Medway Martyrs Loyal Orange Lodge 652 were formed on 19th November 2007. We are the first Orange Lodge in the Medway area since the Second World War. Until that time, there had been a Woolwich District with around 5 - 6 private lodges sitting within its boundries. They ran along the North Kent coast, starting at Woolwich, through the Medway Towns, Sittingbourne and the Isle of Sheppey, even as far east as Dover.
A Proud History
Loyal Orange Lodge number 652 was originally named 'Sons of William' and used to meet in the Foresters' Hall in Gillingham High Street, around a quarter of a mile from the Balmoral Hall where Medway Martyrs sat when we formed. Sons of William members also sat in a successful Royal Black Preceptory (Sons of Hiram R.B.P 174). Both lodge & Preceptory were predominantly made up of serving military personnel & retired personnel who had settled in the area.
It has sadly become clear that the lodge never managed to sustain itself after the World Wars and such heart-wrenching losses. With this in mind, when our 'new' lodge was formed, although a different name was decided upon, it was seen as a mark of respect to revive the once proud warrant number of LOL 652.
Formation of the 'New' Lodge
A group of dedicated Orangemen met at a founders meeting in Medway on June 29th 2007 to discuss the revival of Orangeism in Kent. Within five months, all of the relevant processes and paperwork had been actioned and 'MEDWAY MARTYRS LOL 652' met for its inaugural meeting on Monday 19th November 2007. There were fourteen founding members and two new candidates joining that same evening. The lodge is still (to date) the largest in the Metropolitan Province & City of London District.
The Noble Martyrs of Kent
The name 'Medway Martyrs' was decided on out of respect for the three Protestant Martyrs burnt at the stake in Rochester (Medway) between 1555 and 1556, during the reign of Bloody Mary. The memorial plaque below is situated on the walls of the Baptist Church on Crow Lane next to Rochester Cathedral.
The Martyrdom of Hall, Harpole and Beach
Nicholas Hall was a bricklayer from Dartford, and was tried before the Bishop of Rochester, Maurice Griffiths. Hall refused to call the Holy Catholic Church his Mother and declared the Mass to be “naught” and “abominable” for this he was charged with heresy. He was found guilty and was condemned to be executed by burning. This was carried out on July 19th, 1555 in Rochester.
John Harpole was a citizen of St. Nicholas Parish, Rochester. Joan Beach was a widow, of Tonbridge. Both were examined by the Bishop of Rochester, and condemned because they: “did ‘affirm, maintain,’ and believe, contrary to the Mother Holy Catholic Church of Christ, that in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar under the form of Bread and Wine there is Not the ‘Very Body and Blood of Our Saviour in substance, but only a token and memorial thereof.’” Joan Beach declared that she: “...believed only the Father in Heaven to be her Father.”
Both were condemned to death in one sentence by Bishop Griffiths. On April 1st, 1556, they were chained to the stake. Again and again they were urged to recant but consistently refused. They were then burned to death for their faith."
It is now hoped that Medway Martyrs will go from strength to strength with a solid backbone of experienced founder members and healthy influx of new, younger members to take the Order forward into other areas of the large county that is Kent. All is looking rosy in the Garden of England for the Loyal Orange Institution and in particular Medway Martyrs LOL 652.
Rochester Cathedral, Kent