Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry is silent on the subject of research lodges, a circumstance easily explained by the fact that its copyrighted first edition dates from 1873, whereas Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 of London, the first research lodge, was warranted in 1884, Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia, copyright 1961, offers an enumeration of research lodges and associations in the British Isles, the United States, and even Canada by mentioning the Toronto Society for Masonic Study and Research, but it neglects to mention those in other parts of the world, such as Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Guyana, New South Wales, New Zealand, South Africa, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria (Australia) and Western Australia.
In Australia research began to be organised in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria, but apparently not in Tasmania and Western Australia at an early date, and not immediately in New Zealand.
I could dwell at length on these occurrences, but I shall not do so here. Many of these early research groups started informally, and with several up and downs, emerged into long-standing research lodges.The oldest still-existing Lodge of Research in Australia is the Victorian Lodge of Research 218. It was formed in 1911, with membership restricted to Installed Masters, for the dual purposed of “the extension of Masonic knowledge …” by lectures, essays, etc. “ and obtaining uniformity of ritual in Victoria “by exemplification in degree work”. In 1917 its by-laws were altered to admit Master Masons to membership. Although its warrant authorises the making of Masons, it is clear that its by-laws effectively exclude this function.
In 1903, Baron Barnett Lodge 3011 EC was formed as a Lodge of installed Masters, for the purpose of ensuring standardised ritual among the English lodges in Queensland.
It was not until after the lodge received a warrant from the United Grand Lodge of Queensland in 1921, when its previous purpose became redundant, that Baron Barnett Lodge 146 QC became a lodge of research. Membership is still restricted to Installed Masters. It publishes lodge papers for circulation among members. It does not have a correspondence circle, but supplies papers on request for the use of country lodges. So it is older than its Victorian counterpart by original warrant, but not as a Lodge of Research.
Today, there are warranted research lodges in all Australian jurisdictions, as well as several unwarranted Masonic Study circles. Most of these have their own idiosyncrasies. Some are pretty much pure research lodges, existing largely only to serve their members. A few do not publish their lectures (which seems to me a waste), some publish their papers with the subsequent summons, while a few, issue annual transactions. Some have correspondence circles, some do not.
In a way the proportion of research lodges and study circles in relation to the number of ordinary lodges is a crude measure of the degree of interest shown by brethren in Masonic education. The growth in Scotland since the mid-1980s of the number of lodges devoted to Masonic study and research is encouraging.
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