Robert English Womphrey


Robert English Womphrey

Robert English Womphrey

Robert English Womphrey was a prominent Newcastle Freemason and co-founding member of Lodge Temperance 2557 which at the time the Lodge was consecrated in 1895, met at the Masonic Hall, Shakespeare Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He started his Masonic career in 1891 when he was initiated into Tyne Lodge 991 on August 13th , passed to the second or Fellow Craft degree on September 10th and raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason on  October 8th.

In early 1895 a group of Freemasons thought it a good idea to form a Lodge which would have no intoxicating drinks at any of its meetings. Robert attended the first meeting, held at the North of England Temperance League, to discuss the formation of what was to become Lodge Temperance 2557 and after discussion, it was agreed to sign a petition and forward it to Grand Lodge. The petition shows he was a subscribing member and Junior Steward of Tyne Lodge 991, a Butcher living at 34, Hadrian Road, Wallsend. It was also agreed at the meeting that Robert would become the first Secretary of  Lodge Temperance. To minimise costs and to ensure the lodge started without debt, several brethren promised to donate items of furniture and Robert’s contribution was a square and compass to be placed on the bible, the first of several items donated to the Lodge over the years.

Robert had a long and distinguished Masonic career with Lodge Temperance 2557. He served as Senior Warden in 1896, Master in 1897 then was reinvested as Secretary in November 1899, a position he held until 1908.  In March of that year, the Brethren demonstrated their appreciation and gratitude for his efforts as secretary on behalf of the lodge, by presenting him with a roll top desk, inscribed accordingly. The Lodge minutes are unclear why he left office but in 1921 he was reappointed and invested as secretary, a position he held until 1945.

Silver Tea Set presented to Robert English Womphrey in 1935

In 1904, he  was invested with the Provincial Rank of Grand Junior Deacon. He had the honour of being the first Past Master to be invited to take the gavel for the evening and work a degree. He was presented with a silver tea set in 1935, by the brethren as a token of their appreciation, for his 40 years’ service in Lodge Temperance. In March 1940, along with W. Bro Bergman, he presented the lodge with a pair of wardens columns, which are still in use today and a year later in May 1941 he became the first lodge member to receive a Grand Lodge of England honour when he was invested as Past Grand Standard Bearer.

Robert was a very active Freemason outside of Lodge Temperance 2557 and was a founding member of several other Lodges.

Robert attended a meeting held at the Wallsend Masonic Hall on the 1st of December 1897, where it was resolved that the necessary steps be taken to form a new Lodge to be called “Wallsend Lodge”. A petition was presented at the meeting of Tyne Lodge No. 991 in December 1897 where it was recommended and signed, then forwarded to United Grand Lodge for approval. At a meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge held at North Shields on Tuesday 25th October 1898, Wallsend Lodge No. 2703 was consecrated with Robert as a founding member and first Treasurer.

At the Tyne Lodge No. 991 meeting in February 1902 he presented a petition asking for approval to form a new Lodge in Wallsend to be called the “Neptune Lodge” which was duly signed by the Worshipful Master Martin Wheldon Graham, Senior Warden James McDonald and Junior Warden Joshua A. Brown.  Neptune Lodge No 2908 was consecrated on 6th August 1902 in the Grand Assembly Rooms, Barras Bridge, Newcastle and Robert installed as the first Master. There were thirty two founding brethren, including Robert’s brothers Edward and Isaac. In August 1902 he presented Neptune Lodge with a box containing the working tools, in January 1911, six bound volumes of Gould’s History of Freemasonry, and in March 1914, a Worshipful Master’s gavel to mark the commemoration of his Silver Wedding on January 27th 1914. A celebration

Silver Wedding Anniversary Menu Card

Silver Wedding Anniversary Menu Card

of his silver wedding anniversary was held by Neptune Lodge at Wallsend Masonic Hall on January 30th 1914  at 7.30pm where an illuminated address and cake basket was presented to the couple. Robert became secretary of the Lodge in 1918 and remained in the office until 1946.

In 1910 Robert was one of one hundred and seventy six masters and past masters who co founded Northumbrian Masters Lodge No 3477 consecrated on 31st January 1911 at the Assembly Rooms, Barras Bridge.

At the Tyne Lodge No. 991 meeting on 10th April 1913, a petition was made to form a new “Temperance Lodge” to be called “Holy Cross Lodge” which was recommended by George Hill, Worshipful Master, Joseph Cowell, Senior Warden and William Johnson, Junior Warden. Holy Cross Lodge no. 3679 was consecrated 14th August 1913 with Robert as a founding member and the first Tyler.

Silver Epergne presented to Robert English Womphrey in 1909

Towards the end of the First World War, at a past master’s meeting of Neptune Lodge, the need for another Craft Lodge in Wallsend was discussed. Robert attended the inaugural meeting on 23rd October 1918 where it was agreed to petition for the formation of a new Lodge to be called “Buddle”.  Buddle Lodge no. 3937 was consecrated 1st September 1919 with Robert and his brother Edward as founding members.

