Celebrating 300 years

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

14 September 2016 
An address by Diane Clements and Stephen Greenberg: 'From Concept to Reality: Creating an Exhibition about Three Centuries of English Freemasonry'

Diane Clements: As you may have read in the paper of business, the Library and Museum team has spent much of the last couple of years developing and installing a new gallery, with an exhibition called Three Centuries of English Freemasonry. This is one of the Library and Museum’s contributions to the celebrations of the tercentenary of Grand Lodge. The gallery is open now on the first floor. 

All of us working in the Library and Museum had appreciated for some time that we needed to do more to explain the concept and history of Freemasonry, both to the public and to members, than we had been able to do either via our existing displays, temporary exhibitions or regular public tours of this building.  

In 2012 we worked with Stephen Greenberg and his colleagues at Metaphor on a feasibility study for upgrading the existing museum space and the displays there. This caught the imagination of the Library and Museum Council, and the Board of General Purposes, and we were instead allocated an additional 200 square metres of space near the Library and Museum to develop the scheme. I am delighted that Stephen has been able to join me today to talk about the project. 

Stephen Greenberg: We are both exhibition designers and architects with a long experience working in listed and historic spaces. We were introduced to the Freemasons after our work at the Museum of the Order of St John just down the road in Clerkenwell. As soon as we began working with Diane and her team, we saw the spaces, the remarkable collections and heard the fascinating stories behind them we could see the potential. Being given the Prince Regent room to work with as well as the library is an added bonus, because it enriches the publicly accessible parts of the building, and when lodge meetings are not taking place the doors open up into the adjoining rooms.

DC: Two hundred square metres sounds like a lot of space – and it looked quite large to me when it was empty – but we soon realised as we worked closely with Metaphor that we were going to have to take some tough decisions about what to include in terms of what subjects we could cover and that would result in some difficult decisions about what objects, books and documents to choose. 

However, we were determined that the exhibition should seek to explain Freemasonry’s values of sociability, inclusivity, charity and integrity as well as its history and development. In doing that we believe that the exhibition breaks new ground and we hope that it provides another mechanism by which members can explain to friends, contacts and potential new members what Freemasonry is all about and we can give our general visitors a better insight. 

SG: Exhibitions work best when they come as a complete surprise and take your breath away when you enter, and then when they are wonderful vehicles for sharing passions, whether it is one of the Library and Museum team taking one down unexpected paths into Freemasonry and its history or enthusing with groups of young people or members explaining to friends and families

DC: The exhibition is, appropriately enough, in three sections. This approach was retained from the feasibility stage. At the beginning, visitors walk underneath the sign for the Goose and Gridiron tavern just as those first Freemasons attending Grand Lodge did on 24th June 1717. The first section explores the values of Freemasonry as well as its symbolism and ritual and includes a timeline tracing its history up to 1813. The second section looks at what a lodge room looks like, how a lodge works, and the social side of Freemasonry. Displays also show the three Craft degrees and masonic hierarchy and the Royal Arch, the only other order explored in any detail. Here we also cover the contribution of Provincial, District and Metropolitan Grand Lodges both in a case display and also in a short film about Freemasonry and public life. Freemasonry abroad is covered in the third section which brings the story up to date with the challenges that Freemasonry has had to face in the twentieth century. As Stephen has mentioned visitors also get the chance here to look into one of the twenty or so lodge rooms in this building. 

The design that Stephen and his team developed proved to work well in terms of the content that we wanted to include even if we had to make some hard choices about what objects to leave out. The graphic element of the exhibition was also within their remit and I will admit that the limited word count that resulted was a tremendous challenge. 

If you want to try this yourselves, try describing the history of Freemasonry in about 150 words! 

SG: Leaving out artefacts is the hardest challenge – personally I love the writing table that has the model of the first temple concealed within it and a series of calculation tables revealed on the underside of the opening panels – and some of the many chairs. But what is exciting is that we can now move forward progressively with the refurbishment of the Library and Museum space giving many objects more space and bringing others out of store. There is the opportunity to make these accessible in interesting ways.

DC: For the first time the new gallery has enabled us to use more technology in the displays. There is a second short film about the history of this Great Queen Street site and the various Freemasons’ Halls. 

