St. David’s Lodge No.679
Warrant: 16 May 1856
Consecrated: 18 June 1856
St. David’s Lodge was in the main formed by several Members of the Loyal Cambrian Lodge No.127 (now 110 ) Merthyr who had developed business and professional interests in Aberdare and often spent the night in the town. Among these were Thomas Jones Dyke the Medical Officer of Health for Merthyr, Thomas Davies (Jnr.) a Bank Manager and Rees Hopkin Rhys, a gentleman, who, although Initiated into Loyal Cambrian, lived at Llwydcoed.
On the 18 June 1856 a group of fourteen Masonic Brethren, including those already mentioned, met at the Queens Hotel in Aberdare, a site now occupied by Burtons. Ten of these were Brethren from Loyal Cambrian, one from Cambrian Lodge, Neath, two from St George’s Lodge Glasgow and one from the Silurian Lodge in Newport.
It is recorded that “The Lodge was opened in the first degree under the Presidency of Bro. Robert Jones, WM Loyal Cambrian Lodge 127 Merthyr Tydfil, Bro.George Roach PM 127 and Bro.J W Russell PM 127 officiating as Junior and Senior Wardens. Thomas Jones Dyke formerly presented the President with the Warrant dated 16 May 1856 which was “given under the Seal of the United Grand Lodge of England granting certain Brethren the right to hold a Regular Lodge at Aberdare’. The Warrant continues “know ye that we by the authority of the United Grand Lodge of England, vested in us for that purpose, and at the humble Petition of our Right Truly and Well Beloved Brethren, Thomas Jones Dyke, Thomas Davies Junr., Rees H Rhys…..etc, DO HEREBY CONSTITUTE the said Brethren into a Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons under the Title of Denomination of……No.979……ST. DAVID’S LODGE”. An intriguing and interesting feature of the Warrant is that the Lodge incorrectly described as being in North Wales (although this wasn’t noticed until January 1857). Thomas Jones Dyke was then installed as the first Worshipful Master of St. David’s Lodge, who subsequently invested Bros .Thomas Davies and Rees Hopkin Rhys as Senior and Junior Wardens respectively.
Immediately after the Installation Ceremony a Ballot was taken for nineteen gentlemen who had been proposed and accepted, as being worthy to be made Masons, apparently at a previous meeting of the Petitioners. This large number was certainly evidence of the need for a Masonic Lodge in Aberdare. Fourteen of those proposed, who had been within call, were admitted in groups and Initiated into Freemasonry, the Ceremony being conducted only twice. The first Initiate James Gawn became the first Secretary of the Lodge on that day and at the next Meeting Bro T B Powell was Elected as the first Treasurer, a post he filled for well over a quarter of a century.
The Queens Hotel where the very early Meetings had been held, closed in 1857 and the Provincial Grand Master authorised that the Lodge could move to the Black Lion Hotel in April 1858. The Warrant stated that the Lodge would meet on the third Wednesday in each month. However in the early days Meetings would commonly be postponed for two or three days or even a week, so Emergency Lodges were fairly frequent. The time of day at which Meetings commenced also varied greatly but there was no curtailing the amount of work carried out. For the first quarter of a century, very often two Degrees would be performed on the same evening, together with explanations of both Tracing Boards. The records show that at some Festivals, a Ballot would be taken for two Candidates who would then be Initiated before the Installation Ceremony was proceeded with.
In 1860 St David’s entertained Provincial Grand Lodge at Aberdare. The chief Business was the adoption of the Report of the Committee on Masonic Charities.
Remarkably, from January 1862 to January 1864 St. David’s Lodge closed and when it resumed the Brethren were informed that the Lodge number had been changed. Henceforth it was to be No.679 and not 979 as previously recorded in the Roll of Lodges. The change was due to the number of Lodges that had lapsed and become defunct, and so we must assume that ‘gaps’ were closed. Since that time Freemasonry in general having grown, no further adjustments have had to be made. However, the Lodge itself went through another crisis between 1865 and 1869 when again no Meetings were held. It was only the diligence of WBro William Morris in paying the Grand Lodge dues during that time, which saved it from complete extinction. He also had the foresight to forward the Warrant to Provincial Grand Lodge for safe keeping during that period when St. David’s was ‘in abeyance’
The only reason for decline appeared to be the lack of experienced Brethren to go forward, the first WM having apparently ‘retired into the background’. The two Masters who were responsible for the Lodge throughout these critical years had progressed from Inner Guard to the Wardens’ Chairs in just one step.
As a result the next decade became one of consolidation with Masonic labour steadily increasing often with two or sometimes three Ceremonies being performed on the same evening. One example of this was in June 1874 when a Ballot was held, after which one Brother was Raised, another Passed and two successful Candidates were Initiated.
