Celebrating 300 years

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION
12 December 2012
A speech by VW Bro Graham Redman, Assistant Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill

GFR:  MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, a year ago we left the Antients or Atholl Grand Lodge on the receiving end of a stiff letter of complaint from the Moderns Grand Lodge at the lack of progress towards a .  The Minutes of the Antients for March 1812, record:

Ordered that six hundred pounds three Percent Consolidated Bank Annuities be purchased in the names of the Trustees, viz. R. Bros. Thomas Harper, James Agar, William  Comerford Clarkson and James Perry Esq. in trust for the Charity funds of the Grand Lodge.

Ordered that the Masters and Wardens of the Lodges in and adjacent to London and Westminster do and shall forthwith make out and deliver to the Secretary a list of all and every of the Past Masters entitled to sit and vote in Grand Lodge, with the dates when they respectively served the office of Master and that a printed circular letter be issued for such return and to be filled and returned in thereon.

JMH:  MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, six hundred pounds was a significant amount, with a purchasing power today of almost twenty one thousand pounds. The reason for the census of Past Masters was a result of the argument between the negotiators for the of the two Grand Lodges over the future composition of the United Grand Lodge. Under the Antients Grand Lodge subscribing Past Masters remained members of the Grand Lodge but in the premier Grand Lodge only the actual Masters were entitled to attend. Those who were present here last year might remember that the premier Grand Lodge’s only reason for being against including Past Masters in the membership of Grand Lodge was the rather trivial one that their Hall would not be big enough if they all turned up!
     
GFR:  At the same meeting a memorial from the Committee of the Masonic Institution for Cloathing and Educating the Sons of Deceased and Indigent Freemasons was received and read, as a result of which it was:

resolved and ordered That from and after the date hereof, every Lodge in and adjacent to London and Westminster upon the register of every newly made Mason, shall contribute and pay the sum of Five Shillings and every Country, Foreign and Military Lodge shall in like manner pay Two Shillings and Sixpence which sums shall go in aid of the Institution for cloathing and educating the Sons of indigent Freemasons.”

It is also resolved and ordered “That from and after the 5th of September next, no person shall be admitted into Masonry, in any warranted Lodge under this constitution for a less sum than Three Guineas, to be paid upon his initiation” under a penalty of forfeiture of the Warrant, in any Lodge so trespassing.

JMH: Placing a levy on their members to finance their Boys’ Charity was not a new concept for the Antients. Grand Lodge dues had not then been invented but from its earliest days the Antients Grand Lodge had required its lodges to make a quarterly payment of six pence for each of the members appearing on their returns, which went into their Fund of Benevolence. The sole income of the Grand Lodge itself came from registration fees for new members and those joining additional lodges and fees for warrants and dispensations.

Three guineas might not seem a large amount for the initiation fee, the modern equivalent would be about one hundred and seven pounds. When one realises, however, that a good craftsman or tradesman in early nineteenth century London would only be earning about one pound per week and that the average lodge annual subscription at that time was one guinea, we are given a different perspective. How many potential candidates today would be happy to pay three weeks salary for their initiation fee and one weeks salary as their annual Lodge subscription?
    
GFR:  At the June meeting

The Deputy Grand Master reported that in conformity with the directions of the Grand Lodge, the number of Past Masters had been collected from the returns of the respective Lodges and a list had been handed to the Secretary of the Masons under the Prince Regent prior to their general meeting in April last with the following letter, but that no communication had been received thereon.

Sir,
    In conformity with the wishes of the Committee of Masons under H.R.H. the Prince Regent, the utmost pains have been taken to ascertain the number of Past Masters, who claim the right of seats in the Grand Lodge under His Grace. the Duke of Atholl, and from the best sources of information that could be obtained. I have the honor to subjoin a statement  of the utmost number who can be considered at this time entitled to that privilege.

Permit me to observe that upon no occasion has it ever been known for more than one third of the number of the number (i.e. Past Masters) to give their attendance at the Grand Lodge at any one time.

As I am not aware that any Return has yet been made to the Committee under His Grace the Duke of Atholl of the numbers in the representation of the Grand Lodge under the Prince Regent, allow me to say I shall be happy to receive it at your earliest convenience.

    I have the Honor to be Sir
        Your very obedient Servant
                Edwards Harper D.G.S.

JMH: The statistics provided by the Antients were as follows:

    Grand Officers Present and Past    16
    Masters and Wardens (49 Lodges)  147
    Past Masters of the foregoing         375
                                                      538

Considering that the Antients had lodges throughout England and Wales as well as many lodges in the colonies, it would appear that they restricted attendance at their Grand Lodge to Masters and Past Masters of London lodges. Many of their official pronouncements include a statement that they were issued by “we the Grand Officers and Masters and Past Masters of the Lodges in the Cities of London and Westminster in Grand Lodge assembled…”. Forty nine was the number of lodges under the Antients in the London area.

GFR:  In another place – as they say – at the Quarterly Communication of the Premier or Moderns Grand Lodge in February of that year:

The Grand Treasurer acquainted the Grand Lodge that he considered it desirable for the Society to make a purchase of the house adjoining to the Tavern and that he had reason to believe such purchase might be made on fair and equitable terms together with certain small premises adjoining thereto which it might be very desirable for the Society to possess, whereupon, on a motion duly made it was

    Resolved that the Grand Treasurer be authorised to treat for such purchase under the sanction of the Hall Committee and to conclude the same and under that sanction to raise such sum of money, by mortgage or otherwise, as may be necessary for the completion of the purchase.

