Celebrating 300 years

The Temple Builder

For Alexander Burnett Brown, architecture, charity and Freemasonry were inextricably entwined. Philippa Faulks finds out about the man who built an opulent temple inside London’s Great Eastern Hotel

In 2000, the Conran group was mid-way through renovations of a jaded hotel just south of Liverpool Street Station, London. Puzzled by what appeared to be an additional room on the blueprints, the builders broke down a wall to reveal the double doors of a magnificent masonic temple.

Media intrigue ensued, dubbing the discovery a Dan Brown-style mystery. But for those in the Craft, the temple was an open secret; many masons had long been privy to the Great Eastern Hotel’s Grecian Temple, created in 1912 by architect and eminent Freemason Alexander Burnett Brown.

Born on 25 May 1867 in Newcastle, Northumberland, Brown’s parentage is unknown, but the census of 1871 recorded him as living at Ryde, Isle of Wight, with his grandparents.

Brown was a scholar at Charterhouse school, Godalming, Surrey, and left in 1883 prior to joining the Royal Artillery in 1885. Six years later, the 1891 census describes him as an ‘architect and surveyor’. In 1893, he married Amy Elizabeth Reynolds from Buckinghamshire; they had two sons, Alexander Denis and Geoffrey Trevor.

Brown served as aide-de-camp to the Governor and Commander-in-Chief in Gibraltar from 1893 to 1900, and took part in the China Relief Expedition in 1900, promoted to Major in the same year. His architectural career led him to be elected as Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and The Surveyors’ Institution, and he formed a business partnership – Messrs Brown & Barrow – with Ernest Robert Barrow.

A MAN OF OFFICE

Brown’s masonic career was as varied as it was long. He was initiated in Sir Francis Burdett Lodge, No. 1503, Middlesex, on 8 November 1893; passed on 14 February 1894, and raised on 11 April that same year; and served as Worshipful Master in 1897.

He went on to be a founding and joining member of numerous lodges in and around London. Brown also served as the Provincial Grand Secretary of Middlesex, as well as Deputy Provincial Grand Master and Provincial Grand Master of Middlesex.

In 1906 he was appointed Grand Superintendent of Works by the United Grand Lodge of England, serving until 1934 with promotions to Past Grand Deacon and Past Grand Warden along the way. His masonic memberships also extended to the Royal Arch and Mark Masonry, and he was a 32nd Degree mason in Ancient and Accepted Rite.

Brown’s support of masonic charities and institutions was just as prolific. He was Vice-Patron of the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys; Patron of the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls; and Chairman of the Building Committee for the new girls’ school in Rickmansworth. He also served on the Board of Management and Committee of the Royal Masonic Hospital, and was an assessor of the architectural competition for the new masonic hospital at Ravenscourt Park.

MASONRY ON TRACK

Brown’s masonic and architectural careers proved harmonious. While Grand Superintendent of Works, his firm Messrs Brown & Barrow was instructed by the Great Eastern Railway (GER) to create the Grecian Temple in the Great Eastern Hotel.

Freemasonry was flourishing and several hotels owned by the railway companies had established close links with the Craft, incorporating masonic rooms into their fabric. In 1901, the Great Eastern added an Egyptian-style temple in the basement, but by early 1912 had decided to create another on a much grander scale, on the first floor.

Using the initial designs made by the chairman of the GER, Freemason Lord Claud Hamilton, Brown and Barrow set about creating a Grecian-inspired masterpiece. This feat, according to author Mark Daly (London Uncovered, 2016), was accomplished through the personal financing of Lord Hamilton, his family and other railway directors.

No expense was spared, with the temple costing around £50,000 – over £5 million at current prices. Marble of the highest quality was used for the columns, wall panelling and flooring, and lavishly carved mahogany chairs sat beneath a dazzling sunburst ceiling.

The Grecian Temple was formally dedicated on Tuesday, 5 November 1912, with the ceremony performed under the banner of Bard of Avon Lodge, No. 778. The Dedicating Officer was Grand Secretary Sir Edward Letchworth, with Brown acting as Worshipful Master. Many lodges have since graced the temple – notably Caledonian Lodge, No. 134, which met there from 1920 to 1947.

The magnificent temple remains unchanged today. The Andaz London Liverpool Street hotel now occupies the building and proudly offers the temple as a venue for events ranging from fashion and art shows to promotions for HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Brown died at the sanatorium at the Royal Masonic School for Girls in Hertfordshire on 1 April 1948. He would likely be proud that his beautiful creation is still being enjoyed by so many.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 40 WINTER 2017

The Temple in the Hotel

Sir,

Readers of ‘The Temple Builder’ article in the last issue might be interested in further information about Alexander Burnett Brown’s interesting masonic career. His architectural career aside, he was Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Middlesex when HRH The Duke of York was the Provincial Grand Master, and became Provincial Grand Master when HRH became George VI on the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII.

