Celebrating 300 years

When memories are made

With the masonic world coming to London in October to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry, John Hamill reports on a very special meeting to honour the creation of the first Grand Lodge

The Tercentenary celebrations reached their peak on 31 October, when more than 4,400 brethren attended an especial meeting of the Grand Lodge at London’s Royal Albert Hall. In addition to brethren from overseas Districts, there were more than 130 Grand Masters from all parts of the world – the largest gathering of Grand Masters ever to have been held.

These visitors and guests from other Grand Lodges met at Freemasons’ Hall on 30 October, where they were welcomed by and introduced to HRH The Duke of Kent, with many presenting gifts to mark the Tercentenary. These were displayed in the Library and Museum. Later that evening, guests attended a reception at Mansion House, official residence of The Lord Mayor of London, Dr Andrew Parmley.

Those able to get tickets for the Royal Albert Hall will long remember this special event. Proceedings began when Grand Lodge was opened and called off in a side room. Following the fanfare, the Grand Master entered the Queen’s Box to huge applause, accompanied by HRH Prince Michael of Kent. The visiting Grand Masters were then introduced, while their location and Grand Lodge seals were gradually added to a map of the world projected on two large screens.

As it was an especial meeting, there was no formal business, and entertainment was provided by actors Sir Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Sanjeev Bhaskar, with screen projections exemplifying the principles, tenets and values of Freemasonry. The performance gave insight into Freemasonry’s history over the last 300 years with reference to the famous men who have graced it with their presence. Those who organised this memorable performance deserve great thanks.

At the end of the evening, the Grand Master was processed onto the stage. The Deputy Grand Master read out a message of loyal greeting sent to Her Majesty The Queen, and the response received. With the assistance of the Grand Chaplain, the replica of Sir John Soane’s Ark of the Masonic Covenant was dedicated. The Pro Grand Master congratulated the Grand Master on his 50th anniversary in that role and thanked him for his service. In response, the brethren rose and gave the Grand Master a prolonged standing ovation. He was clearly touched. The Grand Master was then processed out of Royal Albert Hall with his Grand Officers.

Afterwards, nearly 2,000 attendees were bussed through London’s rush-hour traffic to Battersea Evolution for a reception and banquet, which will be long remembered. The activity at the Royal Albert Hall was streamed online to the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, where nearly 1,000 brethren and ladies (including the wives of our official guests) were able to watch the ceremonies. They then attended a special dinner in the Grand Connaught Rooms chaired by Earl Cadogan, who was assisted by senior members of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London.

It was a remarkable occasion, and all who were involved in organising it are due our grateful thanks for such a fitting celebration of the Tercentenary of the first Grand Lodge in the world.

Published in UGLE

Extraordinary work

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes salutes the generosity of Freemasons who have helped to support good causes all across the world

In June, the Grand Master unveiled a plaque on the outside of Freemasons’ Hall, erected by the time immemorial lodges, and he was then declared their Worshipful Master at a splendid ceremony at Mansion House. This was particularly appropriate as, 100 years ago, his great uncle and godfather, the Duke of Connaught, had received a similar honour.

The other Rulers and Past Rulers have covered cathedral services commemorating our Tercentenary from St David’s in West Wales to Norwich in the east, and from Salisbury and Exeter in the south to Durham in the north, with many in between. You have then arranged dinners, a race meeting, car rallies, choral events and concerts, family fun days and fossil digs – all of which were splendidly organised.

STERLING EFFORTS

I was privileged to visit our Districts in the Eastern Archipelago and Sri Lanka, witnessing first-hand the charitable work that they have been involved with. In Kuala Lumpur I visited the site of what I believe will be a splendid new home for the elderly. In Sri Lanka, the District has raised funds to bring drinking water to an outlying village and three schools in that area. Together with the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), they are also supporting the relief efforts following the flooding caused by the unprecedented May monsoon.

