Our History

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Mother Lodge – Torbay Lodge No. 1358

On 4th April 1772, The Premier Grand Lodge of England warranted the original Torbay Lodge No. 427. This occurred during a period of Freemasonry’s instability but also its meteoric rise in popularity. Torbay Lodge No. 427 predates all other local lodges in the area including those in Brixham, Totnes, and Torquay.

However, little is known of Paignton at this time. It was known to be a hamlet within the “Hundred of Haytor” and The Imperial Gazetteer of 1760 described Paignton as having:

Streets irregular, narrow, dirty, and ill-kept, with houses generally of mean appearance.

In 1792, Richard Polwhele’s Devonshire described Paynton as:

One of the most fruitful lordships in all the County. The roads tolerably good, materials in general – marble. The greater part of the houses are built of mud walls and covered with thatch but not remarkable for neatness or commodiousness; a great quantity of orchard ground. Numbers of inhabitants in the Parish supposed to be about 2,000. The number of paupers about 100 names.

So in 1772 in the small village of Paington (note the spelling), the new Torbay Lodge No. 427 met in an upstairs room at the “Crown & Anchor” public house in Church Street; their regular meeting place for the next 40 years. From 1815 the Lodge also frequently met at the “London Inn” also in Church Street - both Inns being equidistant from the Parish Church and the Monastery.

Between the years 1780 and 1813, Torbay Lodge No. 427 was renumbered several times, eventually becoming Torbay Lodge No. 350.

CrownAnchor-1However, all was not well in Torbay Lodge No. 350. In 1824 the Worshipful Master and Senior Warden, who were brothers, met in the upstairs room of the ‘Crown & Anchor’ Inn after what turned out to be that Lodge’s last meeting. The weather was cold and the fire was burning brightly. As the labours of the evening proceeded, so did the strong ale flow, with the result that an argument over ritual is alleged to have taken place. The row reached fever pitch when the Senior Warden, unable to contain himself, picked up all of the aprons he could get his hands on, and flung them into the open fire. Such action proved to be the death knell of Torbay Lodge No. 350.

On 9th October 1824, John Hutchings wrote to the Grand Lodge Secretary stating:

Herewith I send you our Warrant No. 350. I regret it very much. Our Treasurer informs me he paid into your hands all demands when he was in London.

Thus Torbay Lodge No. 350 was erased from the Register.

In 1871, ninety-nine years after the formation of the first Torbay Lodge, a new Torbay Lodge No. 1358 was formed. At a meeting on 24th April 1871 presided over by The Rev. Robert Bowden (from Torquay's St. John’s Lodge No. 328) it was unanimously agreed that a Freemason’s Lodge should be established in Paignton. The Worshipful Master and Wardens of Pleiades Lodge No. 710 were invited and agreed to support a prayer of Petition.

The warrant for the new Torbay Lodge was granted on 26th May 1871 to meet at the newly built Town Hall at the junction of New Street and the Totnes Turnpike. Records show that in May 1871:

the three rooms upstairs to be let as a Freemason’s Lodge for £15 a year.

The popularity of this new Torbay Lodge gave rise in 1890 to a desire for a new Masonic Hall in Paignton.


The architect to Isaac Merritt Singer, W. Bro. George Soudon Bridgman (pictured left) gave a site in Courtland Road for a new Lodge premises, and following the acceptance of a tender for the build by Bro. H. P. Rabbich (pictured right) for £663, the foundation stone was laid by W. Bro. Bradford, Secretary of the Lodge and W. Bro. Bridgman on 15th April 1891.  



 On 11th August 1891 the present Lodge premises in Courtland Road were consecrated.  


Miles Coverdale Lodge No. 5069

In 1928 Torbay Lodge No. 1358 considered the creation of its first daughter Lodge. The Lodge minutes of 29th May detail the following proposal:

New Lodge: The Proposition: That Lodge recommends and supports the petition to form a new Lodge for Paignton was unanimously adopted on being proposed by W. Bro. Hayden Crawford and seconded by W. Bro. C. Wilton. The petition was signed by the Master, Senior, and Junior Wardens.

This entry in the minutes is the first recorded indication that Torbay Lodge No. 1358 were sponsoring the petition of a new lodge, and whilst there are further entries in later minutes which report on progress, nothing specific is detailed as to the reason why a new lodge was being petitioned for.

Thus Miles Coverdale Lodge No. 5069 was warranted by the United Grand Lodge of England on 7th November 1928 and was consecrated on 9th April 1929, the ceremony in respect of which was attended by some four hundred Masons. The consecration of Miles Coverdale Lodge was covered in the 11th April 1929 edition of the “Paignton Observer and Echo” (the cutting of which appears in the lodge's first minute book), which read:

Paignton’s new Masonic Lodge: Consecrated at Torquay on Tuesday. Impressive and largely attended ceremony ... The undoubted need for this new Lodge in Paignton is a further testimony to Paignton's rapid growth.

