Celebrating 300 years

On show at the Library and Museum, the Sussex Plate silver candelabrum reveals details about the union of the Grand Lodges in 1813

One of the Library and Museum’s greatest treasures has a prominent role in its latest exhibition. The Sussex Plate is a large silver candelabrum, which was presented to the Duke of Sussex in 1838 to mark his twenty-five years as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. 

At the centre of the Sussex Plate, set within a circular temple, is a six-sided plinth supporting a cushion, on which is a Volume of the Sacred Law, a set square and a compass. The figure of Apollo is mounted on the top of the temple dome, around which is a frieze featuring the twelve signs of the zodiac. Outside sit four figures: Astronomy, Geometry, Sculpture and Architecture.

The temple is mounted on a four-panel base decorated with pomegranates, olives and corn. Two of the panels depict biblical scenes and the third, an inscription. The fourth is unusual in representing the union between the premier and the Atholl Grand Lodges in December 1813, two hundred years ago, showing the two Grand Masters – the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Kent – with their Grand Officers. Although this image is much later than the event, there are no other depictions of the union. The depiction is best seen in one of a series of reproductions published in the Freemasons’ Quarterly Review in 1838. The two Royal Dukes can be identified from their portraits – the Duke of Sussex shown facing out. 

Excellent Companions: Celebrating the Royal Arch is open from 14 October 2013 to 2 May 2014, Monday-Friday. Admission is free.

Published in SGC

Freemasonry explained in Yorkshire

Thanks to a donation to Harrogate’s Royal Hall, a masonic exhibition has returned a portrait of Henry Lascelles to Yorkshire

The Royal Hall at Harrogate, one of the finest Edwardian theatres in the country, is a Grade 2 listed performance hall and theatre. With support from many local benefactors, led by industrialist Samson Fox, the building opened in 1903 as the Kursaal. Designed by Robert Beale and Frank Matcham, one of the most prolific theatre architects of his time, it was loosely based on the design of the Ostende Kursall in Belgium. 

Over the years, the Royal Hall has provided a superb home for the Annual Meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Yorkshire, West Riding, the first one being held in 1937. However, its masonic links go back to the Royal Hall’s origins. Samson Fox, Robert Beale and Frank Matcham were all Freemasons, as was Julian Clifford, the Royal Hall’s musical director for many years, and Alderman David Simpson, four times Mayor of Harrogate, who laid the foundation stone in 1902.

In 2001, the Royal Hall Restoration Trust was formed to raise funds towards the restoration of this important National Heritage building. Supported by the actor Edward Fox, a great-grandson of Samson Fox, donations were received from local benefactors, Harrogate Borough Council, Harrogate International Centre and the Heritage Lottery Fund which allowed for a fully authentic interior redecoration and the restoration of the Dress Circle. In 2008, the patron of the Royal Hall Restoration Trust, HRH the Prince of Wales, led the Hall’s official re-opening.

Since that time, the Trust has remained in existence to continue with those improvements not included in the major project, including the further development of the Heritage Lounge. In 2010, the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, was pleased to make a generous donation towards the Restoration Fund, and, in particular, towards the refurbishment of the Heritage Lounge.

Part of this work included the provision of a run of seven large display cabinets, some of which the Trustees intended to fill with items of interest from those heady days when the Royal Hall attracted many outstanding 'stars' of international reputation.

Furthermore, another part of the refurbishment included an ambitious project to provide a 2 screen audiovisual system which would show different aspects of Harrogate and the Royal Hall.

As the Royal Hall, including the Heritage Lounge, is a feature of the ‘Harrogate Heritage Trail’, it is open to the public on a good number of days each year. It is also used for a variety of corporate events and as a bar during concerts or other performances held in the Hall.

When the Trustees, therefore, offered us the long term use of two of the display cabinets to house a masonic exhibition and also the opportunity to develop a module to be incorporated into the audio-visual system, W Bro Martin Stray, Assistant Provincial Grand Master, had no hesitation in gratefully accepting this very generous offer. After all, this would be the first time that a permanent exhibition of Freemasonry would be available for public viewing in a non-masonic context.