Right Worshipful Brother Alexander Burnett Brown was held in very high esteem by the brethren of Middlesex, so much so that a lodge was consecrated in 1945 as Alexander Burnett Brown Lodge, No. 6133, in his honour. Both his sons were the lodge’s First Master and Senior Warden.

It is unfortunate to record that from 1996 the lodge began to fail despite strenuous efforts. In 2000, I had to inform the Province of the situation, and the Warrant was duly surrendered.

David A Walters, Middlesex Masters Lodge, No. 3420, Staines, Middlesex

Sir,

I very much enjoyed the article on Alexander Burnett Brown, architect and eminent Freemason, especially with reference to the Grecian Temple at the Great Eastern Hotel. I was initiated in that Temple in September 1981 into Semper Fidelis Lodge, No. 4393. The most memorable part of the ceremony was descending the magnificent winding staircase into the Temple.

Within a couple of years, the lodge had to leave the Great Eastern Hotel and move to Great Queen Street as the then-owners found it not economical to have lodge meetings on Saturdays. I would be interested to obtain a copy of any photograph of that winding staircase as a reminder of my 36 happy years in Freemasonry.

Geoffrey Cathersides, Fraternitas Lodge, No. 6046, East Kent

Sir,

For me it was especially interesting to read the article on the Grecian Temple in the autumn edition of Freemasonry Today. Having served in the Rifle Brigade, I became a joining member of its London Life Brigade Lodge, No. 1962, in 1975. I have a vivid memory of my first visit, descending the marble staircase into the temple and being in awe at the ceiling, furniture and surroundings.

I deem myself very fortunate to have had this experience. Sadly, thereafter it was closed to Freemasonry. However, being a listed structure the Grecian Temple will remain unique.

Bernard Dribble, Wellington Lodge, No. 341, Rye, Sussex

Published in Features

Letter from Spandau

Correspondence sent over a hundred years ago reveals what life was like for masonic prisoners in Ruhleben camp. Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry Diane Clements opens the archive

On 18 December 1914 an extraordinary document arrived at Freemasons’ Hall in London addressed to Sir Edward Letchworth, the Grand Secretary. It began: ‘We, the undersigned brethren, at present interned with other British civilians at the concentration camp at Ruhleben, Spandau, Germany, send hearty good wishes to the Grand Master, officers and brethren in Great Britain, hoping that we may have the pleasure soon of greeting them personally.’

Among the ‘undersigned’ was Alexander Cordiner from South Shields, master of SS Heworth, a cargo ship berthed near Hamburg when war broke out in August 1914. He was just one of more than 10,000 British nationals living, working or on holiday in Germany who were interned by the German government as enemy aliens. 

Many were taken to the Ruhleben camp at Spandau, west of Berlin. The camp was situated on a racecourse with barracks built in and around the stables to house the 4,000-5,000 internees. Ruhleben was run by the inmates who quickly established a church, library, sports and social clubs, a postal service and camp magazine. 

The letter was written by Walter P Goodall of Lodge of Freedom, No. 77, Gravesend, and accompanied a list of more than a hundred Freemasons. On 13 February 1915, he sent a second letter with another forty-five names. Together, they detailed Freemasons who were members of lodges in England, Australia, Egypt, Hong Kong, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, South America, the United States, the West Indies and even Germany. 

In August 1915 another internee, Percy Hull, wrote to Grand Lodge to advise that there were now about two hundred Freemasons there, the majority receiving few if any food parcels. His letter helped to launch a campaign to support the internees. Alfred Robbins, President of the Board of General Purposes, welcomed the formation of what became known as the Ruhleben Fund, stating: ‘They are prisoners of war only in the sense of being detained during wartime; and their case is particularly hard because their businesses have been ruined and they and their families brought near to destitution.’

Parcels of support

The Fund enabled parcels to be sent every fortnight, which provided each masonic internee with three parcels over an eighteen-month period. Grand Lodge approached Sir Richard Burbidge, the managing director of Harrods, Knightsbridge, and parcels were sent to Percy Hull for distribution. One internee, S F Sheasby, reported in 1917 to the Old Masonians Gazette that they contained tea, coffee, cake, biscuits, potted meat and oats. By December 1917, more than £6,700 had been received for the Ruhleben Fund, the equivalent of about £250,000 today. 

Three of the internees at Ruhleben are remembered on a large ceramic plaque, which was originally installed in the Royal Masonic Hospital and funded by the Ruhleben internees. Charles Fryatt of Star in the East Lodge, No. 650, Harwich, was a Merchant Navy captain who was briefly sent to Ruhleben in 1916 after his ferry, SS Brussels, was captured by German destroyers. 

Fryatt had successfully defended two of his ships from German U-boat attacks a year earlier and had been rewarded for his actions with gold watches from both his employers, the Great Eastern Railway Company and The Admiralty. The latter watch was inscribed: ‘Presented by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to Chas. Algernon Fryatt Master of the SS Brussels in recognition of the example set by that vessel when attacked by a German submarine on March 28th, 1915.’  This inscription was used as an excuse by the German authorities to try Fryatt at a court martial and subsequently execute him.

