Celebrating 300 years

The United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall saw over 4,000 Freemasons in attendance

And across Twitter, Provinces, Districts and other Grand Lodges from around the world shared their experiences and highlights of the theatrical extravaganza.

We wanted to share a few below:

Published in UGLE

Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter

8 November 2017

An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes

ME First Grand Principal, companions, over a week ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the Royal Albert Hall about the 50 years’ service our Grand Master had given to the United Grand Lodge of England. Companions, those of you who were there, or have seen that remarkable event online, might have noticed that what I said seemed to go down reasonably well.

Companions, that took no notice of the fact that the job of First Grand Principal and Grand Master run concurrently, and therefore any mathematician can work out that the First Grand Principal has also been head of our Order for the same fifty years. It is quite remarkable. I mentioned it as a remarkable achievement; it is even more remarkable when you look at it in that light.

Companions, in a moment I shall ask you to show your appreciation of the service the First Grand Principal has given to this wonderful Order. But I am going to challenge you companions to make it slightly shorter than in the Albert Hall, but I know it will be no less heartfelt companions.

Published in Speeches
Friday, 03 November 2017 11:18

Letters exchanged with Buckingham Palace

At the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary celebrations, the Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence read a letter of loyal greetings sent to Her Majesty The Queen and the reply received

Deputy Grand Master: MW Grand Master and Brethren, I hereby read the text of a letter sent today to Buckingham Palace:

To The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty

May it please your Majesty -

We, the representatives of over 200,000 Freemasons under the United Grand Lodge of England, most respectfully express our continuing loyalty to Your Majesty’s Throne and Person in this, the sixty-sixth year of your long and distinguished reign.

Today we celebrate the 300th anniversary of the foundation of the premier Grand Lodge and the 50th anniversary of the installation of His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent as our much loved and greatly respected Grand Master. WE humbly thank God for preserving our Order and fervently pray His blessings on your Majesty, so that our loyal devotion to your Majesty may long continue.

Given at the Royal Albert Hall this thirty first day of October AD 2017.

Signed Jonathan Spence
Deputy Grand Master

Deputy Grand Master: Her Majesty has been pleased to reply in the following terms:

Dear Mr Spence,

The Queen has asked me to thank you for your kind letter of loyal greetings on behalf of the Representatives of the Freemasons under the United Grand Lodge of England, on the occasion of the Three-Hundredth Anniversary of the foundation of the premier Grand Lodge and the Fiftieth Anniversary of the installation of The Duke of Kent as your Grand Master, which are being celebrated on 31st October at the Royal Albert Hall.

Her Majesty appreciated your thoughtfulness in writing as you did and, in return, has asked me to send her warm good wishes to you all for a most successful event.

Yours sincerely,
David Ryan
Director, Private Secretary’s Office

Published in UGLE

The spectacular theatrical extravaganza to celebrate the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary and 300 years of Freemasonry may be over - but you can still watch this global event

Over 4,000 Freemasons from around the world were present at the Royal Albert Hall, coming together to witness a production which embraced Freemasonry's rich heritage and relevance today.

For those who were unable to attend, or would like to watch it back, you can view a screening of the Tercentenary celebrations by clicking here

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
Tuesday, 12 September 2017 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Autumn 2017

From the Grand Secretary

Normally, July and August are quiet months in which we relax and prepare ourselves for the new masonic season ahead. Such a period of calm has been noticeably absent this year, however, as you will discover by reading this issue of Freemasonry Today.

Your Rulers have been particularly busy travelling the globe to support our District activities, as well as enjoying the many events throughout England and Wales, which have been so successful through your hard work. These events may not have been relaxing, but they have certainly been reinvigorating.

I know the Masonic Charitable Foundation would wish me to thank you for your efforts in getting people to vote for the recipients of 300 grants totalling £3 million in celebration of our 300 years and the charity’s foundation. Over 177,000 votes were cast, of which more than 85 per cent were from non-masons. It has been a really positive and successful way of engaging with the community at large, and the charity will shortly be announcing the 300 fortunate beneficiaries of its grants.

We now eagerly anticipate the Grand Ball on 30 September and the culmination of our Tercentenary celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 October in a successful year that bodes well for the future.