Another challenge which I am sure many of you have faced is to try to explain symbolism and for this we created an interactive game which you can try either in the gallery or on our website. There aren’t any prizes because there aren’t any “right” answers. What we have tried to do is to convey the idea that symbols often have a multiplicity of meanings of which the masonic is just one.

The report on the Library and Museum in the paper of business mentions one of our other initiatives last year – our partnership with Ancestry to digitise membership records for 1.7 million Freemasons initiated between 1750 and 1921. We were keen that the new gallery should include both famous and not so famous Freemasons. We have the Duke of Windsor’s initiate’s apron alongside Sir Winston Churchill’s Master Mason’s apron alongside the membership certificate for the Duke of Windsor’s chauffeur – showing visitors that they were all members of the same organisation despite their very different status. In one of the final cases we have on display the regalia for two “ordinary” Freemasons and the regalia cases of many others. It’s designed to look a little bit like a lodge anteroom with all the cases – although possibly a bit tidier? 

As Stephen said earlier creating the new gallery was just the first stage. It has also allowed us to start to redisplay the main museum space – to give some objects more prominence – such as the “mysterious masonic table” which Stephen referred to and to show some items which have long been in store. We aren’t stopping there of course as we are continuing to do temporary exhibitions in the Library area. 

2017 is not a point to stop but a point from which to go forward. We are fortunate to work with Grand Lodge’s extraordinarily rich collection of objects, books and documents and there is lots more to do. 

At the Quarterly Communication in June, the Pro Grand Master spoke about enjoyment as one aspect of what Freemasonry offers. In case Stephen and I have made the new gallery sound a terribly serious and worthy place perhaps we can just finish by mentioning a couple of the more playful objects and displays. When you visit don’t forget to look out for the masonic jelly mould, the masonic toast rack and the rather strange looking elephant on the jewel for Calabar Lodge. 

There are 281 days to Grand Lodge’s 300th birthday next June so do please visit the new gallery today and then join our countdown to the 24th June on social media which features objects from the exhibition! 

Published in Speeches

New library gallery celebrates tercentenary

To mark Freemasonry’s 300th anniversary, a new and permanent gallery space opens this year with highlights from lodges across the centuries, complete with interactive displays about masonic symbolism and films with ceremonial footage, images and information.

The new Three Centuries of English Freemasonry gallery at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in Freemasons’ Hall, London, is launched in September 2016.

It traces the development of Freemasonry from its origins in the early days of industrialisation, urbanisation and empire to the significant social institution it had become by the 19th century and explores how it fits into today’s world. This new gallery space, originally designed in the 1930s as the Reading Room, has been transformed to walk the visitor through 300 years of history.

Entering the gallery under the three-dimensional Goose and Gridiron tavern sign (a replica – the original is in the Museum of London), the first area features a timeline, an explanation of Freemasonry’s principles and masonic symbols. Then into the Victorian period, highlighting how Freemasons celebrated their membership by purchasing everyday items like furniture, china and glass for their lodges and homes.

Library and Museum Director Diane Clements commented: ‘We have gained about 30 per cent more space and that has given us the opportunity to show, sometimes for the first time, the most important, rare and often amazing pieces to their best advantage.’

Published in More News

Squire Hargreaves in London

Library and Museum of Freemasonry Director Diane Clements met with Alan Morris of Mariner’s Lodge, No. 249, to receive a large punchbowl and jug in Liverpool Herculaneum ware that the Library and Museum has acquired from the lodge, which has closed.

The punchbowl and jug were given to the lodge by Squire Hargreaves in December 1813, the month he was initiated into the lodge. Squire Hargreaves was a publican who ran a public house called The Saddle in Vernon Street, Liverpool. Squire was his name, not an office he held.

Clements commented: ‘It is always sad when a lodge closes, but on this occasion it has given us the opportunity to acquire some unique pieces with a great story attached. I would like to thank the members of the lodge for agreeing to allow these treasures to come to London.’

Published in More News

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge

14 September 2016 
Report of the Board of General Purposes 

Board of General Purposes Meetings 2017

In accordance with Rule 225 Book of Constitutions, the dates when the Board of General Purposes will meet in 2017 are: 7 February, 21 March, 16 May, 18 July and 19 September.

Television Documentary

By the time that Grand Lodge meets, filming for the documentary Inside the Freemasons will have been completed. The series, made by Emporium Productions for Sky, is likely to be broadcast in January 2017.

