Celebrating 300 years

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).

Just for the record

The Library and Museum website boasts a version of one of the most important compilations ever published about English lodges – and now you can contribute to its growth

In 1886, the historian John Lane published his Masonic Records – a listing of the dates, numbers and locations of all lodges established by the English Grand Lodges, from the foundation of the very first in 1717. Lane drew his information not only from the Grand Lodge’s own records but from ‘all quarters of the world’. The book was later revised to include information up to 1894.

Working with the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Sheffield, Lane’s original printed book was transferred into an electronic format and the Library and Museum has been adding information about lodges formed after 1894.

The entry for each lodge formed since then, including lodges subsequently erased, features the warrant date, number and meeting places. Soon, the Library and Museum will start to update the entries for lodges formed before 1894.

Now is your chance to help with this project – as the Director of the Library and Museum, Diane Clements, explains: ‘We have used all the resources we can find here at Freemasons’ Hall in London, including the Grand Lodge’s own records and yearbooks. If every lodge could check its own records and let us know of any discrepancies that would be really helpful.’

For lodges formed before 1894, a list (with dates) of where they have since met would help us complete this valuable research tool more quickly. You can contact us on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

The web address for Lane’s Masonic Records is www.hrionline.ac.uk/lane 

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There are a few places left for a free talk organised by the Library and Museum on Wednesday 20th March 2013 at 6pm

The speaker, Dr Audrey Carpenter, will be speaking about Desaguliers, a familiar figure in 18th century London, an important populariser of science and a key figure in the years after the formation of the Grand Lodge in 1717.

The talk will take place in the Library and Museum at 60 Great Queen Street and the event will last for about an hour.

No charge but booking is required. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Monday 18th March to book a place. All bookings will be acknowledged.

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The Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s new exhibition opens on 25th February 2013 

Encounters: Artists and Freemasonry explores individual artistic responses to the values of Freemasonry and its legendary history, its symbolism and stories over the last three centuries.

Drawing on the collections of the Library and Museum and with examples from across Europe, this exhibition includes the work of William Hogarth from the 1700s, the photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn from the 20th century and the Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha. There are also examples of the work of contemporary artists.

The exhibition is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm, from Monday 25th February to Friday 20th September 2013.

Admission free.

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Details of the 150 oil paintings in the collection at Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street are now available online as part of a joint project between the Public Catalogue Foundation and the BBC to put on line all the oil paintings in the UK. More than 200,000 paintings at 3,000 venues across the UK are to be included.

Freemasons' Hall is just one of many institutions (including many Oxford and Cambridge colleges) that are not in public ownership which have joined the project for the benefit of wider public awareness and research. For more information see: www.bbc.co.uk/yourpaintings You can search for the Library and Musuem of Freemasonry as a venue to see all the paintings at Great Queen Street.

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry has been working with the Public Catalogue Foundation for the last two years to have all the pictures photographed and to provide details of the artists.

Amongst the pictures shown is this one showing the interior of the Grand Temple in 1869 with the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) shown alongside the Grand Master, the Earl of Zetland. Several of the other pictures are of unknown freemasons so if you have any suggestions of who the sitter might be then please get in touch with the Library and Museum on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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With visitors invited to explore Freemasons’ Hall, director of the Library and Museum Diane Clements explains to Caitlin Davies how this is leading to greater transparency

Covent Garden is one of London’s tourist hot spots and this sunny Saturday in September is no exception. The area is crowded with people sightseeing, shopping and visiting bars. But at the end of Long Acre, where it meets the corner of Great Queen Street, is another city attraction altogether. It’s a large, almost monumental, stone building with little to identify its purpose to those who don’t know.

Come a little closer, however, and a plaque states it was opened in 1933 by Field Marshall HRH The Duke of Connaught, Knight of the Garter and Most Worshipful Grand Master. This is Freemasons’ Hall and today it sports a welcoming sign as part of the annual celebration of the capital’s architecture – ‘Open House London’. Now in its twentieth year, the scheme has seven hundred and fifty buildings opening their doors for free, from iconic landmarks to private homes. A steady stream of people head through the Tower entrance to Freemasons’ Hall, where a steward hands out a leaflet. ‘Welcome to Freemasons’ Hall,’ he says. ‘It’s a self-guided tour.’ ‘People often walk or cycle past and have never been in,’ says Diane Clements, who is overseeing today’s proceedings and is director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry. ‘People don’t know what they’re going to see – there is a sense of amazement when they get inside, the building is far more elaborate than you might think. The fact that they can come in shows how open we are and helps address misconceptions about Freemasonry.’ Diane has run the Library and Museum for thirteen years, and relishes the opportunity to work with a world-class collection of objects that have interesting stories to tell. ‘The public has a continuing desire to learn about Freemasonry. I’d like to think the Library and Museum has played a part in improving their understanding.’

Wandering at will

Each year thirty thousand people visit the Library and Museum, and most come for organised tours of the Grand Temple. Freemasons’ Hall has taken part in Open House London since 2000 and the logistics of running the event are considerable. ‘For Open House we couldn’t get enough people through the doors using our usual guided method,’ explains Diane, ‘so it’s the only time you are basically given a leaflet and left to look around.’ Her role is to make sure that the two thousand, five hundred visitors on Open Day have ‘an enjoyable and informative visit’, and over the years she’s learnt to always ‘wear comfortable shoes’.

On the right of the cloakroom a sign shows visitors where to start, then there’s a murmur of voices and creaking of knees as people go up the stairs. The building has a library feel to it, but this changes in the first vestibule, which is flooded with glorious yellow light reflected from the stained glass windows. A man crouches to take a picture of a small golden figure, part of the shrine designed by Walter Gilbert. Meanwhile, a woman from West Sussex says she wasn’t sure what to expect: ‘My dad is in a lodge and I always thought he just meant he went to a room somewhere. But it’s fantastic. It’s really beautiful.’ Another visitor, Dermot, just happened to walk past this afternoon. And what did he imagine was inside? ‘That’s the thing,’ he replies, ‘I didn’t know what to expect.’ For a lot of people it is curiosity that has brought them here today.

Fielding questions

‘All our buildings are chosen for the quality of their architecture, that’s our criteria,’ explains Victoria Thornton, director of Open-City, which runs Open House London. ‘Some, like Freemasons’ Hall, may have a quiet façade, behind which lies real exuberance.’

In the second vestibule, steward Peter Martin is presiding over a table of free literature and says the event is even busier than last year. Eric from Kent has been to several Open House events today. ‘I started at Lloyds and worked my way along Fleet Street. I’ve seen Unilever and Doctor Johnson’s house… the stained glass is awesome here.’

The question of gender is a popular one. In the third vestibule a woman asks a steward if only men can join Freemasonry. He explains women can join one of two Grand Lodges in England, but they are not allowed in the men’s Grand Temple, and vice versa.

In the Grand Temple there are fold-down seats like a theatre and it’s here that many visitors take the opportunity for a rest. Voices are respectfully hushed. ‘It is contemplative,’ says Diane. ‘There’s never a huge noise in here. It’s not like the Sistine Chapel – we don’t have to say “Quiet please.”’ One steward answers a barrage of questions about rituals and pledges. ‘Is it true the Queen is a Freemason?’ asks one visitor. The answer is no.

An outside walkway leads to the Library and Museum where an exhibition traces the relationship between Freemasonry and sport. The tour ends at the exit on Great Queen Street, where members arrive for their lodge meetings and are watched with interest by departing visitors, one of whom takes a final snap.

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