The origin of the Apollo Lodge, as it was called in the beginning, dates from a meeting held in Brasenose College on 24th May 1818 attended by George Hitchens, a surgeon aged 29, Worshipful Master of the Alfred Lodge No. 649, Daniel Keyte Sandford, James Edmund Leslie, Lambert Blackwell Larking and William John St. Aubyn.

Of these, Larking of Brasenose (BNC) was in the Chair and probably host. A member of the St Frederick Lodge, Boulogne, he was in his second year and just 21. Sandford, son of an Edinburgh physician, was of Christ Church aged 21. He was to become Professor of Greek at Glasgow, and Member of Parliament for Paisley in 1838.  Leslie, a Belfast man, had matriculated at Christ Church that month at the age of 18.  St Aubyn, a member of the well-known Cornish family, was 24, formerly of Christ Church, now of Worcester College.  He was a member of the Loge L'Union des Coeurs, Geneva, in which the Duke of Kent had been initiated in 1790.

They resolved that

  1. "We Brethren, free and accepted Masons, do form ourselves into a Lodge, and petition the Grand Master of England to grant us a charter for constituting the same
  2. "The permission of the Vice-Chancellor of this University be first obtained
  3. "In the case of this charter being granted
          John Ireland be appointed Master
          George Hitchings, Senior Warden
          Sir Charles Macdonald Lockhard, Bart., Junior Warden
          David Keyte Sandford, Senior Deacon
          James Edmund Leslie, Junior Deacon
          William John St Aubyn, Inner Guard
          The Revd. Joseph Bardgett, Chaplain
          Stephen Wentworth, Treasurer
          Hiram Holden, Tyler
  4. "The Lodge be styled ‘The Apollo Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons’,
  5. "Its meetings to be held at the Star Inn until a more convenient place can be prepared exclusively for that purpose.
  6. "A medal be cast to be worn by each member suspended by a piece of blue riband, and be stamped on one side with an Apollo, surmounted with the motto ‘aliusque et idem’, and on the reverse with a temple guarded by two serpent and the motto ‘sacer est locus’, and the edge to be engraved with the motto ‘Dominus illuminatio mea’”.

John Ireland, master designate, then aged 71, was an apothecary.  He had been initiated in 1773 in the then extinct Constitution Lodge No. 396, of which he had been Master in 1780 and 1788.  He became the first Master of the Alfred Lodge in 1814.  And so began the happy masonic connection between the oldest surviving City Lodge and the University Lodge.

The Junior Warden designate had matriculated from All Souls in 1795 and taken his degrees from Merton. He was then 43 years of age.

The Treasurer was a pharmacist or surgeon in the city but a member of the University as “privilegiatus” in 1808.  He was aged 36, while the Tyler with the appropriate Christian name of Hiram was a printer in Oxford.

The same meeting produced a set of Laws and Regulations, among them being a decision to meet on the first and third Wednesday in every month during Term. The proposer of an Initiate had to deposit a guinea with the secretary.  If approved, the candidate could be initiated the same evening, and could not be initiated after six (subsequently changed to three) months had elapsed.  A fee of two guineas was required of every brother before his Passing and Raising.  The election of Master, Treasurer and Tyler was fixed for the 2nd November when the Master would appoint his Wardens and other officers.  The Junior Warden was specifically charged with the duty of looking after guests and of seeing that the tables were suitably supplied.  Every visiting brother had to pay 10s 6d each visit.

Supper was to be served as soon as Lodge closed, normally at 9 p.m. and brethren were to disperse by 11.30.  A charity box was sent round at the end of every meeting.

At a further preliminary meeting, held in Brasenose College on 30th May 1818, it was resolved to apply to Grand Lodge for a Book of Constitutions.  The Lodge was to subscribe one guinea annually to the Charity for Female Children and to the Institution for Clothing etc.  the Sons of Indigent and Deceased Masons.  Members were to wear evening dress with white gloves and medals and regular regalia.