The Board wishes to emphasise the point made by the MW Pro Grand Master at the June Quarterly Communication that both at that meeting and elsewhere some things had been filmed in order to give a representative picture of Freemasonry which should not be seen as precedents to be followed by individual lodges in future.

Questions as to what might properly be filmed arose regularly during the filming for the series, and not every member of the Craft might agree with the decisions which were made – often under significant pressure of time – but the Board trusts that the Grand Lodge will take the view that the decisions taken were justified in the interests of the Craft as a whole.

Attendance at Lodges under the English Constitution by Brethren from other Grand Lodges

The Board considers it appropriate to draw attention to Rule 125 (b), Book of Constitutions, and the list of Grand Lodges recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England, which is published in the Masonic Year Book, copies of which are sent to secretaries of lodges. 

Attendance at Lodges Overseas

The continuing growth in overseas travel brings with it an increase in visits by our Brethren to lodges of other jurisdictions, and the Board welcomes this trend. Brethren are, however, reminded that they are permitted to visit lodges overseas only if they come under a jurisdiction which is recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England.

A list of recognised Grand Lodges is published annually, but as the situation does change from time to time, Brethren should not attempt to make any masonic contact overseas without having first checked (preferably in writing) with the Grand Secretary’s Office at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AZ, that there is recognised Freemasonry in the country concerned and, if so, whether there is any particular point which should be watched.

Recognition of a Foreign Grand Lodge

The Grand Lodge of the State of Rio Grande do Sul was formed in 1928 by four lodges regularly constituted by the Grand Orient of Brazil and which, because of internal problems, broke away from their parent to form a separate Grand Lodge within the territorial limits of the State of Rio Grande do Sul.

In 1961 and again in 2005 the Grand Orient of Brazil entered into treaties with the Grand Lodge of the State of Rio Grande do Sul by which each party recognised the other as regular and allowed inter-visitation between their members. 

The Grand Registrar has advised that by signing those treaties the Grand Orient agreed to share its territory with the State Grand Lodge and it is not therefore necessary for this Grand Lodge formally to seek the agreement of the Grand Orient to its recognising the State Grand Lodge of Rio Grande do Sul.

The State Grand Lodge having shown that it both conforms to the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition and has worked regularly since 1928, the Board has no reason to believe that it will not maintain a regular path and recommends that the State Grand Lodge of Rio Grande do Sul be recognised. A Resolution to this affect was approved.

Social Media

The Board had considered the question of social media and had agreed a policy, which is available from the Grand Secretary’s office or online at www.ugle.org.uk. The Board recommended the policy to Grand Lodge which was approved.

Erasure of Lodges

Board has received a report that eleven lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. They are: Wickham Lodge, No. 1924 (London), Barnato Lodge, No. 2265 (London), St Chad Lodge, No. 3115 (Essex), Hanslip Ward Lodge, No. 3399 (Essex), Baron Egerton Lodge, No. 3513 (Cheshire), Selsey Lodge, No. 3571 (Sussex), Barham and Watling Lodge, No. 6004 (Hertfordshire), Geomatic Lodge, No. 6214 (London), Waterways Lodge, No. 7913 (London), Lodge of Tolerance, No. 7998 (London) and Bacchus Lodge, No. 9068 (Staffordshire). A Resolution that they be erased was approved. 

Expulsions

Seven members of the Craft were expelled as required by Rule 277 (a) (i) (B), Book of Constitutions.

Report of Library and Museum Trust

The Board had received a report from the Library and Museum Charitable Trust.

The Library and Museum spent much of 2015 preparing to open a major new exhibition, Three Centuries of English Freemasonry, located in additional gallery space on the first floor. The exhibition breaks new ground in seeking to explain both Freemasonry’s values of sociability, inclusivity, charity and integrity and its history and development. 

This is the first exhibition for which the Library and Museum team has worked with exhibition designers and external contractors for the design, build and installation. Preparation of material for display has also involved conservation of a number of objects, books and documents and the creation of cataloguing records.

The exhibition opened to the public in April 2016. A series of gallery talks and other events are being prepared for later this year. Following the opening of the new exhibition gallery, the Library and Museum extended its opening hours to include Saturdays. The Library and Museum also launched itself on social media as an additional means of engaging with users, visitors and members. For a copy of the full Annual Report and Accounts please write to the Director.

