Letchworth, the first garden city in the world, was inaugurated in 1903 on ground originally occupied by three tiny villages, Letchworth, Norton and Willian with a total population at that time of some 400 people. By 1906 the population had risen to nearly 2000 and in 1919 Letchworth was formally constituted as an Urban District Council with a population in excess of 10,000.

People from various parts of the Country were being attracted to the fast growing town and it was obvious that many of these were Masons with little hope of visiting their mother lodges except on very special occasions. The lodges serving this particular area of the Province in those days were the Cecil Lodge which met at Hitchin, the Dacre Lodge which then met at Hatfield and lodges at Hertford and Bishops Stortford, all but Hitchin being quite distant considering the transport available at that time.

About 1912 consideration had been given to the establishment of a lodge in Letchworth itself but the big difficulty was one of suitable accommodation, unfortunately, due to the 1914-18 war, nothing further was done until all returned to their respective homes and normality once more prevailed. The subject was discussed again in detail several times but still no answer was found to the problem of premises until Bro. Fred Nott, a local baker and restauranteur, started to expand and announced plans to build the ‘Icknield Halls’ in the centre of the town. When local brethren heard this news they swiftly took action and led by W.Bro. Edward Tappenden called a preliminary meeting at which a resolution was passed ’that they should proceed with all dispatch to make the necessary arrangements, and obtain the sanction and blessing of The Grand Lodge of England, to serve Letchworth by founding a Freemasons Lodge’.

W. Bro E. Tappenden Inspiration for, Founder and First Master of the LodgeThe Icknield Lodge, as it was to be called, was named after the Icknield Way which passes through the town. It was founded and sponsored by the Cecil Lodge with an initial membership of twenty- six persons. W.Bro. Tappenden was the obvious choice for the chair and with him at the helm matters proceeded apace. Provincial authorities were soon satisfied that there was indeed a need for a Masonic Lodge in Letchworth and on the 6 th August 1924 the warrant was granted and the Lodge was consecrated on the 18 th. February, 1925 in the recently opened Icknield Halls in Eastcheap, the 44th Lodge in the Province of Hertfordshire at that time.

It was originally intended that the Provincial Grand Master, R.W. Bro. C. E. Keyser would perform the ceremony but at the last moment he was taken ill and the Lodge was consecrated by his deputy W.Bro. W. H. Underhill . At the conclusion of the consecration ceremony W.Bro. Tappenden was installed in the Masters chair with Bro. W. F. Langford as secretary, Bro. K. B. Ford as treasurer, W.Bro. T.W. Hill as Director of Ceremonies and not forgetting of course Bro. F. Nott as Senior Steward! The first officers of the Lodge had the privilege of presenting their respective collars to the Lodge, and whilst the collars themselves have been replaced on several occasions, the jewels attached are still in use today.W. Bro. T. Brooker Master in 1942 and 1978. Past  Assistant Director of Ceremonies of the Grand Lodge of England

At the first meeting, fifteen joining members were proposed including a Thomas Brooker, Grandfather of our late Grand Lodge Officer, who was initiated in 1927 at the age of 24. His younger brother Philip was initiated in 1967 but died in 1999 leaving the lodge without a member of the Brooker family on its membership list for the first time in 74years.

During the first year of the Lodge, nine emergency meetings were held to meet with admissions to membership, the first two initiates being Bros. Keightly and Thompson. On the13 th March 1925 the Icknield Lodge of Instruction was inaugurated and on the 3 rd June of the same year W.Bro. Tappenden received the Hallstone Jewel Collarette at the hands of the Most Worshipful the Grand Master, H. R. H. The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn K.G. at a festival held at Olympia in London, the Lodge having raised its assessment within a few weeks of its formation, a jewel which is still worn with great pride by each successive Master of the Lodge.

October 9 th, 1925 saw a petition for the formation of a Royal Arch Chapter signed and on the 30 th November the first Icknield Ladies Festival was held in the Icknield Halls. On the 3 rd February 1926 the petition for a Royal Arch Chapter was granted, a fitting climax to a first hectic year with membership now standing at sixty nine a sufficient indication of the necessity for the formation of a Masonic Lodge in Letchworth

During that first year the Lodge Banner was presented by Mrs. Tappenden on behalf of the Ladies of the Founders and this was consecrated on March 12 th 1926 by the Provincial Grand Master R.W. Bro. C. E. Keyser assisted by V.W.Bro. H. G. Rosendale the provincial Grand Chaplain.

For several years the Lodge functioned in a normal Masonic manner and membership and fellowship grew accordingly.

On the 23 rd May 1944 W.Bro. Edward Tappenden, founder and inspiration of the Icknield Lodge was summoned to the Grand Lodge Above and to commemorate his work for the lodge over the years a set of memorial tablets were designed in his honour and are now displayed on the wall of the Temple .

As the Garden City itself continued to grow and expand so did the lodge membership. It was realised that the Icknield Lodge alone could not accommodate all those worthy of admission into Freemasonry. Accordingly Icknield assisted in the founding of the Letchworth Garden City Lodge in 1929, the Baldock Lodge of Harmony in 1931 the Iceni Lodge in 1944 and the Cloisters Lodge in 1951.

n the 25 th February 1950 a special twenty-fifth Anniversary meeting was held at which the principle guest was the Provincial Grand Master R.W.Bro. The Revd Canon Frederick Halsey accompanied by the complete Provincial Executive, for a normal lodge to receive the whole of the executive was at that time thought to be unique in the history of the Province.

