Crime and the Craft now Published

In December 2016, Masonic historian Mike Neville visited Croydon to give a talk entitled ‘Crime and the Craft’ to Crescamus Lodge, its members, their families and friends. Now his book on the same subject has now been published.

Crime and the Craft

Crime and the Craft: Masonic Involvement in Murder, Treason and Scandal reveals the Freemasons who have been involved in murder, treason, skullduggery and scandal from the time of the English Civil War to the 1980s.

Jack the Ripper

Nearly every infamous case investigated by Scotland Yard, including Jack the Ripper, Oscar Wilde, Dr Crippen, the Great Train Robbery and Kray twins, is shown to have Masonic involvement for good or bad. For the first time, sixty lodges that have a link to Jack the Ripper are identified and a known suspect identified as a Mason.

Masonic involvement in police corruption, from the Trial of the Detectives in 1877 to Operation Countryman, is uncovered. The true involvement of gangster Kenneth Noye is also revealed as are details of the Mason making secret signs to a judge during a murder trial at the Old Bailey.

Crime and the Craft

This fascinating book for the Freemason and historian also describes how members of the Craft have been pioneers in the development of forensic pathology, fingerprint evidence and the use of images to catch criminals.

Ultimately, Crime and the Craft answers the question: ‘Is there a relationship between Freemasonry and crime?

To order a signed copy of Crime and the Craft or Mike’s first book, Sacred Secrets, copy e-mail bookings@mike-neville-walks-and-talks.co.uk

A Brief History of Freemasonry in England

Modern speculative Freemasonry originated in Britain. There are competing thoughts as to whether England or Scotland saw our first lodges. Written records are lost and so we can leave it as a little friendly rivalry between England and Scotland as to where its roots lie.

You will hear many theories on how Freemasonry came into being. The most popular thought is that it is derived from the medieval guild of operative masons who built the cathedrals and churches. Other plausible theories suggest that Freemasonry evolved from the early days of the Royal Society and the activities of the members which it nurtured.

Esotericism

Some put credence in other more esoteric suggestions such as originating from the Knights Templar; the court of the Saxon King Athelstan, the ancient Roman College of Architects, or even Pythagoras or other luminaries of the ancient world. The truth is that we do not know and, more importantly, it does not really matter.

History of Freemasonry in England
Corporation of London plaque marking first meeting of The Grand Lodge of English Freemasons 1717

What we do know is that current Freemasonry came into being on the feast day of St John the Baptist in 1717, when the first Grand Lodge was established. The happiness of this event was marred by later dissension which lasted for sixty years and saw the formation of other rival Grand Lodges. That was not resolved until 1813 when the two surviving rivals were reconciled and formed what we know today as the United Grand Lodge of England. This is the body which now governs Freemasonry in England and Wales and Districts overseas.

History of Freemasonry in Croydon

Freemasonry in Croydon has a history going back over 200 years playing an important part of the history of Freemasonry in England and of the community in Croydon itself.

First Lodge

Greyhound Hotel Home of Freemasonry in Croydon First Lodge
The Greyhound Hotel

In 1758 Patriotic Lodge was the first Masonic Lodge to be founded in Croydon. The Lodge held its meetings in The Greyhound Hotel which stood in the High Street. A pub by the same name remained in Croydon until the 1980’s and became the home to many gigs by bands and artists who would become world-famous including David Bowie. Patriotic Lodge was soon joined by Royal Mecklenburgh Lodge which moved from London to Croydon in 1784. Both found going difficult, as by 1822, they had folded. In 1838 Fredrick Lodge of Unity was founded in Croydon, which is still going strong today.

Crescamus Lodge was founded in 1961 adding to the traditions of Freemasonry in Croydon.

Asylum for Aged, Worthy and Decayed Freemasons

Freemasonry in Croydon Asylum for Aged, Worthy and Decayed Freemasons
Asylum for Worthy, Aged, and Decayed Freemasons

If you have wondered around the streets near East Croydon, you will have stumbled upon Freemasons Road and the large and imposing red brick Victorian building that sits next to the main railway line to East Croydon.

In 1831 that the idea of an Asylum for Worthy, Aged, and Decayed Freemasons was first proposed. Once funds were raised and a site identified, the official opening took place in August 1850 under the auspices of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution “with great ceremony”. The building had 40 rooms for elderly Freemasons.

This hidden gem of Croydon later changed its name to the Royal Masonic Asylum and remained there until 1955. The need for bigger premises was then identified and a new home opened in Hove, East Sussex.

Croydon council bought the premises to use as an old people home and six years later it was reopened and named Davidson Lodge. By 1973 the property was in a poor state and to prevent its demolition it was made a Grade II listed building. The accommodation was improved in 1981 when it was converted to 36 bedsits.

There were further conversions and improvements in 1983. Two years later Age Concern became tenants of the central hall, which they named the Joyce Grant Centre. They left in 1998. The hall remained empty until CNCA took up residence in 2001.

In 1980 a new RMBI home, James Terry Court opened in Croydon continuing to show the caring nature of Freemasonry in Croydon.

Croydon and District Masonic Hall

Home of Home of Freemasonry in Croydon
Croydon and District Masonic Halls

Saint George’s Presbyterian Church, Croydon, began as a temporary iron church situated on Oakfield Road. By 1865 a permanent church had been constructed. However, membership numbers dropped and the church closed by 1940. During the second world war it became a store for Oxo, but after the war damaged in air raids the building fell out of use.

Freemasonry in Croydon was without a permanent home. Lodges made use of function rooms in pubs, hotels and restaurants to hold their meetings and for dining afterwards. In 1947, the building was put up for sale,  Freemasons in Croydon quickly raised the deposit and transforming the derelict building into Croydon and District Masonic Halls with Temples, dining and committee rooms.

In 2017 Croydon and District Masonic Halls will celebrate its 70th Anniversary.

Further Links to Freemasonry in Croydon

Freemasonry in Croydon
Masonic Firing Glass from the collection of the Museum of Croydon

The wonderful Museum of Croydon located in the Clocktower at the Town Hall is an amazing place, full of many local artefacts including many related to Freemasonry in Croydon. One such item is a Masonic Firing Glass. Dating from 1865, the glass would have been used at dinners following Masonic meetings. The glass has a solid base and is engraved with Masonic symbols from the Holy Royal Arch.

One last link between Freemasonry in Croydon was The Freemasons Tavern. The pub which stood on Penge Road from at least 1869 before closing in 2002 and being converted into flats.

If you know of other connections between Croydon and Freemasonry, why don’t you let us know?