From Concept to Reality: Creating an Exhibition about Three Centuries of English Freemasonry

A talk was given by Diane Clements, Director of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry and Stephen Greenberg, Founder and Director, Metaphor.

List of New Lodges for which Warrants Have Been Granted

Date of Warrant, Location Area and No. and Name of Lodge:

28 April 2016

9927 Cambridgeshire Lodge of Provincial Grand Stewards (Cambridgeshire)

8 June 2016

9928 Santa Catarina Lodge (South America, Northern Division)
9929 Lodge of Friendship (South America, Northern Division)
9930 Lodge of True Aim (Hertfordshire)
9931 Sportsman’s Lodge of Suffolk (Suffolk)
9932 Spinnaker Lodge (Hampshire and Isle of Wight)
9933 Fenland Farmers’ Lodge (Cambridgeshire)
9934 St Hubertus Lodge (Yorkshire, West Riding)

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge

A Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge is held on the second Wednesday in March, June, September and December. The next will be at noon on Wednesday, 14 December 2016. Subsequent Communications will be held: 8 March 2017, 14 June 2017; 13 September 2017 and 13 December 2017. The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on the last Wednesday in April (the next is on 26 April 2017), and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend. Full details will be given in the Paper of Business for December Grand Lodge.

Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter

Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter are held on the second Wednesday in November and the day following the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge. Future Convocations will be held: 9 November 2016, 27 April 2017 and 8 November 2017.

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 07 June 2016 01:00

Fraternity in the trenches

Service and sacrifice

The Battle of the Somme produced more than one million casualties. Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry Diane Clements marks the masons who fought for freedom

The centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 will be marked this summer. On that single day there were almost 60,000 British casualties, most of them before noon, of whom nearly 20,000 died. 

As the regular army had been largely destroyed by the end of 1914, the soldiers who fought on the Somme were Kitchener’s volunteer army, the best the nation had to offer, but inexperienced in battle. A few months earlier most had been working in factories, offices and fields and many had joined up with friends from their local areas. 

The offensive on the Somme was launched to support the French army and was intended to draw German manpower away from Verdun. This meant that British troops were moved south from Flanders to north-east France. 

Initially, the move was regarded as positive by the soldiers, as switching from clay to chalk soil meant they had a better chance of keeping dry. The British advance was preceded by seven days of artillery bombardment, which proved ineffective in damaging the barbed-wire barrier erected by German troops. 

By the time of the battle, the method of centrally recording masonic losses had been established. Lodge secretaries were asked to record on special Grand Lodge forms the names of brethren known to have died. These were used to compile a Roll of Honour with name, military rank and masonic rank published each year in the Masonic Year Book. Modern research, checking these names against military records, has identified at least 25 masonic casualties during the period of the battle. 

Manchester businessman Charles Campbell May was one of several Freemasons who died on the first day. Born in New Zealand, he had served six years with King Edward’s Horse (The King’s Overseas Dominions Regiment) before 1914 and then founded a volunteer unit at the outbreak of war. Charles was a member of King’s Colonials Lodge, No. 3386.

‘Coolest and bravest’

The Somme drew on the resources of the whole British Empire, and among the casualties was Eric Ayre, from Newfoundland, who was a member of Whiteway Lodge, No. 3541. His brother Bernard and cousin Wilfred were also killed. The head of a wooden gavel, now in the Library and Museum collection, was made from an abandoned German rifle by New Zealand troops, who claimed to have used it at masonic meetings on the Western Front. 

Roby Myddleton Gotch had just qualified as a solicitor when war broke out. He had joined Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, while at the University of Oxford in 1910 and later joined Nottinghamshire Lodge, No. 1434. Described as ‘one of the coolest and bravest of officers’, Roby was killed as he helped to lay a telephone wire close to some German barbed wire. 

Around 750 former pupils of the Royal Masonic School for Boys served in the war. Of these, 106 were killed, as well as six masters. In 1922, Memorials of Masonians Who Fell in the Great War was published with biographical details of each casualty. Among them was George Sutton Taylor, a fish merchant who had enlisted with the 10th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, the ‘Grimsby Chums’, in 1914. He always declined any promotion so that he could stay with the friends he had joined up with. 

