Why William de Warenne?

This page is dedicated to the history and heritage bestowed on our Lodge by virtue of a name.

I am eternally grateful to a fellow lodge member, W. Bro John Withall, for all the research he has carried out to enable me to write and illustrate this Lodge History. All credit must go to him. 

The Lodge was consecrated on 20th Aug 1945 and the name chosen was “William de Warenne” after a Norman Knight.

We are the 6139th Lodge to be consecrated by the United Grand Lodge of England.

But who was that Norman Knight?

William de Warenne Banner Black BG 2.jpg

Our Lodge Banner depicts William de Warenne and his chosen colours, Blue and Golden yellow squares.  This sounds far more imposing if you translate it to Herealdic speak - “Checky OR and AZURE”. The banner was created by the wife of one of the founding members, W. Bro, Pursey Strudwick.

Below is a stained glass window depicting William de Warenne as he may have looked.

 William de Warenne Stained Glass

History says that he was born in a small village in Northern France called Varennes, located SE of Dieppe and near Bellencombre.

Little is known about him until 1054 when he assisted William – Duke of Normandy (also known as William The Conqueror) in a Battle near to Neufchatel-En-Bray at Mortemer.

battle picture

William – Duke of Normandy was embroiled in a dispute with King Henry I, of France, his brother Odo and Roger of Mortemer. There was a decisive battle in which William de Warenne played an active role in winning the battle for the Conqueror. He was rewarded handsomely with the Manor of Mortemer.

As a direct result of this victory William de Warenne became a close advisor and confidant of William I (the Conqueror), especially in the planning of the invasion of England, which as everybody knows occurred in 1066. The army landed at Pevensey and headed inland to fight with King Harold at “The Battle of Hastings”. They met at Senlac (also a Masonic lodge in  Sussex) field and history tells us that the Norman invaders were triumphant. With that the Normans began to inflict their will on the resident Saxons.

1066 Battle of Hastings

Sussex was then divided into areas of land known as “Rapes” after a Saxon land measurement believed to derive from the use of a rope. Each Rape had as its base a Castle/Fortification of which there were 6 in total, Hastings, Pevensey, Lewes, Bramber,  Arundel and Chichester.  Each rape was awarded to favorite members of the Kings family and friends. William de Warenne was rewarded with the Lewes rape.

He promptly set about strengthening the site by building a Norman Motte and Bailey castle:- a wooden fort on a hill with a settlement nearby. Lewes is one of only two in England with two mounds.

Lewes Motte & Bailey Castle, Sussex

The stone castle, that we still see at Lewes today came 200 to 300 years later.

Lewes Castle today.jpgLewes Castle today 2.jpg

The William de Warenne shield is visible in the Keep at Lewes Castle today

W d W Shield in keep.jpeg

William de Warenne was so popular with the King that he was also given other castles, distributed throughout England:-

Castle Acre, Norfolk.

 Castle Acre Norfolk

Conisborough, near Doncaster, once the property of King Harold,

 Connisburgh Castle,

and Reigate Castle in Surrey. This also came with the title of Earl of Surrey.

Reigate Castle, Surrey

In 1071 he was responsible for hunting down of Hereward The Wake in Ely, in revenge for the killing of his brother Frederick in 1070. Hereward The Wake was later exiled and it is not known, how, when or where he died.

We now come to a period in William de Warenne's history in which the historians disagree.

It is known the he was married to Gundrada but there is some doubt as to her antecedents. Some say that it was widely recorded that she was the sister of William I, but recent research suggests that she was in fact the sister of “Gherbod The Fleming”, the son of Matilda Queen of England.  Gherbod was made Earl of Chester in 1070, one of the most powerful Barons in England. The current Earl of Chester is the Prince of Wales.

In the apparent absence of the King in 1075 William was made Chief Justice (Justician).

In 1077/78 William de Warenne and his wife Gundrada founded the “Clunaic Priory of St Pancras”, in Lewes. This followed a visit to Cluny Monastery in Burgundy, enroute to a pilgrimage in Rome. They turned aside from the pilgrimage and turned all their attentions to Lewes. 

Clunaic Priory of St Pancras, Lewes

A personal disaster for William de Warenne then occurred on 27th May 1085, when Gundrada died at Castle Acre, Norfolk. Her body was taken to the priory at Lewes for burial. Eventually he did marry again, this time to a sister of Richard Gouet.

In 1086 King William commissioned The Domesday Book – a list of all the properties and owners in England. By then our William de Warenne held lands in 12 counties of England and was one of it’s richest men.

Domsday book 1086

 9th Sept 1087 – King William died after falling from his horse at the siege of Nantes, in France.  His son, William Rufus, (the Red - on account of his distinctive hair) became king and rebellion broke out .

April 1088 – a siege occurred at Pevensey Castle – de Warenne, as always loyal to the King, led the assault on the castle, which was held by Robert of Mortain and Odo. The castle was taken but our hero received an arrow in his leg.  He was taken to the Priory of St Pancras, in Lewes, and there died of his wounds.

What manner of man was he?

Warrior,  Leader,  Organiser and Manager,  Counsellor and confidant to his King,  

Devout in his beliefs and a wealthy man,

Worthy qualities in anyone, especially a Mason.

 His Motto:-   “Ero Quod Spero” – I will again Hope.

So perhaps the above forms part of the reason our predessors chose the name “William de Warenne” for our Lodge. A Lodge consecrated in August 1945 in those bleak times of post war Britain and based on a set of principles that you would wish to aspire to. How could they have known that William’s motto would still be as powerful in the 21st century as it had been in the 2nd.

This article was taken from John's "Sussex Lodge Names" talk. He also presents talks on "Masonic prisoners of war" and "The Origins of the Lodge Room".

John W giving Nov lecture.jpeg

W. Bro. John Withall presenting his lecture.


I hope you have enjoyed this brief history of our Lodge name and if you are inspired to join us or would like John to come a give a talk in your Lodge please visit the “Contact Us”  page, or click here, and I promise that I will get back to you.


William de Warenne Lodge Webmaster

Updated:- 17/05/20