In 1874, two Brethren ‘of high standing and Rank’ WBro Sir George Elliott, Bart, MP and his Son-in-Law WBro J C Parkinson, DepProvGM for Middlesex, were accepted as Joining Members. Both were connected with the rapidly expanding coal industry in the Welsh Valleys. The latter became WM of St. David’s in March 1874. Two months later he became ‘Acting Junior Grand Deacon of England’ and despite his many honours and the heavy demand on his time, he presided over six Ceremonies during his year during which eleven Candidates were Initiated. Not many Lodges have had as their reigning Master a Brother who is at the same time the DepProvGM and an Acting Junior Grand Deacon. This was a privilege enjoyed by St. David’s in that year.
The Lodge Archives and records have revealed an extract from an Italian Newspaper L’Opinione printed in Rome and dated 31 October 1876 under the heading “HONOUR SHOWN TO A WELSH FREEMASON”. Translated excerpts read:- “On the evening of Saturday, 28th October 1876 the Freemasons of Rome were specially assembled in the Temple Grande Oriente d’Italia – one of the largests Halls in Rome to welcome Mr J.C.Parkinson late W.M. of the ABERDARE Lodge and one of the greatest Freemasonical dignatories in Great Britain and to present him with an address showing the great esteem he is held in by the Freemasons of Italy, and as a remembrance of his visit to this part of the World.
There were at least 100 Freemasons present of the highest rank in the Order, present, wearing their decorations. The Grand Master of Italy, The Hon.Georgio Tamio, in a most eloquent speech, presented the address which was engraved and painted in the most elegant and costly manner.
The presentation was followed by repeated applause from all present. Mr Parkinson, who was visibly affected by his reception in expressing his thanks, spoke with much eloquence of the duties of Freemasonry and touched on its origin and present state.
He showed the benign influence it had cast over the World without destruction of creed or race. He also hailed with pleasure, the establishment of the New Grand Lodge in Rome, the ancient capital of the World where everywhere are to be seen monuments and sights which remind one of illustrous martyrs and departed glories.
The speech by Mr Parkinson lasted one hour and was applauded to the echo. During the meeting a telegram was received from Signor Mazzori of Florence expressing sympathy with the meeting held in honour of such a distinguished freemason as Mr Parkinson.
Other Masons then spoke at length and all made mention of speeches that had been made in England by Mr. Parkinson in defence of Freemasonry as practised in Italy, and at a late hour the meeting ended. This was the most splendid reunion the Roman Lodge has held since it was established”.
It was a truly great honour when WBro Sir George Elliott, Bart, MP was Installed as Provincial Grand Master at Aberdare in April 1877. Although the account of his Installation occupies twenty three pages in the Minute Book, it fails to state where the event was held. However it is thought to have been held at the Temperance Hall – now the Palladium Cinema. The Banquet was afterwards held at the Old Market Hall – a site since occupied by the Cowbridge Inn and latterly the Market Tavern.
In 1877 the search began in earnest to find a suitable site on which to build a new Masonic Hall. One was found in Canon Street and purchased in 1878 for approximately £370. The Provincial Grand Master Sir George Elliott, Bart, laid the Foundation Stone on 9 October 1879 and on 14 July 1880 the Lodge met for the last time at the Black Lion Hotel.
The first Meeting at Canon Street was on 11 August 1880 with St. David’s starting life there substantially in debt which took nearly twenty years to repay. There were many reasons for it having taken so long, one being the disturbing feature of a large number of resignations, many involving prominent Brethren who had helped to strengthen the Lodge only a few years earlier. Also that numerous Candidates nominated by those Brethren were unsuccessful and both Proposers and Seconders subsequently resigned. Then only one black ball was necessary for rejection but afterwards the Bye-Law was changed to read ‘three black balls to reject’. In 1883 it was changed again, this time to two.
In September 1883 an Emergency Meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge was held at the British Schools, Cardiff Road, Aberaman under the Banner of St. David’s Lodge. The RWProvGM Sir George Elliott, Bart, MP officiated and he was supported by the DepProvGM, RWBro Marmaduke Tennant. WBro Evan Jones (Surgeon – WM 1871) acted as ProvJGW. Also present were WBro J C Parkinson, Junior Grand Deacon of England, (PM of St David’s), and RWBro George William Elliott, MP, Senior Grand Warden for the Province of the West Riding of Yorkshire. Representing St David’s was WBro F R Howell (WM) accompanied by his Wardens, numerous PMs and Brethren After the Lodge was opened, Sir George explained that he was in Aberdare to open the new church of St. Mary of Antioch, which was nearby and which he had built in memory of his wife and daughter. A cordial invitation was offered to the Brethren to accompany him to the service and afterwards a luncheon at Aberaman House.