The Earl of Moira A.G.M. acquainted the Grand Lodge, that in consequence of the death of Admiral Sir Peter Parker Bart. His Royal Highness the Grand Master had been pleased to appoint His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex to be Deputy Grand Master which communication was received by the Grand Lodge with every sentiment of respect and approbation.

JMH: The property was acquired and after the was radically adapted by the first Grand Superintendent, the noted architect Sir John Soane, to provide additional lodge meeting facilities. Sadly Soane’s work only survives in his plans and drawings as his extension to the original Hall disappeared during the building of the second Hall in Great Queen Street in the 1860s.

Admiral Sir Peter Parker had been a very popular Deputy Grand Master, an office he had held since 1787, although as commander of the fleet in the West Indies and Caribbean he was often absent from England fighting the French. The choice of His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex as his successor was, history has shown, a master stroke of dynastic planning. As we shall hear in a few moments, the Earl of Moira who had been the Prince Regent’s Masonic right hand since 1790, was soon to depart for India, and the Prince of Wales, having become Prince Regent, was planning to retire from the Grand Mastership so new leadership would be required. The Duke of Sussex had proved himself an enthusiastic Freemason and was to prove a perfect example of the right man being appointed at the right time.  

GFR:  At the April Communication of the Grand Lodge :

The Grand Secretary laid before the Grand Lodge letters he had received from the Provincial Grand Lodge of York complaining that the Lodges in that Province did not correspond and remit their Contributions for the Grand Lodge in London through the medium of the Provincial Grand Lodge by reason of which the dignity and consequence of the Provincial Grand Lodge was not sufficiently supported and therefore requesting the interference of the Grand Lodge on the subject. Whereupon after mature deliberation the Grand Lodge declared its opinion that the request of the Provincial Grand Lodge at York cannot be complied with, as such a proceeding would tend to lessen the authority and superintendance of the Grand Lodge over the subordinate Lodges. And the Acting Grand Master undertook to write to the Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire on the subject.

On a motion made by Brother Thomas Brand Esq. and seconded by Brother the Revd. Dr. Coghlan it was
    Resolved that a Grand Organist be appointed to perform on the organ in the hall at the meetings of the Grand Lodge who shall be entitled to wear a Blue Apron and to have a seat in the Grand Lodge. And that the Grand Master be requested to nominate a fit person accordingly.

JMH: The complaint from the Provincial Grand Lodge at York might seem strange to us but is a perfect demonstration of the maxim that historians should look at the past through the eyes of the past and not the eyes of today. Although Provincial Grand Masters appeared as early as 1725 Provincial Grand Lodges as we know them today were a product of the new administrative arrangements after the in 1813. Under the premier Grand Lodge, as today, Provincial Grand Masters were appointed by the Grand Master as his personal representatives within their designated areas. They often appointed a Deputy and a Secretary and were empowered by the Book of Constitutions to appoint Grand Officers pro tempore to assist them on ceremonial occasions such as the constitution of new Lodges, laying of foundation stones and public processions, but Provincial Grand Ranks as we know them came after the .

Indeed, there was ambiguity as to the ranking of Provincial Grand Masters under the Moderns. The minutes of each of their meetings begin with a list of those present in order of seniority. On every occasion the Provincial Grand Masters who attended were listed after the actual Grand Wardens and any Past Grand Wardens who attended. For many years I was puzzled by the fact that the ubiquitous Thomas Dunckerley, who had been Provincial Grand Master for nine Provinces was in 1786 appointed a Past Senior Grand Warden, the first occasion on which a Past Rank was conferred other than the rank of Past Grand Master being conferred on Royal brethren. It was only recently discovered that he had actively sought the rank because he was about to give up his then charges and would no longer qualify to attend Grand Lodge as only the actual Provincial Grand Masters were so qualified.

GFR:  At the Grand Feast, held that year in May:

The Grand Lodge having resolved, that a Grand Organist should be appointed, the Grand Master was pleased to appoint Mr Samuel Wesley to that office.

JMH: Samuel Wesley was the son of Charles and nephew of John Wesley, the founders of Methodism. A major composer of his day, called by some the English Mozart, he had been initiated in the Lodge of Antiquity (now) No. 2 in 1788. He was to be Grand Organist from 1812 until 1818 but, sadly, appears to  have left no Masonic music. Today he is greatly overshadowed by his son Samuel Sebastian Wesley, one of the great church composer and cathedral organists of the nineteenth century.  

GFR:    In November the Deputy Grand Master, His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, reported on a Special Meeting of Grand Officers held earlier in that month at his instigation at which:

The Grand Treasurer acquainted that Committee that he [that] morning had [had] the honor of an interview with His Royal Highness the Deputy Grand Master who had desired him to express to the Committee His Royal Highness’s regret at being prevented by severe indisposition from attending this meeting that His Royal Highness had ordered the Committee to be summoned for the purpose of taking into consideration the mode of paying some mark of respect to The Earl of Moira A.G.M. (to whose kind care and exertions the Craft is so greatly indebted for its present highly respectable and flourishing state) previous to His Lordship’s expected departure from England and that His Royal Highness was of opinion it would be proper to invite His Lordship to partake of a dinner with the Craft…

That Committee had then Resolved unanimously that a Masonic Dinner at which the Duke of Sussex should preside be given to Lord Moira, to which the members of the Craft generally should be invited, and a further Committee was appointed to oversee the arrangements.