Robert was also a member of Lord Armstrong Lodge No. 3074 and was presented with a Silver Epergne (a large elaborate centrepiece for a table) by the brethren when he retired as their Secretary in 1909. He resigned from the Lodge in 1909.

He was a founding member of Tynemouth Abbey Lodge no 2971 which was consecrated on 14th May 1903 and was also a founding member of the Howdon Panns Royal Arch Chapter No. 5315 in 1937 and their first Treasurer and Tuscan Lodge No. 6020 in 1944.

Robert was born in Consett, Co. Durham and was the eldest son of Robert Roger Womphrey (1837 – 1899) and Elizabeth English (1840 – 1899) who married in 1863. Robert senior a Butcher, spent time as Manager of the butchery department at the Co-operative Store in Bedlington before moving to a Butcher’s shop at 34, High Street, Wallsend, which was later taken over by his son Edward Roger Womphrey. Robert Snr. and Elizabeth had at least seven children including:

  • Robert English (b 1864)
  • Sarah Annie (b 1866)
  • Edward Roger (b 1869)
  • Joanna (b 1871)
  • Mary Jane (b 1873 – 1899)
  • Helen (b 1874 – 1878)
  • Isaac Turner (b 1878 – 1944)
  • John (b 1880)

It’s worth noting that both Edward Roger and Isaac Turner Womphrey were initiated into Lodge Temperance 2557, Edward in 1897, a 29 year old butcher, and Isaac, a 21 year old plumber, a year later in 1898.

Robert English Womphrey married Isabella Steven Montgomery in on 27th January 1889 and the census of 1891 shows Robert is a butcher living at 34, Hadrian Road, Wallsend, a “butcher’s shop”, where they remained until their deaths. They had seven children, of which only six survived infancy, including:

  • Robert Roger (b 1890)
  • Helen (b 1892)
  • Elizabeth English (Bessie) (b 1896 – 1917)
  • Emily Isabella (b 1900)
  • Mary Jennings (b 1902)
  • Josephine Turner (b 1907)

Tragically, his son Robert Roger died on 02/12/1940  and is commemorated on the Liverpool Naval Memorial  Panel Reference  Panel 12. Column 2. He was a Fourth Engineer Officer no. 797337 serving with the Naval Auxiliary Personnel (Merchant Navy). He was on H.M.S. Forfar, an armed merchant cruiser, when at 05.46 hours on 2 Dec, 1940, it was hit by one torpedo from a U-boat (U-99), after she had just left one convoy and was bound for another, about 500 miles west of Ireland. She finally sank at 06.57 hours, after four additional torpedo. The master, 35 officers and 136 naval ratings were lost.

Robert’s maternal great grandson, John J Hill, is also a prominent Freemason, a subscribing member of Creighton Lodge No 8071, holds the rank of Past Provincial Grand Junior Warden, Cumberland and Westmoreland and is Provincial Grand Master of the Royal Order of Scotland in Cumberland and Westmorland. John’s mother was the daughter of Elisabeth (Bessie) English Womphrey. Unfortunately when his mother was 3 months old in 1917 both her and her mother contracted Influenza and whilst John’s mother survived , his grandmother died.

John recalls that Roberts daughters were very proud their father was a Freemason. His Past Master’s Jewel from Tyne Lodge 991 was divided up and made into brooches which were then passed on to females in his family. At the present time John’s wife has two, one with Tyne and the other 991. John is also in possession of the silver tea set given to him by Robert’s daughter Emily and the silver epergne. Robert’s two daughters, Emily and Mary were real characters, neither  married and they worked together running care home type establishments, Emily as Matron and Mary as Cook.

Isabella died on the 21 Dec 1936 at 34-35 Hadrian Road, Wallsend and in her will  left £140 to her husband.

Robert died on 12 Aug 1946 at 34-35 Hadrian Road, Wallsend leaving around £3400 to two of  his  daughters, Mary Jennings Womphrey and Josephine Turner Matthewson  (wife of James Matthewson).

At the Lodge meeting in September 1946, the death of the lodge’s longest serving member W.Bro Womphrey P.G.Std Br. was recorded with regret, the Brethren sang “abide with me”.

Womphrey Family Grave

Womphrey Family Grave, Church Bank Cemetery, Wallsend

Womphrey Family Grave

Womphrey Family Grave












Womphrey Family Grave

Womphrey Family Grave

Womphrey Family Grave

Womphrey Family Grave












Many thanks to Robert’s great grandson John J. Hill for his input and the photographs of the silver tea set, silver epergne and silver wedding menu cards.

Photos of Family Grave taken by W.Bro Peter Walker with the assistance of W.Bro Ian Brown, Provincial Librarian.

Photo of Robert courtesy of Shirley Hare, granddaughter of Guy Hayler another founding member of Lodge Temperance 2557.

Page Updated 13/07/2018