In 1920, there were three Masonic Lodges in Aldershot and Farnborough, all with memberships exceeding 100 brethren. With rising numbers, another Lodge was clearly needed, thus prompting several members of Panmure Lodge No. 723 to apply to become founder members of a new Craft Lodge in Aldershot. As many of the founders were local shopkeepers, they decided that the new Lodge would meet on Wednesday afternoons, that being the traditional day of half day closing. The Rt. Hon. Roundell Cecil Palmer, Viscount Wolmer, the son of The Earl of Selbourne, a member of Panmure Lodge, was the Member of Parliament for Aldershot. Viscount Wolmer succeeded his father as Third Earl of Selbourne in 1942. He was Member of Parliament for Newton from 1910 to 1918 and Aldershot from 1918 to 1940. Lord Selbourne was Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade from 1922 to 1924; Assistant Postmaster General from 1924 to 1929 and Minister of Economic Warfare from 1942 to 1945. He was sworn a member of the Privy Council in 1929 and made a Companion of Honour in 1945. He was Chairman of the House of Laity of the Church Assembly in 1955.
The Founders decided the new Lodge name should be “The Selbourne Lodge”, named after this prominent local dignitary, and that the new Lodge should adopt the Selbourne coat of arms as its Lodge crest. Unfortunately, a rule at that time prevented a Lodge being named after a living person, so it was decided to keep to the idea of honouring the Selbourne name by adopting its family coat of arms. Thus, the name of the new Lodge “Palma Virtuti” (“Reward is to the brave”) is the Latin family motto that forms part of the crest. With the Right Worship Brother Sir Augustus F. Webster Bart, the Provincial Grand Master, presiding, the consecration of Palma Virtuti Lodge took place on 9 March 1921. The first Worshipful Master was Worshipful Brother Arthur Herbert Smith. In March 1922, a Royal Charter of Incorporation as a Municipal Borough was granted to the town of Aldershot. The person who was instrumental in launching the bid for this status was Councillor Arthur Herbert Smith, Founder and first Worshipful Master of Palma Virtuti Lodge. It was a unique claim to fame that within a little over a year, the Founding Master of Palma Virtuti Lodge also become the very first ‘First Citizen’ of the Borough of Aldershot. Since then six brethren from Palma Virtuti Lodge have on two occasions held the office of Mayor of the Borough of Aldershot, and latterly, since 1974, the Borough of Rushmoor.
The Founders had decided that the Lodge should not grow to an overly large size and had suggested no more than 50 subscribing members. It is not certain whether there has ever been a conscious limit put on numbers, but certainly the Lodge has never had more than 49 members, achieved in the 1970s.
During its life, Palma Virtuti Lodge has held its meetings at various locations in and around Aldershot:
For its part, Palma Virtuti Lodge has endeavoured to mirror and serve the community as its founders had intended. Its members have come from all walks of life, including business, the law, teaching, construction, banking and retail. Furthermore, the Lodge hopes it has remained faithful to the principles and aspirations of not only its Founders, but the generations that have followed. The Lodge has always been a generous supporter of charity; not only recognised national Masonic charities—to which it has acknowledged patronage, but also a variety of local good causes, including, over the years: The Aldershot News Old Folks Christmas Fund, The Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Alton Cripples Hospital (now Lord Mayor Treloar College), Hampshire Association for the care of the Blind, The Guide Dogs Association, Frimley Park and Farnham Hospitals, The Fire Service Benevolent Fund, Portsmouth Cathedral Restoration Fund and the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice. Palma Virtuti Lodge is very proud of its heritage and its achievements, and, as it looks forward to its Centenary in 2021, it faces the future with great confidence.
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