The Lodge of Reconciliation was set up in early December, 1813, just before the union of the two rival Grand Lodges on 27th December of that year, to settle, and afterwards to demonstrate, the form of the ritual for the United Grand Lodge of England. The Lodge of Reconciliation ceased working in June, 1816 after the new ritual had been approved at the Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge. The Stability Lodge of Instruction, which included several members of the Lodge of Reconciliation amongst its leaders, started working in 1817, but Emulation Lodge of Improvement was not founded until October, 1823. Emulation can, however, claim indirectly almost as close a connection with the Lodge of Reconciliation as can Stability, because many of the Founders of Emulation Lodge of Improvement had been members of the Burlington and the Perseverance Lodges of Instruction. Burlington started working in 1810 (under the Premier or “Moderns” Grand Lodge) and Perseverance started in 1818. There was a substantial degree of common membership as well as a certain amount of “in and out running” between the two, so that although Burlington was in abeyance for two relatively short periods, the net result was a virtually unbroken line of succession, from the time that the Lodge of Reconciliation settled and demonstrated the ritual of the three degrees, down to the foundation of Emulation.

It was on 2nd October, 1823 that the Emulation Lodge of Improvement for Master Masons first met under the sanction of the Lodge of Hope, No. 7 (in 1832 renamed Royal York Lodge of Perseverance, No. 7). When it started working, Emulation taught the ritual settled by the Lodge of Reconciliation by means of the Lectures, and did not begin regularly to demonstrate the actual ceremonies until some time – the exact date is uncertain – in the 1830s. The Lectures were in those days the normal method of teaching the ritual, and Emulation from the beginning worked the Lectures according to The Grand Stewards’ Lodge system, which incorporated the new ritual from 1815; The Grand Stewards’ Lodge continued to demonstrate its Lectures at its twice-yearly Public Nights until the latter ceased to be held after 1867. Emulation adhered to that system, incorporated changes as they were introduced by The Grand Stewards’ Lodge and, most important, has continued to work them regularly up to the present day.

It was not long before the future of the newly established Lodge of Improvement seemed to be under serious threat. From 1818, the Book of Constitutions provided (as it still does) that every Lodge of Instruction had to be held either under the sanction of a regular Lodge, or by the licence and authority of the Grand Master. Although from 1823, Emulation was sponsored by the Lodge of Hope, in March, 1830 it seemed likely that, following a message sent by the Grand Master, the Duke of Sussex, to the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge held at the beginning of the month, the Rules in the Book of Constitutions would be tightened to require the Master or a Past Master of the sanctioning Lodge in future to preside at every meeting of a Lodge of Instruction. At this time the Lodge of Hope was very small, and rather weak. The members of Emulation present at the meeting on 19th March decided to protect their position by submitting a Memorial to the Grand Master, reciting their special circumstances as a general Lodge of Instruction serving many Lodges and not just the sanctioning Lodge, and praying the Grand Master to grant them his special licence for the future.

The memorial to Robert Clay Sudlow, Freemasons’ Hall

The Grand Master, through the Grand Secretary, declined to grant such a licence, and the members of Emulation therefore felt it prudent to seek sanction from a stronger Lodge. They chose the Lodge of Unions, to which several members of Emulation then belonged and which has remained the sponsoring Lodge to this day.

Emulation has over the years enjoyed the support of not only many distinguished, but also many dedicated, Freemasons. Among the distinguished have been four Grand Secretaries, three Presidents of the Board of General Purposes, five Grand Directors of Ceremonies and several Provincial Grand Masters. The first of the dedicated was Bro. Peter Gilkes, who joining Emulation in 1825 rapidly became its acknowledged leader till his death in December 1833; it was he who gave Emulation its abiding ethos of always checking the passing error lest it should pass into common currency.

An extract from ‘Emulation Working Today’, printed with the kind permission of VW Bro G F Redman.