Celebrating 300 years
Wednesday, 10 September 2014 01:00

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2014

Quarterly Communication

10 September 2014 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, at the Quarterly Communication held on the second of September 1914, one hundred years ago, the First World War had been underway for just under a month. Thinking back to that time, your predecessors would have known that, even in that short time, the German Army had already defeated the Russian forces at the Battle of Tannenberg and the French and British armies were in fierce contact with the German advance in the South of Belgium.

That Quarterly Communication was presided over by Sir Frederick Halsey as Deputy Grand Master as the then Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Connaught and the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill were away serving their country. 

Sir Frederick, in proposing the motion that ‘Grand Lodge expresses the deep appreciation of the loyal and devoted service now being rendered to our country by HRH the MW Grand Master, the MW Pro Grand Master, and very many other Brethren of all ranks in the Craft, and its earnest prayer for their continued well-being’, went on to say – amongst other things – that it was a time of great anxiety and that every Grand Officer would carry out their work without panic and alarm and show that calmness and confidence which animates the breast of every Englishman and mason.

He added, ‘our hearts go out to our friends and relations, to our dear ones, both in the Craft and outside it, who are now serving their country at the call of duty; our prayers follow them, and we trust that before long, in the mercy of the Great Architect of the Universe, they may emerge from this present struggle safe and sound’.

Sadly over 3,300 masons, serving in the four fighting services Army, Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Flying Corps never made it home. This fine building was created as a peace memorial dedicated to them and I trust you will have all seen the magnificent memorial window at the end of the vestibules beyond those doors and which have been recently restored thanks to the generosity of London Lodges and Chapters as well as individuals coordinated by Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Chapter, and below it, the bronze shrine containing the Roll of Honour parchment scroll honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in the service of their country. We should not forget that many sons and grandsons of members were killed – many of whom would have been potential members.

The Library and Museum at Freemasons’ Hall has an exhibition entitled, ‘English Freemasonry and the First world War’ starting next week and which will go on until the beginning of March next year. This major exhibition tells the story of the organisation and members during the First World War and, for example, it explores how lodges coped with members being called up to fight. 

Brethren, brotherly love remains as important in today’s world as it did in those dark days of great anxiety in the First World War. To exercise kindness, tolerance and charitable support – and to feel deeply interested in the welfare of others – is a source of the greatest happiness and satisfaction in every situation in life. It is, I believe, of the utmost importance today to ensure our long term survival but I am concerned that we are, surprisingly, not always seen internally as a caring organisation with junior members too often marginalised and unsupported. This must change and it is the responsibility of every member to help to retain those of integrity within their Lodges by making them feel included and cared for. By so doing we will ensure that they will gain the same fulfilment and satisfaction from their masonry that we have all been lucky enough to enjoy.

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Fraught with fate

Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, considers the impact of the outbreak of World War I on the Craft in England

Britain entered World War I on 4 August 1914. When the Grand Lodge held its regular Quarterly Communications less than a month later on 2 September, French and British armies had delayed the German advance in the south of Belgium, but their success at the first Battle of the Marne was still uncertain. Alfred Robbins, the President of the Board of General Purposes, later described the atmosphere at that meeting as being fraught with fate. ‘Not only for the British Empire and her Allies, but for all that English masons held dear,’ he wrote. ‘Darkness was descending on many a soul.’ 

Disrupted meetings

Calls for lodges to stop meeting were dismissed by the Grand Lodge, but two of them with the closest German links, Pilgrim Lodge, No. 238, and Deutschland Lodge, No. 3315, both ceased to meet for the duration of the war. Members of both lodges had been faced with the provisions of wartime legislation that had given ‘enemy aliens’ a matter of days to leave the country and forced all those remaining to register with the police. The activities of other lodges were disrupted as members, including the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, went to fight or became involved in the conflict. 

By mid-September 1914, Lord Charles Beresford Lodge, No. 2404, based in Chatham in Kent, had all its two hundred and fifty members serving while forty-three of the forty-five members of Alma Lodge, No. 3534, in Hounslow, whose members were drawn from the Royal Fusiliers, rejoined for war service. The lodge meeting scheduled for September 1914 didn’t take place and the lodge members weren’t to meet again until 1918.

