Bexhill was then a very different place to what we see today. There had been a massive growth in the town following the building of the Sackville Hotel by the Earl De La Warr. He encouraged his many titled and wealthy friends to visit the town and it really was the playground of the rich and famous. We had several large hotels here and Thomas Webb, a London builder who had developed the East Sea wall for the Earl (at a cost of £34,000.00) and been given the area from the west of sea road to the polegrove in part payment for his work, was developing the town that we know today. Its worthy of note that the town was the first in England to be laid out in a “Block formation”
To put the growth factor in perspective, the 1891 census tells us that there were 5,206 people here with 1,009 houses. In 1901, just ten years later, that had grown to 12,213 people and 2,659 houses. By 1931, when this temple was built the population was 21,229 with 4,911 houses.
Such was the exclusiveness of the growing resort that H.H. Sri Sri Maharaja Sir Nripendra Narayan Bhup Bahadur, a great favourite of Queen Victoria, and Indian Royalty, maintained a residence in the town. The old Maharajah passed away in 1911, and his son, in 1913, built a memorial fountain, on the site where the De La Warr pavilion now stands. When the De La Warr was built it was moved to Egerton Park and later dismantled. The Indian connection can still be seen by the stylised cupolas and ornamental chimney pots along the Marina.
The Lodge did indeed flourish in the town and by end of the First World War membership stood at 97. Continuing to meet at the Devonshire at the end of 1926 membership was 140 and we were the third largest Lodge in the Province.
It can only be natural that, in the end, someone felt that it was time for the Lodge to have its own purpose built temple and indeed this had been muted in 1914. I guess the advent of the 1914/18 war held thing up a little and so it was on the 13th November 1918 at an Installation meeting held by dispensation at the Sackville, that it was proposed in Lodge by W.Bro French that a memorial building fund should be set up with a view to raising enough money to build a Masonic Hall.
Shortly after this a double plot was purchased on the corner of Magdalen Road and Manor Road. This stood on the books until 1925 when it was sold, accumulating a profit of some £584.00. Eventually, our present site was obtained and after much wrangling and hand wringing, this building was constructed in 1931, by a member, Bro McCormick, for the princely sum of £3,537-8s-8d including plans, construction, heating, stamp duty, bank charges etc. but not the contents. Bro McCormick’s name is over the inside of the front door, with the Architects name Bro Cash. Bro Norman Rushbrook has calculated that, at today’s prices, we would have to raise some £170,000.00 to achieve the same.
The laying of the foundation stone ceremony took place on the 13th May 1931. The Provincial Grand Lodge attended and the ceremony was conducted by the Provincial Grand Master, W.Bro Laurence Thornton. The Lodge convened at the Devonshire Hotel and from there paraded, in full Masonic dress, to the site in Wilton Road. This was fully reported in the Observer, with photos, I have a copy of that report here. The Lodge was finally dedicated on may 12th 1934 for Masonic use although the Lodge used it, by dispensation, from 14th October 1931.
Many of the contents were donated by the members and as you look around the lodge you will see many things with a small silver plaque attached. The chairs you sit on were all bought by the members and each one bears his name. The chairs were bought for 17s 6d and sold to the members for 1 Guinea. The pedestals were donated by W.Bro Ernest Gibbs, he was the founding Master of the Bexhill Lodge. The hand rail that goes up the stairs was donated by Bro Janson and fitted by W.Bro Gordon Harris. It cost of £12.00 plus £1.00 for the heavy duty brackets. We, today, have much to be grateful for hard work and devotion to the cause that our forbears made. I somehow don’t think we would be able achieve this today.