Celebrating 300 years

Michael Baigent speaks with John Hamill and Christopher Connop

The masonic "Week of Action" next summer which will highlight the benefits Freemasonry brings to the community, is drawing ever closer.

Provincial organising committees have been formed, ideas for events are being compiled, masonic websites around the country are flagging local events, and a central "Command Centre" at Freemasons’ Hall in London has been set up to coordinate efforts, answer queries, send out information, compile a database, and deal with the Press. Remember the date: 26th June to 2nd July 2002. Once the idea for the "Week of Action" was approved, a group was formed at Freemasons’ Hall, London, to plan and inspire events: the Central Steering Committee. Chairman is John Hamill, Director of Communications, and secretary is Christopher Connop, Media Manager. Other members are the Grand Secretary, Jim Daniel; London representative, David Wilkinson, member of the General Council; Provincial representative Keith Madeley, Chairman of the Yorkshire West Riding media committee; Ben White, Information Officer Province of Somerset; Jane Reynolds, former Chief Executive of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution together with MDA Public Relations chief, Col. Mike Dewar and his colleague, Liz Sokoski. The function of the Central Steering Committee is, in the words of John Hamill, "to facilitate, offer advice, and to make sure that the central programme happens…". This central programme is the heart of "Week of Action" and opens, on Wednesday 26th June, with a concert in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, London, centred around nineteen cathedral choristers, all of whom receive bursary assistance from the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. On Saturday 29th June there will be an "open house" at various masonic meeting places in London, all will have displays and other events. The week will finish on Tuesday, 2nd July when Freemasons’ Hall is hosting the Annual General Meeting of the London Topographical Society; a demonstration to them of how the building is part of the London community. On every other day there will be a free lunch-time public lecture on an aspect of Freemasonry held in one of the lodge rooms. There will be two exhibitions at Freemasons’ Hall, the Library and Museum plans a display showing the community aspects of Freemasonry, while, in conjunction with the Royal Photographic Society and George Eastman House in New York, there will be a display of the extraordinary photographs of Freemason, Alvin Langdon Coburn. Outside London, events are being prepared by provincial committees and all have nominated local coordinators. John Hamill explained that, "We are not asking for anything new but for all to draw together, in this one week, events which would normally be done during the course of a year. This week is not a fund-raiser". 

Planned events 
Many masonic Provinces plan open days and local thanksgiving services. Some will be held not only in Churchs, but also in Synagogues, Mosques and Hindu Temples with multi-faith services based around hymns and readings from the Holy Books of several faiths, in the presence of leaders of those faiths. Every Province will hold events involving local charities to show the general public how often Freemasonry contributes to their general benefit and how often masonic buildings are used by the public. Masonic Centres will be inviting local civic and business leaders to a lunch or dinner so that they will have the opportunity to meet Brethren and learn more about Freemasonry and its contribution to the community. Concerts and theatrical events are planned – one Province will have an "evening" with actress Prunella Scales. Many original ideas are being mooted: a masonic centre in the west country is sponsoring a photographic and art competition among school children on the theme of the local community. There will be twelve winners; each winner will have his or her art-work published in a masonic calendar which will be sold for charity. Freemasons in another Province have the agreement of all local public libraries to mount an exhibition in each during this week. Media coverage is another avenue to be explored: the Provincial Grand Master or Information Officer could do a "phone-in" on local radio or interviews with local Press. Charitable events, usually spread across summer, could be drawn together in this week: days out for disadvantaged children, or a funfair set up in the grounds of a Masonic Centre. A lunch could be held for the elderly, for war veterans, a variety show might be performed, evening concerts arranged, even a disco for the young teens at a Masonic hall! Sports events can be arranged, especially at secondary schools – a "Masonic Cup" could be donated for the winner. Masonic exhibitions might be arranged in the local museums – how many Brethren and Lodges have antique regalia and jewels which could very easily and effectively be loaned for an interesting display? 