The first meeting was held on 10th February 1819, when William Thompson, Master, and William Henry Butler, Junior Warden, of the Alfred Lodge were visitors.  Bro. Thompson reported the receipt of a letter from the Grand Secretary stating that the warrant for the opening of the Apollo Lodge was signed. He and the brethren present presumed that they had sufficient authority to hold a lodge meeting.  The Lodge was accordingly opened in due form.  Bro. John Green James of the Vitruvian Lodge No. 644 (now 338) at Ross in Herefordshire, aged 21, of Wadham College, was duly elected a joining member. The Alfred Lodge was requested to lend their jewels until the funds of the Apollo enabled them to purchase their own.  The W.M. and Bro Larking were asked to draw up a form of summons to be engraved by Bro. Mathews. Mr James Case, B.A., of B.N.C., aged 22 was balloted for as an Initiate, the Master dispensing with the rule that the ballot should not be held until the following meeting.  The Lodge was opened and closed in the Second Degree.  The supper charge was agreed at 4/- which included a bowl of negus at each end of the table.  Other liquor was to be paid for by those who ordered it.  The Lodge was closed at 8.30pm.

On 19th February 1819 the Lodge was opened by William Thompson, the W.M. of the Alfred Lodge, assisted by the Wardens, Deacons, and Secretary of his Lodge.  The minutes of the Preliminary Meetings were agreed and the Lodge opened in all three degrees.  Bro. Thompson informed the Lodge that he had the previous evening tendered the obligation as Master to Bro. Ireland, who was unable to attend, and who had appointed him his Locum Tenens.  Bro. Thompson then read the warrant of the Grand Master and proclaimed the Apollo Lodge No. 711 to be duly authorised, and installed the officers.  The Lodge was resumed in the first degree when Bro. Case was duly initiated.  A vote of thanks was passed to Bro. Larking for the zealous conduct he had displayed, as well as to the W.M. and officers of the Alfred Lodge.  Two gentlemen from Merton, one from St Mary Hall, and one from Worcester College were accepted for Initiation.  The lecture in the 1st degree was given for the instruction of Bro. Case.  The Lodge was closed and reopened after supper and then finally closed after an evening of harmony and brotherly love.

Between its formal constitution and the beginning of the long vacation the Lodge met no less than eleven times. Twenty-three gentlemen were initiated from eight colleges.  Christ Church provided seven including Lord William Cholmondeley, Lord Francis Leveson-Gower and Lord Dunglass.  Two waiters of the Star Inn were also initiated.  Twelve Brethren were passed and twelve were raised.  Several Brethren became joining members including Bro. William Marshall, described in the minutes as Professor of Music. He had been admitted as a member of the University in 1812 as a ‘privilegiatus’ and as a “musicae supellectilis Venditor”.

During the early months of its existence the Lodge Passed and Raised its new initiates long before the statutory month had elapsed between the ceremonies.  On the 5th May 1819 Lambert Larking, the Junior Warden, informed the Lodge that he had been at the Grand Festival in London where he had learnt from the Grand Secretaries that the Lodge had been acting against the Constitutions in passing and raising several brethren too speedily and that consequently its members were liable to be summoned before the Board of General Purposes and the Lodge to be erased.  The Lodge decided to petition Grand Lodge for their forgiveness.  They pleaded that when the Lodge was constituted, the Book of Constitutions was being revised and therefore they had no copy. They expressed their great regret at having, as inexperienced masons, acted improperly and affirmed their intention of doing nothing contrary to established usages.  They further stated that the University’s laws would prevent them from obeying a summons to appear in London during term.  At the same time they petitioned the Grand Master for a dispensation to initiate gentlemen under 21 years of age.  They stated that those proposed would have been of the highest value to the craft owing both to their character and rank.  Among them were, as mentioned above, Lord William Henry Hugh Cholmondeley, Lord Francis Leveson-Gower, Lord Dunglass, Lord Ashley, the Hon. Henry Upton and other noblemen and gentlemen of high rank whose stay in the University was short, and who generally left the country to visit foreign kingdoms.  They asked the Grand Master to give them standing leave to initiate minors or at least from time to time indulge the Lodge in this respect.

