)
Elias Bevan Outer Guard (Tyler) (a Serving Brother)

Family History

Henry Stuart (1804-1854) of Berkeley Square [Middlesex] was the second son of the Rev. William Stuart, Archbishop of Armagh, and the grandson of John Stuart the 3rd Earl of Bute, and was MP for Bedford from 1841 until his death in 1854. He lived in Kempston Lodge, which was built for him on the corner of Elstow Road and Bunyan Road.

Given the lack of information available from the time, it is impossible to say if Henry Stuart was the only ‘founder’, or if those other ‘ordinary members’ mentioned, were also founders of the lodge back in 1847 too. By today’s standards we would call them ‘founders’, but it is not explicitly stated that they were in the existing records.

However, one striking thing to emerge from the early years of the lodge is not only the names of some of the Past Masters, but that five Members of Parliament were members of the lodge during that period. As for ‘local’ members, then we find names like Wells (the local brewery), Bulls(the jewellers), Peacock (auction rooms), and many others whose names are still well known today. All of which shows the high esteem to which the lodge was held in those times.

It seems Henry Stuart was desirous of forming a lodge some years before 1847, but was persuaded by his older brother William Stuart (of Alderman Abbey) the Provincial Grand Master for Hertfordshire, to delay doing so, owing to the turbulent times then when the Corn Laws were being repelled. So it was he waited until 1847 when things were quieter.

The lodge furniture was purchased by William Stuart from St. Albans Lodge No.678 which had now ceased to meet, and gave it to the Stuart Lodge. Henry Stuart also presented the collars, jewels and swords still used to this day. In fact during these early times when the lodge met at the Swan Hotel Bedford, the Inner Guards sword was broken by waiters playing with it. It was subsequently repaired, and is still in use at every meeting today, bearing the scars of its conflict!

It is worth noting that in September 1859 a certain Mr. James Howard was initiated into the lodge, where he was described as an ‘ironfounder and implement maker’. This is the same person, who together with his brother Frederick, formed J & F Howard – Ironfounders, at the Britannia Works on Bedford Road; and it is the same John Howard who in 1866 went on to set up the ‘Howard League for Prison Reform’, which still continues to this day.

Back when the lodge was formed its number was actually 787 and not its current 540. It was not until September 1863 that a letter was received from the Grand Secretary and read in open lodge, ‘announcing that the number of the lodge instead of 787 would henceforth be 540’. This was on account of the lodge re-numbering which had taken place at the time, but finished a few years later.

As the lodge continued to grow and prosper, then so it continued to attract local businessmen, doctors, solicitors, police officers and Engineers to its ranks, and still does so today.

After meeting at various locations in Bedford over the years, the Stuart Lodge is now firmly ensconced at ‘The Keep’ in Kempston, where its history and traditions are still recognised by its members, and the collection of wonderful gifts and artefacts it has received over the years can be seen in the current main temple, and in the display cabinets there, together with portraits of the ‘founders’ of the lodge.

Henry Stuart MP

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