Henry Norris’ Other Freemasons’ Lodges
Last updated: January 2009
Henry Norris was initiated into two more freemasons’ lodges in his lifetime, and his membership of them illustrates what I mean about his moving out of Fulham life onto the national stage. His membership of them was different in a second way: in each case he was a founding member, helping make the case for a new lodge to the freemasonry authorities.
London Mayors’ Lodge number 3560
Henry Norris was extraordinarily lucky in being a mayor during a year in which a king was crowned. Like all the other mayors, he got to attend the coronation of George V and Queen Mary in Westminster Abbey. The mayors of London boroughs seem to have accepted without much complaint the fact that, for lack of space, their wives couldn’t go to the coronation with them. However, as preparations for the festivities got under way, they began to feel rather hard done by. Firstly, they were not given special treatment over attending the Coronation Service in St Paul’s Cathedral; they had to apply for tickets like everyone else. In addition, they found that only some of them, not all of them, had been invited to the coronation events organised in the City of London. Then the Coronation Honours list came out, and not a single one of them had been given a knighthood; though mayors of other boroughs had been. Whether it was true or not, a rumour went round the London local government grapevine that knighthoods for some mayors of London boroughs had been in the list as originally formulated, but had got struck out at a late stage. It was too much: after all the coronation events were over, at the end of July 1911, a number of mayors of London boroughs got together to grumble about the slights they had endured. They agreed that the business of no knighthoods was not only a snub to each mayor personally, it was also typical of the way London’s contribution to the economy of the Empire was continually ignored by Governments of all political persuasions. No doubt several initiatives came out of the meeting but the one I’m concerned with here was the decision of the freemasons at the meeting to found a lodge for current and past mayors of London boroughs, to raise their profile amongst other freemasons and ensure they got their fair share of any future spoils.
I found a report on the meeting while I was going through West London and Fulham Times. None of the people who attended the meeting were named in the report, but if Henry Norris wasn’t there, and wasn’t then the person who told WLFT about it, I’ll eat my hat. He might even have organised the meeting; the WLFT didn’t say who had done that nor where the meeting was held, which might have given me more of a clue.
One result of the grumblers’ meeting, then, was the consecration of the London Mayors’ Lodge number 3560 at a ceremony at the Freemasons’ Hall on 4 December 1911. Henry Norris was one of the lodge’s founder members and played a prominent part in the evening’s ritual, becoming the new lodge’s first Junior Warden, the bottom rung on its ladder to Worshipful Master. After the consecration ceremony was over everyone went next door to dinner at the Connaught Rooms, at which Bollinger was served - they did themselves well, didn’t they? - and Norris made the speech responding to the toast “The Officers”. I imagine Norris knew virtually all the lodge’s founder members at least slightly, but two men in particular were long-time acquaintances of his: George Elliott, mayor of Islington (who was made Senior Warden in 1911) and Archibald Dawnay, mayor of Wandsworth. The new lodge’s first Worshipful Master was H Busby Bird, mayor of Shoreditch; I don’t think Norris knew him well before the new lodge was set up but he got to know him better afterwards and that was one of the purposes of the lodge.
Norris served his turn as WM in 1914/15 and was still a member of the lodge at his death. Mayors of London boroughs, some of whom will have been members of the London Mayors’ Lodge number 3560, received invitations to Henry Norris’ dinner of 1911, and the receptions of 1913 and 1919. It’s noticeable, too, that after 1911 there were more reports in the Fulham papers of Henry Norris attending functions at the Mansion House in the City of London, official residence of the Lord Mayor. I presume that the London Mayors’ Lodge number 3560 played a part in getting Norris and other mayors invited to this kind of thing, and that too was what the lodge was for. When Norris and Elliott got their knighthoods, in 1917, it was for services to the war; but the activities of the London Mayors’ Lodge number 3560 may have helped get their names known in the necessary high places. I don’t know that for sure because most of this kind of currying favour is secret and not written down.
Henry Norris’ membership of the Feltmakers’ Lodge number 3839 can’t be extricated from his membership of the Feltmakers’ Company, because membership of the lodge was restricted to members of the Company. The Company was one of the guilds of the City of London - a much older foundation than any English freemasons’ lodge. Freemasonry was set up on very much the lines that the guilds had formulated centuries before, with initiation by invitation and investigation, ceremonies that were only known to insiders, and an exclusive, hierarchical membership. The Feltmakers’ Company had been founded by hat-makers in London as a sub-set of the better known Haberdashers’ Company but it had been given its own charter in 1604. It was a modest venture, even in Henry Norris’ time: it had never built its own hall, so meetings were held in rooms at the Guildhall; and by the time of the first World War membership was in decline.
