With Christopher Wren’s membership of the Craft remaining disputed, Dr James Campbell explains why he chose this subject for his 2011 Prestonian Lecture
Sir Christopher Wren is so well known he hardly needs an introduction. He is England’s most famous architect, the designer of St Paul’s Cathedral. Indeed, up until the age of the railways he was England’s most prolific architect, designing more buildings in his 90 years than any other.
But what makes Wren really fascinating is that he turned to architecture rather late, having already made a considerable name for himself as a mathematician, astronomer and experimental scientist. He was a founding member of the Royal Society and later its president. He carried out the first intravenous injection, was one of the three men who suggested to Newton that gravity obeyed the inverse square law, and was a professor of astronomy at the age of 26. His contemporaries universally described him as startlingly brilliant. Indeed, the more you learn about Wren the more engaging he becomes.
My interest in Wren dates back to 1987, when I first arrived as an undergraduate in Trinity College, Cambridge, and discovered the magnificent library he built there. It sparked a lifelong interest in Wren and another in the architecture of libraries. An interest in Wren served me well and I eventually did my PhD on him and became an architectural historian. One topic kept coming up in my research on Wren: that of his link with Freemasonry. Authors were completely divided on the subject. Many, of course, simply ignored it entirely, but others could not make up their minds whether he was or was not a Freemason, let alone whether it had any effect on his architecture. That uncertainty continues to this day.
A CONTESTABLE TOPIC
If you go on the UGLE website and look at the lists of famous Freemasons, Wren’s name is nowhere to be found. Writers on the subject have also varied in their opinions. John Hamill said in The Craft that the case is ‘unproven’; David Stevenson has said in the past that there is no evidence; while Lisa Jardine, Wren biographer and distinguished historian, is in no doubt that he was. When you look further back – at the eighteenth century – the books of the time all state that Wren had not only been a Freemason, he had been the Grand Master. Some even go so far as to claim that Wren initiated Peter the Great of Russia and William III of England.
The Prestonian Lectures is the only series of lectures officially sanctioned by UGLE. Every year a new lecturer is appointed by the Trustees and announced in Grand Lodge. They choose their own topic. The subject should be suitable for delivery in open lodge or to a wider audience and should be of the broadest possible interest. Wren’s membership of the Craft seemed to me to be ideal and I am pleased that the Trustees agreed.
William Preston (1742-1818), after whom the Prestonian Lectures is named, had been interested in Wren. Preston was convinced Wren was a Freemason and wrote on the subject. He even went as far as buying what he thought was a portrait of him for his lodge. It is now known to be a portrait of the architect William Talman, and it still hangs in Freemasons’ Hall with a plaque wrongly labelled as Wren.
The lectureship Preston founded went into abeyance in the nineteenth century and was revived in its present form in 1924. Since then there have been eighty-two Prestonian Lecturers. Each is entitled to wear a distinctive jewel bearing Preston’s image. In their year of office they give ‘official’ deliveries to lodges chosen by the Board of General Purposes and unofficial deliveries to any lodges that ask for them.
Wren’s membership of the Craft has never been a subject of a Prestonian Lecture before, but is not an infrequent subject of masonic lectures. Most of those I have read are, I am afraid, rather confused.
Most lecturers rely heavily on Robert Freke Gould’s History Of Freemasonry (1883-87), which devotes over fifty pages to demolishing the previously held beliefs that Wren was a Freemason. Few lecturers bother to return to the original sources or look into more recent discoveries. This became my aim: to present clearly how the confusion had arisen and what we now know, and in presenting the evidence to allow the audience to make up their own minds.
Some history is straightforward. Through a series of reliable sources we are able to say unequivocally that something happened on a particular date. Other matters are not so straightforward – vital pieces of evidence are missing or unreliable. This is the case with Wren. The result is a fascinating story of detective work and of shifting views in history.
THE IDEAL SUBJECT
Wren lived around the time that Freemasonry emerged in the seventeenth century, so the question of his membership also brings up the issue of what Freemasonry was at the time he joined. It therefore provides a fascinating glimpse into the problems we have in studying all parts of early Freemasonry’s history.
Also bound up with this subject is the history of Lodge No. 2, the Lodge of Antiquity, which met near St Paul’s Cathedral. Preston was a member of this lodge in the late eighteenth century and it has a number of artefacts associated with Wren. A lecture on Wren is thus an excuse to go into the history of this wonderful lodge and its origins.
Lastly a lecture on Wren and Freemasonry is an ideal opportunity to ask the question of whether it had any effect on his architecture. Are there any masonic symbols hidden in the works of Wren?
These then were the reasons I chose Wren as the subject of the 2011 Prestonian Lecture and it was a most enjoyable year. I gave lectures all over the UK, and I even went as far as India. One highlight was being asked to give a lecture to the Christopher Wren Lodge in Windsor, which hired the town hall Wren designed for the occasion.