These felt like short trips compared with those of our Assistant Grand Master, whom I feared was in danger of meeting himself coming back as he flew to Buenos Aires on 4 August for a meeting of our District of South America, Southern Division, and then on to Chile for talks with their Grand Master, before flying back to Heathrow on 8 August for onward travel to our District of Madras in Chennai.

It is humbling to witness your splendid efforts in support of Freemasonry. I have mentioned the Districts, but there has also been extraordinary work carried out in all the Provinces.

In June, I mentioned the phenomenal response you made to the Manchester bombing and Grenfell Tower fire in London. I can confirm that East Lancashire gave the Red Cross in Manchester more than £226,000 for the victims and that the Metropolitan Grand Lodge gave £100,000 to the Grenfell Tower Appeal – thank you for your generosity. And well done, North Wales, whose Festival with the RMGTB raised £3.1 million at £899 per member.

Thank you for your efforts with the MCF grants and public vote. I can report that more than 150,000 votes were cast across UGLE for the 300 charities to be awarded grants, and most of these votes – more than 80% – were from the general public. I know that the MCF has scrutinised these votes and has announced its award recipients. Congratulations to all involved in the MCF for this splendid initiative.

The project would not have been as successful without the exhaustive use of all social-media outlets, but I must here issue a caution on its use. Last year, we issued a very comprehensive instruction on the use, values and dangers of social media. One of the key points made was that you should ensure that anyone who you post images of on one of these sites should have agreed to be pictured. Yes, we need to be open and we want to promote our activities, but we must protect our members’ wishes. A little bit of common sense goes a long way.

Published in UGLE

Grand Masters from around the world come bearing gifts

When Grand Masters from around the world came to Freemasons’ Hall as part of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations last week, many of them also came bearing gifts

Around 90 gifts were presented to the UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, who spent time inspecting this wonderful selection which ranged from a ceremonial sword and bronze stag, through to a collection of Russian dolls depicting the Grand Master himself.

The gifts have now been put on display in The Library and Museum of Freemasonry for anyone who visits Freemasons’ Hall to see.

As you can see from the gallery at the top, the array of thoughtful gifts was vast.

Published in UGLE

Over 4,000 Freemasons from Provinces, Districts and 136 Grand Lodges around the world were present as the Royal Albert Hall was centre stage for the United Grand Lodge of England’s Especial Meeting and Tercentenary celebrations on Tuesday 31st October

This gala event marked 300 years since four lodges met at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in St Paul’s Churchyard on St John’s Day, 24th June 1717, to form the Premier Grand Lodge. The spectacle was also streamed live to audiences from around the world, including UGLE’s headquarters at Freemasons’ Hall.

With Grand Lodge having been opened and called off in a convenient room, the procession of Grand Officers entered the Hall, before the Grand Master, MW Bro HRH The Duke of Kent, took his place in the Queens’s Box. He was accompanied by the Pro Grand Master MW Bro Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master RW Bro Jonathan Spence and Assistant Grand Master RW Bro Sir David Wootton. 

He was also joined by a number of special guests, which included RW Bro HRH Prince Michael of Kent, VW Bro HM King Tutu II of Ashanti and RW Bro HE John Kufuor, Senior Grand Warden.

The audience was wowed by a theatrical extravaganza showcasing the history and heritage of Freemasonry and featuring a cast of renowned actors including Sir Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Sanjeev Bhaskar. The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra provided the musical accompaniment against the backdrop of a colossal 55ft gold Square and Compasses and dramatic light show incorporating the ‘All Seeing Eye’.

After the performance, the Grand Master was processed on to the stage and all the Rulers were seated in their normal thrones. The Deputy Grand Master then read a letter of loyal greetings sent to Her Majesty The Queen and the reply received sending ‘warm good wishes to you all for a most successful event’.

The Grand Master, as Permanent Master of the three Time Immemorial Lodges (Lodge of Antiquity No.2, Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No.IV, and Lodge of Fortitude and Old Cumberland No.12), then called upon his three Deputy Masters and was presented with the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Square and Compasses and the Wren Maul.