The Lodge has benefitted from many presentations over the years and between 1892 and 1898 various items of furniture and other artefacts were donated . The Worshipful Master’s Chair by the executors of the late W Bro Watkin Jones Thomas, the Senior Wardens Chair by W Bro Evan Jones (Surgeon),the Junior Wardens Chair by W Bro Thomas Phillips, the Senior Deacons Chair by Bro John Williams the Senior Deacon in Office and the Junior Deacons Chair by Bro David Hughes the Junior Deacon in Office.
Other chairs on the Dais were also by W Bros Charles Botting., S T Jolliffe., Thomas Rees., Lewis N Williams and James Thorney and the Working Tools were given by W Bro W D Phillips and Bros T Rhys and T E Morgan. A set of Ivory Gavels given by Bro F W Mander, are used today only at Installations. In 1880 Bro Edwin Gregor presented the Lodge with a set of Tracing Boards to commemorate the opening of the Aberdare Masonic Hall. The in 1883 the wife of WBro Evan Thomas (Ironmonger) presented the Lodge with a handsome Loving Cup. All the Officers Chairs and most of these artefacts remain a very significant part of the Lodge furniture today.
In1884 Bro D A Thomas (later Lord Rhondda) presented the Lodge with a copy of Gould’s History of Freemasonry. Another interesting gift was received by the Lodge in 1898 from Bro T E Morgan, namely a piece of rock cut from King Solomon’s Mines (at Aqaba, Jordan). It is now protected in a glass case and it adorns the Junior Wardens desk and represents the Rough Ashlar.
A framed photograph of WBro Thomas Jones Dyke, who was the very first Master of the Lodge was presented by Loyal Cambrian Lodge in 1914. Then in 1921 W Bro W D Phillips presented a sword which his late father, W.Bro Thomas Phillips (WM 1880) had worn and used as a Colonel in the Volunteer Force during the Boer War. W Bro Gaunt presented those Emblems of Mortality, the Skull and Cross Bones in 1925, and these are also still in use today. In 1928 a portrait was presented of the Brother who had been possibly the most generous, W Bro W D Phillips in his Regalia of Provincial Grand Senir Warden.
In 1926 Bro D C Rees (Swansea) presented an oil painting of his father WBro Rees Rees (WM 1895) The Right Honourable Sybil Viscountess Rhondda presented the Lodge with a portrait of her late Brother the Lord Rhondda.Then in 1931 the relatives of the late WBro Frank Hodges presented the Lodge with his Jewels and Regalia together with the Grand Lodge Certificate of his father Bro William Hodges who had been among the first Initiates in 1856.
During The Great War,1914 -1918, Bro D A Thomas was a survived the sinking of the SS Lusitania, which was torpedoed in 1915. The very next year he was raised to the Peerage as Lord Rhondda and in 1917 he became Senior Warden of Grand Lodge. Bro W H Roberts was killed in action at the Front. In the same year news also arrived that Bro.Major R.D.Williams had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
St. David’s Lodge was always to the fore in supporting charity, there are very many recorded instances of its private and local philanthropic work and between 1924 and 1938, the years of the great depression when Lodge contributions and subscriptions towards the Benevolent Fund and Home Charities amounted to well over £500. Aberdare, of course, was at the heart of that depression, Parliament describing it as ‘an economic cemetery’ Allowing that there was the burden of a mortgage as well as upkeep of the building, the donations represented a great deal of hard work and sacrifice. As a result of its contributions the Lodge was notified that it was entitled to become a Vice President of the Benevolent Institution.
On behalf of the Master, Officers and Brethren of St. David’s Lodge No.679 Aberdare,W Bro Edgar J Rutter, Dep Prov G M presented a set of Gavels to R W Bro HRH The Duke of York KG.(ProvGM Middlesex) to commemorate his Consecration of the Middlesex St David’s Lodge No.5460. His Royal Highness in turn formerly presented the gift to Middlesex St David’s Lodge. A communication received and dated December 1934 concerned a Resolution that ‘the Master for the time being of St David’s Lodge Aberdare be and is hereby elected as Honorary Member of Middlesex St. David’s Lodge’. St. David’s Aberdare suitably reciprocated in February 1935.
Installation Festival Banquets and Ladies Nights were by now held at the Memorial Hall and during a Ladies night in 1934 a message of congratulations was sent to Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Kent who had been married that day. A telegram of thanks was received in return ‘trusting that all were spending an enjoyable evening’. In less than five years His Royal Highness was to become the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England.
Immediately following the Second World War it was evident that the numbers attending Lodge would be substantially increasing and that the accommodation at Canon Street would be inadequate. It had been some 50 years previously that Brethren living in Mountain Ash had Petitioned in vain for a new Lodge in their home town. It was now felt that Aberdare Masonic Hall would be an ideal venue at which to start a new Lodge chiefly for Mountain Ash Brethren.