The second name is that of Edward Russell, a merchant seaman and member of the Earl of Yarborough Lodge, No. 2770, in Grimsby who died of natural causes in the camp in December 1917. The third name is that of Alexander Cordiner, the SS Heworth master and a member of St Hilda’s Lodge, No. 240, South Shields, who had been at Ruhleben since late 1914 and died there in March 1918. The plaque is now on display at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street.

Letters to the Editor - No. 30 Summer 2015

Ruhleben remembered

Sir,

I was interested to read the article in the spring issue of Freemasonry Today about Ruhleben camp. My grandfather, John Clegg Fergusson, was a master dyer. He left Batley in the West Riding of Yorkshire with his wife and son, Alex, in the mid 1890s and settled in Germany where he was manager of the dye house in a textile mill, and was joined by his apprentice from Batley, Clifford Leach.

On the outbreak of war, my grandfather and Clifford Leach were detained in Ruhleben camp as ‘guests of the Kaiser’ – enemy aliens. It was decided to allow my grandmother and her two younger children to travel home. My grandfather was eventually repatriated in 1916 but the story did not stop there. 

Clifford Leach, my father and his brother were all to become members of Trafalgar Lodge, No. 971, in Batley. Clifford Leach’s son, Harry, followed his father into the textile industry and when he was a member of a lodge in Manchester I visited him there, and he made the journey across the Pennines to visit my mother lodge in Morley.

Harry’s death a few years ago brought an end to a friendship between the Leach family and the Fergussons that had lasted for over a century, a friendship in which both Ruhleben camp and Freemasonry played a part.

James Fergusson, Lodge of Integrity, No. 380, Leeds, Yorkshire, West Riding


Sir,

I greatly enjoyed your article by Diane Clements, ‘Letter from Spandau’, in the spring issue. I wish that I had known it was to appear as I could have supplied a little more information. 

You may be interested to know that the Percy Hull mentioned went on to become Sir Percy, knighted for his efforts in resurrecting the Three Choirs Festival after World War II. During Hull’s internment, Dr George Robertson Sinclair (see ‘Elgar Connection’, p9 in the same issue), Grand Organist and Organist of Hereford Cathedral, died suddenly and Hull, at that time his assistant, was appointed in his place. 

Not only did Sir Percy follow Sinclair into the cathedral post, he also followed him as Grand Organist. I had the honour of conducting the cathedral choir at the dedication of his memorial in the cathedral as well as the Herefordshire Orchestral Society, in which Lady Hull played.

Robert Green, Cantilupe Lodge, No. 4083, Hereford, Herefordshire

Diane Clements, Director of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, responds: 

Several people have mentioned Percy Hull’s later career. We have such limited space in Freemasonry Today that we are not able to develop articles as fully as possible but I appreciate all the information readers provide.

Published in Features
Thursday, 15 March 2012 00:00

POOLING INTERESTS

Specialist lodges offer the opportunity for members to combine their personal interests while learning about the principles of Freemasonry, as Terry Draycott shows in his history of the Royal Life Saving Lodge

At first glance you might be forgiven for thinking that ‘Quemcunque Miserum Videris Hominem Scias’ is a quote from a Roman Emperor’s tomb. However, you would be wrong. It is actually the motto of the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS), which was formed in 1891 by, among others, William Henry and Archibald Sinclair, and translates to: ‘Whomsoever you see in distress, see in him a fellow Man.’

Originally called the Swimmer’s Life Saving Society, the aims of the society were to try to reduce the significant numbers of fatalities caused by drowning, through teaching self-preservation and rescue skills. The title was subsequently changed to The Life Saving Society with members delivering lectures and demonstrations on life-saving techniques around not only the United Kingdom, but also the world. It is rumoured that William Henry visited almost every swimming pool in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden and several other countries, lecturing, teaching and promoting the work of the society. As a result, several life-saving organisations were formed within these countries.

In 1904, King Edward VI granted royal patronage and the Royal Life Saving Society was born. The society continued to flourish both within the UK and globally, and today there are RLSS clubs throughout the country. Its network of volunteers deliver instruction on water safety, life support and rescue. The society is a registered charity and a member of the RLSS Commonwealth as well as the International Life Saving Federation.

You may be asking, where is all this leading? Well, back in 1908, a group of RLSS members, finding themselves to also be masons, conceived the idea of forming their own lodge, which would be affiliated to the RLSS. Plans were made and a petition submitted to the Grand Master, and on 9 November 1908 a warrant was granted to the Royal Life Saving Lodge. The lodge was consecrated on 19 February 1909 at the Frascati restaurant on Oxford Street in London. The Grand Secretary, Sir Edward Letchworth, conducted the consecration, acting as Worshipful Master, assisted by Charles F Quicke, Senior Warden; James Stephen, Junior Warden; Rev H W Turner, Chaplain; Charles W Cole, Director of Ceremonies; and W J Songhurst, Inner Guard.