Modernising Wren’s hospital
The proceeds of the Prestonian Lecture and the booklet that accompanies it go to charity. Half of the proceeds from Dr James Campbell’s lecture are going to The Royal Hospital Chelsea. The hospital is undergoing a major restoration and is seeking funds to adapt Wren’s building to modern living. The other charity is the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. So far, James has raised more than £6,500 thanks to the generosity of the lodges who have supported the lecture. The sale of the booklet will hopefully raise more. Was Sir Christopher Wren A Mason? contains the complete text of Dr James Campbell’s 2011 Prestonian Lecture and is available from Letchworth’s in Freemasons’ Hall (letchworthshop.co.uk) for £7.99.
Her Majesty The Queen received from His Royal Highness The Grand Master, on our behalf, a message of loyal greetings and congratulations on the occasion of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. Sixty years is a fantastic achievement, equalling Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897 when His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales was Grand Master. Let us not forget that Her Majesty is the daughter of a famous Freemason and Past Grand Master, the late King George VI.
Freemasons have consistently remained devoted and loyal to her Majesty throughout her reign. A great example of this, for any one of you who has attended meetings in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, is when up to seventeen hundred members sing the National Anthem with gusto. You cannot fail to be deeply moved.
The Grand Master, in his speech at the Annual Investiture at the end of April, explained why transparency is critical for Freemasonry and urges an active spirit of openness. You can read the full speech in this issue and see where The Grand Master picks up the theme of our two recent firsts. One was the commissioning of the first ever report by an independent third party on the future of Freemasonry, which was the catalyst for the second of our two firsts, namely the first ever media tour that I was given the privilege of conducting.
The theme is continued in two more articles where our public relations adviser explains how we have gone about changing the minds of the mass of people who have deep-rooted misconceptions about the myths that still surround us. If we want our families to be proud of us being members and if we want to show we are a relevant organisation to join, every effort must be made for these misconceptions to be got rid of.
This is followed by an article on what it was like to be on the ‘front line’ with the media – the Grand Secretary being interviewed around the country. Interestingly, I was hugely encouraged by the positive reception I received.
These examples are a true reflection of our respected magazine being the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England. Apart from the clear benefit of reading what our leaders are thinking and the initiatives we are undertaking to ensure our long-term survival, be assured that all editorial is selected by senior and experienced Freemasons, who are renowned experts in masonic matters and news editing. The only non-masons involved deal in the commissioning of articles – after they have been selected by the editorial panel – or involved in design, printing and distribution. They too have been chosen for their recognised expertise.
I hope you enjoy this issue of Freemasonry Today. With the London Olympic Games just around the corner, we look at how Spencer Park Lodge is carrying the torch for masons who have an interest in sport and enjoy the camaraderie that Freemasonry brings. We also look back at the role that Freemasons played in the 1908 London Olympics, not just on the track but also in helping run the event behind the scenes. And for anyone not totally fixated on athletics, we find out whether Christopher Wren really was part of the Craft and how we let a hundred young people loose on Freemasons’ Hall.
I wish you and your family happy reading and an enjoyable summer.
QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION OF GRAND LODGE
WEDNESDAY, 13 june 2012
REPORT OF THE BOARD OF GENERAL PURPOSES
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 14 March 2012 and the Annual Investiture of 25 April 2012 were confirmed.
A Resolution was moved that the annual dues (including VAT) payable to Grand Lodge in respect of each member of every lodge for the year 2013 shall be:
In a lodge in England and Wales that is unattached ............................. £50
In a lodge in a Metropolitan Area or a Province .................................. £30
In a lodge in a District ............................................................................£7.50
In a lodge abroad not in a District ..........................................................£12.50
The Resolution was approved.
A Resolution was moved that the fees (exclusive of VAT) payable for registration, certificates and dispensations should be increased in line with inflation to:
(a) the Registration of £
1. A Grand Officer, present or past, on first appointment ................... £106
2. A Deputy or Assistant Metropolitan Grand Master or a
Metropolitan Grand Inspector (under Rule 60) ............................... £59
3. A Deputy or Assistant Provincial or District Grand
Master (under Rule 66) .................................................................... £59
4. A holder of Overseas Grand Rank (under Rule 93) .......................... £23
5. A Mason, inclusive of Grand Lodge Certificate (initiation,
or joining from a Lodge not under the Grand Lodge)
In a Lodge in England and Wales that is unattached ................... £59
In a Lodge in a Metropolitan Area or a Province ........................ £52
In a Lodge in a District ................................................................ £32
In a Lodge abroad not under a District ........................................ £44
(b) the replacement or amendment of a Grand Lodge Certificate .......... £58
(c) a certificate for a Serving Brother ..................................................... £32
(d) a Dispensation by the Grand Master ............................................... £30
a Dispensation by the Grand Master “nunc pro tunc” ............................. £60
The Resolution was approved.
CONTRIBUTION TO THE GRAND CHARITY
Under Rule 271, Book of Constitutions, Grand Lodge must fix each year the annual contribution that is payable to the Grand Charity. The Council of the Grand Charity had requested that for 2013 the annual contribution be increased to £16 in respect of each member of a lodge in a Metropolitan Area or a Province, or in England and Wales that is unattached.
The Resolution was approved.