And the Grand Lodge having expressed its approbation of the proceedings of the Committee it was

Resolved unanimously that at the dinner of the Grand Lodge to be given to The Right Honorable The Earl of Moira A.G.M. on the 13th day of January next a Masonic Jewel of a value not less than 500 Guineas be presented to His Lordship in token of the high sense which the Craft at large entertain of His Lordship’s most valuable services to the Society from the year 1790 to the present time, and of the Brotherly affection they bear him

Resolved unanimously that the several Lodges be invited to contribute towards this expense in order that every member of the Craft may have an opportunity of testifying his regard, individually to the M.W. Acting Grand Master.

JMH:  Lord Moira had been appointed Governor and Commander in Chief at Bengal, where he was to remain for ten years. He broke his journey to India with a brief sojourn in Mauritius, where with Masonic ceremonies he laid the foundation stone of the new Roman Catholic cathedral.

Moira had been Acting, or as we would say Pro, Grand Master since 1790 and had steered the Moderns through a difficult period, not least the possibility of the Craft being proscribed under the 1799 Unlawful Societies Act. Calling for five hundred guineas to purchase a jewel to mark his long service was extraordinarily generous, in modern purchasing power it equated to just under eighteen thousand pounds. The dinner held on 27 January 1813 was indeed a gala occasion attended by Their Royal Highnesses the Dukes of Sussex, York, Clarence, Kent, Cumberland and Gloucester, the Deputy Grand Master of Scotland and a representative of the King of Sweden. The presentation was magnificent. The jewel, surrounded by brilliants, carried the Acting Grand Masters’ emblem and was suspended from what was described as “a collar of three feet long, composed of seven rows of fine Maltese chain, intersected by five parallelograms with brilliant centres”. It was made by Brother J. C. Burckhardt of the Lodge of Antiquity. The jewel is now in the Museum in this building but the collar was eventually broken up into necklaces for Moira’s female descendant. The final cost was six hundred and seventy pounds, just over twenty two thousand five hundred pounds today!
       
GFR:  1912 seems to have been a rather uneventful year.  Leaving aside a spate of Appeals and the investiture of a new Assistant Grand Secretary, the only item which catches the eye  – and catches it spectacularly – was in March of that year when the Pro Grand Master stated:

I regret that I feel obliged to disallow the motion standing in the name of the V.W. Brother the President of the Board of General Purposes. It is a proposal to alter the established custom in the matter of appointments and precedence and therefore affects the prerogative of the Grand Master.

JMH: Strong words indeed, and stronger were to follow for the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, was not known for his diplomatic skills! To challenge the President in Grand Lodge, apparently without any warning, was unprecedented.. The motion concerned the precedence of Lodge officers, something not then governed by the Book of Constitutions. Ampthill claimed that the motion interfered in the prerogatives of the Grand Master, had the Grand Registrar been asked he might have had a contrary view! Wisely the President withdrew the motion and the matter was not raised again. Lord Ampthill, however, began almost a crusade to have the whole administration of the Craft examined and revised. But that, as they say, is a story for another day.

Published in Speeches
Friday, 14 September 2012 15:20

Coming together

Would the of the two Grand Lodges have gone ahead in 1813 if the Royal Arch had not been recognised? John Hamill takes a whistle-stop tour through Antient history

The earliest documentary evidence for the Royal Arch in England comes in the minutes of the Antients Grand Lodge. At their meeting on 4 March 1752, charges were laid against a group claimed to have been made masons ‘for the mean consideration of a leg of mutton’. Of one of the miscreants it was said that he had not ‘the least idea or knowledge of Royal Arch masonry’. A small detail, perhaps, but over the next 60 years the relationship between the Antients and the Royal Arch was to prove pivotal in shaping English Freemasonry.

1752: Antient recognition
At a meeting on 2 September 1752, the minutes of the Antients Grand Lodge record that ‘every piece of Real Freemasonry was traced and explained: except the Royal Arch’ by the Grand Secretary, Laurence Dermott. An Irishman who had become a mason in Dublin before moving to London, Dermott claimed to have entered the Royal Arch in Dublin in 1746.

1759: Part of the Craft
It was ordered at an Antients meeting on 2 March 1759 that ‘the Masters of the Royal Arch shall also be summoned to meet and regulate things relative to that most valuable branch of the Craft’. Those last few words encapsulate the Antients’ attitude to the Royal Arch. They regarded it as a part of the Craft and considered their lodge warrants as sufficient authority to work the Royal Arch. In later years they often called themselves ‘the Grand Lodge of the four degrees’. Dermott himself characterised the Royal Arch as ‘the root, heart and marrow of masonry’ and ‘the capstone of the whole masonic system’.

1771: Dermott protects
Dermott, who had a positive loathing for the premier Grand Lodge, was clearly far from happy when its members formed the first Grand Chapter in 1766. He had to wait, however, until 1771, when he had become Deputy Grand Master, before he could take action. During that year he engineered a question in the Grand Lodge as to whether or not the Grand Master was Grand Master ‘in every respect’. His successor as Grand Secretary, William Dickey, stated that he had heard it claimed that the Grand Master ‘had not a right’ to enquire into Royal Arch activities. The Masters of the Royal Arch were summoned to discuss this and other Royal Arch matters.