It soon became clear that there was much work to be done if we were to develop an exhibition of which the Province would be proud, hence we – W Bro Stuart Ross and W Bro Peter Smith – were commissioned in July 2011 with the task of making it happen.

Immediately we busied ourselves finding out exactly what was available in the way of interesting items suitable to be included in the exhibition. A trip to the Library and Museum of Freemasonry at Grand Lodge proved to be a very positive starting point. Diane Clements (Director) and Mark Dennis (Curator) offered invaluable assistance in creating a wish list of available items. Rooting through various cellars, cupboards and other dark and mysterious places around the Province soon unearthed further treasures which could be included. 

Early in the project, from research pursued by W Bro Stray, we were made aware of a magnificent portrait of George Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood, who was Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire, West Riding 1926–1942, Pro Grand Master 1935–1942 and Grand Master 1942–1947. This portrait was commissioned by the Province in 1937 and to which each of its lodges subscribed. The portrait was painted by Sir William Nicholson and presented to the Earl to be hung in Freemasons’ Hall, London. 

Having expressed our interest in bringing this painting back to Yorkshire, representations were made to the Board of General Purposes, which agreed to the loan for an initial period of five years. This is the first occasion that the portrait has been seen outside London since it was presented all those years ago. Whilst we were naturally delighted to hear this news, it very soon became apparent that moving a fifteen foot painting from London to Harrogate was not going to be such an easy proposition. However, that was a problem for the future!

Having instigated our search for interesting exhibition items, it now became important to switch our attention to the development of our audio-visual module and to define the structure and content. We settled on the module being split into three parts i.e. an introduction, then two options: ‘What is Freemasonry’ and ‘Freemasonry and the Community’. 

From the start, we were clear that everything to do with this exhibition was to be aimed at non-masons. With this in mind, suitable text was prepared for each of the three modules and appropriate images sourced or created to support our message. When the text had been recorded as an audio file, the software company had all that they needed to work their magic on our base material, which they did with great skill. The final flourish to the module was the development of an interactive keyboard, which appears on the touch screen at the end of each module, allowing for the entry of a name and email address for anyone wishing to receive more information. Data collected in this way is then immediately sent via the internet to the Provincial Office at Bradford. 

Meanwhile, having agreed on a goodly number of artefacts from the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, it was time to look at what would be available from some of our local Lodges. We were fortunate in that De Grey and Ripon Lodge No. 837 agreed to lend us the Provincial chain, jewel and apron of the Earl de Grey and Ripon (later the Marquess of Ripon), Provincial Grand Master 1861–1874 and Grand Master 1870–1874. We then raided the Provincial archives where we found a wonderful set of Consecration Vessels, some charity posters and the beautiful Registrar’s Purse. Finally, we found some interesting items from Philanthropic Lodge No. 304.

Once transport had been arranged to bring the portrait and artefacts from London to Harrogate, we then had to consider just how the portrait was going to be raised some thirty feet in the air without damaging it. The weight of the portrait was such that special brackets had to made and cemented into the wall so that the portrait could hang safely. These brackets could only be fixed in position with the help of a scaffolding tower. Once the cement was set, the portrait would need to be hoisted up the wall and hung on to the brackets. All this had to be carefully timed to coincide with the portraits’ arrival from London.

With the portrait in place and the artefacts chosen, one would have thought that there was very little more to do other than arrange the displays in the cabinets. However, before that could be done, loan agreements had to be drafted for all the items which were to feature in the exhibition. Each artefact needed to be described in great detail, indicating any damage, and in most cases photographic evidence was required to support the description and value.

Once insurance was in place, the displays and information cards for the individual items could progress. We decided to use quite different approaches to the displays in our two allocated display units. 

Firstly we decided that the public would be interested to see items that a Freemason would himself use or see on a regular basis as a member of the Craft. Hence the main feature of the first cabinet is a Mason’s case overflowing with items of regalia, dress, jewels and other printed ephemera. 

A full box of working tools is to be found nearby, together with a number of ceremonial mauls and trowels commemorating the laying of various Foundation stones around the Province. This part of the display is supported by a superb collection of interesting glassware and ceramics, including a collection of Leeds Creamware complete with masonic symbols and two rather interesting ‘dice’ glasses.