‘He always declined any promotion so that he could stay with the friends he had joined up with.’

Remembering the fallen

Another Old Masonian casualty of the Somme was Cyril Young from London, a 20-year-old clerk with the Metropolitan Asylums Board. His platoon was among the first into battle on the first day. The Company Sergeant-Major wrote to Cyril’s mother soon after leaving for France in July 1915: ‘I did my utmost to dissuade him from volunteering so soon because of his youth, and he seemed such a nice chap that it made me think he probably left aching hearts behind him. Still, he was so keen on doing his little bit, as we all are, that I could not refuse him.’

Possessed of a fine swerve and a great turn of speed, Thomas Kemp had played for Manchester Rugby Union Club and Leigh Cricket Club as an amateur while pursuing a career in accountancy. When the war broke out he was working in Chile but travelled home to volunteer in the Manchester Regiment. The secretary of his lodge, Marquis of Lorne Lodge, No. 1354, was among those who sent condolences to his parents. 

In a later phase of the battle, Eugene Paul Bennett, a lieutenant in the Worcestershire Regiment, led an attack on the German trenches despite being wounded and when most of the other officers had been killed. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving his battalion and capturing the enemy line. On his return, Eugene became a Freemason, joining the Lodge of Felicity, No. 58, in London in 1922. 

In July 1932 the Thiepval Memorial was unveiled by the Prince of Wales. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, its arch represents the alliance of Britain and France in the offensive. The village of Thiepval had been one of the objectives of the first day of the battle, having been held by the German army since September 1914. It was finally captured by the British at the end of September 1916 and will be the focus of the centenary commemoration.

Published in Features

Perpetual memorial

As Commonwealth nations mark the armistice signed to end the First World War, Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, traces the origins of Freemasons’ Hall

While the peace treaties after the First World War were still being negotiated in Versailles, following the armistice on 11 November 1918, the United Grand Lodge of England began preparations for its own masonic peace celebration in London. In June 1919, guests from lodges in Ireland, Scotland, America, Canada, New Zealand and England enjoyed a week of activities, including visits to the masonic schools and the Houses of Parliament. A peace medal was issued to those who attended the special Grand Lodge meeting on 27 June at the Royal Albert Hall. 

The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Connaught, was unable to attend, but he asked Lord Ampthill, the Pro Grand Master, to read a series of messages. One of these spoke of ‘a perpetual memorial’ to ‘honour the many brethren who fell during the war’. For the Grand Master, ‘The great and continued growth of Freemasonry amongst us demands a central home; and I wish it to be considered whether the question of erecting that home in this metropolis of the empire… would not be the most fitting peace memorial.’

With individual lodges considering what form their own memorials should take, the issue was raised at the Grand Lodge meeting in September 1919. Charles Goff from Fortitude and Old Cumberland Lodge, No. 12, asked if consideration had been given to other forms of memorial – particularly a fund to support Freemasons wounded during the war or their dependants. Charles also asked whether a major building project should proceed at a time of housing shortage. Although several lodges and Provinces decided to support local hospitals, Grand Lodge elected to proceed with its new temple. 

Moving forward

In January 1920 details of the campaign to raise funds for the new building were distributed to lodges and individual members. The target was £1 million, giving the campaign its name – the Masonic Million Memorial Fund. Contributions were to be marked by the award of medals. Members who contributed at least 10 guineas (£10.50) were to receive a silver medal and those who gave 100 guineas (£105) or more, a gold medal. Lodges that contributed an average of 10 guineas per member were to be recorded in the new building as Hall Stone Lodges and the Master of each entitled to wear a special medal as a collarette. By the end of the appeal, 53,224 individual medals had been issued and 1,321 lodges had qualified as Hall Stone Lodges. 

A design by architects HV Ashley and F Winton Newman was chosen and building work started in 1927. Construction began at the western corner of the new building, where houses on Great Queen Street had been demolished, and progressed eastwards. 

The new Masonic Peace Memorial, as it was called, was dedicated on 19 July 1933. The theme of the memorial window outside the Grand Temple was the attainment of peace through sacrifice. Its main feature was the figure of peace holding a model of the tower façade of the building. In the lower panels were shown fighting men, civilians and pilgrims ascending a winding staircase towards the angel of peace. 

