History of URBAN LODGE -St. John's Gate

The history of the Urban Lodge opens at St. John's Gate, where the Lodge was consecrated. St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell, as it is known today, was originally the entrance gate to the Priory of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

After the Order had been disbanded in 1540 by King Henry VIII, the premises were used as a Hunting Lodge, an Armoury, a storehouse and for similar uses, at one time sheltering such scenery as Shakespeare used for his plays, until, in 1731, it became the headquarters of the " Gentleman'sMagazine."

In 1781, the Magazine shifted its headquarters to Fleet Street, and subsequently the Gate House became " The Old Jerusalem Tavern," to continue as such until, in 1887, the Order of St. John resumed occupation of the premises, which today are the Chancery of the Order.

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When Messrs. Chapman and Hall, decided to accept Robert Seymour's sketches, illustrative of the "Nimrod Club," they had difficulty in finding an author to write a suitable vehicle.

Charles Dickens was eventually pressed to undertake the task, in spite of his protests that it was out of his line. There is reason to suppose that, the task once undertaken, with his characteristic thoroughness, he made up his mind to get some first-hand information on his subject, and in the course of his investigation, he encountered, Sylvanus Urban, the " Gentleman's Magazine," and the Urban Club; all of which offered fair targets for his satire.

The ascetic, somewhat gaunt Sylvanus, did not strike Mr. Chapman as good publicity, and possibly he did not enthuse on the project of giving prominence to another publisher in his work, and he consequently suggested the substitution of a personal acquaintance, whose chubby, jocund personality, the whole world has proclaimed a lucky choice, but Urban Lodge loves to cherish the thought that our beloved Sylvanus (in real life, John Nichols) was the original inspiration, even though it had only been for the satire of such a genius as Charles Dickens. One further note of the close association with Dickens, is evidenced by the fact that the ballad "What are the wild waves saying?" written by Dr. Carpenter, the first W. Master of Urban Lodge, was dedicated to Charles Dickens.

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