The History of Mark Masonry has been studied and written about by many eminent Masonic Historians, but none have ever found the true origins of speculative Masonry. Some say it originated from Scotland, others from America. Wherever it originated it was an integral part of Craft Masonry between the Fellowcraft and Master Masons Degree. When the two Grand Lodges finally united in 1813 the Mark Degree was excluded and only the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, Master Mason including the Holy Royal Arch Chapter were worked. Explanation for the reasoning can be found in other books but here we will concentrate on the Mark Degree in Hampshire and Isle of Wight.
Records of the Mark Degree date back to 1st September 1769 when the Provincial Grand Master Thomas Dunckerley made six Brethren of The Royal Arch Chapter of Friendship (originally No. 3 now No. 257) Mark Masons. They were taught how to make their marks and were then made "Mark Masons and Mark Masters".
A record of this account was found in the first minute book of The Chapter of Friendship when W.Bro Howell discovered that a sheet of paper stuck to the front cover of the Minute book was indeed a record of the meeting on the 1st September 1769 in Masonic cypher. The Chapter of Friendship continued to work the Mark Degree until 1855.
Mark Grand Lodge was formed in June 1856 and the Companions of the Chapter of Friendship, who had taken the Mark Degree, gave allegiance to that body. On the 7th July 1856 a Warrant of Constitution was granted to them from Grand Lodge under the name of The Phoenix Lodge of Mark Masters No.2. Unfortunately the Warrant was not changed to one of confirmation, so the former Warrant had no detail of the Degree having been worked in the Chapter from 1769 until the original minutes of the first meeting were discovered. "Phoenix Lodge No.2 Time Immemorial" is now recognised as the "Oldest Lodge in the World."
The first Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire and Hampshire from 1857 to 1873 was the Rt. Hon. William Wither Bramston Beach. MP, who in 1869 also became the Provincial Grand Master for the Craft. In 1873 Hampshire and Isle of Wight became a Mark Province in its own right and the Reverend Canon George Raymond Portal who had been installed as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons on 1st June 1869 and who, in June 1871, also became the Grand Master of the Ark Mariners following its absorption by the Mark Degree, stood down after three years in that office and was appointed the Provincial Grand Master for this Province. He served in that office for 16 years and died in April 1889. In July 1889 Rt. Hon. William W. Bramston Beach, Past Grand Master of the Mark Degree, was again installed as the Provincial Grand Master.
On Thursday 26th October 2006, a celebratory meeting was held at the Royal Albert Hall to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of The Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons and the five Foundation Lodges were presented with new Banners in celebration of the occasion, one of them being Phoenix Lodge No. 2 (T.I). The others were Bon Accord, Old Kent both meeting in London, Royal Cumberland at Bath and Northumberland and Berwick upon Tweed' meeting in Newcastle, all are considered as Time Immemorial Lodges having existed prior to the formation of Mark Grand Lodge in 1856.
We are also very proud of the fact that we have three Mark Lodges who have celebrated their 150th year of existence. The Wyndham Lodge No. 37 in July 2011, Portsmouth No 17. (T.I.) in December 2011 and The Aldershot Military Lodge No. 54 in May 2012. Each Lodge celebrated the occasion and received an official visit from the Provincial Grand Master R.W. Bro John H. Prizeman RAMGR and members of the Provincial Team.
Today the Mark Degree in Hampshire and Isle of Wight continues to flourishing with 48 Mark Lodges with an average membership of 40 per Lodge.