1773: Royal Arch regulates
In November 1773, Dermott got his way when it was agreed that ‘a General Grand Chapter of the Royal Arch shall meet on the first Wednesdays in the months of April and October in every year to regulate all matters in that branch of masonry’. Whether or not the General Grand Chapter ever met it is not possible to say as no minutes for it survive and there is no further reference to it in the Antients Grand Lodge minutes. If it did meet it can have had no greater status than as a special committee of qualified members of the Antients Grand Lodge. Any decisions it might have made would have to have been ratified by the Grand Lodge itself. Certainly there was no separate administration, list of Grand Officers or individual Chapters under the Antients system.

1794: In black and white
It was not until 1794 that regulations for the Royal Arch were printed, and these were incorporated as a supplement to their Book of Constitutions. These regulations would be used within their lodges as and when candidates came forward. Some Antients lodges had, by the 1790s, developed a regular progression of degrees within the lodge. After the three Craft degrees you moved towards the Royal Arch but first went through the Mark Degree, Passing the Chair (if the candidate was not already a Master or Past Master of a Lodge) and the Excellent Mason Degree. After the Royal Arch you could then join the Knights Templar followed by an early version of the Rose Croix, which they termed the Ne Plus Ultra of Masonry.

This progression was often depicted on the aprons worn by members of the Antients, which in addition to symbols of the Craft would include those for the degrees listed above. A very rare example of a multi-degree tracing board turned up some 20 years ago at an auction in Suffolk with other masonic artefacts, which had been in the possession of a local clerical family for more than 150 years. East Anglia had been a stronghold of the Antients and it may well have been commissioned by one of the local lodges.

1813: A very English compromise
That the Antients did much to foster the Royal Arch is beyond doubt. It could also be argued that it was their attitude towards the Royal Arch that preserved it and produced that very English compromise: the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, by which the premier Grand Lodge acknowledged the Royal Arch as the completion of ‘pure ancient masonry’, provided that it was worked separately from the Craft in chapters rather than in lodges as had been the Antients’ custom.

I think it more than probable that had that compromise not been reached the Antients would have withdrawn from the negotiations, the would not have taken place and the future progress of English Freemasonry would have taken a very different path.

 

Published in SGC
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

The shared experience

A badly read piece of ritual is infinitely worse than a badly remembered piece, explains Director of Special Projects John Hamill

When dealing with the media on behalf of Grand Lodge, one of the comments that I regularly received from journalists was that if the ceremonies are the main purpose of lodge meetings it must eventually become very boring to see the same ceremonies year after year. My answer was always a resounding ‘no’.

No two ceremonies can ever be the same. The candidate is different each time, the officers taking part regularly change and those attending the meeting are never exactly the same. Although the basic words and actions of each ceremony may be the same each time it is worked, those changes of personnel can make an enormous difference.

One of the most memorable meetings I have attended was a Third Degree, the candidate for which was in a wheelchair. You could almost feel the atmosphere of good will in the room with the officers concentrating on the comfort of the candidate and those on the sidelines silently willing the officers to do a good job for the candidate. It was Freemasonry at its best.

Our ritual did not simply happen. It went through a long gestation in the eighteenth century, moving from simple lessons in morality to a complex series of catechetical lectures in which the principles and tenets of the Craft, as well as the symbolism and content of the ceremonies, were explained. A watershed came in 1814 when, as a result of the of the two Grand Lodges, a Lodge of Reconciliation was set up to reconcile the two former systems of ritual and bring about a standard form of the ceremonies to be adopted by all lodges.

Like many special committees, the Lodge of Reconciliation went way beyond its brief and extended the original simple ceremonies by introducing material from the catechetical lectures, and brought about the basis of our present ceremonies. One of the sad effects of that was that the lectures gradually dropped into disuse, except in places like the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, where they are still worked every Friday evening during the masonic season. It’s sad because they contain a wealth of explanation that would increase the brethren’s understanding of the ceremonies.

WORD OF MOUTH

The aim of producing a standard form of ritual was not achieved. In those days writing down ritual matters was a heinous masonic crime. Ritual was passed on by word of mouth. Its work having been agreed by Grand Lodge in 1816, the Lodge of Reconciliation gave weekly demonstrations of the new rituals in London. Lodges were invited to send representatives to the demonstrations to pass on the new method to their lodges.

This method of transmission and a failure to suppress cherished local traditions has resulted in a richness and variety of working in our lodges, which makes visiting all the more interesting for us.

In recent years there have been calls for officers to be allowed to read the ritual in lodge. For two reasons I think this would be a retrograde step. First, having seen ritual read in lodges in Europe, a badly read piece of ritual is infinitely worse that a badly remembered piece. More importantly, by learning the ritual we increase our understanding of it.

Whoever we are we all come into Freemasonry in the same way. Our progress through the three ceremonies is what the late Canon Tydeman so aptly described as ‘the shared experience’. Combined with our belief in a supreme being, it is what unites us, whatever our backgrounds, and gives us the basis to build and be of service to our communities.

Published in Features
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Pages from a new chapter

Today the formation of a Grand Chapter would be widely reported. As John Hamill explains, such was not the case for the Excellent Grand and Royal Arch Chapter of England

As I wrote in the last issue of Freemasonry Today, the Royal Arch was brought into being by the signing of the document now know as the Charter of Compact on 22 July 1766, although the date was later tampered with. Strangely, there is no mention of that charter within the minutes of the chapter, which turned itself into the Grand Chapter. So exactly how did events pan out?

1765: The signing of a manifesto
On 12 June 1765, a group of twenty-nine companions met at the Turk’s Head Tavern in Gerrard Street, Soho and signed a manifesto by which they constituted themselves into an independent Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. The manifesto – a set of rules to govern the operation of the chapter – was copied into the minute book in an illuminated style and was signed by those present and then by every brother on his exaltation within the chapter.