The Icknield Halls, LetchworthIn the post war period the lodge was trying to recover some of its erstwhile splendour but rationing was still in operation and the pre war practice of meeting in evening dress had not been resumed. The Lodge was still happily established at the Icknield Halls where it had always been faithfully and adequately catered for by Bro. Fred Nott both as to accommodation and at the festive board.

In June 1948 the first Trustees of ‘The Cloisters’ had formally accepted the building as a permanent home for freemasonry in the town but faced an enormous task to complete the required major works involved in the alterations but this was successfully accomplished to enable the first Masonic meeting to be held in October 1951.

Three of the first six Trustees were Icknield past masters and accommodation was offered to the lodge but understandingly perhaps, members who had enjoyed many lodge nights and Ladies Festivals at the Icknield Halls were reluctant to make a change to new and somewhat remote premises with, at that time, a rather chilly atmosphere!

In due course however the obvious appeal and advantages of ‘our own home’ won and the Lodge held its first meeting at ‘The Cloisters’ on the 14 th October 1955, the Lodge of Instruction followed in parallel both just preceding the Royal Arch Chapter. Now we are as active and proud supporters of our own Masonic Centre as any others, believing it to be the best in the Province and beyond.

On the 14 th February 1975 the Lodge celebrated its Fiftieth Anniversary at a special meeting at which the guest of honour was the Provincial Grand Master W.Bro. Donald Forrester accompanied by a large number of the Provincial Executive, Grand Lodge Officers and other distinguished masons.

After all this elation and celebration the Lodge settled back into its usual routine for a number of years, membership was still around the one hundred mark and there was a steady stream of worthy candidates seeking membership. 1976 saw the services of W.Bro. Tom Brooker rewarded with promotion to Grand Rank and a year later he celebrated his fifty years in the craft.

The Lodge continued to flourish but numbers gradually declined as many of the older members passed away whilst candidates were still restricted to two each year. In 1983 a period of turbulence enveloped the Lodge, as the Senior Warden and Master Elect died in office leaving the position of Master vacant for the coming year but by popular consent W.Bro. Tom Brooker was elected to serve in this position for a second term. 1985 saw W.Bro. Eric Perrin installed in the chair in March only to suffer a fatal heart attack in September before he could conduct his first ceremony. Once again the Past Masters rallied round but the problems were not at an end for in 1988 the Senior Warden declined to accept the position of Master and once again a Past Master, W.Bro. Gifford stepped into the breach and fulfilled the duties for a second term.

On the 21 st November 1989 , W.Bro. Tom Brooker passed away after completing 62 years in the craft having been initiated in 1927.

1989 saw Bro. Davenport, and W.Bros. Tomlin and Anderson presented with Certificates from the Provincial Grand Master commemorating their Fifty years in Freemasonry and this achievement was again marked in 1944 when Bros. Newcombe and Rouse were similarly honoured.

There were more problems to resolve in 1990 with the sudden death of W.Bro. Newbold, our worthy secretary, and also Bro. Joe Foster who had for many years been the lodge Organist.

In fact the 90’s saw the sad loss of many well respect past masters and members as age took its toll which severely depleted the lodge numbers.

In 1993 W.Bros. Harold Tristram and Jack Gifford were elected to honorary membership in recognition of their valued services to the Lodge over the years and again in 1999 W.Bro. Chris Worrell a regular attendee and guest organist was similarly honoured.

On the 11 th February, 2000 the Lodge celebrated its seventy-fifth Anniversary at a special meeting attended by the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, W.Bro. Michael Gardiner and many distinguished masons. The minutes of the consecration meeting held in 1925 were read, a magnificent oration was given by the Provincial Grand Chaplain, W.Bro. Revd Andrew Davey and a resume of the Lodge history given by W.Bro. Ray Leafe after which a sumptuous Festive Board was enjoyed by both members and their guests.

In February 2002 W.Bro. Michael Gardiner Deputy Provincial Grand Master, a very good friend of the Lodge over the years, was elected to honorary membership of the Lodge.

Copperplate writing and then typewriters have given way to computers over the years and we have been fortunate in this respect to have as a member W.Bro. Julian Harcourt, a software consultant, who has been of inestimable value over recent years not only in the Lodge as a dedicated mason but also in the creation of a database together with associated programmes and this website.

Although the name of Brooker has disappeared from the Lodge we still have a link with the past. W.Bros. Tony and Clive Nott being the great nephews of the Founder who did so much to make it all possible, Brother Fred Nott, whose initiative built the Icknield Halls (so called we like to think after the Lodge which were its first regular customer) and opened the door to Freemasonry in Letchworth.

Eighty years on our membership is now 43 but the Lodge remains in good heart and true to its Founders ideals. It has a good team of Past Masters to steer its course and, above all, a nucleus of younger members who should ensure that it will continue to thrive and grow in the years ahead.

Members of the Icknield Lodge - November 1999

Bro. R. Leafe. PPAGReg. Secretary.