Other highlights included the return of the Soane Ark – the Ark of the Masonic Covenant – as the Deputy Grand Master announced that following 30 years in the making, a replica had been made to the original design. This was brought onstage where it was dedicated by the Grand Master.

The finale was the most rousing singing of the National Anthem, before the procession of Grand Officers retired from the Hall. 

Following the meeting, Grand Lodge was called back on in a convenient room, and this Especial Meeting to celebrate UGLE's Tercentenary was closed.

Find out how to watch a screening of the Tercentenary celebrations here

Published in UGLE

The Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall was the setting for the largest gathering of Grand Masters from all corners of the world on 30th October

For the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations, Grand Masters from over 130 foreign Grand Lodges were welcomed by UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.

HRH The Duke of Kent then addressed all those present: 'Ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren, I am delighted that so many of you have been able to come to London to celebrate our Tercentenary anniversary with us. Indeed, I am advised that this is the largest gathering of Grand Masters that there has ever been.

'I am so pleased to have this opportunity to greet you all this morning in the relative peace and tranquillity of our magnificent Temple within Freemasons’ Hall, and it is most important to me that I meet you all.

'May I also thank you for your gifts which we will have the chance to see in the Museum after this meeting. Thank you again for your support.'

Dressed in their formal Regalia, they bought kind words and greetings – and some brought gifts to commemorate the Tercentenary – for the Grand Master, which the Library and Museum of Freemasonry will soon be putting on special display for visitors to see.

Events were then set to continue into the evening when the Grand Masters, along with their guests, attend a reception held at the Mansion House, with a welcome by the Lord Mayor of London Andrew Parmley and Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes.

Published in UGLE

A new and exciting exhibition opened in Leicester on Friday 6th October 2017, as local Freemasons marked the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the formation of their governing body, the United Grand Lodge of England

The exhibition provides insights into what Freemasonry is all about and how it has become a significant social institution that is supportive towards local communities.

Freemasonry, What’s it all About? explores the intriguing relationship between present, past and the future of Freemasonry across Leicestershire and Rutland. The exhibition covers well known historical figures and Freemasons of Leicestershire and Rutland through the years and showcases current into Freemasonry and its members, as well as featuring a look into the future of Freemasonry.

This welcoming local journey through Freemasonry shares personal stories and insights of Freemasons across the ages, particularly those that have affected the counties of Leicestershire and Rutland.

The Provincial Grand Master of the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, David Hagger, said: ‘Freemasonry provides a unique environment for people from all backgrounds to learn skills, make lasting friendships and achieve their potential. This exhibition is an exciting project and I hope it will lead to further interest and a better understanding of our historic fraternity.’

The exhibition is a collaborative project between Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, Newarke Houses Museum and the Leicestershire and Rutland Record Office, bringing together a varied and engaging exhibition for all. The exhibition has been kindly constructed by volunteers at the WMG Academy for Young Engineers, Coventry with printing by Gartree Press Ltd, Leicester.

Freemasonry, What’s it all About? has been developed and created by a young and exciting local curator, Sophia Kyprianou in conjunction with local Freemasons. She commented: ‘Throughout my time working on the exhibition I have been amazed at how much Freemasonry is supportive, committed and involved at the heart of so many local communities across the counties. Unearthing stories from past and present Freemasons has been incredibly interesting and is something I am keen to share with the public in a creative way throughout the exhibition; giving an insight into what Freemasonry is and how it continues to be an integral part of modern society.’

The exhibition was formally opened by the Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, Peter Lowndes on a visit to the region.

Freemasonry, What’s it all About? is at Newarke Houses Museum, The Newarke, Leicester, until the 31st January 2018. The exhibition is open Monday to Saturday from 10am-5pm, and Sunday from 11am-5pm.

For further information about the exhibition and venue, please click here.