1766: Grand Chapter catalyst
Among those who joined were many of the major figures then involved in the running of the premier Grand Lodge. Exactly a year after its formation, the success of the chapter was crowned by the candidate at the meeting on 11 June 1766 being the then Grand Master – Cadwallader, Lord Blayney. It would appear that this event was the catalyst for the formation of a Grand Chapter, although the minutes are silent on this matter, any discussion of the Charter of Compact, or even to its signing. The only reference in the minute book is in the accounts where it is noted that a Mr Parkinson was paid two guineas for engrossing the charter.

1769: Just a private chapter?
The chapter continued to work as a private chapter, regularly exalting new members and it is not until 1769 that the minutes begin to show evidence of it acting as a Grand Chapter. In that year it began to issue charters to form new chapters. Of these foundations five are still in existence today. It would appear from the minute books that the chapter continued a dual role as both a private chapter and a Grand Chapter until it evolved into Supreme Grand Chapter in 1817. From 1795 it began to function on a regular basis as we would expect today.

1778: Spreading the message
In 1778, the chapter began to organise Provinces with the appointment of Grand Superintendents, whose main function appears to have been to stimulate the formation of new chapters. Thomas Dunckerley, who did so much to promote the Royal Arch in the late eighteenth century between 1778 and his death in 1795, was appointed Grand Superintendent in no less than eighteen counties.

1795: Grand Lodge softening
Despite many of its leaders being involved in the Grand Chapter, the premier Grand Lodge consistently refused to acknowledge the Royal Arch as part of its system. By 1795 that attitude had softened and the premier Grand Lodge announced, rather condescendingly, that it had no objections to the Royal Arch as a separately organised society.

1809: Royal Arch an integral part
With HRH The Duke of Sussex becoming both Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge and First Grand Principal of the Grand Chapter, the latter body gave him full powers to negotiate on their behalf whatever settlement could be achieved as to the position of the Royal Arch, once the of the two Grand Lodges had been carried through. It was as a result of that, and his position as Grand Master, that a compromise was achieved and the Royal Arch was accepted as an integral part of pure antient masonry.

1817: Birth of the Supreme Grand Chapter
The Grand Chapter continued to exist until 1817 when, with the Craft arrangements being almost completed, The Duke of Sussex turned his mind to the Royal Arch. The Grand and Royal Chapter merged with the former members of the Antients Royal Arch, with the Supreme Grand Chapter coming into being. Surprisingly after 1817, the dual nature of the original Grand Chapter – acting both as a regulatory body and a private chapter – continued with men of eminence being exalted within the Grand Chapter itself.

1832: Last exaltations
The last occasion the Grand Chapter acted as both regulator and private chapter was in May 1832 when the Marquis of Salisbury, the Marquis of Abercorn and Lord Monson were exalted at an emergency meeting of Grand Chapter.

Published in SGC
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Built to last

John Hamill looks back on the construction of Freemasons’ Hall from the perspective of those who worked there

Despite the economic problems, the 1920s was a period of great expansion for Freemasonry. It appealed to those coming back from the war – both as a means of continuing the camaraderie they had experienced on active service and giving them a sense of stability and tradition in a much changed world.

With the growing popularity of Freemasonry, the great project of building the present Freemasons’ Hall in London was undertaken as a memorial to those who had given their lives in the First World War. Changes of this magnitude and the increased work in raising money for the new building put enormous strains on the small office run by the Grand Secretary.

In 1919, the office consisted of the Grand Secretary, Assistant Grand Secretary, sixteen permanent clerks, four junior clerks and two ‘lady typewriters’, Miss Haig and Miss Winter. The two ladies had come in towards the end of the war as temporaries but were to spend the remainder of their careers in the Hall as secretaries to the Grand Secretary and his assistant.

The daily running of the building and the letting of lodge and committee rooms was under the charge of the Grand Tyler, who lived in the hall. He had an assistant, two porters, a night watchman, a ‘furnace man’ who looked after the primitive heating system and the open fires in the offices and committee rooms, and a floating number of cleaners.

Six of the boys taken on between 1925 and 1929 – some of whom came directly from the old Royal Masonic School for Boys – were each to spend forty-nine years in the service of the Grand Lodge: Gerry Winslade, Harold Brunton, Llew Hodges, Bill Browne, Derek Chanter and Bob Hawkins.

Dickensian is probably an overused adjective, but it aptly describes the conditions under which the clerks worked. Freemasons’ Hall had been extended in the 1860s and what were termed commodious offices had been provided for the Grand Secretary and his clerks. Even the provision in 1906 of two new rooms in a house attached to the west end of the old Hall did little to give proper working space.

As the steel work for the new building began to rise in 1927 it gradually became apparent that much would have to change in the future. It was to cover two and one quarter acres with four principal floors, a large basement area and mezzanine floors in various parts of the building. Routine maintenance would be of ‘Forth Bridge’ proportions, to say nothing of security.

Not surprisingly, many of those who had been involved in raising the building applied for jobs and spent the rest of their working lives caring for it, some of them working into their mid-seventies. Carpentry, electrical and engineering workshops were set up in the basement, together with a paint shop and upholstery department. When the time came to demolish the Victorian Hall, the office was transferred to temporary accommodation in what was to be one of the new lodge rooms so that the administration could continue. The conditions were far from ideal but they knew that before long they would be moving to what one of the clerks described as a ‘demi-paradise’.

