The last thing a brother wants is to see his Lodge surrender its warrant and shut down.
Yet even a successful and historical Lodge can find itself on a path leading to its disappearance.
The Shanghai Tuscan Lodge No 1027 was one such declining unit. Founded in the 19th Century, it survived two world wars, rejection by Communist China and a transfer to London.
But, by its 150th anniversary, membership was declining fast, and without any drastic action, the Brethren would soon be forced to face the inevitable.
Unless a solution could be identified to prolong the life of the Lodge … and it was found, thanks to support from the University Scheme.
History of the Shanghai Tuscan Lodge
In 1864, there were two English Lodges in Shanghai:
• The Royal Sussex Lodge, No 501, founded in 1844 in Hong Kong and transferred to Shanghai in 1863; and
• The Northern Lodge of China, No 570, founded in Shanghai in 1849.
This was deemed insufficient, and on 5 March 1864, 16 brethren from these two Shanghai Lodges met and discussed creating a new Lodge under the English constitution.
The meeting took place in the house of W Bro Robert Freke Gould, who then occupied the Chair in The Northern Lodge of China. The Brethren petitioned to institute and hold a new Lodge they called Tuscan.
The inaugural meeting took place on June 18th 1864 at the Masonic Hall in Canton Road. Bro Gould, the installing Master, would achieve fame with his History of Freemasonry in 6 volumes. W Bro Cornelius Thorn, a Past master of the Northern Lodge, was installed as Worshipful Master of the Lodge.
The Tuscan Lodge received its regular warrant from UGLE in February 1865. During its first year, the Lodge supported other English Lodges in Shanghai in proposing the construction of a new Masonic Hall in Canton Road. The total cost for the building was split into 40 shares. Tuscan Lodge took 5 of these shares, which in its first year of existence demonstrates a solid commitment to raise a significant amount of funds in a short time. It was a testament to the ambition and drive of the founding members to grow and support the local Masonic community.
The ceremony of Laying the Foundation Stone took place on 3 July 1865. It was the last Masonic function Bro Gould would undertake in China.
In the ensuing years, the Tuscan Lodge sponsored the founding of three other Lodges in China and assisted various others. It also lent its support to the China Fleet Lodge of Instruction, which had branches in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Wei Hai Wei.
The Tuscan Lodge was also instrumental in forming the second Royal Arch Chapter in Shanghai under the Supreme Grand Chapter of England. The Tuscan Chapter was consecrated on 2 December 1931. The fifteen founding members all came from Tuscan Lodge, as did most of the candidates for many years.
Robert Freke Gould
Gould was born in 1836, the son of a reverend. He joined the British Army aged 18 and served in the 86th Regiment of Foot, becoming lieutenant a few years later. His service would lead him to be posted in China. He was initiated in the Royal Navy Lodge No 429 in 1855 and from there rose to become a most prominent Freemason.
Besides his Masonic career in Shanghai, Gould became Senior Grand Deacon of UGLE in 1880. He also served on the Board of General Purposes. To counter a rising number of fake claims tarnishing Freemasonry and its origins, Gould wrote a History of Freemasonry in 6 volumes between 1883 and 1887. His passion and drive to use solely an evidence-based approach to the study of Freemasonry lead him to get associated with the creation of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge No 2076 in 1886. He passed to Grand Lodge above in 1915 in his home near Woking. His work remains authoritative to this day.
The Tuscan Lodge offered regular support to brethren who had encountered some misfortune. Thousands of miles away from home in a foreign land, distress was all too common within the Masonic community. In 1871, the Lodge launched a Masonic Ball to raise money for a charitable purpose. The Ball was held every other year and led, in 1874, to the creation of the Masonic Charity Fund of Northern China. They continued up until 1942 when the war put an end to Masonic activities. Donations to the Freemasons' War Hospital, later known as the Freemasons' Hospital and Nursing home, were made during the 1914 War. When the Hospital was established permanently, the Tuscan Lodge qualified as a Founding Lodge.
The Master of Tuscan Lodge in 1884 initiated an exercise in practical benevolence when he addressed a letter to the District Grand Master suggesting the founding of a Masonic School. Many brethren could ill afford to send their children home to England for education, while others depended upon Masonic charity. The District Grand Lodge sponsored this critical project, and the school was founded two years later with a Past District Grand Master of Japan as the first Head Master.
The Tuscan Lodge kept very busy throughout its existence, especially if compared to present-day standards. It was not rare that over ten meetings would be held in a single year. Records show that some of these meetings lasted for several hours, during which all three ceremonies were conducted. Up to 1914, the Lodge saw an average of seven initiates per year. The steady routine continued after the first world war, with an average intake of five initiates per annum.
Peace would not last very long, and in 1927, China was gripped in hostilities against Japan. British troops were sent to the defence of Shanghai. One of the Chaplains, the Reverend William Robert Fountaine Addison, V.C., became a Lodge member. The year 1932 marked an escalation in the tensions between Japan and China. Masonic activities were disturbed once more. Japanese forces took control of the region in August 1937. Despite the severe restrictions imposed on residents, the Tuscan Lodge held its 75th anniversary on 18 June 1939. A reception and dinner followed the meeting. The brethren and their ladies danced until midnight.