The second cabinet holds a more limited number of larger, spectacular items, with the central focus being the Registrar’s Purse. This purse is a replica of the one belonging to United Grand Lodge and was used by the Provincial Grand Registrar to carry official documents on ceremonial occasions. This magnificent piece is a work of art in its own right and was created from silk velvet, using stump work with raised gold bullion thread, plate and sequins.

The purse is complemented by a set of decorated gilt Consecration vessels, comprising the Cornucopia (for corn), the two Ewers (for wine and oil) and the Salt. 

The colourful Provincial Grand Master’s apron and chain, used by the Earl de Grey and Ripon, then show an interesting contrast with the light blue Master Mason’s apron in the adjoining cabinet.

To provide an eye-catching backdrop to the displays, a series of superbly ornate Charity certificates from the late 19th Century were borrowed from our Provincial archives and attached to the back wall.

The exhibition opened on the occasion of the Annual Meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge on May 29th 2013, when many of the distinguished visitors and brethren attending the meeting were able to view the exhibits, watch the audiovisual presentation and admire the portrait of the Earl of Harewood on its return ‘home’. Seeing the way the exhibition was received made all the hard work and effort worthwhile, but it must also be remembered how important the support of both Harrogate Council (particularly the Royal Hall staff) and the Library and Museum of Freemasonry had been to the overall success of this development.

The exhibition is now open to the public on various days throughout the year and is also usually available for those attending events and performances in the Hall. If you would like to see the display, visit the Royal Hall website: www.royalhall.co.uk and follow the link to Royal Hall Open Days.

Very shortly after this exhibition had been completed, the opportunity arose for another exhibition to be created at the Bradford Industrial Museum. This exhibition has the double benefit of a much greater floor area to work with and an impressive attendance of around 40,000 adults pa.

At the time of writing this article, we are in the process of selecting and agreeing the items to be displayed, creating the loan agreements and putting the finishing touches to what will be yet another opportunity for the non-masons within this Province to share in the wonderful history of Freemasonry.

The exhibition, entitled 'A masonic Experience: Freemasonry Explained' is on schedule to open to the public in early December. Once again, we are indebted to the Library and Museum of Freemasonry for their continued support. We also appreciate all the hard work and effort from the staff at the Bradford Industrial Museum and the Bradford lodges: their assistance has been invaluable in helping to create this exhibition.

A month of masonic medals

Medals have been created since the earliest days of Freemasonry in the 1700s. The Library and Museum of Freemasonry's collection of over 1,000 medals from across the world has recently been catalogued for the first time. During Medals Month in November 2013 there are free events, talks and special displays about this fascinating collection.

Download the free events programme at the Library and Museum website.

 

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Thursday, 05 September 2013 01:00

John Vazquez is the Mr Fix-It of Freemasons' Hall

Behind the scenes

As the masonic adviser in the private office, John Vazquez is the Mr Fix-it of Freemasons’ Hall, providing all the expertise, support and sometimes regalia to make sure that lodge meetings go without a hitch

Q: How did you come to work at Freemasons’ Hall?

A: Before I was called up to national service in Spain in the 1970s, I was working for a retailer in Oxford Street. My mother used to work at Freemasons’ Hall cleaning the Grand Temple and when I returned to the UK, she said there was as a job going as a porter. I took the role in 1980 and thought I’d eventually get back into retail management, but here I am thirty-three years later. I got to know the people and enjoyed it. Back then it was very family oriented and sometimes you felt that you’d rather stay in the Hall than go home.

When I first walked into the building, I thought how wonderful it was – I was amazed by it and still am. It’s not what you expect; there are lots of cubby holes and even now I’m discovering new things. My favourite place is room seventeen; everyone likes the Grand Temple and room ten, but I like room seventeen’s old-fashioned wood panels and the antique furniture.

‘I am still amazed by the Hall. It’s not what you expect; there are lots of cubby holes and even now I’m discovering new things.’

Q: What was your first lodge?