Thanks to support from Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, along with Leicestershire County Council and The Woodland Trust, the Bradgate Park Trust has been able to dedicate an area for quiet reflection known as the Memorial Wood which was officially opened by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes on 5th October 2017

In glorious autumnal sunshine, over 200 people witnessed the Pro Grand Master unveil a bronze plaque at the entrance of the Memorial Wood which was followed by a suitable short dedication by the Grand Chaplain Michael Wilson. The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, RW Bro David Hagger then called upon Peter Osborne, Chairman of the Bradgate Park Trust, to formally accept the Memorial Wood into the care of the Trustees.

The Memorial Wood is an area of woodland to the side of the accessible carriageway that crosses the Park. It offers a tranquil setting overlooking Cropston Reservoir and is reached by a natural stone path. Rich in native wildlife species, the area is bound by traditional metal deer fencing, has seating and a central cast iron deer sculpture, set on a natural stone plinth.

Peter Tyldesley, Director of the Bradgate Park Trust, said: 'Bradgate Park is a special place for many people and one that is held close to the hearts of visitors and their families. We have been able to dedicate an area for quiet reflection as the Park’s Memorial Wood next to the main carriageway that crosses the Park.

'Bradgate Park’s Bronze Oak Leaves are inspired by the ancient trees of the Park and are a perfect way to celebrate weddings, birthdays and anniversaries, or to remember someone special. They are individually cast in bronze and displayed as a lasting memento on distinctive feature wooden pillars, made from oak from the Estate, within the natural setting of Memorial Wood.'

Bradgate Park, consisting of 900 acres, is the historic home of Lady Jane Grey, the nine day Queen, and was presented in Trust in perpetuity in 1928 by Charles Bennion to the County of Leicestershire and City of Leicester, as an open or Public Park for the purposes of recreation.

The generosity of Charles Bennion has ensured that generations of the local and wider community have had access to the beautiful park, which also supports the protection of wildlife, particularly the herd of deer that freely roam the park. It is the eighth most visited park of its kind in the country. Charles Bennion was also a prominent local Freemason, a Master of four Lodges and was Provincial Grand Treasurer.

RW Bro David Hagger: 'This Memorial Wood will leave a lasting legacy for the people of Leicestershire and Rutland as part of our 300th anniversary celebrations. We therefore felt that with the connection of Charles Bennion with both Bradgate Park and Freemasonry, that this Memorial Wood was a perfect project to fund.

'I must also thank the members of my Tercentenary Committee for their help and assistance, in particular W Bro Andy Green and W Bro Dale Page. It would also be remiss of me not to mention Peter Tyldesley, the Director of Bradgate Park, and his staff, for without their considerable efforts and assistance this project would literally would not have got off the ground.'

If you have any questions about Bradgate Park’s Bronze Oak Leaves and how to inscribe them with a message of your choice, please call 0116 2362713 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017 10:12

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2017

Quarterly Communication

13 September 2017 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, before I welcome our overseas guests, may I first welcome our new Chief Executive Officer, David Staples, currently masquerading as a Deputy GDC but who, all being well, will become Grand Secretary in due course.

Brethren, welcome back from the summer break which I hope you have been able to enjoy. The Tercentenary celebrations have continued unabated and it has been an extremely busy period since our last meeting.

In June, the Grand Master unveiled a plaque on the outside of this building, erected by the Time Immemorial Lodges, and he was then declared their Worshipful Master at a splendid ceremony at Mansion House. This was particularly appropriate as, one hundred years before, his great uncle and godfather, the Duke of Connaught, had received a similar honour.

The other Rulers and Past Rulers have covered cathedral services commemorating our Tercentenary from St David’s in West Wales to Norwich in the East and from Salisbury and Exeter in the South to Durham in the North and many in between. You have then arranged dinners, a race meeting, car rallies, choral events and concerts, family fun days and digging for fossils – all splendidly organised. Thank you so much.

