Extracts from the History of the Lion Lodge No. 312 Whitby written in its bi-centennial year of 1997.
In the latter half of the Eighteenth Century Whitby was a busy and prosperous seaport on the Yorkshire coast. It built ships, it repaired ships, and it made and supplied them with ropes and sails. Famous ships have been built here, the most notable being those chosen by Captain James Cook RN the Endeavour, Discovery , Resolution and Adventure. How fitting and happily coincidental that the replica of Endeavour should visit Whitby in the Lodge’s Bi-centenary year. The original was built in the year the first Masonic Lodge was formed in Whitby in 1764.
The Lion Lodge was founded in 1797. It had been proceeded by two other Lodges in the town. The Golden Lion Lodge was warranted in June 1764 meeting in the pub of that name which still exists, and numbered 127 under the Ancients. There are no records of this Lodge but its die or seal is retained by the Lion Lodge.
The second Lodge was the Britannia Lodge No. 423 of the Moderns warranted on the 3rd of February 1772, but erased on the 10th of February 1790.
A warrant dated the 14th January 1797 was granted nominating Cornelius Clark as Master, Francis Gibson as Senior Warden and John Summerson as Junior Warden of the Lion Lodge. As detailed in the Warrant, the Lion Lodge also met in the Golden Lion, and the fifteen Founder members were all former members of the Britannia Lodge.
The 15 Founder members soon increased the numbers in the Lodge. 17 were initiated in the first year (1797), nine in the second with one joining member. In 1801 and in the following year a record 18 initiates and one joining member. In the two hundred years up to 1997 there have been 933 members initiated and 252 joining members.
Lion Lodge has had some notable members over the years. At a meeting on the 15th of December 1801 Captain Robert Moorsom was proposed as Master for the ensuing year, there is no subsequent minutes of his Installation, presumably he was installed on the Festival of St John as he is recorded Master in the minutes of the Lodge meeting held on the 19th of January 1802. In 1777 at the age of 16 or 17 he became midshipman on the 64 gun HMS Ardent captained by John Phillips the son of Baron Mulgrave of Mulgrave Castle. (One of his successors , the Marquis of Normanby was a member of Lion Lodge from November 1933 until his death in 1994). Captain Moorsom accepted command of the Revenge in April 1805 and was in action in the Battle of Trafalgar on the 21st of October 1805 when during the action 25 of the crew were killed and 51 wounded.
Another of our illustrious members, a founder member and former member of Britannia Lodge is Captain William Scorsby (1760 – 1829). Scorsby was Whitby’s most successful whaling Captain and inventor of the crow’s nest, a meticulous scientist of his time.
In the second minute book (formally the record book of Britannia Lodge) it is recorded on September 1805 “W.Bro Morrson’s health drank with the utmost honour of Masonry for the active and brave part in the action with Lord Nelson”.
The Whitby Gazette in its issue dated 20/8/1859 reported: “The Consecration of the Masonic Hall. This interesting event took place on Tuesday the 16th inst. at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The building , stone fronted and in slight projection from the adjoining houses which are of brick, has its lower portion in three semi-circular arches on Tuscan pillars, plate glazed and adapted for shops. The upper storey for the Hall, is in the Byzantine style, of which Norman appears a modification. Both sides of the gable are bordered by an arcaded cornice on brackets and the apex surmounted by a sphere in stone”.
The annual meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge was held in the Lion Lodge Whitby on Wednesday 8th of September 1868. Present was the Rt Hon The Earl of Zetland M W Grand Master.
A procession was formed in Baxtergate with upwards of 300 brethren appeared in full Masonic clothing. The procession marched up Brunswick Street and Skinner Street. Business of all kind was entirely suspended – the shops were closed – flags and banners were displayed in every direction and streets presented an animated appearance, immense numbers of people having arrived by rail and steam boat from neighbouring towns.