A: I became a member of the staff lodge, Letchworth, after the bylaws had changed to allow ‘downstairs’ staff to become full members. I then joined the half English, half Spanish St Barnabas Lodge. It was a dying lodge, maybe fourteen or so members, but it’s up to around fifty-two now. I get to meet such a wide variety of people – that’s the great thing about Freemasonry.

Q: When did you start helping to run events?

A: After becoming foreman porter, my job changed to deputy lodge liaison officer. When Nigel Brown came in as Grand Secretary, it developed into the role I have now: using my knowledge to look after the masonic events in the building. From Grand Lodge through to Provincial lodge meetings, I’m always in the background making sure everything is working.

My job is to ensure each day is perfect. I help set up rooms, making sure all the props are there, as well as providing advice. I want to make all the masons watching feel comfortable and for them to walk out with a smile on their face, saying what a wonderful day they’ve had. I’m a calm person and I say to people when they come for a meeting, ‘Don’t worry. If I look anxious, then start worrying, but until then assume everything’s OK.’ I try not to get too stressed.

‘I don’t have an average day, it’s not like working in an office. One side of my job is practical – it’s a good thing I was in the Scouts.’

It doesn’t matter who you are, I will treat you in the same way. It goes back to the principles of Freemasonry and it’s a wonderful thing about the Craft. You do get individuals who think they’re special and need reminding of where they are, that this is not their building: it’s mine and they should behave! I’m lucky that I’ve been here a long time and people know me, so if I say something is going to happen, then it will.

Q: How would you describe your job?

A: I’m a Mr Fix-it. I don’t have an average day and it’s not really like working in an office. One side of my job is practical, like replacing broken chairs, and I’m responsible for all the regalia, making sure it’s clean and repaired – it’s a good thing I was in the Scouts. But my job is also about understanding Freemasonry, knowing what you can and can’t do in a ceremony. If I know I can’t do it, then I know someone else probably can’t either. A lot of people do take my recommendations, but it’s only advice.

When we started hosting non-masonic events at the Hall, the Grand Tyler Norman Nuttall and I used to organise them. As demand increased, the external events were given to Karen Haigh to oversee and I now work closely with her to make sure our masonic and non-masonic events don’t clash. When we first held things like Fashion Week here, there were a few raised eyebrows from masons coming to the Hall, but I think they’re used to it now.

Q: Have things changed since you joined in 1980?

A: Freemasonry has opened up quite a lot, as much as people think it hasn’t. When I first came here you weren’t allowed to go to the Library and Museum unless you were a mason or accompanied by one. While basic masonry hasn’t changed, the people around it have. Younger masons are looking at things in a different way, which is good.

Freemasonry was here before I came and it’ll be here after I’m gone – just like this building. To me it’s a privilege and honour to come and work here. It was fantastic to be part of the two hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary celebrations in 1992 at Earls Court. There was a lot to organise; we had to set the arena up as the Temple and two lodges, but we got it done. It’s the same with the three hundredth celebrations. I won’t panic and I’m actually looking forward to it. We will make masons proud.

Excellent Companions

The latest exhibition at the Library and Museum explores the history and development of the Holy Royal Arch Degree

Coinciding with the special October Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter, Excellent Companions: Celebrating the Royal Arch opens on Great Queen Street in the same month. Among the objects that will be on display during the exhibition is this portrait, shown right, of Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland (1745-1790), who was one of George III’s brothers.

The Duke of Cumberland was initiated in February 1767 at an ‘occasional’ lodge at the Thatched House Tavern, St James’ Street, and was installed as Master of the New Horn Lodge two months later. In 1771, after a short period in the Royal Navy – a career path decided by his brother – Cumberland married Anne Horton, a commoner, without the King’s consent. He and the Duchess were excluded from court but led an active social life.

Cumberland was elected Grand Master in 1782 and remained so until his death in 1790. He initiated his nephew, the Prince of Wales (later George IV), into Freemasonry in February 1787. In this portrait, Cumberland is wearing the robes and regalia of the Grand Patron of the Royal Arch, an office he held from 1774 to 1790, but which ceased to exist in 1813.