There is no record of any reply from Grand Lodge either in the Minutes of the Apollo or in the letter books of Grand Lodge.  Suffice it to say that the Lodge carried on in a more regular manner and several times asked and obtained dispensations to initiate gentlemen under age.

Other matters that were decided in this period were an increase in initiation fees to 5 guineas, and a membership fee for those who had left Oxford of one guinea a year.  It was agreed to hold two Festivals each year on 2nd November and 19th February and it was ordered that if an officer were not present at the opening of the Lodge, his substitute should continue to act during the whole evening.

On 5th May the Worshipful Master – the elder statesman of Oxford Masonry, Bro. John Ireland – gave a short lecture with regard to behaviour outside the Lodge, warning the Brethren to be particularly cautious in all their conduct.   Bro. Thompson of the Alfred Lodge had been a constant visitor and to mark their appreciation of his services the Lodge presented him in June 1819 with a jewel.  Bro. Larking was likewise thanked for his indefatigable zeal in promoting the interest of the Lodge.

Between the beginning of 1820 and Trinity Term 1825 the Lodge initiated 79 Brethren, among whom were Lord Harley, Sir St. Vincent Cotton, 6th Bt, Randolph, Lord Garlies, 2nd Earl of Clanricarde, the Hon. Francis Curzon, the Hon. William Brabazon, the Hon. Charles Bathurst, all of Christ Church, and the Hon. Miles Stapleton, of Worcester.  The Lodge had members from Brasenose, Balliol, Worcester, Trinity, St. Mary’s Hall, Jesus, Corpus, Oriel, University – of which those from BNC were the most numerous.

In February 1820 the Lodge agreed to meet once a month only in term unless there were at least three candidates ready for initiation.

In February also letters of condolence were sent on the deaths of George II and of the Duke of Kent and a letter of congratulation to George IV on his accession.  In November 1820 it was agreed to donate six guineas annually to the Radcliffe Infirmary and one guinea to a distressed Spanish Brother while 3 guineas were voted to Bro. Meek, the waiter of the Star Inn for his distressed family, while in the following year ten guineas were granted to the Masonic Orphans Charities in London and 5 guineas to the mendicity society in Oxford and 10 guineas to the lunatic asylum.

In March 1821 it was proposed “that application should be made for dispensations to admit such individuals, members of the University under the full age of 21 years as the Lodge might deem worthy”, by a separate application in each case.  Two years later the Lodge asked the Provincial Grand Master for general dispensation for initiating candidates under 21.

On 18th February 1822 Edward Ogle who had been initiated on 10th March 1819 at the age of 21 and who had served as Secretary the previous year was elected Master – the first since Ireland.  At the Festival held the following day there were present 21 Brethren and 8 visitors when the “Brethren proceeded in grand procession to Dinner.  The Lodge was closed after the Evening had been spent in the most perfect Masonic harmony”.  It is noteworthy that at this time the dinners were always held when the Lodge was open.  At the subsequent meeting a vote of thanks was passed to Bro. Ireland for his long and valuable services and for the dignified and impartial manner in which he had conducted the business, and that he be considered as Honorary Member and invited to all Lodge meetings.

Another interesting Honorary Member, who, however, was expected to pay the Lodge a guinea a year was Dr Aranatti, described as a Professor of Modern Languages, and a member of “a foreign lodge”, elected in April 1823.

In February 1824 Bro. The Revd Charles Ridley of University College was elected and installed as Master.  He had been initiated at the end of 1820 at the age of 30, was J.W. in 1822 and S.W. the following years.  He was succeeded in 1825 by the Rev'd L.J. Watling of Jesus, initiated in March 1823 at the age of 30.  He had been Senior Warden the previous year.