CLUBBING TOGETHER

In this autumn issue of Freemasonry Today, we look forward to building upon our strong foundations with the Essex Cornerstone Club. Mixing social with community and educational events, the club has already attracted 150 younger members from the masonic community in Essex. Hosting activities ranging from paintball and family days to charity runs, the founding members are now exploring how technology could help create a national or even international network of young Freemasons.

Of course, innovation isn’t the sole property of younger people. Our piece on Music in Hospitals reveals how live music can spark important memories and emotions for the elderly. We travel to a care home in Surrey to see jazz musician Phoebe Gorry performing to a captivated audience. Thanks to the latest funding from the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the initiative is being rolled out in care homes across the country, allowing staff to have a more detailed understanding of their residents and provide improved levels of care.

For Freemason Iestyn Llewellyn, the immediate future will be spent pounding the streets as he aims to complete four marathons to mark his 40th birthday. Our profile on Iestyn reveals how he was inspired to push himself beyond his comfort zone when he discovered Daisy’s Dream, a charity providing support and advice for children facing the news of the terminal illness or death of a loved one.

Being a mason has allowed Iestyn to mix with like-minded people in an environment where he feels he belongs. While the work his lodge does for charity is crucial, it’s the brotherly love that keeps Iestyn coming back. All of which points to an exciting and positive future for us all.

Willie Shackell
Grand Secretary

‘Thank you for your efforts in getting people to vote for the recipients of 300 grants totalling £3 million’

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 12 September 2017 00:00

The return of Soane’s Ark

Thirty years in the making, a replica of the Ark of the Masonic Covenant is being crafted to serve as a permanent memorial of the Union of the two Grand Lodges. John Hamill explains its history

Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was one of England’s greatest architects. He became a Freemason in 1813 and, after the Union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, was the first to hold the new office of Grand Superintendent of Works. As such, he was the professional adviser overseeing the maintenance and development of Freemasons’ Hall in London.

The first work he produced for Grand Lodge was what became known as the Ark of the Masonic Covenant. To bring the Union of the Grand Lodges into being, both parties had agreed Articles of Union that laid the foundations of the United Grand Lodge of England. As an important document, it was to be carried into each Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge by the Grand Registrar. Soane offered to produce an ‘ark’ to stand in front of the Grand Master’s throne into which the document could be safely placed while the meeting was in progress.

DISASTER STRIKES

It was an impressive piece of furniture, triangular in shape with an Ionic, Corinthian or Doric column at each corner and surmounted by a dome topped by Soane’s signature lantern. It stood in front of the Grand Master’s throne from 1814 until 1883 when disaster struck. A fire broke out in the old Grand Temple, gutting its interior and destroying the portraits of former Grand Masters, most of the furniture and Soane’s Ark. Much was done to reconstruct the interior of the room and reinstate the paintings and furniture but Soane’s Ark was not replaced.

One of Soane’s 20th-century successors as Grand Superintendent of Works was architect Douglas Burford. He became interested in Soane’s masonic work and did a great deal of research in the archives at Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. There he discovered Soane’s original plans for the Ark.

Burford wrote the subject up in a paper for Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, and hoped to persuade Grand Lodge to have a replica constructed. It has taken 30 years for that dream to become a reality.

Burford was delighted to learn that, as part of the Tercentenary celebrations, Soane’s Ark was to be reconstructed. He was even more pleased to have an opportunity to travel to York to see the work underway.

RECONSTRUCTION

The project has been one of cooperation between the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Sir John Soane’s Museum, the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation and master wood carvers Houghtons of York.

The Factum Foundation is an organisation that uses digital technology to accurately record heritage items for conservation purposes, to enable facsimiles to be produced and, as in the case of this project, to reconstruct lost items.

Houghtons of York is an old family firm that uses traditional methods and materials to produce new architectural woodwork or furniture, as well as to restore and reconstruct damaged and lost items. The combined efforts of these two firms have produced a superb and accurate reconstruction of one of the lost treasures of Grand Lodge.

On completion, the new Soane’s Ark will be the centre of an exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum opening on 11 October. Under the title Soane’s Ark: Building with Symbols, the exhibition will discuss Soane’s membership of Freemasonry and include other masonic items from his collections.