Given the newspaper reports of Paignton's rapid growth and at the time there being only one lodge in the town, it is likley that the feeling was there would be enough interest from potential candidates’ and joining members to make a new lodge viable.

The Consecration ceremony was presided over by Rt. W. Bro. Sir Henry Lopes, Bart., the Provincial Grand Master (later Baron Roborough of Maristow). After the Invocation and Dedication ceremonies, V. W. Bro. John Stocker, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, the Installing Officer, placed Bro. H. G. White in the Master's chair. Following the Consecration ceremony the Officers of the lodge were appointed and invested, two candidates were initiated and nine brethren balloted for as joining members.

But why was the name Miles Coverdale chosen for Paignton’s new lodge? It seems that no one really knows - nor who it was that suggested it.  

Miles CoverdaleMiles Coverdale (1488-1569) was born in Coverdale in that district of the North Riding of Yorkshire called Richmondshire. He studied Philosophy and Theology at Cambridge and was admitted to priest’s orders at Norwich in 1514. Miles Coverdale's practical protests identified him with the reformers and indeed he was very active during the reformation. He assisted Thomas Tyndale in translating the Pentateuch and is credited with producing the first complete printed translation of the Bible into English in 1535; the so called Coverdale Bible. Such was its popularity that King Henry VIII had a Coverdale Bible placed in every English Church chained to a bookstand so that everyone could have access to it. Miles Coverdale accompanied Lord Russell to the West of England in a campaign against rebels and when Lord Russell relieved the siege of Exeter, Miles Coverdale delivered the sermon at a service of thanksgiving in the Cathedral.

After the battles of St. Mary Clyst and Sampford Courtenay, Miles Coverdale was appointed Bishop of Exeter on 14 August 1551, being enthroned on 11 September. On 28 September 1553, Mary, daughter of King Henry VIII became Queen and deprived Miles Coverdale of his office and so he left the country. In 1558 Elizabeth became Queen and on 12 November 1559 Miles Coverdale returned to England, but did not regain the Bishopric of Exeter. He died on 20 January 1569 and was buried on 19 February. His figure appears in the memorial west window to Archbishop Temple in Exeter Cathedral and in an oil portrait in the blue dining room of Warwick Castle.

masonic-hall-watercolour-thumbWater colour by Bro. Ted Jones - 2010

Miles Coverdale's life covered most of the reign of King Henry VII and all of the reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen Mary I, and most of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Miles Coverdale was undoubtedly committed to his faith.

In Paignton there are the ruins of a building known as the Bishops Palace which are deemed the remains of the summer residence of the ancient Bishops of Exeter, to which they came for some relaxation from their episcopal duties. Bishop Miles Coverdale is believed to be the last Bishop of Exeter to possess it. The Coverdale Tower adjacent to Paignton Parish Church is named after him, but whilst he is reputed to have lived there, this seems to be doubted by modern historians.

Perhaps the reasons why Miles Coverdale was chosen as an ideal candidate for the lodge to be named after, were his faith and his Exeter and Paignton connections.  


Miles Coverdale Lodge No. 5069 has met continuously since its Consecration right up to the present day with only one exception. The meeting of 15th September 1939 was cancelled by a United Grand Lodge of England decree that owing to the outbreak of the Second World War, all masonic meetings were to be suspended. However following a relaxation of the decree, the lodge met again on 19th October 1939, and has done so ever since. During the war however, the Temple windows were blacked out and the Masonic Hall was used for ARP lectures and meetings.

On 29 October 1929 Miles Coverdale Lodge presented to the lodge premises the Star in the East and had it placed over the Master's chair. On 28 April 1931 an emergency meeting was convened at the Palace Hotel, Paignton, at which Rt. W. Bro. Sir Henry Lopes, Bart., Provincial Grand Master conducted part of the ceremony and afterwards addressed a meeting with Torbay Lodge No. 1358 asking for support for his forthcoming Chairmanship with the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys Festival.

The current and past Worshipful Masters, Officers and Brethren of Miles Coverdale Lodge No. 5069 would like to pay tribute to the founders who laboured long and diligently to create a distinctive personality for the lodge, in particular Bros. White, Haden, Crawford, Dale and Smith who spent many hours compiling manuscript copies of the authorised ritual and they strove at all times to secure its performance by the members. It is now tradition to hand over to each newly installed Master the original book of the founder’s handwritten ritual for his guidance and use.


Sources: With sincere thanks and gratitue to W. Bro. John Hipwell (Past Master of Torbay Lodge No. 1358), W. Bro. the late Bob Brewis for his presentation "History of Masonry in Paignton", the website Paignton Masonic Centre for the early history and to W. Bro. F.A.D. Kirkham for Miles Coverdale Lodge history, adapted from “The Masonic Province Of Devonshire 1732 - 2003: The Story Of Devonshire Freemasonry From The Birth Of Its First Lodge, St John The Baptist No. 39, To The Present Day” by the late Colin E. Summers, Past Provincial Grand Registrar and published by The Masonic Province of Devonshire, 2004. Additional content added by WBro. Paul O'Connell.

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