Other lodges were forced to move out of their meeting places as buildings across the country were requisitioned. Several London lodges were forced to move from De Keyser’s Royal Hotel on the Victoria Embankment when it was requisitioned for the Military Aeronautics Directorate. The Lodge of Faith and Unanimity, No. 417, in Dorchester gave its hall to the Dorset County Hospital for use by wounded soldiers and met elsewhere. In May 1915, the lodge protested at their premises being used for ‘contagious and infectious diseases, or for enemy aliens’ and held the hospital accountable for ‘disinfecting, re-decorating, and rendering the lodge’, but it was able to return to its hall in January 1918.

An estimated 200,000 refugees arrived in Britain from Belgium, displaced by the war. The Grand Lodge made an immediate initial donation of £1,000, the equivalent of more than £40,000 today, to the Belgian Relief Fund. The returning refugees were dispersed across the country. Some were sent to Nottingham where they were housed in Chaucer Street properties that had been purchased shortly before the war for the site of a new masonic hall. Funds were regularly raised for them at Provincial meetings until they were repatriated in 1919.

A £1,000 donation was made to the British Red Cross Society, where Sir Arthur Stanley, Provincial Grand Master of Lancashire, Western Division, was chairman of the executive committee. 

A ladies committee is born

With many businesses closing down or reducing their activity at the outbreak of war, there were fewer employment opportunities for single women as servants and secretaries. When the Queen’s Work for Women Fund was established, the Grand Lodge requested that the wife of the Pro Grand Master, Lady Ampthill, form a Ladies Committee to raise contributions for the Fund from the wives and daughters of Freemasons. An impressive £2,001 was raised. This was presented to Queen Mary in March 1915, with the funds divided between several bodies providing training and support for women.

Women soon began to replace men in clerical and manufacturing roles as the war continued, especially after the introduction of conscription in 1916, and the need for the Fund was much reduced.

Many organisations and communities established Rolls of Honour in the early months of the war. These were originally intended to record the names of those who had volunteered, but they also quickly became a record of casualties. The idea of a Masonic Roll of Honour was first considered by the Grand Lodge at its meeting in December 1914, its second meeting after the outbreak of war. 

Documents sent by the Grand Lodge to lodge secretaries asked for the name, military rank and masonic rank of brethren known to have died. The first list appeared in the 1916 Masonic Year Book – it was thirty pages long with five hundred names. 

The Library and Museum has a new, free temporary exhibition called English Freemasonry and the First World War, which opens on Monday, 15 September 2014 and runs until Friday, 15 May 2015. A richly illustrated book to coincide with the exhibition has been published and is available from Letchworth’s Shop at Freemasons’ Hall, priced £15.

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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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Faces  to names

The extensive photographic collection at the Library and Museum adds another perspective on the history of the Craft and its members

Whether in the form of paintings, engravings, prints or photographs, the Library and Museum has a wealth of images of people. Over recent years, these have been catalogued online, with captivating biographies of many individuals, including details of their masonic careers. 

The online catalogue now has details for over 2,700 images – including those in albums of photographs. Enquirers can request digital copies of images they are interested in and many are available for inclusion in lodge or chapter histories and presentations. The three images here all relate to the period of World War I. 

Sir Francis Lloyd, shown above, in his army uniform, was a career soldier. In World War I he commanded the Territorial Forces in the London District. He was also active in Freemasonry, serving as the Master of the City of London National Guard Lodge, No. 3757, in 1916. 

Ladislas Aurele de Malczovich was a Hungarian civil servant who became a member of the English research lodge, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, and published articles in its Transactions. 

As one of many ‘alien enemy brethren’, he was excluded from membership of his English lodges during World War I. The back of his photograph is inscribed to his friend, Frederick Crowe – a noted masonic collector. 

In June 1919, an Especial Grand Lodge was held at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the end of the war. Among the audience of over 8,000 were many overseas representatives. The formal meeting was one of many hosted by London lodges, including a visit to the Houses of Parliament where the photograph, top right, was taken.

