Gilkes. Peter William
Surname spelled in some old Masonic records as Jilks and so pronounced. An English Freemason who devoted practically his entire life to the dissemination of knowledge retarding the ceremonies of the Craft and the teaching of the ritual of the Grand Lodge of England, acknowledged by all as an authority on Masonic regulations. Born in London, May 1, 1765, and died on December 11, 1833. Initiated at the age of twenty-one in British Lodge, No. 4, now No. 8, in 1786 This record is not in accord with the Grand Lodge Register which gives the year as 1794 but the general choice is for 1786 (see Peter Gilkes, by Brother A. F. Calvert, 1916, pare 4). Little is known of the early history of Brother Gilkes except that he carried on, after the death of his father, a small retail establishment near Carnaby Market and Great Marlborough Street, London. In Dixon's History of Freemasonry in Lincolnshire we note that in August, 1820, in recognition of the "very polite manner in which he has always shown himself towards this Lodge in giving to the Brethren the instruction in Masonry as laid down by the United Lodge of Promulgation," a vote of thanks was passed to "Brother P. Jilks, Greengrozer, Carnaby Market, London." It is certain that Brother Gilkes did not pursue this long after the death of his mother but, "Finding himself independent and being of an unambitious nature, he determined to retire from business and devote himself to pursuits more genial to his disposition.
His accounts were soon closed, he engaged a single room which he furnished plainly, and arranged with Hannah, an old faithful servant of his late mother to attend to his apartment and prepare the frugal meals," he remaining a bachelor his entire life.
Brother Gilkes maintained and taught daily a class of Freemasons without making any charge for his service. The Freemasons Quarterly Renew, of 1834, said: "Although universally held in esteem amongst Masons his conduct was always characterized by good sense; he never aspired beyond his station in life, and declined the honor of an office in the Grand Lodge because he considered that his circumstances in life were not equal to the appointment." An entertaining old book by Dr. George Oliver is entitled The Discrepancies of Freemasonry examined during a week's gossip with the late celebrated Brother Gilkes and other eminent Masons. Page 32 tells of questions of Masonic importance discussed by Brothers Oliver and Gilkes in 1825 and the book shows clearly the high esteem in which the latter was held for his thorough knowledge of the Craft. Peter Gilkes attended and was prominent from the first meeting when the Emulation Lodge of Improvement for Master Masons was founded on October 2, 1823. This group believed in the regulation of all ceremonial by Grand Lodge and also desired that United Grand Lodge should extend its control to the three Lectures explaining the ceremonies.
The form of government they adopted was to enable Emulation Lodge "to hand down the Ceremonies and Lectures unaltered and unchanged from generation to generation." After frequent visits to this Lodge, Peter Gilkes became a joining member and leader of its Committee in May, 1825. This Lodge "differed from all other Lodges of Instruction in being designed for Master Masons only and therefore gave as much attention to the Third and Second as it gave to the First Ceremony, preference being given to the Third.
" An account of Brother Giles activities in various Masonic Lodges would fill many paged Briefly, he was a member of British Lodge, where he was initiated, Royal York Lodge of Perseverance, Lodge of Hope, Globe Lodge, Lodge of Unity, Cadogan Lodge, Old Concord Lodge, Saint James' Union Lodge, Lodge of Good Intent, Saint Michael's Lodge, Hope and Unity Lodge, and Lodge of Unions. Of ten Lodges he is said to have occupied the chairs. His visits to other Lodges were frequent.
Never a subscribing member of the Percy Lodge "he often conducted the ceremonies," says the history of the Lodge, and is recorded as present on eighty-five occasions from 1817 to 1833. While attending Lodges in this way he frequently instructed the Brethren and in one case Brother Calvert in his biography (page 13) records "Giles, while only attending the meetings as a visitor, occupied the chair on every occasion for three years running." Then he joined the Lodge and was elected Worshipful Master for the ensuing year. Brother Giles' London pupils presented him in 1822 with a Past Master's jewel, profusely embellished with diamonds, handsomely designed by Brother John Harris and costing one hundred guineas, over $500. This was only one of a number of tokens of respect and admiration received by Brother Giles during his life. This jewel is possessed by the Percy Lodge.
A year after his death plans were made for the erection of a monument to his memory. His friend and pupil, Stephen Barton Wilson, one of the three instructors responsible for carrying on the work of their preceptor, was commissioned to execute the tablet. This beautiful memorial erected in 1834, is in Saint James Church, Piccalilli, London.
The activities of Brother Giles are intimately bound up with the story of Emulation Lodge of Improvement which should be read in Some Account of the Ritual, by Brother G. J. V. Rankin, 1925, and the Illustrated History of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, by Brother Henry Sadler.
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