The new office for the clerks was built in the undercroft of the Grand Temple and matched it in size. Unlike the Grand Temple, it had enormous windows allowing much natural light to come in from the light well which surrounds it. Unlike the cramped Victorian offices, it was open plan giving a great feeling of airy lightness and space. Visitors came in through large glazed bronze doors to find a long enquiries counter, always manned by a senior clerk who could deal with their enquiries or quickly fetch the appropriate clerk who dealt with the particular matter. While waiting to be served, the visitor had a view over the whole of the office.

At the back of the room was a mezzanine floor where the cashier and his clerks had their office. The sensitive nature of their work dealing with Grand Lodge finances and staff payroll was carried out without any fear of being overlooked by staff or visitors. In those halcyon days it was the only part of the office where the doors had locks, the rest of the office was always accessible even when the clerks had left for the evening.

In time, as the Craft continued to expand – particularly after the Second World War – the office again became crowded. In addition, areas had been partitioned off to provide small offices for individuals and the whole open-plan design had been submerged. When a major structural reorganisation of the Grand Secretary’s office took place in 1999 the old partitions were torn down and the feeling of light and space returned. Apart from the modern furniture and the computers, were one of the 1932 clerks to return to the office today they would find it little changed from that ‘demi-paradise’ they were the first to occupy.

Published in Features
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Was Sir Christopher Wren a Freemason?

Was St Paul's Cathedral built by a mason?

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.

Published in Features

The members of the Lodge of Unanimity No.113 celebrated a very special landmark on 20 March 2012 in their long and distinguished history by reaching their 200th year as an active Masonic lodge.

This unique meeting attracted a capacity audience with many distinguished visitors attending from around the country to share in and contribute to the celebrations. The Provincial Grand Master, Peter John Hosker, and his Provincial team headed up the West Lancashire contingent.

Dr Mike Woodcock, the President of Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, attended from London, together with John Hamill, the Director of Special Projects at UGLE, along with the Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies, The Hon. Andrew Wigram. They all contributed to a highly polished ceremony.

At the beginning of the evening and to set the scene for the celebrations, Dr Richard Johnson gave a brief history of the Preston Group of Lodges and the historical development of Freemasonry in the City. This was followed by Peter Watson’s potted history of the Lodge of Unanimity itself and how it was founded at the height of the Napoleonic War. It was developed from the 3rd Regiment of the Royal Lancashire Militia who, although on duty in Dover during the Napoleonic War, obtained a re-assigned warrant on 13 March 1812 from the Antient Grand Lodge to enable them to operate as a military lodge.

The bicentenary warrant was then read by John Hamill and presented to the lodge by Mike Woodcock.  Following the presentation the Provincial Grand Chaplain, Rev Graham Halsall, gave a delightful narration and re-dedication prayer.

The Lodge of Unanimity is an Atholl Lodge and to mark this special occasion Geoffrey Abraham, the national chair of the Atholl Lodges Association, presented an inscribed gavel to the lodge.

To further highlight this special event the lodge gave a number of generous donations to charities. They gave £1,000 to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity and a total of £900 to non-Masonic charities. These included £300 to the Lancashire and South Cumbria Kidney Patient Association, £300 to the Lymphoma Association and £300 to the neo natal care unit at Royal Preston Hospital.

The Bi-centenary History Booklet of the lodge reveals the significant part played by the lodge and its members in the development of Freemasonry in Preston. In particular, 113 has created five daughter lodges in Preston, and one in Garstang, and from these lodges, numerous granddaughter and great granddaughter lodges have been founded in the Province.

This bicentenary celebration has highlighted that Freemasonry has a breadth that appeals to those who are seeking friendship and moral guidance; an opportunity to be of service within the community; a quiet haven for a few hours from the troubles of the world; or just the pure, simple enjoyment of being in the company of like-minded people. These enduring qualities of Freemasonry help to ensure that it continues to give to future generations the pleasure and experience that our predecessors and along with this generation have found in it.

Monday, 19 March 2012 17:00

The Lord Blayney mystery

As the bicentenary of the inclusion of the Royal Arch chapter into ‘pure antient masonry’ draws near, John Hamill examines the mystery behind its formation

On 22 July 1766, the first Grand Chapter in the world came into being when members of an independent chapter met in London to draw up what is now known as the Charter of Compact, converting their chapter into the Excellent Grand and Royal Arch Chapter, with Cadwallader, ninth Lord Blayney, at its head. We know this because the chapter’s minute book, which commences with a meeting held on 22 March 1765, stills exists. Until as recently as the late forties, however, masonic historians believed that the Grand Chapter had been formed in 1767.

The mystery can be traced back to the charter itself, which concludes with the statement that it was signed at the Turk’s Head tavern in Gerrard Street, Soho, on 22 July 1767. It wasn’t until masonic historian J R Dashwood examined the document in 1949, while preparing a paper on the first minute book of the original Grand Chapter, that evidence of tampering was discovered. Dashwood noticed that at the top of the document, in the recitals of the styles and titles of Lord Blayney, a capital P (standing for Past) had been inserted clumsily before the words Grand Master of Free and Accepted Masons. At the other end of the document, it was equally clear that the original final digit of the year had been scraped off and been substituted in all cases, except the Anno Lucis (AL) date, with a seven. In the AL date the final digit had become a one.