So it was in June 1946 the Lodge received a deputation designated the “Aberpennar Lodge Committee”, led by WBro Shad C Lewis, a PM of St. David’s (1933). A Petition was presented on behalf of the proposed new Lodge which was accepted and agreed upon unanimously. Within three months news was received that the Petition had been duly approved, and Aberpennar Lodge was Consecrated on Tuesday 29 October 1946 by RWBro R P St John Charles (ProvGM), their first Master being WBro Shad C Lewis. He was Installed in the Chair of King Solomon by RWBro Edgar J Rutter, DepProvGM. St. David’s Lodge presented the new Lodge with a Volume Of The Sacred Law, and with Officers’ Collars. The Masonic Hall was put ‘unreservedly at the disposal of Aberpennar Lodge for all Masonic purposes’ and ‘no rent will be charged for the first year’. Relationships between the two Lodges flourished and it is enough to say that Mother and Daughter have, as it were, lived amicably under the same roof ever since.
It was nearly ten years later that extensive works were carried out in the Temple to increase accommodation and to strengthen supports to the floor. It was enlarged sufficiently to accommodate 112 and on special occasions with extra chairs provided accommodation for 140. All the work was carried out in a few months in order to have everything prepared for the Centenary of St David’s Lodge in the summer of 1956.
However it had been in June 1953 that a letter from the Deputy Provincial Grand Master intimated that the question of a Centenary Jewel was being investigated and that no difficulty was envisaged. However in the spring of 1956, to the disappointment of the Brethren, it was learnt that Grand Lodge could not grant a Centenary Warrant. Although Founding had been proved in 1856 and it had fully paid its dues during those one hundred years, ‘there had been interruption in the work in the early years’. Regrettably, it was not until 1969 that the Centenary could be celebrated, and a service of celebration was held at St. Elvan’s church on Sunday 23 November 1969.
So it was that at an Emergency Meeting in November 1969 the Deputy Provincial Grand Master presented the Centenary Warrant to the WM, WBro Thomas J Tucker, at the same time decorating him with the Centenary Jewel. Thus we had, as Bro Rev R Ivor Parry said ‘arrived at the end of the beginning’..
Our second Daughter Lodge, Afon Dar Lodge No.8829 was formed by Members of both St. David’s and Aberpennar and its Warrant was issued on 8 February 1978, the Consecration following on 22 May 1978. Its first Master was WBro Henry E Sturge, he being Installed in the Chair of King Solomon by VWBro Geoffrey M Ashe, DepProvGM.
In 1980 St. David’s Lodge was presented with a carved Past Masters board by Miss Jean McCormack in memory of her father WBro A C McCormack (W.M.1927). Later on in 1988 new Tracing Boards and Tools were presented to the Lodge in memory of WBro Maldwyn E Jones, JP, PPGW. PAGDC (WM1953).In his public life he had been a past High Constable of Miskin Higher for two consecutive years, the office ceased to exist in1969.
In 1990 WBro Brynley Rees (WM 1966) had been given the task of getting Bro Rev Ivor Parry’s History of St. David’s Lodge entitled “These Hundred Years” printed. A week before he died he was still concerned that he had failed in his task because his copy of the manuscript had been lost. W.Bros Stuart Evans and Gareth Gait promised to find the lost history, which they did but it was not printed until 1997.
WBro Stuart L Evans and his father Bro Leslie J Evans presented an Apron Cushion embroidered with the Lodge Emblem to the Lodge in 1999. At the Installation of the new ProvGM, RtWBro Hywel Davies in 1999, both St.David’s and Aberpennar Masters were delegated to form part of his escort.
The Lodge Committee sought ideas for a new Banner as the condition of the old one had deteriorated over the years. After some months during which the College of Arms refused several designs submitted, the final Banner design was agreed and manufactured. It was Dedicated on 13September 2000
In common with most Lodges the last few years has seen a steady decline in attendances.. Hopefully we will not fall on hard times like our forefathers during the years of the depression, but sadly, 2006 marked the first time since the War years that St. David’s failed to Initiate a Candidate at their April Meeting.
The 150th Anniversary of the Consecration of the Lodge was held on 10 May 2006 at which the ProvGM RtWBro Hywel Davies unveiled a commemorative plaque. He was in turn presented with a suitably inscribed Masonic Bible to mark the occasion.
In 2013 the Lodge installed a glass fronted cabinet, positioned in the Dining Hall, to display memorabilia, etc., which had been accrued over many years
Compiled by: WBro Graham D Hobson PPrGSupt.Wks.
(Some information obtained from:-”THESE HUNDRED YEARS” by Bro Rev R Ivor Parry MA, PPrGChap and other sources.)