Several acquaintances of Henry Norris were members of the Feltmakers’ Company in the years before World War One: Edward Stimson of Kent Lodge number 15, and two of his sons; Edward Karslake whom Norris will have known through the Metropolitan Water Board; and Louis Newton, a chartered surveyor based in the City (though I’m not sure quite how well Norris knew him). However, I don’t think Norris joined the Company at the invitation of any of them. In 1916 Richard Rigg took office as the Company’s Master. During his year in office he used his job as a commissioner for the National War Savings Scheme as the basis for a recruitment drive. Rigg would have known Henry Norris, as he knew many other English mayors, because the Scheme was administered by the local authorities. Norris became one of 83 new members elected to the Company that year, becoming a freeman on 2 April 1917. A great many of the new members were mayors, though some didn’t live in London and therefore didn’t go to many meetings.
I had a great deal more luck with the records of the Company than I had looking for records of Norris’ freemasons’ lodges: a large number of the Company’s records have survived and are stored at the Guildhall. Whereas I can’t be sure how many meetings he attended of the lodges that he belonged to, I can state that Norris was a keen member of the Company, attending its meetings regularly except those in January in the early 1920s, when he was usually abroad. In October 1921 he was elected to a vacancy on the Company’s Court of Assistants, the inner group that ran the Company, including managing its property at Upminster and overseeing its charitable work.
In January 1920, William Hall, Norris’ co-director at Arsenal FC, became a freeman of the Feltmakers’ Company, presumably on Norris’ recommendation. He too was an active member of the Company during the 1920s and early 1930s.
Neither Norris nor Hall knew John James Edwards before they became members of the Feltmakers’ Company. Edwards was a solicitor with a practice divided between the City and the West End. He was a long-serving and very keen member of the Company who also served on the governing body of the Corporation of London. The three men became close acquaintances and this finally led to Edwards being invited to become a director of Arsenal FC. When another vacancy arose on the Court of Assistants in 1923, Edwards recommended Hall for election onto it, and Norris seconded the recommendation. This was the year of Joy Norris’ wedding. Sir Louis Newton and his wife were one of the guests when Joy got married; Newton being an estate agent, a prominent member of the Feltmakers’ Company and lodge and soon to serve a year as Lord Mayor of London. In 1925, Norris set his foot on the four-year ladder to a year as the Company’s master. His progress up that ladder wasn’t interrupted by the breach between him and Hall that led directly to his fall from grace in football in 1927 and he continued to go to meetings regularly. So did Hall; though whether the two men spoke to each other at them I very much doubt.
Henry Norris went to the Feltmakers’ Company meeting of January 1929 but it turned out to be his last. In the wake of his lost libel case against the Football Association Limited, he wrote resigning from the Company on 9 February 1929. Then he changed his mind and on 28 February 1929 wrote a second letter, withdrawing his resignation. Both Edwards and Hall attended next the Company meeting, held on 8 April 1929, but Norris seems to have stayed away while the members debated what they should do about him, in the light of the detailed coverage of the trial which they all will have read in the papers. The result of the debate was that a motion was put to a vote, to accept the resignation, and ignore its withdrawal. Edwards seconded the motion. It was passed unanimously so both Edwards and Hall voted not to allow Norris to resume his position as a member. The current Master wrote to Norris to tell him what had happened. Norris did reply but then let the matter drop.
Norris was still a member of the Feltmakers’ Lodge, number 3839. Louis Newton took the initiative in setting it up, calling an initial meeting in January 1918 at Café Monico; the consecration ceremony was held there a couple of months later. Norris didn’t attend the initial meeting. He was probably out of town doing his work for the War Office. And his name doesn’t appear on a list of founder members that I found in the Freemasons’ Library archive on the lodge. However, coverage of the consecration at the time it took place, in the freemasons’ newspapers, listed Norris first after the new lodge’s officials in the list of the founder members; leaving me to suppose that his name had been edited out of the list at some stage after 1929. He didn’t serve as its Worshipful Master, apparently preferring to concentrate on his membership of the Company. He was still a member of its lodge, though, at his death.
At the start of my work at the Freemasons’ Library’s I requested one of their searches, which produce a full list of any freemason’s lodge memberships, with dates of initiations and details of any higher ranks they reached. The search on Henry Norris also produced the information that he had been initiated into the Anglo-American Chapter number 2191 in April 1897 and had served as its MEZ, a Chapter’s equivalent to a Worshipful Master, in 1911. I could not find any corroborating evidence in the archives of his membership of this Chapter, which was absorbed into Kent Lodge number 15 in 1916. However, there is what I’d describe as ‘tangential’ evidence that he was a member: he became eligible to attend meetings of the Grand Chapter (see below), which you could only do if you’d served as an official in a freemasons’ chapter. But a freemasons’ lodge based on men with business contacts in the United States is not an obvious grouping for Norris to get involved in. I am very puzzled and can only suppose that - like I’ve suggested for his membership of the Feltmakers’ Lodge number 3839 above - his membership was edited out, presumably after 1929; although the Chapter didn’t quash his membership. It implies that both institutions continued to take Norris’ yearly subscriptions while trying to pretend he hadn’t ever been a member. I wonder if he continued to go to their meetings?
[ROGER THE NEXT IN THIS SEQUENCE IS SLGLGC]
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Copyright Sally Davis January 2009