The Ark will then be transported to the Royal Albert Hall for the great Tercentenary celebration, where it will be dedicated by the Grand Master. Afterwards it will, like the original, take its place in the Grand Temple as a permanent memorial.

Published in UGLE

A sense of optimism

With planning for the Royal Albert Hall celebrations well in hand, Coordinator of Tercentenary Planning Keith Gilbert looks forward to the expanding calendar of events in the Provinces and Districts

The team of volunteers planning the central Tercentenary events is growing. In addition to myself, we have Tim Pope, the secretary of the Planning Committee; Ian Chandler, who is responsible for organising the transport for our distinguished guests over three days, as well as our own brethren, from the Royal Albert Hall (RAH) to Battersea Evolution (BE); and Gerry Hann, who is masterminding the major celebration at the RAH.

Taking on coordination of aspects of the three-day central events are Marc Wentworth (Mansion House), Stephen Finch (BE), John Clark (streaming the RAH across the country and the world) and Bob and Darren Upton (Grand Connaught Rooms).

Places at the RAH and BE have been allocated to Metropolitan, Provinces and Districts, who are now considering best practice for distribution among their brethren. Recent successes, such as the tickets for the Grand Ball selling within a short time of release and the sale of Tercentenary Jewels already passing 14,000, gives me a total sense of optimism.

The number of enquiries about dining places at BE means that we would be able to fill the venue twice over. Feedback from 2017 Provincial and District representatives on interest in their events suggests large numbers will be attending, and leads me to feel that 2017 will be a highlight in our masonic lives.

Spreading the word

Another success was the distribution of the Tercentenary Sticker in a copy of Freemasonry Today. What a great opportunity to show people we Freemasons have a very important birthday to celebrate.

John Parry, the organiser of the Met’s contribution to the Lord Mayor’s Show, set up the hashtag #tercentenarychallenge on Twitter and started using the tagline ‘Where will you stick yours?’ Just five days after launching the challenge, it had 1,000 hits a day, and by day 15 it had more than 22,600 impressions on Twitter.

But you can help us get more. Just put your Tercentenary Sticker, which would have come with your previous copy of Freemasonry Today, in an interesting or fun place, take a photo and tweet it to @JohnMetevent. Use the hashtag #tercentenarychallenge and you could win a prize for the best idea, most unique photo or largest number of retweets.

Published in UGLE
Monday, 12 December 2016 14:45

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2016

From the Grand Secretary

It does not seem possible that I have already completed my first six months as Grand Secretary. I am extremely grateful for the first-rate support I have received from all the staff at the United Grand Lodge of England and the encouragement I have been given from all those who provide such tremendous support in their own time to make Freemasonry such a vibrant and relevant organisation.

We are in the process of preparing a comprehensive Communications Plan to ensure that we capitalise on the unique opportunity presented by our Tercentenary celebrations.

We start 2017 with the five-part Sky television documentary Inside The Freemasons. We then have a vast number of events planned throughout the Metropolitan, Provincial and District areas, indicating the tremendous enthusiasm that this milestone has generated.

Sense of continuity

In this issue of Freemasonry Today, Keith Gilbert discusses the precision planning going into the Royal Albert Hall and Battersea events that will be part of the central Tercentenary celebrations, with a 2017 calendar giving a flavour of the many activities taking place at a local level. Also marking our 300th year, we report on the opening of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s newest gallery, which explores three centuries of masonic history to show how our values of sociability, inclusivity, charity and integrity have stood the test of time.

With Sir Thomas Lipton best known as the man who brought tea to the British masses, our piece on this famous Freemason explores how he improved the lives of the tea blenders and pickers with increased wages. We find out why Lipton set sail in his steam yacht during World War I to report on the devastation wrought by the typhus epidemic in Serbia and how he helped to set up
a trust to provide meals to the poor of London.

Our profile of Wayne Ingram illustrates how the core masonic values typified by the likes of Sir Thomas Lipton are still alive and well. From organising charity football matches in a war zone through to a 13-year crusade to give a boy life-changing facial surgery, Wayne is a serial fundraiser who thinks nothing of putting other people’s welfare before his own. ‘I don’t really think about my involvement,’ he says of the many causes he’s supported. ‘I’m just glad it happened.’

