Dover Boys’ Grammar School opened in 1904 and moved to its present location on Astor Avenue in 1934. Its splendid architecture benefits from both Gothic and classical influences, crowned by its iconic crenellated tower.
During World War II, the school was requisitioned by the Royal Navy as a WRNS station. For the war’s duration, pupils and staff were evacuated to Ebbw Vale, in South Wales.
The school’s alumni include a respectable sprinkling of captains of industry, industrialists, scientists and other high achievers. More unusually, the school is also the alma mater for Topper “Headon”, drummer with the multi-million, record-selling group, “The Clash”. Another pupil was David Elleray, who refereed the 1994 F.A. Cup Final (Manchester Utd v Chelsea), plus 78 international matches and hundreds of premiership games.
Sadly, after providing a seat of learning for thousands of boys, over nearly ninety years, time has taken its toll on the building. Plans are now well advanced to demolish the existing building and to build a new school.
The current building has enjoyed Masonic connections throughout its lifespan. It was officially opened by the then Duke of York, who later ascended the throne as King George VI. He is both father of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and uncle to The Duke of Kent, the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England.
In 1919, following service in the Royal Navy, during the First World War, King George VI was initiated into Navy Lodge, (No. 2612), where his grandfather, King Edward VII had been the founding Master. The Duke of Edinburgh was initiated in the same Lodge, in 1952.
The King joined other Lodges and degrees and was appointed Senior Grand Warden of the United Grand Lodge in 1923.
THE VICTORY STAMPS
After the Second World War, King George VI wrote that: “Freemasonry has been one of the strongest influences on my life”. To underline this, he helped create a postage stamp, (part of the 1946 Victory Issue), which is embellished with Masonic symbols.
Following in such illustrious footsteps, came the Founders of the Pharos Lodge 6967. All of them were either Old Boys or teachers at the school. They were led by W.Bro. John C. Booth MA (Oxon), (nicknamed “The Baron”), headmaster from 1936 to1960.
The consecration, in the school’s grand hall, was directed by Lord Cornwallis, on Saturday, April 29th, 1950, thus adding another strand to the school’s historic fabric.
Since that date, the Pharos Lodge has held its meetings in Dover’s impressive Masonic Hall, a venue that some dozen Lodges and side degrees call home.
Fortunately, however, links have been maintained between school and Lodge. This cooperation enabled the Lodge to return to the school, where it all began, for a final meeting, prior to the demolition.
Considerable consternation ensued when the school advised that, as construction was ahead of schedule, demolition was imminent. This meant that the unique Lodge meeting, scheduled for February 2022 had to be dragged forward, screaming and writhing, to November 2021.
Close, positive and rapid cooperation took place between the Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge. Following endless head scratching over the minutiae of the Book of Constitutions, late-night candles burned, before appropriate authorisation was forthcoming.
Finally, success was achieved. This was thanks to the Herculean labours of Lodge Secretary, W.Bro. Arthur Hornby and I.P.M. W.Bro. Roger Gabriel. Heartfelt thanks are also due to W.Bro. Bob McLester of Bredenstone Lodge, and to W.Bro. Garry Steed, who transported all the required Lodge furniture.
On the eventful, meeting day, Freemasons from far and wide assembled to change the hall into a temple, using the regalia and equipment provided by Province. Against overwhelming odds, involving time limits, transportation requirements, setting up, dismantling and layout, everything worked to perfection. By the time the meeting started, beating hearts had slowed and there wasn’t a ruffled feather in sight!
CONVERTING THE GREAT HALL INTO A TEMPLE
A splendid backdrop; the hall being readied for a Masonic meeting, for the first time in over 70 years
Despite the spectre of Covid, some members and visitors travelled long distances to attend.
Among our guests were R.W.Bro Roger Odd, our former Deputy Provincial Grand Master, who continues to be a strong supporter of the Federation of School Lodges, as well as the Joint Secretary of the Federation, himself.
The ceremony undertaken was a double initiation. How appropriate, on this special occasion, therefore, that both candidates were school teachers.
The only twinge of regret was that the delicate task of dismantling the splendid school organ was already underway. Our sincere thanks, therefore, to W.Bro. Nigel Sanne of United Industrious Lodge 31, for bringing his own keyboard to enlivening the meeting.
As the lasts notes faded, the highly-successful and emotional meeting ended and a swarm of human locusts swept through the Lodge room, converting it to a condemned grand hall, full of memories.To our two new brothers. We welcome you wholeheartedly to our Lodge and hope you spend many happy years with us.
The day ended with a highly-convivial festive board at the Masonic Hall. The four-course meal and companionship were splendid, making a brilliant day perfect.
The concept for the Pharos meeting was strongly supported by Mr. Philip Horstrup, Headmaster, to whom we are grateful.
Pharos Lodge was pleased to present a cheque for £500.00 towards the “Replacement Piano” appeal.
left to right
W.Bro. Arthur Hornby, Mr Phillip Horstrup, W.Bro Roger Gabriel
Mr Horstrup is standing directly under the Pharos symbol for the school house off that name.
To round off the Pharos year, a large number of members, family and friends dined together, at a local hostelry. Despite the constraints that have ruled our lives for the last 2 years, the future of the Pharos is secure.
Conceived and written by: W Bro Mike Webb