2011: Was Sir Christopher Wren a Freemason?
The Lecturer, Dr J.W.P. Campbell, has informed the Board that in addition to the five official deliveries to Isaac Newton University Lodge, No. 859 (Cambridgeshire); Christopher Wren Lodge, No. 4855 (Berkshire); Archibald Campbell Lodge, No. 4998 (Madras); Alphin Lodge, No. 8461 (East Lancashire) and Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Lodge, No. 9812 (London), the Lecture was also delivered on eight other occasions throughout the Constitution. The Board expressed its thanks to Bro Campbell for the considerable time and effort he has spent in this connection.
2012: Scouting and Freemasonry: two parallel organisations?
The Prestonian Lecturer for 2012 is A.D.G. Harvey. Three official Prestonian Lectures for 2012 have been or will be given under the auspices of: Humber Installed Masters Lodge, No. 2494 (Yorkshire, North and East Ridings), Authors Lodge, No. 3456 (London) and North Notts Masters Lodge, No. 9525 (Nottinghamshire).
RECOGNITION OF FOREIGN GRAND LODGES
The Grand Lodge Oriental of Colombia “Francisco de Paula Santander”
The Grand Lodge Oriental of Colombia “Francisco de Paula Santander” was formed on 18 November 1945 from four lodges meeting in the region of Santander under the National Grand Lodge of Colombia, at Barranquilla, which is one of the four Colombian Grand Lodges currently recognised by the UGLE.
The Grand Lodge of los Andes
On 29 April 1972 the Grand Lodge of los Andes was formed by the Grand Lodge Oriental of Colombia “Francisco de Paula Santander”.
The four Colombian Grand Lodges already recognised by the UGLE together with the above two cover distinct geographical areas in Colombia and all share mutual recognition.
The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Nevada
The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Nevada was formed on 16 August 1980, from three lodges meeting in that State under the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arizona, which was recognised by the UGLE on 11 September 2002. Having shown that they have regular decendency and that they conform to the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition, the Board, having no reason to believe that they will not continue to maintain a regular path, recommends that these three Grand Lodges be recognised.
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
ERASURE OF LODGES
The Board had received a report that 18 lodges had closed and had surrendered their Warrants. The lodges are:
Lodge of Emulation, No. 1505 (West Lancashire), Greenwood Lodge, No. 1982 (Surrey), Carville Lodge, No. 2497 (Northumberland), King Edward VII Lodge, No. 2969 (South Africa, Western Division), Napier Clavering Lodge, No. 3428 (Northumberland), Raynes Park Lodge, No. 4377 (Surrey), London Staffordshire Lodge, No. 4474 (London), Continuity and Perpetua Lodge, No. 4651 (London), Lodge of Progress, No. 5017 (Hertfordshire), Camperdown Lodge, No. 5250 (Hertfordshire), City Centre Lodge, No. 5787 (London), Hinchley Wood Lodge, No. 5809 (Surrey), Noel Acacia Lodge, No. 5852 (Surrey), Keystone Lodge, No. 6173 (Warwickshire), Rosemary Lodge, No. 6421 (Northumberland), Riverside Lodge, No. 7247 (London), Allegiance Lodge, No. 7434 (Cheshire) and St Ambrose Lodge, No. 8251 (West Lancashire).
A Resolution that these lodges be erased was approved.
THE RULERS’ FORUM
A recent review of the Rulers’ Forum and consultation with Provincial Grand Masters has led to the conclusion that the Forum is not functioning as originally intended. By contrast, the Rulers’ Forum Groups have proved remarkably effective in promoting discussion across Provincial boundaries. After careful consideration, the Board recommended that the Rulers’ Forum be dissolved and that the Rulers’ Forum Groups be reconstituted on an informal basis.
It further recommended that the members of the Commission for Appeals Courts and certain members of the Panel for Clemency, who are currently elected by the Rulers’ Forum at its meeting in December, be appointed in future by the Grand Master from among Brethren nominated for appointment in the same manner as currently applies for election by the Rulers’ Forum.
A Notice of Motion to amend the Book of Constitutions accordingly appeared the Paper of Business.
LIST OF NEW LODGES
List of new lodges for which warrants have been granted by The Grand Master showing the dates from which their warrants became effective:
14 March 2012:
9870 Sir Adeyemo Alakija Lodge (Ebute Metta, Nigeria)
9871 Sussex Motorcycling Lodge (Southwick, Sussex)
9872 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Lodge (Ramsey, Isle of Man)
9873 Ghana District Grand Stewards Lodge (Accra, Ghana)
ADDRESS: DIAMOND JUBILEE OF HM QUEEN ELIZABETH II
Dr J W Daniel gave an address entitled Royal Jubilees and Loyal Freemasons.
Grand Lodge will meet on 12 September 2012, 12 December 2012, 13 March 2013, 24 April 2013 (Annual Investiture), 12 June 2013 and 11 September 2013.
SUPREME GRAND CHAPTER
Supreme Grand Chapter will meet on 14 November 2012, 25 April 2013 and 16 October 2013 (transferred from 13 November by resolution of Grand Chapter).