All these worthy brothers were elected honorary members of the lodge after the ceremony. The First Worshipful Master was Herbert Grimwade with Lord Desborough the first Immediate Past Master. All of the founders were active members of the RLSS, and included within the annual subscription was annual membership of the RLSS. William Henry became the first initiate into the lodge in April 1909 and rose to become Worshipful Master in 1917.

two societies, one bond

The connection between the lodge and the society remained strong for many years. When the society moved into premises in Devonshire Street, London, it immediately became Desborough House, with rehearsals and meetings regularly held there. Indeed, chairs for the Worshipful Master, Senior Warden and Junior Warden were still in use up to the move to the society’s present headquarters in Broom. The Master’s Collar is adorned with several enamelled pictures of early life-saving scenes and the loose chain box is wrought in the form of a lifebelt.

Until a few years ago, a toast was taken by the Worshipful Master to all holders of RLSS awards. However, the connection with the RLSS has been reinforced recently, with several members becoming joining members and no doubt the toast will soon be reintroduced. Some of you might remember being taught rescue skills and might have gone on to take the society’s flagship award, The Bronze Medallion, or indeed may still be members of the RLSS but never knew of its own lodge.

I have been a member of the RLSS for over forty years and a Freemason for seventeen but only discovered the existence of the lodge thanks to the wonders of modern technology – the internet, and more specifically, eBay. Back in 1992, while surfing (the dry type), I saw a founder’s jewel for sale for the Royal Life Saving Lodge, No. 3339. I investigated and subsequently made contact with the secretary – and the rest, as they say, is history.

I believe that the principles of Freemasonry are compatible with the aims of a great number of other organisations. The creation of a specialist lodge means we can discuss Freemasonry and share common interests and values. The union of two worthy causes helps to keep the memory of William Henry alive and encourages the next generation of Freemasons.

 

For more information on the RLSS Lodge, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Letters to the Editor - FreemasonryToday No.18 - SUMMER 2012

 

Sir,
It was a very pleasant surprise to me to discover that there was a Royal Life Saving Society Lodge. As a young trainee police officer, along with many of my compatriots, I was taught life saving in the swimming pool in Durham and, again along with many others, gained the Bronze Medallion and the Bronze Cross. During subsequent courses, some of us were awarded the Award of Merit. In later years, I was involved in the training of a team of competition life savers. It is a pity that age and distance preclude a visit to this worthy lodge.


Peter Hyde
Sykes Lodge, No. 1040
Great Driffield, Yorkshire

 

 

Sir,
While reading Freemasonry Today, Spring 2012, I was very interested in the article about the Royal Life Saving Society Lodge. It prompted me to find my Bronze Medallion and bar that I attained at the age of 14. I am now 80 and have been a member of the Craft for 45 years. I still like to swim at the local baths and on holidays. The article brought back some very pleasant memories. I send greetings to the RLSS Lodge and wish them well.

Ken Evans
Proscenium Lodge, No. 9059
Cardiff

 

Sir,
In your Spring 2010 edition, an article was included that asked if any brother would be interested in a lodge for former members of the Queen’s Regiment. The lodge has now been formed and I am the charity steward. At our fifth meeting in May, we will claim a membership of around 50. That meeting will be our installation and renaming from Justinian Lodge, No. 2694, to Queensman Lodge, No. 2694. Any brother who would like to join a military lodge in Berkshire should contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Ron Baker
Theodore White Temperance Lodge, No. 3795
Windsor, Berkshire

 

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION
14 December 2011
A speech by VW Bro Graham Redman, Assistant Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill


GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, the Minutes of the Premier or Moderns Grand Lodge for February 1811, record that

The Most Worshipful Acting Grand Master the Earl of Moira having expressed his intention of being installed previous to the Business of the Quarterly Communication this day and having signified his directions to the R.W. Master and Officers of the Lodge of Promulgation for that purpose they assembled at Free Masons’ Hall, at half past seven o’clock and required the attendance of all the Members of the Grand Lodge in the Committee Room to assist in the ceremony of installing the Acting Grand Master. The Lodge was then opened in the First Degree … The Earl of Moira was thereupon introduced … to receive the benefit of installation when the Ancient Charges and Regulations were read … to which His Lordship was pleased to give his unqualified approbation and assent. Such members of the Grand Lodge as were not actual installed Masters were then desired to withdraw and the Lodge was opened in the Third Degree and the Right Hon. The Earl of Moira was installed according to Ancient Custom Acting Grand Master of Mason[s] and duly invested and saluted on the occasion: after which the Lodge was closed in the Third Degree and subsequently in the First Degree and the usual procession being then formed the Acting Grand Master was conducted into the Hall where the Grand Lodge was opened in due form and the Laws relating to the behaviour of Masons in Grand Lodge were read.