The profile of Freemasonry 
The purpose of this week is to raise the profile of Freemasonry. Both John Hamill and Christopher Connop stressed that they did not believe that there is a public opposition to Freemasonry, rather, they felt, the general public know very little about us. The aim then, is to demonstrate to the public that we are not only an interesting organisation but that we make a very positive contribution to the local community. One major change observed over the last year or two is the increasing amount of favourable coverage which Freemasonry is getting from local newspapers. Many are running supportive articles and many Provincial Information Officers are now forging good relationships with the regional Press. Christopher Connop noted that, "We are beginning to be seen as interesting local news in provincial newspapers". Building upon this evident goodwill, Information Officers need to ensure that the newspapers to know about the events planned for this week, and for them to be well briefed so that they might cover them sympathetically and with interest.

Published in Initiatives & Clubs
Tuesday, 01 April 2003 01:00

Henry Sadler: the first Grand Librarian

Henry Sadler was a great Victorian Mason to whom Masonic researchers owe a great deal, says David Peabody

Masonic historians are familiar with the name of Henry Sadler, but many brethren of today are unaware of the debt of gratitude that all Freemasons owe him.

Henry Sadler was born on 19th October 1840 in the Village of Shalford, Essex, just north of Braintree. Little is known of his early life, but he became a merchant mariner at the age of 15, and by 1862 he was in London, where he spent two years as a commercial traveller.

It was at this time that Sadler's connection with Freemasonry began, when he was initiated in the Lodge of Justice No. 147. In 1865 Freemasons' Hall was greatly expanded, and Sadler was employed by the Grand Secretary's office as assistant to Charles Bryant Payne, the Grand Tyler, where he assisted in the arrangements for the quarterly meetings of United Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter.

Sadler's other duties at Freemasons' Hall included that of housekeeper, for which living accommodation was provided. He would arrange the letting and the booking of rooms, and maintain the Hall in general.

The census for 1881 confirms there were 12 people listed as residents in the Hall - Sadler, his wife Elizabeth, their six children, Elizabeth's older sister Ann, a servant, Eliza, the Irish door porter Nan Stanton, and Caleb Last, the house porter.

In 1879 Sadler became Grand Tyler and Grand Janitor, in which positions he assisted in many consecrations of Lodges and Chapters, thus becoming a well-know figure in London Masonry.

About this time, Sadler began his interest in the 'doings' of our Masonic predecessors, as he referred to it. As Grand Tyler and housekeeper, he had the ideal opportunity to look through all the old bookcases and cupboards and familiarise himself with their contents. At the same time, he started to catalogue the archives and collections that he came across.

He also began to make regular contributions to the Masonic press such as The Freemason and The Freemason's Chronicle.

This enabled him to share the information that he had found, and brought him into contact with the likes of leading Masonic figures such as R.F. Gould, G.W. Speth and John Lane, thus Sadler's reputation began to grow.

However, in 1883 a calamity affected Freemasons' Hall. In early May of that year a fire broke out in the main Temple, completely gutting the roof, with the loss of the magnificent portraits of the Rulers of the Craft.

The statue of the Duke of Sussex that stood at the back of the dais was recovered and repaired. Fortunately, it had only been affected by smoke and water. A report in The Daily Telegraph and reprinted in The Freemason dated 13th May 1883, read: 'It should be added that the regalia of Grand Lodge have escaped destruction as well as the throne used on special occasions when the Prince of Wales presides.

"As to the origin of the fire, there appears to be little doubt that it was owing to a high beam which ran through a flue communicating with the kitchen of the tavern, becoming ignited.

"It is due to Bro Henry Sadler, Grand Tyler, who resides on the premises, to say that but for his early discovery of the fire the whole of the buildings would in all probability have been destroyed."

On 6th February 1986, John Hamill, then Librarian, received a letter from a Miss Florence Watt, one of Sadler's granddaughters, informing him that she had been left some photographs of the fire by her mother.

She then made a visit to the Grand Lodge Library and Museum and donated three photographs, one of which was taken after the fire. Miss Watt then recalled a story of her mother remembering being carried down the main staircase by her father on the night of the fire.

In all probability this may have been young Florence, who would have been five at the time. In the last paragraph of the letter she states: "The Sadler family had a lucky escape when the fire broke out, which incidentally my grandfather was told was caused by the builders running a beam through the chimney of the boiler that heated the Temple, and it caught fire. The Temple almost backed on to the main building, and the family had to go down the staircase which was on that side of the building."

