We are about to enterthe 150th year of the existence of our Province. A comprehensive History of the Province is in preparation, and thesenotes give a flavour of our first century and a half.
THE LIFE OF THE PROVINCE
At Grand Mark Lodge in June 1857, it was resolved that the Grand Master should have the power to constitute Provinces and appoint over them a Grand Master who would be welcome to the Brethren he would have to superintend. In April 1871, Grand Master the Rev George Portal constituted the Mark Lodges in West Yorkshire into a Province, and appointed as Provincial Grand Master Thomas Perkinton, of Fearnley Lodge, who became Surveyor of the Halifax Permanent Building Society, later the biggest in the world.
Our Province was formed on Wednesday 2 August 1871, at the Masonic Hall, St John’s Place, Halifax. Thomas Perkinton, clearly moved by the toast to his health, said it should be his every study to govern the Province, and to foster that union between the Lodges for which it was established. The Provincial Grand Master Overseer confirmed the Provincial Officers were all determined to work heartily for the prosperity of the Mark degree, and the newly-formed Province. It is clear that the character, unity, and aims of our Province were both established and expressed from the very moment it was formed, as was the aim that the PGM should be welcome to the Brethren under his rule. It is a pleasure to record that nothing has changed since.
Thomas Perkinton, our first Prov.G.M.
Our Province was formed with fewer than 120 members and six Lodges, four of whom have since moved: Prince Edward No 14, Hebden Bridge; Britannia No 53, Sheffield; Fearnley No 58, Halifax; Integrity No 110, Morley; Copley No 111, Leeds; and Portal No 127, Dewsbury. We now have 44 Lodges, soon to be 45, and around 1,100 members. Membership peaked at 2,500 in 1962, and the highest average membership of 65 per Lodge was in 1959 and 1960.
Royal Ark Mariner Masonry took much longer to be established in West Yorkshire. There were only four Lodges on the roll in 1900, and it took 47 years to double this number; there are now 22. Membership did not exceed 500 for over a century, reached a peak of 585 in 1981, and the Royal Ark Mariner Degree remains popular and well supported today. Including the present holders, we have had 15 PGMs, 31 Deputies, 12 Assistants, and 21 Provincial Grand Secretaries. Our Province has only lost one Lodge in its 150 year history: Welcome Lodge No 661, Sheffield.
WHAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED
When you join the Mark in West Yorkshire, you’re not just joining an Order, you’re joining an organisation; a happy, active, and well-run organisation. We do much more than hold Lodge meetings, as the following, by no means exhaustive - list shows:
1895 - Provincial Charity Committee is established
1928 - Cleeves Memorial Fund is founded; named after PGM Fred Cleeves
1964 - The first of our four Installed Masters’ Associations is formed, to promote friendship, harmony and inter-Lodge visiting. Our Province is the only one which has them
1982 - West Yorkshire Mark Benevolent Fund is formed
2004 - The two Funds are amalgamated to form our Provincial charity, the Cleeves & Whitehead Trust, named after Fred Cleeves and Carl Whitehead, who was PGM for nearly 30 years.
1973 - First annual Provincial golf competition is held, a highly successful fundraiser over the years.
1977 - West Yorkshire becomes the only Double Keystone Province in the world, raising funds for the new Mark Masons’ Hall.
1988 - The Province becomes a Patron of the Mark Benevolent Fund, the West Yorkshire
1988 Festival raising £446,461, the second highest amount of any Province to that time.
1995 - First of the Cleeves & Whitehead Trust summer holidays for widows and infirm brethren. Now an annual event.
1997 - The first of the twice-yearly Almoners’ Lunches was held, for widows and infirm brethren.
2008 - The 250 Club is set up, initially to fund the Province’s 150th Anniversary Keystone button and a new Provincial Banner, and later towards our Sesquicentenary and Festival celebrations
2012 - The Province qualifies as a 150th Anniversary Keystone Province
2016 - The West Yorkshire 2023 Mark Benevolent Fund Festival is launched
2019 - The Province becomes a Grand Patron of the Mark Benevolent Fund
We hold popular social events throughout the year, because we recognise how important it is to involve our families and friends. Our Province could not have enjoyed the success it has without them. “Among Mark Master Masons, you will ever find friends” – and those friends will come and find you.
RELATIONS WITH OTHER ORDERS
Our Province has excellent relationships with the other Orders, and we regard ourselves as enthusiastic members of a happy, Masonic family. This culture was established long ago. In May 1905, PGM Fred Cleeves urged Mark Masons to cultivate friendly relations with the Craft. There must be no suggestion of rivalry. We are still mindful today that we all started as Craft Masons, and that the success of our Mark Province depends on our support for the Craft. In November 1899, PGM Charles Letch Mason stated that the average membership of the Royal Arch was 67% in Mark Masons, but only 37% in the Craft. Mark Masons continue to support the Royal Arch. We recognise that the Mark does not compete with other Orders, but complements them.
It is the intention of our Provincial Grand Master R.W.Bro. James Steggles, G.M.R.A.C. to mark the occasion of the Sesquicentenary (sesqui means one and a half) of our Province with an Especial Meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge at Bradford Grammar School on 7th August 2021 when some exciting things will happen.
An incredibly special Sesquicentenary Jewel has been designed tocommemorate the occasion. This Jewel has been warmly endorsed byMark Grand Lodge who have given permission for every member of this province, fromnewly advanced members through to Grand Lodge Officers to wear this Jewel during ourMark Meetings in perpetuity, within the boundaries of our Province.The Prov.G.M. willannounce further details regarding the sesquicentenary celebrations in due course and nowformallyrequests that every member of the Province who wishes so to do should wear theSesquicentenary Jewel. It costs £26which includes postage costs. You can now order onlinejustCLICK HERE
The Provincial Grand Master, R.W.Bro. Jim Steggles, is proud to serve such a happy and successful Province and all the brethren who are dedicated to supporting it today. On behalf of the current members of the Province he wishes to thank all those West Yorkshire Mark Master Masons who have gone before and who, over the last 150 years, have contributed so much to that success. May Mark Masonry continue to prosper in West Yorkshire, as the Province now begins its onward journey towards its Bi-Centenary and beyond, Marking Well in all its undertakings on the way.