In June 1938, the Building Committee announced that a memorial shrine, to be designed by Walter Gilbert, would be placed under the memorial window. Its symbols portrayed peace and the attainment of eternal life. It took the form of a bronze casket resting on an ark among reeds, the boat indicative of a journey that had come to an end. In the centre of the front panel a relief showed the hand of God in which rested the soul of man. At the four corners stood pairs of winged seraphim with golden trumpets and across its front were gilded figures of Moses, Joshua, Solomon and St George. 

In December 1914 Grand Lodge had begun to compile a Roll of Honour of all members who had died in the war. In June 1921, the roll was declared complete, listing 3,078 names, and was printed in book form. After completion of the memorial shrine, the Roll of Honour, with the addition of over 350 names, was displayed within it on a parchment roll. 

The Roll of Honour was guarded by kneeling figures representing the four fighting services (Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Flying Corps). By the time all these memorials were complete, the country was already in the midst of another war. Freemasons’ Hall continued to operate during that Second World War and survived largely undamaged so that it can be visited today. 

Published in Features

Two million historic Freemason records published online

Newly digitised collection offers fascinating insight into one of world’s most intriguing organisations 

More than two million historic Freemason membership records have been published online for the first time, revealing the names of some of the most famous and well-connected men in British history. 

Digitised by Ancestry, the world’s largest family history resource, the UK and Ireland Freemason Membership Registers 1733-1923 span 190 years and offer fascinating insight into the inner workings of one of the world’s most intriguing organisations.

Rich in detail, each record reveals the Freemason’s name, profession, residence, date of initiation or date that they joined the organisation, age at initiation and lodge location. Accordingly, this collection will be of vital significance for anybody looking to locate, or find out more about, a Freemason ancestor.

The records also feature numerous famous Freemasons, including: 

Oscar Wilde – Following his initiation on the 23 February 1875, Irish-born Wilde is listed as a member of the Apollo University Lodge, Cambridge. A novelist, essayist, and one of the most popular playwrights of his time, his novels The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest remain popular today. 

Sir Henry Wellcome – Scientist, businessman, philanthropist, archaeologist and collector, Wellcome is best known for his pioneering approach to medical research. His legacy, the Wellcome Trust, continues to provide grants to pharmacology departments to educate and train young researchers.

Winston Churchill – Appearing in the records at the age of 26, Churchill was initiated into Studholme Lodge on the 26 May 1901. He went on to become a British statesman, orator, author and eventually prime minister across the years 1940–45 and 1951–55. Many credit ‘British Bulldog’ Churchill for leading the country to victory in World War II.

Joseph Rudyard Kipling – Writer, poet, and novelist, Kipling's works of fiction include children’s favourite The Jungle Book and Kim. Born in Bombay, Kipling was initiated in the Lodge of Hope and Perseverance No 782, in Lahore in 1886. 

Novelists and scientists aside, further analysis of the records reveals that engineers, merchants and clerks were the most common professions of English Freemasons. Similarly, in Ireland, farmers, clerks and engineers make up the top three most frequently occurring member roles. A plethora of other professions also appear, not least 14,882 ‘Gentleman’, and even a solitary ‘Cloth Shrinker’. 

'As freemasonry approaches its 300th birthday in 2017, we are pleased to be able to provide access to details of past members. The records demonstrate the extensive involvement which Freemasons have had in British society at national and local level and I hope that they will provide a fascinating insight.' - Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Miriam Silverman, Senior UK Content Manager from Ancestry comments: 'We’re delighted to be able to offer people an online window into a relatively unknown organisation. Whilst we can’t reveal the inner workings of Freemason ceremonies, what we can tell you is the details of over two million historic members. So, if you want to find out more about a Freemason ancestor or locate a famous member, now is the perfect time to get online and start your search.'