Among the many jewels that will be included in the exhibition is one designed by the renowned masonic jewel maker Thomas Harper. It was presented to Daniel Beaumont in 1800, the year that Beaumont was exalted in the Chapter of St James (now No. 2) in London. The exhibition runs from 14 October 2013 to 2 May 2014.

For more information visit the Library and Museum website

Published in SGC

Largest exhibition of Masonic items outside London in Carlisle until 7th July

Into the Light: The story of Freemasonry in Carlisle features three priceless chairs and a dress designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, in what’s reportedly the largest exhibition of Freemasonry held outside London. You can visit the national treasures up to 7th July.

This groundbreaking exhibition explores and examines the hidden world of Freemasonry.

The display tells the story of Freemasonry in Carlisle and the rise of the organisation throughout the province of Cumbria. Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery Trust’s masonic collection has been complemented by iconic objects from the Library and Museum of Freemasonry never seen outside London before, as well as material from Carlisle’s fourteen masonic lodges. The exhibition also examines masonic symbolism and ritual.

Carlisle’s complex web of other fraternal organisations will be uncovered in a display which will seek to illuminate a practise shrouded in mystery.

For more information visit the Tullie House website: www.tulliehouse.co.uk

Story tellers

A grant from Arts Council England has enabled the Library and Museum to catalogue its medal collection and uncover details of the tension between Britain and Germany before WWI

The Library and Museum has received a grant from Arts Council England to catalogue its collection of nearly two thousand art medals. These have been produced since the 1700s to commemorate individual Freemasons and masonic events. Although there are several notable English examples, such as the Freemasons’ Hall medal of the 1770s, there are also many examples from across Europe.

One is a medal that commemorates the visit of the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, to Germany in May 1913 at the invitation of the three Prussian Grand Lodges. It was significant that both Ampthill’s father and grandfather had been ambassadors to Berlin and the visit took place after some years of increasing political tension between Britain and Germany.

The visit was reported in the Grand Lodge meeting in June 1913 and recommended that ‘the exchange of ideas between the Craft in this country and the Craft in Germany is maintained and extended’. However, this was not to be, as just over a year later the two countries were at war.

One of the best-documented art medals is that which celebrates the centenary of Minden Lodge, No. 63, in 1848. Its striking design incorporates names including those of the Master (Frederick Oliver, a bandmaster) and Wardens (Clarke and Robertson) at the time of the centenary.

This was a military lodge established in the 20th Regiment of Foot and took its name from the vital role it played at the Battle of Minden in 1759.

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Artistic values

From Hogarth’s satirical engravings through to membership certificates designed by Mucha, historian Lucy Inglis discovers how artists have responded over the centuries to the principles, symbolism and patronage of Freemasonry

An exhibition held in the Library and Museum at Freemasons’ Hall, Encounters: Artists and Freemasonry Over 300 Years seeks to bring together artists who have made significant contributions to the art associated with Freemasonry. In some cases, these are images and objects, such as books of instruction and jewels involved in masonic ceremonies. Elsewhere, abstract interpretations of masonic symbolism add a further element to the range of art on offer.

The exhibition begins in earnest at the start of the eighteenth century, when the formation of the first Grand Lodge led to the publication of Constitutions (official rule books) and lists of lodges featuring detailed engravings. The Constitutions and lists were sanctioned by the Grand Lodge of England and the artists employed on their design used biblical imagery and references to classical architecture to stress a view that Freemasonry, even in the 1720s, had a long lineage. This early series, showing work by Sir James Thornhill and John Pine in particular, is dominated by superb examples of William Hogarth’s contentious contributions to the masonic artistic canon.

Appearing on the register of a lodge on Little Queen Street, Hogarth was a Freemason by 1725. Despite being part of the brotherhood, he defaulted to his trademark satirical social commentary with The Mystery of Masonry Brought to Light by the Gormogons (1724). Typical of Hogarth, the Gormogons depicts real people, including James Anderson, author of the Constitutions, who is shown with his head through the rungs of a ladder, apparently engaged in kissing the buttocks of an aged crone in mocking reference to his attempts to regularise Freemasonry. Also featured is Hogarth’s Night (1738), showing Sir Thomas de Veil, a vocal critic of London’s gin trade, as an inebriated Master.

