In 1829 the Lodge moved from its original home in the Star Inn to the Angel, near the present Examination Schools, but three years later the Apollo had joined the Alfred in establishing purely Masonic premises in Alfred Street, off the High. A picture of these premises is in Oxford Freemasons’ Hall. Two years later a joint committee of the two Lodges was set up for the purchase of an organ. Bro. Morell of the Alfred presented a handsome organist’s jewel with collar and appendages. The organ had to be repaired on numerous occasions until PM Beach of Apollo presented a new instrument in 1856.
For nearly twenty years the two Lodges seemed to have worked in harmony until April 1864 when the Clerk to the Masonic Hall shareholders wrote to say that their other tenants – the Alfred and Churchill Lodges and the Chapter and Encampment – kept strictly to the terms of their tenancy and in total used the building less often than did Apollo. Accordingly unless changes of an important character were to be made, the tenancy of Apollo must cease. The Lodge at once accepted this ‘request’. The result was the erection in Frewin Court at the back of the Clarendon Hotel of a new lodge room, which, the minutes inform us, was consecrated by the Provincial Grand Master in February 1865 in time for the 47th anniversary Festival at which 137 Brethren dined. These premises, on lease from the Clarendon Hotel, remained the home of the Lodge until shortly after the First World War.
Until the appointment of Lord Henry John Spencer-Churchill as Provincial Grand Master in 1836, installed as such the following year, the Lodge minutes give no indication of the presence of a Provincial Grand Master, although that office was held by Lord Forbes. But early in 1837 two communications were received from Lord John, one desiring that the practice of cheering after Masonic fire might be discontinued and the other calling attention to the article in the Book of Constitutions requiring a dispensation for every individual wishing to be initiated under age. Actually only five gentlemen under 21 years of age had been initiated between the foundation of the Lodge and 1833, but research has revealed that the true number was a good deal greater, with no less than 49 with aristocratic connections. The Provincial Grand Master was present at the Festival held in 1838. On that occasion twelve members of the Lodge were present with the Provincial Grand Master, the Grand Secretary White, 14 members of the Alfred, two of the “Reading Lodge” and four from the Foundation Lodge, Cheltenham. Four gentlemen were proposed and seconded, while Sir Robert Brownrigg, 2nd Bt., of Christ Church was initiated. After the ceremony the Lodge was (as usual) called from labour to refreshment when the Anniversary was celebrated by the Brethren present. After dinner the Lodge was closed in due form.
On that day Lord John appointed W.Bro. Charles John Ridley his Deputy. He had been one of Apollo’s early Initiates and was a Fellow of University College, now aged 37. On the death of Lord John on active service in the China war of 1840, Ridley continued as Deputy, serving under the Grand Registrar in charge of the Province, until his appointment in 1841 as Provincial Grand Master. He thus became the first in a long line of members of Apollo to be placed at the head of a Province. The Lodge presented him with his Chain of Office. His portrait hangs in Freemasons’ Hall, Oxford.
From time to time the Lodge took note of events in Grand Lodge. Thus in 1845, a communication was read from the Humber Lodge in Hull objecting to alterations proposed in the amount to be paid by Lodges to the Fund of Benevolence. The Lodge agreed to petition Grand Lodge against the proposal. In 1858 the Lodge expressed its sympathy with the Grand Master under the groundless and libellous attack on him in the Masonic Observer. The Grand Master, Lord Zetland, in thanking Apollo for the address voted to him stated that “such a Testimony of approbation of my Brethren must at all times be most gratifying, but it is still more highly appreciated coming from so distinguished a Body as the members of the Apollo Lodge”. In the same year the Lodge signified its approval of a scheme for devoting Freemasons’ Tavern in Great Queen Street exclusively for masonic purposes, including a library, reading and refreshment rooms.
In 1863 Grand Lodge undertook the revision of the numbers of the Lodges. Henceforth the Apollo University Lodge, which had started as No. 711, had become in 1832 No. 460, was now finally given No. 357. In this period the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, R.J. Spiers, deprecated the way in which the Lodge performed the Second Degree and urged that an explanation of the Tracing Board be given. Indeed for a time Brethren went from the Second to the Third degree in the same night. The ritual performance was probably improved by the institution in the City in 1852 of a “United Lodge of Instruction and Improvement”. In 1854 it was arranged that the Sacred Symbol should be placed in the Lodge.