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New exhibition

English Freemasonry and the First World War at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Start: September 15, 2014 10:00 am

When Britain declared war on 4th August 1914, English Freemasonry faced unprecedented circumstances. Freemasonry was and is non-political, and the discussion of politics at masonic meetings was and is forbidden, but during this period the United Grand Lodge of England, the governing body for Freemasonry in England and Wales and across much of the British Empire, had to deal with the impact of global war.

This major new exhibition will examine the effect of the First World War on freemasons in England, on those fighting on the Western Front and elsewhere and on Freemasons held as prisoners of war. The war created new, war-related charitable causes for which Freemasons raised funds, prompted a response from the established masonic charities and fostered the formation of a major new masonic charity in the post war period.

Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street in London, completed in 1933, was dedicated to the Freemasons that died in the war. It was one of many different types of memorials created by Freemasons. The end of the war saw a significant increase in membership of masonic lodges and geographical expansion which created new challenges for the Grand Lodge.

Amongst the objects, images and documents on display will be lodge fittings created from appropriated war materiel, souvenirs from freemasonry on the front line and diaries kept by masonic prisoners of war. Charitable giving is recorded in programmes and publications and amongst the many types of memorials on view will be medals and books.

In September 2014 the Library and Museum is publishing a richly illustrated book to coincide with the exhibition called English Freemasonry and the First World War. The book draws on the extensive collections held by the Library and Museum. The book will be available from Letchworths Shop, cost £15.

Find out more: http://www.freemasonry.london.museum/events/english-freemasonry-first-world-war/ 

The Library and Museum is a member of the First World War Centenary Partnership.

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What’s heritage worth?

While historic masonic items may not have huge monetary value, Director of Special Projects John Hamill explains why they are still national treasures

A few years ago the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, with incredible assistance from a dedicated team of brethren in the Provinces, conducted one of the largest national archive surveys that has ever taken place in this country. The result was a formidable database of all the lodge and chapter records in masonic hands in this country. It will be a veritable gold mine for future researchers into English and Welsh masonic history and is also proving to be a major source for local historians.

The survey was limited to ‘words on paper’ and, partly because of time constraints, did not include regalia, furniture, masonic equipment or artefacts. That leads me to one of my hobby horses: that masonic historians in the past have primarily depended on only the written records that are available and have largely ignored what can be learnt from non-documentary items.

During the twenty-eight years I was involved in the Library and Museum, I was privileged on many occasions to be invited to speak in the Provinces. 

I soon developed a habit of arriving early, if visiting a masonic hall I had not previously attended, in order to have a look at what they might have hanging on their walls or in, often dusty, display cases. I soon began to appreciate the wealth of material that still survived and began to keep notes of anything unusual or rare. I also began to realise that very few of those running the halls were aware of the treasures in their custody, or that some of them had a monetary value.

Happily, that neglect and ignorance has been changing since the late 1990s with the creation of the Masonic Libraries and Museum Group, which is formed of dedicated volunteers with a love of masonic history. The group has gradually persuaded their respective Provinces that they have collections of importance, which should be properly catalogued and looked after because they form an important part of our heritage – and in many cases, include items that are irreplaceable.

History for sale

A recent auction sale in south London illustrates the value certain masonic objects can have. The first part of the sale was probably the last major collection of masonic jewels and artefacts in private hands in this country. Formed by Albert Edward Collins Nice between the 1930s and his death in 1969, it was rich in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century jewels, which, in addition to having masonic importance, were superb examples of the jeweller and silversmith arts. Competition was fierce and some surprising prices were paid for the star items.

The Antiques Roadshow and its many spin-offs have given the public a false sense that because something is old it must be worth money. Monetary value, however, is not everything. Particularly in a specialist area, an item can have very little monetary value to the outside world but be of major importance to the history of the organisation concerned. In my early days in the museum, people would wander in with an item and ask what it was and if we would be interested in having it. Today, thanks to antique-valuing programmes on television, they ask what it is and what it is worth!

We live in an age in which the importance of our heritage in all parts of our lives is being increasingly recognised. We took the major step of finding out, and taking steps to preserve, our archival heritage in Freemasonry. Perhaps now is the time to take the same steps in relation to the treasures, in the widest sense of that word, that rest in our buildings.

