Freemasonry has been practiced in Chesterfield since 1762, although with quite
long gaps in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The first known record of a Chesterfield Lodge is of Lodge No. 106 (it didn't
have a name) constituted at the Three Cranes Inn on 27th December 1762. The
Three Cranes was on Low Pavement, somewhere between the present Barnsley
Building Society premises and McDonald's. The Lodge appears to have had a very
short life, although the names of nine of its members are known.
The second Lodge in Chesterfield was called the Scarsdale Lodge, and was
initially numbered 519. It took its title from the Hundred of Scarsdale - the
old parliamentary constituency containing Chesterfield and much of Northeast
Derbyshire. Its warrant was dated 5th March 1793 and the first meeting was held
on 23rd May 1793.
The Lodge has been said to have emanated from Sheffield, but this is only a
technicality, as the founders had been made masons in Sheffield. They were all
prominent citizens of Chesterfield or the surrounding district.
The Lodge originally met at the Angel Inn, which was on the top of the Market
Place on a site now occupied partly by the Post Office and partly by Hudson's
music shop. On 6th July 1808 the Lodge resolved to move to the Falcon at the top
of South Street; the building is still there and is occupied by the Barnsley
Building Society. Then, on 30th June 1817, it moved back to the Angel.
The records of the old Scarsdale Lodge are still in existence, although
sometimes not as complete as one could wish, and the more important items of its
property are still in use. From the records, we learn that membership was never
high, usually about 12 to 15, but rising almost to 30 by 1822, then falling
rapidly through the 1820s.
The last meeting of the Lodge was on 2nd February 1830 at the Angel. The members
then walked in procession to the site of the new church at Brampton Moor (St
Thomas's) where the Duke of Devonshire laid the foundation stone. The members
then returned to the Angel, where the Lodge was closed - for good. Grand Lodge
erased it in 1838.
During the Napoleonic Wars, French Officers who were prisoners of war were
billeted in Chesterfield. They formed two Lodges during the years 1809-12; Loge
de l'Espérance and Loge de St Jerôme et l'Espérance. Scarsdale members made 8
visits to Loge de St Jerôme et I'Espérance, while the Scarsdale minutes record
that on 5th March 1810, "Hy. Vinclair and R. de la Croix, two foreigners,
visited this night." Both were prominent French masons.
French prisoners had little money and were not allowed to go more than a mile
from Chesterfield, but they found a sympathizer in Sir Windsor Hunloke, Master
of Scarsdale in 1800 and a Roman Catholic, who is said to have moved the
milestone further along Derby road so that the Frenchmen could visit him at
After the old Scarsdale Lodge ceased to meet, freemasonry in Chesterfield was in
abeyance, and remained so until a new Lodge, also called Scarsdale No. 981, was
consecrated at the Star Inn at the bottom of Glumangate on 10th September 1856.
A banquet was afterwards held at the Municipal Hall, later to become the Court
House, on New Beetwell Street. It was extensively reported in both the
Derbyshire Times and the Derbyshire Courier, the two accounts being almost
identical. They can be consulted (on microfilm) in the Public Library. In 1861,
the Lodge moved to the Angel next door, and continued to meet there for the next
16 years. The Lodge was renumbered 681 in 1863.
1866 onwards, the Lodge was, intermittently, having trouble with the landlord of
the Angel, Richard Wilkinson, who seems to have wanted to use the Lodge room for
other purposes. The members realized that eventually they would have to find
alternative accommodation, which they did in a rather ingenious way.
A group of members, together with a number of non-masons, formed the East
Derbyshire Club, with premises to be built in Saltergate. Before even a single
brick had been laid, the Club had agreed to lease the top floor to the Lodge.
The first meeting in the new premises was on 11th September 1877, while the East
Derbyshire Club did not open until 15th October. The Lodge has, of course, met
there ever since.
Scarsdale Lodge celebrated its 150th
year in 2006 and a comprehensive history was produced to mark the occasion,
by W. Bro. C. N. Crofts P. Prov. G. Swd. B, copies
of which can be found in Derbyshire County Library as well as Chesterfield
Library, or via the Lodge Secretary.