To search the UK and Ireland Freemason Membership Registers 1733-1923 and more than 16 billion historical records worldwide, visit www.ancestry.co.uk 

A part of the launch, Sir Tony Robinson took a tour of Freemasons' Hall with Dr James Campbell who was able to debunk some of the common myths surrounding Freemasonry

 

 

Published in More News

Command performance

Robert Henderson-Bland was an actor, soldier, poet and Freemason. Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry Diane Clements traces his fortunes during World War I

It is 100 years since Canadian doctor Major John McCrae wrote his poem In Flanders Fields, the first line of which, ‘In Flanders fields, the poppies blow’, was to be an inspiration for the poppy as a memorial. The same year, 1915, also saw the death of one of the best-known war poets, Rupert Brooke, who wrote five sonnets in late 1914 that helped make him famous, including The Soldier. Somewhat forgotten now but also an active and frequently published poet in his time was Freemason Robert Henderson-Bland (1876-1941).

Henderson-Bland’s first war poem, published in August 1915, was inspired by the Scots Guards and includes the following lines, written before the idea of a War Graves Commission had been developed:

‘Let someone mark the place whereat they fell,
And hedge it round, for in the after-time
Their fame will draw the many who would dwell
Upon those deeds that made an hour sublime.’

Henderson-Bland was best known as an actor, working in the early 1900s with leading theatrical figures such as Lily Langtry and Herbert Beerbohm Tree. On 26 April 1912, as he records in his autobiography, he received a telephone call asking him to take the role of Jesus Christ in a new film to be made in and around Jerusalem. Directed by Sidney Olcott, From the Manger to the Cross became one of the most significant films of the silent era. 

It was Beerbohm Tree who had recommended Henderson-Bland for the part, as he considered that the only man who could play Christ was a poet. Although controversial at the time, the film was eventually praised by leading religious figures, and it has since been designated culturally, historically and aesthetically significant by the Library of Congress. It was revived in London in 1926 when it was shown at the Royal Albert Hall every day for three months, and the Bishop of London supported the showing of a sound-enhanced version, stating that he considered it to be ‘a most beautiful film’. 

A few months before Henderson-Bland went to Jerusalem to make the film, he was initiated in Green Room Lodge, No. 2957, one of several London lodges with theatrical connections. His raising was delayed until filming was complete, in November 1912. In November 1913, he presented a souvenir of his time in Jerusalem to the lodge – a gavel made from stone quarried ‘from Solomon’s Mines’, with its shaft made of olive wood grown on the Mount of Olives. 

Theatre of war

When World War I broke out in August 1914, Henderson-Bland, aged 40, was acting in America. He returned to Britain to join the Gloucestershire Regiment, initially in Britain and then, from July 1916, in France, where he served until he was wounded in April 1918. By the end of the war he had been promoted to captain. After the war, Henderson-Bland became involved with veterans society the Ypres League, working to promote the organisation in America. He continued with his Freemasonry, joining, in 1927, another lodge with theatrical links, Drury Lane Lodge, No. 2127, where he was installed as Master in March 1937. He died in August 1941 as the result of an air raid. 

Henderson-Bland knew many who died in the war. One friend, also a Freemason (Drury Lane Lodge), was poet Arthur Scott Craven, who had joined the Artists Rifles and was killed in action in April 1917. Before the war, Henderson-Bland had dedicated a book of poetry to him. He wrote the following poem after his death and it was published in June 1917:

‘O all my youth came singing back to me
When first I learnt that you were dead, my friend.
What of the years when you and I did see
In life a splendour daily spilt to mend
Our souls grown tired of trivial delights?
Not lost to you the glimpses of the heights,
For you went gladly where the worst is surely best.’

The gavel presented by Henderson-Bland to Green Room Lodge is on display as part of the Library and Museum’s Spotlight: Freemasons and Entertainment exhibition, which runs until 13 February 2016.

A book written by Library and Museum staff, English Freemasonry and the First World War, is available from the shop at Freemasons’ Hall or online at www.letchworthshop.co.uk 

Published in Features

Letter from Spandau

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parcels of support

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

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

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

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

Letters to the Editor - No. 30 Summer 2015

Ruhleben remembered

Sir,

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

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

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

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

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


Sir,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Features

Garibaldi descendant comes to London

In June, the Library and Museum of Freemasonry held a private view of its exhibition Garibaldi in London, which was attended by members of the Italian community in London, including representatives of the Mazzini-Garibaldi Club and British-Italian Society. The guest of honour was Anita Garibaldi, the great granddaughter of General Garibaldi. Guests were entertained by the Tricolore Theatre Company, which performed a re-enactment of part of Garibaldi’s visit. 

The exhibition ran from 19 May to 29 August.

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