In 1887 Sadler was appointed sub-librarian of the United Grand Lodge of England in appreciation of all the work he had carried out in preserving the records and archives of Grand Lodge. In a 1904 publication, Sadler relates his story of the origins of the Library and Museum:

"As far back as the year 1837, the desirability of establishing a Library and Museum at the headquarters of the English Craft was enunciated by John Henderson, Grand Registrar and President of the Board of General Purposes, who at the Quarterly Communication on the 6th of September in that year, proposed 'That it is expedient to form a Masonic Library and Museum in connection with Grand Lodge.

"This motion, having been duly seconded, it was: 'Resolved that it be referred to the Board of General Purposes to consider and report on the mode of forming, preserving and regulating a Masonic Library and Museum.

"John Henderson may, therefore, be fairly designated the father of the valuable collection of books and relics of the past that form so attractive a feature of the buildings in Great Queen Street."

Sadler then informs us that it was Dr Robert Crucefix, vice-president of the Board of General Purposes, who made the first donation by presenting the Library with four volumes of The Freemasons' Quarterly Review, handsomely bound.

On 27th February 1838 the Board of General Purposes made the following statement: "That a room on the ground floor be set aside for the purposes of a Masonic Museum and Library. That a sum of money not exceeding £100.00 be placed at the disposal of the Board for the purpose of providing for the reception of books, manuscripts and objects of Masonic interest, and for commencing the formation of a Library and Museum. That for the present time it will be convenient to appoint the Grand Secretaries ex-official curators of the Library and Museum."

Dr George Oliver appears to have been the next contributor to the Library, when on 28th May 1838, he presented three volumes of his well-know works.

Sadler then tells us that on 5th September: "Brother George William Turner, Past Master of Lodges 53 and 87 had presented eighty volumes of books to the Library of Grand Lodge." The Lodges have now been renumbered Strong Man No. 45 and Mount Lebanon No. 73.

It was in 1887 that Sadler published his ground-breaking work on the origins of the Antients Grand Lodge. He had already rediscovered Morgans Register, the first register and minute book of the Antients, and the Charter of Compact.

However, it was in Masonic Fact and Fiction that he finally proved that there had been no schism with the Premier Grand Lodge, and that the Antients were mainly unattached Masons from Ireland. With the publishing of Masonic Fact and Fiction, Sadler's reputation grew, and by 1907 he had published six more books and many papers and other contributions.

On his retirement as Grand Tyler and Grand Janitor in 1910, an office he held for 31 years, he was appointed the first Librarian and Curator to Grand Lodge.

Sadler was a member of many Lodges and Chapters, and in 1903 he was elected a full member of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, the premier Lodge of Masonic research, for his achievements in Masonic research, becoming Master in 1911.

Unfortunately, Sadler died on 15th October that year, and was buried in the Great Northern Cemetery, New Southgate, London.

Of all the many eulogies and written obituaries on Henry Sadler, one in particular sums up the man, and was given on 8th November 1911 by Edmund Dring.

"It is difficult on this sad occasion for one so young in years, compared to our late Master. I remember well the occasion on which I first met Bro Sadler. It was now nineteen years ago, and the brusque manner in which he chided me for an unconscious indiscretion was distasteful to me, although it was deserved.

"When, soon afterwards, I got to know him more thoroughly, I wondered however I could have resented his fraternal caution, for I quickly found that beneath his epidermis brusqueness, there was a kindliness and paternal solicitude the extreme depth of which I never fathomed.

"His writings are already historical, his life and work will become historical, but future generations will unfortunately never be able to appreciate his deep modesty, to feel his affectionate regard, or realise that in all matters of vital and most questions of Masonic interest and antiquarianism, they have lost their expositor.

"His knowledge was so far-reaching and his extreme willingness to help real students at all times so well-known, that every Brother throughout the world who was interested in Masonic history must personally mourn his loss."

David Peabody is secretary of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, the premier Lodge of Masonic research.

Published in Features
Page 9 of 9

ugle logo          SGC logo