JMH: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, it might seem odd to us today that the Acting (or as we would say Pro) Grand Master had not been properly installed. One of the ritual differences between the Moderns and Antients Grand Lodges was that in the Lodges of the former the installation was simply the ceremonial placing of the Master in the chair with no additional signs, tokens or words. Possibly due to their Irish origins, Lodges under the Antients Grand Lodge did have an inner working limited to Installed Masters. The Lodge of Promulgation, which had been set up by the Premier Grand Lodge in 1809 to bring its rituals into line with those of other Grand Lodges, recognised the Installation Ceremony as one of the true landmarks of the Order. Lord Moira’s very public installation was in a sense pour encourager les autres, for the Lodge of Promulgation continued to meet over the next few months to enable Masters and Past Masters of Lodges under the Premier Grand Lodge to receive the benefit of Installation.

GFR: As the final item of business that evening:

The Grand Treasurer moved That the Tickets for the Grand Feast be in future delivered by the Stewards at One Guinea each instead of half a Guinea, which being seconded, an amendment was duly moved that the Tickets should be fifteen shillings: and the Question being put on the said amendment. It passed in the affirmative.

JMH: It says much for the economic stability of the last half of the 18th century that the cost of tickets for the annual Grand Feast had been set at half a guinea (52½ pence in our terms) for more than forty years! Then, as now, the Grand Stewards had the privilege of making up the short fall between monies received from ticket sales and the actual cost of the Grand Feast. Clearly the difference had become onerous by 1811 and this motion by the Grand Treasurer John Bayford, himself a Past Grand Steward, sought to redress the situation. Grand Lodge, as was to often happen in the 19th century, agreed the rise but only at half of the rate requested!

GFR: The only other matter of interest that year was at the April Communication, when

The Grand Lodge proceeded to take into consideration the following motion which was duly made and seconded at the last Grand Lodge, vizt: “That the Thanks of the Grand Lodge be given to Brothers James Earnshaw, James Deans, William Henry White and Charles Bonnor the Officers and to the several other members of the Lodge of Promulgation for their labors respectively; and that a Blue Apron be presented to Brothers Deans and Bonnor, Officers of that Lodge who do not at present possess the same and that they be requested to wear such Apron in all future meetings of the Society. And also that they be considered Members of the Hall Committee.

And the Question being put thereon it duly passed in the Affirmative.

JMH: The work of the Lodge of Promulgation brought the ceremonies of the Premier Grand Lodge into line with those of Ireland and Scotland and thereby with the Antients Grand Lodge, removing a number of potential obstacles to the proposed . Blue lined and edged aprons were restricted to the actual Grand Officers and those who had served in those high offices. As there was no concept of appointing Brethren to past ranks, with the exception of Princes of the Blood Royal who were usually appointed Past Grand Masters within a short time of their being initiated, James Deans and Charles Bonner were singularly honoured by this motion. Deans became the actual Junior Grand Warden in 1812.

GFR: Rather more was going on – though perhaps not much more being achieved – in the Antients or Atholl Grand Lodge. To remind you, in May 1810 that Grand Lodge had passed a threefold resolution setting out its requirements for a with the Moderns: first uniformity of Obligation and Rules; secondly, the Grand Lodge to consist of the Masters, Wardens and all Past Masters of the respective Lodges; thirdly, a monthly disbursement of Masonic benevolence. At its meeting in March 1811, the report of the Committee appointed to meet the Moderns’ Committee was received, setting out the Moderns’ responses to the threefold resolution:

To the First resolution ... That the [Moderns] Grand Lodge had resolved to return to the Ancient Land Marks of Masonry and in order to a perfect of the two Grand Lodges they will consent to the same Obligations and continue to abide by the Ancient Land Marks of Masonry when it should be ascertained what those Ancient Land Marks and Obligations were.

To the Second resolution the Committee of the [Moderns] Grand Lodge submitted .... That a true representation of all the warranted Lodges in and adjacent to London and Westminster should consist of the Master and Wardens with one Past Master from each Lodge that to admit all Past Masters would be inconvenient and if admitted could not be said to be a true and prefect representation of all the Lodges …

To the Third resolution, ... The Committee of the [Moderns] Grand Lodge agreed with the resolutions of the Antients Grand Lodge, the whole of this and all other minor concerns to be nevertheless discussed by a joint Committee of Masters to be chosen and appointed by the two Grand Lodges respectively to meet thereon and finally to conclude and arrange all matters relating to an of the two Grand Lodges.

A resolution that the Antients’ Committee be empowered to accede to such modification or alteration of the second resolution, respecting Past Masters, as might appear to them expedient and necessary for fully accomplishing a between the two Grand Lodges was, after a long and protracted discussion, defeated by a very large majority.