There is a strong showing of later eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century masonic art, culminating in significant works by Alphonse Mucha. The jewels and apron he designed are intriguing, while the large-scale membership certificate is particularly striking.

‘artists used biblical imagery and references to classical architecture to stress a view that Freemasonry had a long lineage’

When the Republic of Czechoslovakia was formed as an independent state in 1918, Mucha’s art played a key role in forming the state’s new identity. He even designed its new banknotes and postage stamps.

The work of Alvin Langdon Coburn will be new to many visitors. Coburn was born in Massachusetts in 1882 and took up photography at the age of eight. In his late thirties, after exhibiting successfully in New York and London, he moved to North Wales and in 1919 became a Freemason, embracing the organisation wholeheartedly. His portrait of US President Theodore Roosevelt is the most striking and well known of his photographs shown at the exhibition, although Coburn was not yet a Freemason when the image was captured in 1907.

Of the modern art featured in this exhibition, two artists are particularly prominent. Trevor Frankland, Master of Philbrick Lodge, No. 2255, in Essex in 1994, contributed (before his death in 2011) two pieces representing the journey of the Ashlar: a screen print called Ashlars in the Making (undated) and a large-scale work on wood and hardboard named The Perfect Ashlar (1972). The Perfect Ashlar has depth and layered interest well suited to its subject matter.

Yanko Bonev, a sculptor born in north-eastern Bulgaria and a former Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Bulgaria, also contributed large-scale pieces of modern art. After an early career in monumental public sculpture, he became a Freemason when the organisation was introduced to Bulgaria in the 1990s and turned his hand to smaller bronzes.

This is an exhibition that has been painstakingly put together and is adroitly pitched at the visitor who may not have considered the strong links between art and Freemasonry before. It also contains hidden depths for those with more detailed knowledge of the rites and rituals of Freemasonry and their associated histories. There is much here to discover.

Encounters: Artists and Freemasonry Over 300 Years runs until 20 September 2013, Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm. Freemasonry Today would like to thank Martin Cherry for his assistance in putting this article together.

‘this exhibition contains hidden depths for those with more detailed knowledge of the rites and rituals of Freemasonry’

 

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Freemasonry yesterday

Freemasons and their families will be familiar with Freemasonry Today, the quarterly magazine sent to all members. What they may not know is that there is a long tradition of magazines and newspapers published for a masonic audience.

These publications are important sources not only for understanding the issues within Freemasonry but for providing information about the individuals involved and the localities where lodges were based. Few complete series of these periodicals are held in libraries and they have only limited indexes.

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry based at Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street, London and partnered with King's College London Digital Humanities and Olive Software, has undertaken a ground breaking project to provide free access to searchable digital copies of the major English masonic publications from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries.

The major titles digitised for this project, which comprises approximately 75,000 pages, are as follows (shown with the dates of publication available digitally):

  • Freemasons' magazine: or, general and complete library (later The scientific magazine and Freemason's repository) 1793-8
  • The Freemasons' quarterly review 1834-49
  • The Freemasons' magazine and masonic mirror 1856-71
  • The Freemason 1869-1901
  • The Freemason's chronicle 1875-1901
  • Masonic illustrated: a monthly journal for freemasons 1900-1906

Access to this digital resource is free via the Resources page of the Library and Museum website and the Masonic Periodicals website.

The site also includes articles about the development of the masonic press.

 

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Carlisle masons are working on plans for what they believe will be the largest masonic exhibition ever held outside London. The nationally renowned Tullie House museum and gallery, noted for the range of its exhibitions and varied events programme, will act as host. The exhibition will run from 25 May to 7 July 2013 and show the history of Freemasonry in Carlisle in a national context.

John Beadle, Chairman of the Carlisle Group of Lodges, Provincial Grand Orator and Provincial Second Grand Principal Keith Beattie and Andrew MacKay of Tullie House have held several meetings with staff at the Library and Museum at Great Queen Street, London, to develop the exhibition plan. This includes the loan of several significant exhibits from London, including a Victorian punchbowl (above).

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