One explanation is that despite the fact that many of its senior members were involved in the Royal Arch, the Premier Grand Lodge was not well disposed towards it and would not recognise it as part of its basic system. Dashwood argued that it would have been a huge embarrassment to them to have their current Grand Master, Lord Blayney, as a member. As head of the order, Blayney would have been one of the prime movers in turning a private chapter into a governing body as well as being the principal signatory to its founding document. On 22 July 1766, Blayney was still Grand Master, but by 22 July 1767 he had retired from that high office. Hence, Dashwood argued, the alterations were made to suggest that the events all took place after Blayney ceased to be Grand Master.

That theory appeared to meet with general acceptance until, in 1998, Freemason Yasha Beresiner gave a short talk on the charter in Supreme Grand Chapter. He queried whether, as most of them were involved in the chapter, the hierarchy of the premier would have been embarrassed by the events in July 1766. Beresiner theorised that it was more likely that once news got around that a new masonic order had been formed, and the Grand Master was at its head, their members would have flocked to join it.

A pious fraud

Another mystery is the twenty-one signatures on the left of the charter who attested that they accepted the terms documented ‘on the Day and Year above written’. Dashwood described this as ‘a pious fraud’. He had good reason for doing so as of the twenty-one signatories only the Earl of Anglesey was present in the chapter on 22 July 1766, having been exalted that evening. Of the remainder, more than two thirds had not been exalted at that date. The majority of them were exalted between 1767 and 1769.

While it is always satisfying to solve a mystery, in the great scheme of things does it really matter that the document was tampered with? Surely what is important is that the events of July 1766 took place and gave birth to the Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter, enabling members of the premier Grand Lodge to become involved in the Royal Arch.

Had it not existed, it could be argued that the ‘antients’ would not have had the numerical strength to persuade the premier Grand Lodge, in the negotiations leading to the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, to accept the Royal Arch as a part of ‘pure antient masonry’. Had that not happened we would not have had our indissoluble link between the Craft and Royal Arch. And, very importantly, would have no reason to have a party in October 2013 to celebrate its bicentenary.

Published in SGC
Thursday, 15 March 2012 00:00

The essence in change

Freemasonry has thrived for centuries because it adapts while staying true to its principles, as Director of Special Projects John Hamill explains

As we begin the countdown to the tercentenary celebrations of Grand Lodge in 2017, a great deal of research is being undertaken to establish how Freemasonry has developed and what we have contributed to society. Despite nearly one hundred and fifty years of serious masonic research, we have yet to answer the questions of why, when and where Freemasonry as we understand it originated. Even with the great amount of work going on now, I doubt if those answers will be found by 2017.

There is another question, to my mind, as important and interesting as that of our origins: why has Freemasonry survived on the scale to which it exists today? Those four London lodges that came together in 1717 cannot in their wildest imaginings have thought that three hundred years later their Grand Lodge would have in excess of 250,000 members in more than 8,000 lodges across the world.

We regard Freemasonry as being something special and different. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, however, it was only one of a myriad of fraternal and benevolent societies and associations. Many of them copied Freemasonry in their organisation and use of ceremony and regalia. For the majority, the benevolent and charitable aspects predominated and the ritual became less important. Most of them completely disappeared in the twentieth century as the developing welfare state began to offer the safety net they had provided. Freemasonry, however, flourished.

For much of the eighteenth century Freemasonry was not so different from many other organisations. The ceremonies, while they attempted to instil a basic moral code, were often seen as simply a curious means of entering what was basically a social and benevolent association. The watershed came in the aftermath of the of the two Grand Lodges on 27 December 1813. A great deal of reorganisation and standardisation took place that resulted in the ceremonies, and above all the meaning behind them, becoming the basis of the institution itself.

This fundamental shift in emphasis was the first step in ensuring the survival of Freemasonry. It demonstrated an ability – sometimes deliberate and almost accidental at others – to adapt Freemasonry to its era. Changes were always made to the outward customs and never to the basic principles, tenets and landmarks of the Order. These are rightly seen as the essence of Freemasonry and are inalienable.

deeper reasons

There are, however, deeper reasons as to why we are still a living organisation. Grand Lodge has always refused to define or explain the meaning of the several ceremonies. This has prevented the rise of any form of dogma. It is up to the individual to make their own journey and to find their own understanding. Hence, the membership forms a wide spectrum, from those who simply view it as a social opportunity to those who, wrongly, believe it will provide the answer to all of life’s questions!

Freemasonry has a breadth that appeals to those who are seeking friendship and moral guidance; an opportunity to be of service within the community; a quiet haven for a few hours from the troubles of the world; or just the pure, simple enjoyment in being in the company of like-minded people.

After forty years of study I remain convinced that, whatever fate may throw at Freemasonry – and provided we remain true to our principles yet adaptable to our times, and retain the breadth of our membership – the Order will survive. It will continue to give to future generations the pleasure that we and our predecessors have found in it.

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

 

Sir,
I would like to comment on John Hamill’s ‘Reflection’ article in your Winter 2011 edition. If I may, I would like to put an opposing view. I suspect very few would like to return to earlier days of meeting in halls and pubs and not having a home for Freemasonry. Perhaps the real problem is that rather than spending money on the buildings, every penny has gone to charity.

 

There is nothing wrong whatsoever in maintaining a building and using lodge non-charitable funds for this end. I believe that if a particular building suddenly requires major expenditure then that lodge should be allowed to say to the Province that their charitable donations for a short period of time may well be diminished while they give attention to whatever problem has arisen. This should be perfectly acceptable because it secures the lodge building for future generations. The lodge can return to charitable giving in due course and this further ensures that future generations also give to charity.