JMH: As I remarked last year when the three resolutions were first proposed in the Antients Grand Lodge, the second resolution regarding the composition of the United Grand Lodge was to cause problems leading to an almost childish reaction on the part of the Premier Grand Lodge. Membership of the Premier Grand Lodge was limited to the present and former Grand Officers, the Master and Wardens of each Lodge and representatives from the Grand Stewards’ Lodge. Membership of the Antients Grand Lodge encompassed present and former Grand Officers, Masters and Wardens of Lodges and all subscribing Past Masters. Not surprisingly, the Antients were not willing to deprive Past Masters of their Lodges of a privilege they had held from the start of that Grand Lodge. When asking the Premier Grand Lodge to explain their stance, the only response they got was that if all Past Masters were included there would not be a room large enough in which to hold meetings of the proposed United Grand Lodge!

At the meeting of the Antients in May a compromise was suggested, whereby those who were Past Masters at 24 June 1811 would continue to have the right to be members of the proposed United Grand Lodge, but after 24 June 1811 only the actual – or as we would say Immediate – Past Masters of Lodges would qualify as members of the new body. As the Minutes record, however, “After some discussion and long debate thereon and the question being put passed in the negative by a large majority”. Back to square one!

GFR: At the September Communication of the Grand Lodge a letter dated 5 June from the Grand Secretary of the Moderns was read, which reported that he had laid before the Earl of Moira and the Moderns’ Committee a letter reporting the decision of the Antients Grand Lodge and continued:

I am directed by his Lordship and the Committee to acquaint you for the information of the Grand Lodge under His Grace the Duke of Atholl that it appears to them wholly unnecessary and nugatory, that any further Meeting between the two Committees should take place at present in as much as the Committee of the Grand Lodge under the Duke of Atholl is not furnished with any sufficient powers to enter into the discussion or arrangements of the various subjects necessary to the proposed as is sufficiently manifest from the circumstance of the Grand Lodge under His Grace the Duke of Atholl having at different times negatived propositions which its Committee had acceded to thereby annulling and frustrating concessions which the Grand Lodge under the Prince Regent had professed itself upon certain points willing to make. I am further directed by his Lordship and the Committee to acquaint you that whenever the Committee from your Grand Lodge shall be invested with the powers specified in my letter of 26th January last the Committee of the Grand Lodge under His Royal Highness the Prince Regent will be most ready to meet and confer with them in the hope and expectation of finding a cordial and sincere desire correspondent with their own, for effecting a of the two Societies upon terms honorable and equal to both.

The matter was then deferred to a meeting of the Grand Lodge held on 9 October, when a Committee was at last appointed – and by a large majority – with full powers to carry into effect the measure of a Masonic , subject to a specific Instruction on the entitlement of Past Masters to attend Grand Lodge.

JMH: Correspondence between Lord Moira and Grand Secretary White shows that his Lordship was becoming increasingly angry at the delays caused by the Antients Commissioners for not having full power to decide matters but having to report back to a quarterly meeting of their Grand Lodge on every small decision. He was conscious that his time was limited as in 1812 he was being posted to India as Governor and Commander-in-Chief at Bengal and wanted matters settled before he departed. It took all of White’s diplomatic skills to dissuade Moira, writing direct to the Duke of Atholl demanding action or a complete cessation of the negotiations. Instead, White wrote the letter we have just heard and in October the Antients agreed a compromise and allowed their Commissioners full powers.

It was perhaps as a result of this, and to limit the number of future Past Masters, that at its meeting on 4th December 1811 the Antients Grand Lodge adopted two regulations which still stand today: that no one could be elected to the Master’s Chair until he had served for twelve months as a Warden, and that no Brother would be entitled to the privileges of a Past Master unless he had served a full twelve months as Master of his Lodge. Previously to this it had been the custom in both Grand Lodges for the installation of the Master to take place twice each year, on the two feasts of St John, and the Warden qualification did not exist. Indeed, under both Grand Lodges it was constitutionally possible for a Fellowcraft to be elected Master, the reasons why today we still say the Master is elected by “his brethren and fellows in open lodge assembled” and why he takes the obligation as to his duties as Master in the second degree.


GFR: 1911 was a relatively uneventful year. In March the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, announced that he was

Commanded by the Most Worshipful Grand Master to inform you that he intends to preside over the Festival of Grand Lodge on the 26th April. I believe that the opportunity which will be afforded by His Royal Highness’s gracious intention is one that anticipates the heartfelt desire of all Freemasons.

