Forty-nine Old Wellingtonians and Governors petitioned the United Grand Lodge to create the Lodge, an unusually high number for a private lodge. Forty-eight signed the petitions, of which there were seven petitions due to the need to have different documents sent around the Empire. The only founder not to actually sign was the Duke of Connaught & Strathearn, the Grand Master. No one seems to have objected.
The eldest was a retired army officer of 64 and the youngest was a 23 year old recently qualified solicitor in his family’s firm, only a few years out of Wellington. There were also three family connections, two pairs of brothers and a father and son.
Of the forty-nine, thirty-six served in the armed forces either as their chosen profession, or when called upon. Those thirty-six spanned the breadth of the rank and file, and included a Field Marshal, a Major General, four Brigadiers, six Colonels, six Lieutenant Colonels, nine Majors, five Captains, four Subalterns, a Surgeon Lieutenant, and a Corporal. Only one did not serve in the Army, being a Royal Marine. In fact twenty-two were career soldiers, the balance being volunteers who served when called upon.
On the petition, the Earl of Derby gave his profession as “Peer”, and the Duke of Connaught & Strathearn elected to give “Field Marshal” from the options available to him. The Law accounted for the next greatest proportion, nine: seven barristers and two solicitors, and a retired army officer who was a Justice of the Peace for good measure. There were four doctors, three school masters, a farmer and two planters, two civil servants, and a clerk in holy orders. Three were in trade: a brewery manager, a merchant, and the managing director of Chubbs, the lock makers. Only one claimed to be a gentleman, emphatically stating ‘none’ when asked his profession or trade.
In Wellington ‘house’ terms, the Hill had produced the largest number, eight, closely followed by the Stanley with seven. Every house was represented, there was also a day boy without a house affiliation, a governor, and a member of the Senior Common Room. One brother, Pollock, he of the bridge across the railway to Derby field (itself named after another Founder), managed to spend time in the Hill, the Stanley and even the Blucher.
Fully six had been Head of College, a further two had served as Deputy Heads, sixteen had been College Prefects, and four had been Head of the OTC, the equivilent of today’s Corps. To balance this somewhat officious impression, seven played for the XV, including two captains, six for the XI, four shot in the VIII, and two played Rackets for College.
Twenty-two went on to higher education, an exceptionally high number given the fact that the soldiers would have gone straight to Sandhurst or Woolwich. Thirteen went to Oxford, and seven to Cambridge. In College terms, the honours are even with Trinity Cambridge and Univ both having three graduates. In a somewhat un-Wellingtonian fashion, four managed scholarships.
For those that prefer their fellows less keen, fourteen record no College distinction or place at university. For the record, they all became army officers, none being promoted to anything less than the rank of Major, and included the Major General, two of the Brigadiers, and five of the six Colonels. One can only speculate on what conclusions to draw from this, although those familiar with the system will know that the Army took its men earlier, and the University men stayed on at College to sit the entrance exams, giving them longer to take the reigns at school.
As well as a Royal Duke and an Earl, two were knighted in their careers. There were six DSOs, an MC, seven Orders of the Bath, four orders of St Michael & St George, five British Empires and one Victorian Order. What Sir Humphrey would have made of that one can barely imagine. Only one is known to have been a citizen of a foreign power, an American, who nonetheless volunteered with the 4th Yorks & Lancs in the Great War.
In terms of their masonry, ten had been initiated in lodges based outside what is today the United Kingdom, but was then part of the Empire. India, South Africa, Canada, Sierra Leone and Malta all feature, reflecting the postings of military and civil service men at that time. Six more were initiated into military lodges at home, including Aldershot Army & Navy Lodge No 1971 and Navy Lodge No 2612. Three were initiated into Apollo Lodge and four into Isaac Newton University Lodge, respectively the lodges of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, three were initiated into the Wellesley Lodge, then meeting in Crowthorne, one into a legal lodge and two into Red Apron lodges, Royal Somerset House & Inverness No IV and the Prince of Wales’s Lodge No 259. Just under half were in the Royal Arch.
On average they would serve the Lodge for twenty-three years, with one going on to become the ‘Founding Father of the Lodge’, the last surviving founder, and one of the two longest serving members to date, with a total of 64 years. Despite the many years service, only fourteen would become rulers of the Lodge.
Three would give their lives on active service in the coming Great War.