Isaac Newton University Lodge (INUL) was formally consecrated as lodge No. 1161 (now No. 859) at the Red Lion Hotel, Cambridge on 21st May, 1861. By then the lodge had already made fifteen men Masons and elected numerous joining members at four emergency meetings, with the Duke of St.Albans as acting master by dispensation of Grand Lodge. Before that, Scientific (now No.88) was usually the lodge to which University men gravitated. Thus it seems surprising now that it was Three Grand Principles (No.441), the first 'Cambridge Town' lodge, which supported the petition to establish Isaac Newton and is the 'Mother Lodge' of what then became the fourth member of the Province of Cambridgeshire. At the Provincial Grand Lodge meeting in 1862 twenty Provincial Officers were appointed. Of these, fifteen were from Isaac Newton University Lodge.
|10th Duke of St Albans|
The members were evidently very keen. The establishment of Euclid Royal Arch Chapter was proposed as early as November 1861 and it was consecrated the following year. Members were also quick to seek premises of their own and the lodge moved from the Red Lion Hotel to 1, Hobson's Place and thence to 29½ Green Street (then rooms above a livery stable), which became INUL headquarters for some years while plans were laid for obtaining a freehold site. Committees and sub-committees met and re-met from 1870 to 1883, when members finally approved a proposal to purchase a site holding five tenements in Corn Exchange Street.
The importance of that purchase can hardly be overstated. In 1892 the Pro Grand Master, the Earl of Lathom, laid the Foundation Stone that now stands outside our present Masonic Hall. Sadly, the original set of coins that were placed under that stone were stolen the same night, but the ones that replaced them can still be seen at the present Freemasons Hall in Bateman Street. During the first thirty years of its existence, INUL brought 983 University men into Freemasonry.
The magnificent Hall was requisitioned by the military authorities in 1916 and not returned to lodge use until 1920, during which period meetings were held either in Trinity Hall or The Lion Hotel. The Masonic Hall was again taken over (this time by the Ministry of Works) in 1939, but at least the lodge was allowed to use the premises for its six meetings per year, though suppers were taken at the Dorothy Café.
Between the wars was boom-time for University Freemasonry at Cambridge. The numbers of new members for 1917 to 1921 were eight, twenty-one, sixty-seven, sixty-two, sixty-two. Meetings often started at 2.15pm in 'day-clothes' and members changed to evening dress before the next session at 4.30. Dinner, afterwards, finished in time for undergraduates to return to their colleges by 10.00pm and thus to avoid gate-fines.
By the 1950s the Masonic Hall, had become home to some Cambridge City lodges in addition to INUL. However, the ravages of two world wars had resulted in the building becoming considerably dilapidated and during the next decade matters became worse through the threat of a compulsory purchase order to accommodate the City Council's scheme for the re-development of that part of central Cambridge.
In 1961 the centenary meeting of the lodge was held at Cambridge Guildhall attended by the Grand Master who was pleased to accept honorary membership of the lodge. A splendid banquet for over 200 members and guests was held at St.John's College.
|Freemasons Hall, Cambridge - formerly Chesunt College|
In 1959, the City lodges set up a 'Masonic Hall Committee' and eventually a company, Cambridge Masonic Hall Ltd, which sought to obtain a permanent Masonic Centre. They were quite unsuccessful until a sudden opportunity arose. Cheshunt College, on the corner of Bateman Street and Panton Street, came onto the market just at the time that a legal decision in Birmingham ensured that Isaac Newton Lodge would get a much fairer compensation for the compulsory purchase of their Hall than originally offered. Meanwhile the INUL trustees had arranged with Caius College the purchase of the Harvey Road/Hills Road corner plot funded by the local authority compensation package. However, the Masonic Hall Company persuaded the of Isaac Newton trustees to drop that scheme and instead to commit to the purchase of the Bateman Street site in what became known as "The Joint Venture".
It was not until the mid-1980's a state of 'parity' was agreed and the Masonic Hall, Bateman Street, became an equal partnership between the Trustees of Isaac Newton University Lodge and the Masonic Hall Company. Isaac Newton now prospers in far more luxurious surroundings than its members have ever known.