Votes for charitable purposes were naturally frequently passed. In 1830 the annual donation of six guineas to the Radcliffe was split between the Infirmary and the lunatic asylum. In the same year and often afterwards £3 was voted to the Anti-Mendicity Society. Then the Lodge subscribed to various Church buildings. It should be remembered that on matriculation at this time everyone was obliged to assent to the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England. In 1831 two guineas was sent to the Society for building and enlarging Churches and Chapels; in 1834 ten guineas for a church “at the back of the Clarendon Press” – while in the following year £10 was given towards the building of St Clements and in 1836 £10 towards “the remodelling of the interior of St Peter in the East”. Individual grants were also voted – thus in 1828 £2 to Mrs Seckham “formerly Barmaid at this Inn”, in 1830 “two guineas to the widow of a clergyman” in 1832, “£20 to the widow of our later Brother Wentworth”. In 1836 “£10 for the relief of Irish Clergy” and later that year, “£5 for the sufferers by loss of the life boat at Scarborough”. Such donations continued to be made throughout the period and the Lodge was a frequent subscriber to the Royal Masonic Institutions. They were invited to visit the Boys’ School and themselves entertained the Girls’ School in 1865.
During this period the Brethren presented the Lodge with a large amount of plate. The first record is in 1849 a pair of gravy spoons given by the Provincial Grand Master, a fish knife and fork by the W.M. and two salt cellars by the S.W. In the following year a book was purchased to record these and subsequent gifts.
In all this period it became customary for the Lodge to give a Ball in Commemoration Week and also to hold a Fête - or Garden Party – in one of the College gardens such as New College or St John’s. The great occasion was in 1863. The W.M. was asked if he had any objection to the Brethren originating a torchlight procession to celebrate the wedding of the Prince of Wales, while Bro. Lord Newry was asked to be Secretary of the Ball and Fête Committees. The cost of the Ball, £2,046, held in Christ Church, was met half by the Lodge and half by that College. The Prince and Princess of Wales duly attended. The tickets were a guinea each and no member was allowed more than five tickets. There is no record of the numbers who attended on this Gala occasion, but in 1866, 750 attended the Ball in the Clarendon Hotel and 3,212 were present at the Garden Party given in New College.
For over twenty years W.Bro. Alderman Thompson had been Treasurer. But complaint was made in 1865 that “the items of receipt were entered in the roughest and most hasty manner on loose sheets of paper” and that no proper receipts had been given for money paid. Surprise was expressed that Bro. Thompson, in the midst of his many public and other avocations, had been able to give the time and manifest the energy in the management of the Masonic Festivities and internal Lodge matters in Oxford and the Province and City were congratulated in possessing so valuable a Brother. In 1866 Bro. Thompson became Secretary instead of Treasurer and a quarrel arose over holding the Ball – which resulted in his resigning his office. The Lodge had already agreed to present him with a testimonial in recognition of his services as Treasurer. The Master reminded the Lodge that the late Secretary’s misconduct ought not to obliterate the memory of his services in former years. No serious breach in the harmony of the Lodge occurred as we find Bro. Thompson in frequent attendance afterwards, taking an active part in the proceedings.
In the period 1825 to 1844 a total of 258 gentleman were initiated: an average of 14 a year. 1831 saw the largest number: thirty. Only in 1836 and 1839 were there less than ten initiations. During the next eight years the annual average had risen to 24 whereas from 1853 – 1868 the average was no less than 43. In 1864 as many as 63 saw the light of Masonry through the Apollo University Lodge. Between 1825 and 1844 five Marquesses, two Earls, four Viscounts and nine Lords (Marquesses of Abercorn, Douglas, Waterford, Kildare and Blandford; Earls of: Craven and Lincoln; Viscounts: Folkestone, Loftus, Cantelupe and Seaham; Lords: Southampton, Monson, Russell, Harrington, Boscawen, De Tabley, Charles Thynne, Leverson and Henry Loftus). By far the largest number of initiates (86) came from Christ Church, followed by University College (33) and Oriel (24). Between 1845 and 1869 among those initiated were the Earls of Lincoln, Carnarvon, Jersey and Donoughmore, Viscounts Ingestre, Fordwich, Vaughan, Hamilton, Adare and Newry; Alan, Lord Garlies, Lords Howard, Skelmersdale, Kenlis and Warkworth, the Hon. John F. Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, the Hon. William Edward Sackville-West, the Hon. Alan Herbert, the Hon. Auberon Herbert, the Hon. Charles Winn and Sir George Beaumont, 9th Bt, Sir Robert Buxton, 3rd and last Bt, Sir John Marjoribanks of Lees, 3rd Bt, Sir Henry Fletcher-Vane, 4th Bt, Sir Michael Hicks Beach, 9th Bt, Sir George Macpherson-Grant, 3rd Bt, Sir Joseph Bailey, 2nd Bt, and Sir Frederick Johnstone, 8th Bt. It had been affirmed in 1853 that candidates must be, or have been, members of the University, though members of the Isaac Newton University Lodge No. 859 of Cambridge, were eligible to be elected as joining members.