December 1941, everything changed. War was declared on Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbour. Within a year, several Freemasons and leaders of the British community in Shanghai were arrested by the Japanese. They were interrogated, and their families interned. So many masons found themselves in Japanese camps that it is said they managed to rehearse some ceremonies by pretending they were playing a game of cards.
Transfer to London
Liberation came in 1945, and those who could, decided to return home. The Lodge didn't meet until June 1946. By then, the membership had fallen from 113 to 77. The political instability led to the Communists taking complete control in 1949.
A significant departure of the foreign population immediately started. Membership of the Lodge reduced further, to the point where it could no longer function. In 1954, the Master of the Lodge, W Bro Dean Barrett, started transferring the Charter to England and later that year, the Lodge met for the first time in London.
There was already a London Lodge with the same name, Tuscan Lodge No 14. As a result, the transferred Lodge was renamed Shanghai Tuscan Lodge at its following meeting in February 1955. Five members were present, and a further 34 brethren from other Shanghai Lodges were elected as joining members on the day.
In 1964, the Shanghai Tuscan Lodge celebrated its centenary with a healthy 102 members. It had recovered well. In 1972, it became a member of the Commonwealth Lodges Association which helps promote fraternity among Lodges that originated from the Commonwealth. In June 1996, the Shanghai Tuscan Lodge hosted the 13th Combined Commonwealth Lodges Festival.
From there, the Lodge has continued to meet regularly, but its membership has slowly declined. So much so that its future became uncertain. The 23 members came to realise that organic growth for the Lodge was implausible. In 2020, they voted to petition the Metropolitan Grand Master to approve the Lodge for inclusion as a member of the UGLE Universities Scheme.
The proposition was unanimously approved. A take-over team of 21 was formed under the leadership of W Bro Russell Sollof MetGInsp, supported by W Bro Marc Lewis SLGR, as Deputy Team Leader. Its first five members successfully joined the Lodge at the 9 December 2020 meeting, being the two afore-mentioned plus W Bro Stanley Liu LGR; W Bro Mark Long LGR and Bro Stephen Liu.
In June 2021, the Shanghai Tuscan Lodge was honoured to join the Metropolitan Grand Lodge Universities Scheme to promote and strengthen young students joining Freemasonry.
Taking over a Lodge requires meticulous planning, including the preparation of a detailed business plan to be approved by The Metropolitan Grand Master, Sir Michael Snyder, for onward recommendation to the University Scheme Executive to ensure that the Lodge is well thought through and totally fit for the purpose.
Bro Russell welcomed the challenge for such a worthy cause and undertook the task during the first stage of the pandemic in March 2020, supported by his Deputy Team Leader; W Bro Marc Lewis. Together, they hand selected a superb fully rounded, enthusiastic and experience team of 19 likeminded and dedicated London Masons.
All of them were gladly willing to commit three to five years to the transformation of Shanghai Tuscan Lodge into a formidable and growing unit of young, enthusiastic masons. The aim being to equip them with all they need to be able to steer the Lodge themselves while making the whole experience an enjoyable and rewarding one for a younger membership, while the Lodge not only continues to exist and welcome new members, but retains its own very special and historic legacy.
When the remaining Officers are finally invested in October, the Takeover Team consists of:
Bros Marc Lewis SLGR, WM
Russell Sollof PSGD, IPM
Matt Letty MM, SW
Shawn Christie PGJW, AGSec, JW
Paul Braham PM, Chaplain & USLLO
Mark Long LGR, Treasurer
Stanley Liu LGR, Secretary
Anthony Codd SLGR, DC
Paul Gray LGR, Almoner
Matthew Young LGR, Charity Steward
Harlan Lunn LGR, Mentor
Adam Cooper MM, SD
Joel Nzinga MM, JD
Wayne Krause LGR, ADC
James Sanderson MetGOrg, Organist
Wadeley Newell MM, IG
Christopher Hutchison LGR, Head Steward
Matthew Ranson MM, Steward
Stephen Liu MM, Steward
Jonathan Stanton LGR, Tyler
James England LGR, RA Rep.
The University Scheme
There is an obvious synergy between Freemasonry and Universities. Both value the critical role played by tradition to ensure continuity in a fast-evolving world. The first University Lodge, Apollo University Lodge, was founded at Oxford two centuries ago. Since then, and with the creation a few years later of the Isaac Newton University Lodge in Cambridge, thousands of young students have been introduced into Freemasonry.
The University Scheme was created in 2005 as the natural evolution of what took place in Oxford and soon. The Scheme's objective is “To establish or enhance arrangements and opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to enjoy Freemasonry.”
Today, the Scheme counts 85 Lodges, with memberships ranging from undergraduates and postgraduates to senior members of the university and alumni.
The Grand Master, His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, states:
"A real benefit the Scheme confers is having young, intelligent men joining us who will, we hope, contribute greatly to the future of the Craft, as potential leaders and sources of inspiration."
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 45 July 2021 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 45.