‘An item can have very little monetary value to the outside world but be of major importance to the history of the organisation concerned.’

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Garibaldi in London

To mark the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Garibaldi’s trip to London, the Library and Museum explores his extraordinary impact on Victorian society

In April 1864 the Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi arrived in Britain. His leadership of the Expedition of the Thousand in southern Italy in 1860 had already captivated public opinion. On his arrival Garibaldi was greeted by vast crowds, met the Prince of Wales and dined with the nobility. The Italian also met with exiled revolutionaries, working men and those who had fought alongside him in the struggle for Italian unification. 

Garibaldi was ruler of the Supreme Council Grand Orient of Italy based in Palermo, so English and Scottish Freemasons also responded to his visit. He received a deputation from Polish National Lodge, No. 534, led by its Master, the artist Sigismund Rosenthal, and the lodge presented him with one of its distinctive lodge jewels. 

While Garibaldi was at the theatre, one of his entourage, Giuseppe Basile, attended a meeting of Salisbury Lodge, No. 435, in Soho. He relayed Garibaldi’s request for membership of the lodge, which was agreed. Towards the end of his trip, Garibaldi also visited Colonel John Whitehead Peard, known as ‘Garibaldi’s Englishman’ and a member of Fowey Lodge, No. 977. 

Garibaldi’s ‘celebrity’ was marked in contemporary media and through souvenirs. The summer exhibition at the Library and Museum will include many of the items associated with him, including one of his swords, now in the possession of an English lodge, Italia Lodge, No. 2687. 

The exhibition at the Library and Museum runs until 29 August 2014, Monday-Friday. Admission is free

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Garibaldi in London exhibition now open at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Start: May 19, 2014
End: August 29, 2014

In April 1864 the Italian patriot, Giuseppe Garibaldi, arrived in Britain. On his arrival he was greeted by vast crowds,  met the Prince of Wales, dined with politicians and the nobility and was seen by thousands of ordinary working people at specially organised rallies. He planted trees, signed visitors books and was awarded honorary memberships. His celebrity was marked by the response of contemporary media, the production of souvenirs and the publication of books. This exhibition at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry retraces his visit and explores Garibaldi’s extraordinary impact on mid Victorian society.

The exhibition is arranged in association with the Organising Committee of the Giuseppe Garibaldi 150th Anniversary 1864-2014.

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Message from madras

Among the more unusual items in the archives of Grand Lodge is a fragile letter written in Persian, attached to an illuminated English translation

In 1778, a letter was written in Madras by Ghulam Hussainy, Umdat-ul-Umra, the eldest son of the 8th Nawab of the Carnatic in southern India, to George, 4th Duke of Manchester, Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge of England (the Moderns). This followed his initiation, when Grand Lodge had presented to him, as the future Nawab, a masonic apron and finely bound Book of Constitutions. 

The importance of this letter was recognised in 1836 when it was displayed at Freemasons’ Hall at the time of the initiation of Mohamed Ismail Khan, ambassador to India’s King of Oudh. But it was then deframed and so, by the early twenty-first century, the letter, written on fragile Indian paper, was in poor condition (as illustrated above left). 

A specialist conservator has been able to preserve the document and the Library and Museum has commissioned photographs of it, which can be used to study the letter’s contents. In addition, a transcript has been attached to the catalogue record to enhance access to the information it contains. The conservation work was funded by the Association of Independent Museums’ Pilgrim Trust Conservation Scheme.

The Library and Museum is open Monday-Friday, and admission is free.

Published in Features

A chance to get up close and hands-on to some of the hundreds of commemorative medals researched for a Library and Museum project last year

During 2013 the Library and Museum of Freemasonry catalogued more than 1,500 commemorative masonic medals from across the world in a project entitled Celebrating Medals.

The two cataloguers, Suzannah Musson and Nina Nethercott, were the first people to look at this collection in detail since it was acquired in the early 1900s. They also organised and presented a series of talks, some of which you get the chance to hear again for free on 25th February (details below), and a display in the Library and Museum, which will also be available to view.

Celebrating Medals: free talk at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Tuesday 25th February
6pm-7.30pm
Location: Library and Museum, 60 Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5AZ

Tickets are free but must be pre-booked by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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