I was privileged to visit our Districts in the Eastern Archipelago and Sri Lanka and witness at first hand the charitable work that they have been involved with. In Kuala Lumpur I visited the site of, what I believe will be a splendid new home for the elderly and in Sri Lanka the District have raised funding to bring drinking water to an outlying village and three schools in that area. Together with the MCF they are also supporting the relief efforts following the flooding caused by the unprecendented May monsoon.

These, however, felt like short trips compared to our Assistant Grand Master who I feared was in danger of meeting himself coming back as he flew to Buenos Aires on 4 August for a meeting of our District of South America, Southern Division, and then on to Chile for talks with their Grand Master before flying back to Heathrow on 8 August for onward travel to our District of Madras (Chennai). He tells me it was a training run for his November visit to our Districts of New Zealand, North and South Islands, and including our Inspectorate in Fiji and Vanuatu. And finally, just to round it all off, a dinner in Blackpool. This makes it sound as though the Deputy Grand Master has been sitting at home doing little. This is far from the truth and he made many District visits earlier in the year that you have heard about before, and he has added many miles to his car travelling around this country.

I, brethren, am greatly looking forward to visiting our District of Ghana later this month followed by Cyprus next month, and our Inspectorate in Portugal in November. It really is very humbling to witness your splendid efforts in support of Freemasonry. I have mentioned the Districts specifically, but there has also been extraordinary work carried out in all the Provinces. Well done everyone.

Brethren, in June I mentioned the phenomenal response you made to the Manchester bombing and the Grenfell Tower fire. I can confirm that East Lancashire gave the Red Cross in Manchester over £226,000 for the victims and that the Metropolitan Grand Lodge gave £100,000 to the Grenfell Tower Appeal – thank you for your generosity. Well done too, to North Wales, whose Festival with the RMGTB raised £3.1 million at £899 per member. An exceptional result. Brethren, as you would expect, our thoughts are very much with our brethren in the Caribbean and we are in touch with them.

Thank you, also, for all your efforts with the MCF Tercentenary grants and public vote. The public vote closed on 31 July and I can report that over 150,000 votes were cast across UGLE for the 300 charities to be awarded grants and most of these votes – over 80% – were from the general public. I know that the MCF has scrutinized these votes and has announced its award recipients. Congratulations to all involved in the MCF for this splendid initiative.

This project would not have been as successful without the exhaustive use of all social media outlets but I must here issue a caution on its use. Last year we issued a very comprehensive instruction on the use, values and dangers of social media. One of the key points made was that you should ensure that anyone who you post on one of these sites should have agreed to be shown. We recently had an unfortunate incident when this did not happen. Brethren, this is an invasion of privacy and it could have resulted in the person losing his job or any other position. Yes, we need to be open and we want to promote our activities, but we must protect our members’ wishes. A little bit of common sense goes a long way.

Our main event in the next two months is at the Royal Albert Hall where we shall be welcoming over 140 Sovereign Grand Masters from overseas and which, I am advised, will be “edutainment” – you will leave, having been educated and entertained and feeling proud to be a Freemason and proud of what Freemasons have achieved in the last 300 years.

Shortly after that, on 8 November, we shall be celebrating 50 years of our Grand Master also being our First Grand Principal when he will preside at the meeting and invest those awarded Grand Rank in celebration of his achievement.

Brethren, there is still a lot to this year left. Let’s give it a final push to ensure that it is a year to remember, with pride, and a year to use as a springboard for the future.

Published in Speeches

Securing our future

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes is encouraged and  humbled by members’ efforts as they ensure the Tercentenary year is a success

In our Tercentenary year, it is fitting that we look back on our history with pride. On 18 April we remembered brethren who have fallen since 1945 in the service of their country by opening the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. A week later, in the presence of the Grand Master, we remembered those of our brethren awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War in a magnificent ceremony outside Freemasons’ Hall.