JMH: The reason was that at the request of His Majesty the King, the Duke of Connaught had accepted the Governor Generalship of Canada, which would lead to his protracted absence abroad. To meet the expected demand from those wishing to attend, the Investiture was moved to the Royal Albert Hall. A huge amount of work went into the preparation of the meeting, attended by over 6,000 Brethren. Disaster struck! The Grand Master was struck down by bronchitis and held prisoner by his doctors! A loyal address was moved expressing disappointment, wishing him a speedy relief and a safe journey to his onerous duties in Canada. At the June Quarterly Communication a further message was received from the Grand Master in which, inter alia, he said: “It has been a source of deep gratification to me to have held for eleven years that post of Grand Master of English Freemasons, in which my dear brother King Edward VII took such pride, and while I have considered it a solemn duty to carry on his work I have not been forgetful of the great advantage to myself of my association with the Craft. Wherever I have been I have felt that proud assurance that I had you watchful sympathy and interest in my welfare. I know that scarcely a day has passed on which bodies of Freemasons, all over the Empire, have not wished me well at their Festive assemblies and listened with sympathetic attention to kind words which have been said about me. I can assure you Brethren, that I have not regarded all this as mere formality and that I have attached the highest value to your personal and fraternal goodwill.”

GFR: In June the Board of General Purposes reported that, acting on the recommendation of the Officers and Clerks Committee, it had resolved

to recommend to Grand Lodge that the salary of the Grand Secretary be increased to £2,000 a year, as from the 1st January last, on the understanding that such increase shall not be considered as a permanent endowment of the office of Grand Secretary but solely as a personal recognition of the services which have been rendered to Freemasonry by the present Grand Secretary.

The Report of the Board was taken as read and confirmed, the recommendations contained therein adopted, and the Report entered on the Minutes.

JMH: Until 1909 the appointment of staff from the Grand Secretary downwards, their terms, conditions and salaries had all been debated in Grand Lodge. The setting up of the Officers and Clerks Committee of the Board in that year removed much of the debate, except for additional finance, out of Grand Lodge. The Grand Secretary, Sir Edward Letchworth was indefatigable and much liked, hence the ready agreement to the motion. The present Grand Secretary might be interested to know that the purchasing power of £2,000 in 1911 equates to over £150,000 today!

GFR: The year ended with some sad news: the death of W Bro Henry Sadler, first the Grand Tyler and then the Librarian and Curator of the Grand Lodge, and therefore in the latter capacity one of the predecessors of my co-presenter, who can pay a far more eloquent tribute to him than I could hope to do.

JMH: My co-presenter is, as always, correct! (Laughter) Henry Sadler is one of my Masonic heroes. Indeed it could be argued that had he not worked at Freemasons’ Hall I might well not be standing before you today. Sadler joined the staff in 1865 as an assistant to the Grand Tyler, being appointed to that office in 1879. As Grand Tyler, in addition to ceremonial work, he was responsible for the running and letting of Freemasons’ Hall and was provided with an apartment in the building. Fascinated by history he spent most of his spare time searching cupboards and cellars locating all the archives of the two previous Grand Lodges, the United Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter. When in 1887 the Board revived the moribund Library and Museum with the Grand Secretary as nominal Librarian, Sadler was appointed sub-Librarian and quickly set to, expanding the collections. He quickly became known to the growing group of Masonic historians both at home and abroad, all of whom acknowledged his help and knowledge. When the house next door to Freemasons’ Hall was acquired in 1904 for additional office space, such had been Sadler’s work that the main rooms were set aside as a Library and Museum. His work was crowned in 1910 when he was appointed the first Librarian and Curator of Grand Lodge and was elected Master of the renowned Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076. The many tributes to his memory praised his kindness, helpfulness and great willingness to share with others what he had learned from the treasures under his care. He was certainly one who “lived respected and died regretted” and, one hundred years later, Masonic historians still revere his memory.

Published in Speeches
Friday, 16 September 2011 15:00

Centenary celebrations

As Letchworth marks its one-hundredth year, John Hamill reports on the centenary of a very special lodge

On 28 March 2011 in Lodge Room No. 10 at Freemasons’ Hall in London, almost 150 brethren gathered for an emergency meeting. Nothing unusual in that – until you look at the signature book and discover that those present included the Pro, Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters, the Metropolitan Grand Master for London, the President and Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, the Grand Chaplain, Grand Secretary, Grand Director of Ceremonies, Presidents of the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund, and other senior brethren.

What, you might wonder, other than a Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, would bring such illustrious company together in one tyled meeting? The reason is a joyous one – to take part in the centenary celebrations of Letchworth Lodge, No. 3505. But why such eminent brethren for a Hertfordshire lodge? The answer, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is all in a name. The ‘Letchworth’ after which the lodge was called is not the delightful Hertfordshire town, but Sir Edward Letchworth who was Grand Secretary from 1892 to 1917. As for why the celebrations were in London, when the membership of the lodge was formed in 1911, it was restricted to the permanent clerks in the Grand Secretary’s Office. And even today is limited to those employed in the capital’s masonic headquarters.