 


Keith Metcalfe
Lodge of St Marychurch, No. 5148

Torquay, Devonshire

Published in Features

As UGLE’s Communications Advisor, Susan Henderson’s job is about managing relationships – from dealing with unusual enquires to overseeing information flow

How did you come to work for UGLE?

I’d just moved back to London and popped into an agency looking for a job. They sent me for an interview around the corner at ‘a charity’. As I walked along the road, I realised it was Freemasons’ Hall, as I had recently been reading about Freemasonry. I was interviewed by Director of Communications, John Hamill, for the role of his PA and got the job. This was in 2002 and it couldn’t have worked out better in that I’d been wanting to find out more about Freemasonry and there I was sitting with one of the foremost experts.  

Did your previous experience prepare you for your new job?

Before UGLE, I worked in different areas – from social services, to model agencies and advertising. I last worked for the BBC on news and before that on Comic Relief, sharing an office with Richard Curtis, who wrote Four Weddings & A Funeral. These experiences gave me a good overview of how organisations work and where to find information.

How did you become a female Freemason?

I’d been here a few years before I realised there were regular women’s grand lodges and I wondered if I should join. The Grand Secretary at the time knew I was interested and introduced me to the master of a female lodge who put me forward as a candidate. I already had preconceptions of Freemasonry’s ancient traditions, the rituals and origins and the idea of the knowledge that could be imparted, and the experience was pretty near to what I’d imagined. I’m now a junior warden and am steadily learning more. With Freemasonry, you’re thrown in with varied people who you wouldn’t be otherwise – it’s good for you.

How does your relationship with the Provinces work?

We were doing MQ Magazine and I started helping more with the editorial. That merged with Freemasonry Today to make the magazine we have now and I took on the duty of liaising with the Provincial information officers in gathering stories. They have an important role in bringing to our attention anything that might be of interest in terms of local events or any problems. They also disseminate information from Grand Lodge and have been doing a great job in getting our message out to the local press and communities.

How do you deal with negative press?

National newspapers are in the habit of making slurs about Freemasonry, which it’s very difficult to do anything about. We are an unincorporated organisation, so have no protection under the libel laws. If they make a statement that is untrue or defamatory we can write to them to make a correction but they’re under no obligation to print it. The best way to counter these perceptions is therefore to put out lots of positive information about Freemasonry and hope that it will enable more people to recognise the negative remarks as nonsense.

Where does this negativity come from?

In the Second World War, Freemasons were being sent to concentration camps in Germany and it was decided that Freemasonry should keep a low profile in the UK in case of invasion. Before this, the sight of Freemasons laying foundation stones or participating in parades was common. After the war, the low profile became a bit of a habit. The Cold War also made spy novels popular and these would sometimes cast Freemasons as key characters, so the idea caught light in the public imagination that Freemasonry was a secret organisation. We became aware of this and tried to counter it but the image portrayed in fiction is – to some people – more interesting and exciting than the truth.

What else do people believe?

We get some crazy questions asked through the website – for example, if I join Freemasonry, will I gain magical powers or will it make me rich? A few people have the bizarre idea that Freemasons are reptilian aliens. The more sane anti-masonic ideas tend to be that Freemasons use their membership to gain personal advantage in their careers. When you think about it, that’s the daftest of all because if people want to conspire or do each other favours, they can do that at any time and at any place – in the pub, the golf club, or across the garden fence.

So there are still big misconceptions about Freemasonry?

People misunderstand what the obligations are and what should be kept private. There is no obligation to favour other Freemasons and the only tangible privacy relates to the signs and passwords that give you the right to be present in a particular degree ceremony. They are no more sinister than pin numbers and are used only in the lodge. The passwords and signs are believed to have originated through medieval stonemasons who travelled around the world looking for work and needed to prove their level of competence when they arrived at a distant lodge.

Can Freemasons help counter these opinions?

Some members are overly defensive about Freemasonry because of anti-masonic attitudes. We need to help our members deal with this, to help them calmly explain that it’s not just an organisation for white Anglo Saxon Protestants. In Ireland it used to be said that there were only two things that united them – rugby and Freemasonry. There’s always been one United Grand Lodge with Catholics and Protestants attending without a problem and it’s little things like this that members can tell their friends.

Is your job largely about countering negative opinions?

Not at all. Most questions are from people who want to know about Freemasonry and I spend a lot time answering those. If I answer 30 emails a day that’s 7,800 people a year who will have received a good response, which is invaluable. People don’t think M&S or Selfridges are good companies because they have a nice leaflet or website, they like them because they know they’ll get good service and that’s the best form of publicity. People are too sophisticated these days to be influenced by public relations spin. They go on word of mouth or direct experiences. Days, weeks, years later a casual conversation in a pub about that experience will mean a good impression of Freemasonry is being spread.

Does Freemasonry need to change?

Organisations that follow the whims of the day tend to lose their identity and, to use a marketing term, Freemasonry’s unique selling point is its ancient traditions and its symbolism is its branding. We would be fools to tamper with that. Our strength is that we have remained much the same through many political changes and fashions. I’d personally like everyone to understand that we are not even allowed to discuss politics or religion in the lodge, so can hardly be colluding; that there have been established female lodges for over 100 years; and that we’re not just recently jumping onto some politically correct bandwagon, but have always been a welcoming universal brotherhood.

Published in UGLE
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