And so, as we look back with pride, we must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a force for good in society and have so much to contribute to it. The Sky 1 documentary series has given us an amazing platform and viewing figures have been good. It has been well received and our Provinces are reporting an upsurge of interest, which I know you are capitalising on in order to secure our future. In addition, I believe it has enabled us to be aware of how important it is to talk openly about our Freemasonry and, perhaps, how best to do so.

GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT

As Pro Grand Master, it is very encouraging, yet humbling, to witness just how much effort you are all putting in to promoting our masonic values and making this Tercentenary year such a tremendous success. Your charitable giving never ceases to amaze me, and a magnificent total of £3,617,437 was raised at the Sussex Festival for the Grand Charity. This has been followed by the West Yorkshire Festival for the RMBI, which raised £3,300,300. I now have firm figures that show that last year we not only supported our own brethren with more than £15 million in grants, but also helped non-masonic charities with grants in excess of £17 million.

This year, the nation has been rocked by the serious terrorist attacks at Westminster Bridge, the Manchester Arena and at London Bridge. You should be aware that we have received numerous letters of support and concern from other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, some enclosing generous cheques to the East Lancashire Fund. These have supplemented the extreme generosity shown by many towards this fund, and I have been assured by the Provincial Grand Master that the money will be spent wisely where need is identified.

WORLDWIDE APPEAL

While congratulating you on all your efforts, I must pay tribute to my fellow Rulers, who have been globetrotting on our behalf. Having previously been to Bombay, the Deputy Grand Master paid a second visit to India this year to join the District of Northern India’s Tercentenary celebrations, and followed this by attending a Regional Conference in Jamaica.

The Assistant Grand Master, as President of the Universities Scheme, invaded South Africa with a very strong team. He followed this, immediately after our Grand Investiture, with a gala lunch and banner dedication in Malta. As a past Ruler, David Williamson kindly represented us in Gibraltar. And just to show that I have not been sitting idly by, I have just returned from a most enjoyable visit to our District in the Eastern Archipelago, having previously visited Bermuda for the bicentenary of its Lodge of Loyalty.

Carrying out these visits is a great privilege, and our brethren in the Districts value our presence and have great pride in being members of the oldest Grand Lodge.

‘We must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a force for good’

Published in UGLE

At a celebration dinner to mark the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England, Northumberland Freemasons gave away £300,000 to local charities

Provincial Grand Master of Northumberland Ian Craigs hosted the event at St James’ Park where almost 800 Freemasons, their families and special guests from North East charities celebrated the Tercentenary. Special guest of the evening was Pro Grand Master Peter Geoffrey Lowndes.

Although the evening was filled with entertainment, good food and distinguished guests, it was the charitable side of Freemasonry that stole the show.

Ian Craigs explained that the Provincial Grand Lodge of Northumberland has given away £300,000 to local charities this year to boost worthwhile and deserving projects throughout the region. There are 27 lodge meeting places across North Tyneside, Newcastle and Northumberland and the donations all went to local good causes.

Ian Craigs commented: ‘We’ve tried to donate money to charities close to each lodge building so that we can really make a positive impact on local projects and causes near to where Masonry takes place.

‘Our donations, which were all chosen by our members, will go a long way towards helping the charities concerned carry on their sterling work. This is one of the main things that Freemasons do and often we give without telling anyone. This year, we celebrate our 300th year and we’d like everyone to know how we help their local community.’

Charities benefiting from donations included the Hextol Foundation, Mustard Tree Trust and Percy Hedley Foundation who were each granted £10,000.

Others included the Berwick & District Cancer Support Group, Mind Active Charity and Leading Link who were each given £5,000 on the night.

Leading Link’s manager Julie Greener said: ‘This is a very generous donation that will help us to give valuable skills to the young people of Northumberland. At the moment, we are working on a mentoring scheme that is helping vulnerable young people in the more rural parts of the county. We are very grateful to Northumberland Freemasons for the opportunity to carry on with our work.’

In addition to the 33 charities who attended the celebration event, a further 45 will receive cheques for the good work they do to help the people of Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

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