LODGE HISTORY

Although a Secretary to the Grand Lodge was appointed in 1723 (becoming Grand Secretary in 1734) and the premier Grand Lodge had a permanent building in Great Queen Street from 1775, it was not until 1838 that the Grand Secretary’s Office came into being. From the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813 until 1838, the Grand Secretaryship was a joint office shared by William White, who had held the same office in the premier Grand Lodge, and Edward Harper, who had been Deputy Grand Secretary of the Antients.

In 1838, Harper ‘retired’ and White was asked to take on the role of Grand Secretary. He agreed but on one condition: that Grand Lodge employed two full-time clerks to assist with paperwork. As a result of the expansion in members and lodges in the Victorian period, by the time Letchworth became Grand Secretary in 1892 the office had grown to seven clerks. As they had to be Master Masons it was suggested they should have a lodge. There was one problem: nine was the minimum number of petitioners and there were only seven clerks.

By 1911, there had been an expansion of the Craft and clerk numbers grew to 15. They approached Letchworth to petition for a lodge, and the consecration took place on 28 March 1911. Sir Edward himself was the Consecrating Officer, assisted by the President of the Board of General Purposes, the President of the Board of Benevolence (now the Grand Charity), the Grand Chaplain and Grand Director of Ceremonies and the Chairman of the Board’s Officers and Clerks Committee.

Sir Edward stated that the lodge’s purpose was ‘to meld the clerks into greater harmony’. It would also assist Grand Lodge by bringing into Freemasonry suitable candidates that might become clerks in the office; and get brethren through the Chair in a reasonable time for additional duties. The latter was important, as many lodges had more than 100 members and it could take 15 or more years to reach the Chair.

RAPID EXPANSION

The lodge’s first year was a busy one with two candidates and three installations. The Master designate had been installed at the consecration and at the July and November meetings two of the senior clerks were installed. In 1913, the lodge began a practice that was to continue until the 1970s – that of initiating as serving brethren members of the portering and maintenance staff of the Hall. They were to assist the Grand Tyler by laying up the lodge rooms and acting as Assistant Tylers whenever Grand Lodge met.

The First World War halted progress of the lodge and office, as half the staff were on active service. Only one did not return, Ponsonby Cox, and another, Guy Mercer, was awarded the Military Cross. Those too old for military service kept the lodge and office going. To help in the office, the rule requiring clerks to be Master Masons was put into abeyance and three lady clerks and two ‘lady typewriters’ were taken on. The latter, Miss Haigh and Miss Winter, proved far from temporary, spending the rest of their working lives as private secretaries to Grand and Deputy Grand Secretaries.

The huge increase in the Craft four years after the war, and the plan to rebuild Freemasons’ Hall as a permanent war memorial, led to an increase in office size. Between 1925 and 1927, five boy clerks were taken on as ‘temporary’ staff ; each of them eventually becoming members of the lodge. There were similar problems during the Second World War, when again the rule on clerks being Master Masons was set aside and women were taken on. They proved so popular and useful that in 1949 the rule (No. 33 in the current Book of Constitutions) was put into abeyance. The lodge had difficulties meeting and reduced its wartime gatherings to two per year. The only ceremonial work was the annual installation of the Master.

The immediate post-war years saw an enormous growth in the Craft. This led to expansion of the office and an increase in the membership of the lodge. Much of the work was in making serving brethren, as the portering and maintenance staff had also grown, and many took on additional work as Tylers for lodges meeting at Freemasons’ Hall.

By the late 1960s, however, things were slowing down and doubts were expressed about the future of Letchworth Lodge. Membership had been limited to Permanent Clerks, but in 1977, Grand Secretary James Stubbs was approached about opening the lodge to the full office, to which he agreed. In the early 1980s, under Grand Secretary Michael Higham, the lodge was opened to the whole of the male staff at Freemasons’ Hall and the staff of other masonic headquarters in London. This has resulted in a vibrant lodge with a steady stream of candidates. The changes have also brought the staff of the various masonic offices in London closer together. Sir Edward Letchworth’s hopes at the consecration can truly be said to have been achieved.

ILLUSTRIOUS MEMBERSHIP

As the Grand Secretary’s lodge, Letchworth has had great support from Sir Edward and his successors. Sir Philip Colville Smith became an honorary member when he became Grand Secretary in 1917. (Sir) Sydney White joined the lodge when he was appointed Chief Clerk in 1918, was its Master in 1920, and was a regular attendee even after election as an Honorary Member when he became Grand Secretary in 1937. (Sir) James Stubbs was elected an Honorary Member when he was appointed Assistant Grand Secretary in 1948, while Michael Higham became a joining member when appointed Deputy Grand Secretary in 1978, and is still active. Nigel Brown joined when he was appointed Grand Secretary in 2007 and members are delighted to have him as their Centenary Master. He was thrilled to have been installed by Michael Higham.

Being involved in central masonic administration, the members of the lodge were only too aware of the privilege extended to them to have the Pro Grand Master present the Centenary Warrant. The happy occasion was followed by a reception and banquet in the Grand Temple vestibules.

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