As a new generation takes Freemasonry forward, we meet 26-year-old Alex Rhys, who has just conducted his first initiation. While keen to explore new ways of recruiting and retaining members, Alex believes that it is the sense of continuity found in Freemasonry that appeals to younger masons, who enjoy tapping into a tradition that stretches back to 1717.

I hope you enjoy our winter edition and wish you and your families a wonderful festive season.

Willie Shackell
Grand Secretary

‘I am extremely grateful for the first-rate support I have received from staff at UGLE.’

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 14 September 2016 09:37

Deputy Grand Master's address - September 2016

Quarterly Communication

14 September 2016 
An address by the RW Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence

Brethren, I am delighted to see so many of you here today and I hope you have all had a suitably refreshing summer. I am particularly pleased to see a large number of younger masons amongst us, especially the delegations from the Provinces of Cambridgeshire and Durham, members of the Universities Scheme and especially those of the Apollo University Lodge in Oxford.

Many of you will be aware of the excellent work undertaken by the Membership Focus Group over the last two and a half years. I hope that you are all still referring to the UGLE strategy, which was a significant development resulting from the group’s work. 

We have now moved to ensuring the timely implementation of the strategy and the Membership Focus Group has been superseded by the Improvement Delivery Group. This group will, rather like a well- known wood treatment product, “do exactly what it says on the tin”. Its remit is to facilitate the delivery of change throughout the Craft in order to secure a successful future for Freemasonry by meeting the needs of “modern man” while retaining our traditional standards; it is chaired by the Assistant Grand Master, the Third Grand Principal is Deputy Chairman and the membership is drawn from London and all the regional groups of Provinces. 

This group will be “bedding in” for the next year, but will be reporting to Grand Lodge at the Quarterly Communication in September 2017. There is a considerable amount of work to do and we wish them all well in their endeavours.

Brethren, the Tercentenary celebrations have already begun and I am very pleased to see the variety and breadth of events that are planned to mark this significant milestone in our history. Events are being planned throughout the English Constitution. 

So far well over 100 events are scheduled ranging from Cathedral Services, Race Meetings, and Classic Car Rallies; Family Fun Weekends, supporting Youth Activities, to Dinners and Balls, including “The Grand Ball” which will take place here next September and will see this Grand Temple converted into one of the largest dance floors in LondAs the premier Grand Lodge it is appropriate we also celebrate this achievement with the other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, which we will do with the event at the Royal Albert Hall. I very much hope there will be a full cross section of our membership, including Master Masons, from London, Provinces and Districts and elsewhere overseas attending the meeting at the Royal Albert Hall.

As you are all aware 2017 will start with the broadcast in January of the Sky observational documentary.  I have been fortunate enough to have been part of the small group that has seen all the programmes and whilst, for confidential reasons, I am unable to say more about their content, I can assure you our privacy has been respected entirely for those matters that ought to remain private for our members.

Brethren, it has become very noticeable that the times in which we live are described with some use of either uncertain or uncertainty, or a variation thereof. Uncertainty is used to describe many aspects of our national life almost as a default mechanism. In many ways our predecessors who were there at the foundation of the Grand Lodge would have felt a certain affinity and seen possible parallels with their own time, although they would probably have used the word turbulent to describe the second decade of the eighteenth century.

In their case the uncertain times included significant change with a new ruling dynasty following the accession of King George I in 1714, a significant rebellion from supporters of the old dynasty defeated in 1715 and an incipient share scandal with the South Sea Bubble gently inflating until the spectacular bust. In those and, indeed , in the intervening uncertain times of the subsequent three hundred years, the principles of the Craft have withstood the test of time and are as relevant today as they were then. 

We may now restate them in more modern language as integrity; honesty; fairness; kindness and tolerance, but their essence is unchanged and we should all be justly proud of them and, needless to say, act in accordance with them. 

To finish, I will quote King Frederick II, or The Great, of Prussia who said his support of the Craft came from its objectives being, “ the intellectual elevation of men as members of society and making them more virtuous and more charitable”. I do not think that his view can be bettered. 

 

Published in Speeches
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