Was St Paul's Cathedral built by a mason?
With Christopher Wren’s membership of the Craft remaining disputed, Dr James Campbell explains why he chose this subject for his 2011 Prestonian Lecture
Sir Christopher Wren is so well known he hardly needs an introduction. He is England’s most famous architect, the designer of St Paul’s Cathedral. Indeed, up until the age of the railways he was England’s most prolific architect, designing more buildings in his 90 years than any other.
But what makes Wren really fascinating is that he turned to architecture rather late, having already made a considerable name for himself as a mathematician, astronomer and experimental scientist. He was a founding member of the Royal Society and later its president. He carried out the first intravenous injection, was one of the three men who suggested to Newton that gravity obeyed the inverse square law, and was a professor of astronomy at the age of 26. His contemporaries universally described him as startlingly brilliant. Indeed, the more you learn about Wren the more engaging he becomes.
My interest in Wren dates back to 1987, when I first arrived as an undergraduate in Trinity College, Cambridge, and discovered the magnificent library he built there. It sparked a lifelong interest in Wren and another in the architecture of libraries. An interest in Wren served me well and I eventually did my PhD on him and became an architectural historian. One topic kept coming up in my research on Wren: that of his link with Freemasonry. Authors were completely divided on the subject. Many, of course, simply ignored it entirely, but others could not make up their minds whether he was or was not a Freemason, let alone whether it had any effect on his architecture. That uncertainty continues to this day.
A CONTESTABLE TOPIC
If you go on the UGLE website and look at the lists of famous Freemasons, Wren’s name is nowhere to be found. Writers on the subject have also varied in their opinions. John Hamill said in The Craft that the case is ‘unproven’; David Stevenson has said in the past that there is no evidence; while Lisa Jardine, Wren biographer and distinguished historian, is in no doubt that he was. When you look further back – at the eighteenth century – the books of the time all state that Wren had not only been a Freemason, he had been the Grand Master. Some even go so far as to claim that Wren initiated Peter the Great of Russia and William III of England.
The Prestonian Lectures is the only series of lectures officially sanctioned by UGLE. Every year a new lecturer is appointed by the Trustees and announced in Grand Lodge. They choose their own topic. The subject should be suitable for delivery in open lodge or to a wider audience and should be of the broadest possible interest. Wren’s membership of the Craft seemed to me to be ideal and I am pleased that the Trustees agreed.
William Preston (1742-1818), after whom the Prestonian Lectures is named, had been interested in Wren. Preston was convinced Wren was a Freemason and wrote on the subject. He even went as far as buying what he thought was a portrait of him for his lodge. It is now known to be a portrait of the architect William Talman, and it still hangs in Freemasons’ Hall with a plaque wrongly labelled as Wren.
The lectureship Preston founded went into abeyance in the nineteenth century and was revived in its present form in 1924. Since then there have been eighty-two Prestonian Lecturers. Each is entitled to wear a distinctive jewel bearing Preston’s image. In their year of office they give ‘official’ deliveries to lodges chosen by the Board of General Purposes and unofficial deliveries to any lodges that ask for them.
Wren’s membership of the Craft has never been a subject of a Prestonian Lecture before, but is not an infrequent subject of masonic lectures. Most of those I have read are, I am afraid, rather confused.
Most lecturers rely heavily on Robert Freke Gould’s History Of Freemasonry (1883-87), which devotes over fifty pages to demolishing the previously held beliefs that Wren was a Freemason. Few lecturers bother to return to the original sources or look into more recent discoveries. This became my aim: to present clearly how the confusion had arisen and what we now know, and in presenting the evidence to allow the audience to make up their own minds.
Some history is straightforward. Through a series of reliable sources we are able to say unequivocally that something happened on a particular date. Other matters are not so straightforward – vital pieces of evidence are missing or unreliable. This is the case with Wren. The result is a fascinating story of detective work and of shifting views in history.
THE IDEAL SUBJECT
Wren lived around the time that Freemasonry emerged in the seventeenth century, so the question of his membership also brings up the issue of what Freemasonry was at the time he joined. It therefore provides a fascinating glimpse into the problems we have in studying all parts of early Freemasonry’s history.
Also bound up with this subject is the history of Lodge No. 2, the Lodge of Antiquity, which met near St Paul’s Cathedral. Preston was a member of this lodge in the late eighteenth century and it has a number of artefacts associated with Wren. A lecture on Wren is thus an excuse to go into the history of this wonderful lodge and its origins.
Lastly a lecture on Wren and Freemasonry is an ideal opportunity to ask the question of whether it had any effect on his architecture. Are there any masonic symbols hidden in the works of Wren?
These then were the reasons I chose Wren as the subject of the 2011 Prestonian Lecture and it was a most enjoyable year. I gave lectures all over the UK, and I even went as far as India. One highlight was being asked to give a lecture to the Christopher Wren Lodge in Windsor, which hired the town hall Wren designed for the occasion.
Modernising Wren’s hospital
The proceeds of the Prestonian Lecture and the booklet that accompanies it go to charity. Half of the proceeds from Dr James Campbell’s lecture are going to The Royal Hospital Chelsea. The hospital is undergoing a major restoration and is seeking funds to adapt Wren’s building to modern living. The other charity is the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. So far, James has raised more than £6,500 thanks to the generosity of the lodges who have supported the lecture. The sale of the booklet will hopefully raise more. Was Sir Christopher Wren A Mason? contains the complete text of Dr James Campbell’s 2011 Prestonian Lecture and is available from Letchworth’s in Freemasons’ Hall (letchworthshop.co.uk) for £7.99.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
14 December 2011
Report of the Board of General Purposes
Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge of 14 September 2011 were confirmed.
HRH The Duke of Kent KG was nominated as Grand Master for the ensuing year.
Annual Investiture of Grand Officers (25 April 2012)
So that sufficient accommodation can be reserved for those Brethren who are to be invested and their friends, admission to the Annual Investiture is by ticket only. Brethren to be invested for the first time may invite to be present with them three qualified Brethren, and those to be promoted two qualified Brethren. Allowance having been made for such an issue and for those whose presence in the Grand Lodge is essential, a few seats will remain. Written application for these seats may be made to the Grand Secretary between 1 March and 31 March by Brethren qualified to attend Grand Lodge.
Masonic Year Book
The next edition of the Masonic Year Book, 2012–2013, will be available next summer. The charge remains at £12 per copy, plus postage and packing where appropriate. It is proposed to produce a new edition of the Directory of Lodges and Chapters during 2012 at a charge of £12 per copy. Copies of the current edition are still available and may be ordered in the meantime in the same way.
Every Lodge will receive one copy of the Masonic Year Book and the Directory free of charge. The Board emphasises that these copies should be available to all the members of private lodges and not regarded as for the exclusive use of the secretary to whom, for administrative reasons, they are dispatched.
As in previous years copies will be dispatched direct to secretaries of lodges. Sufficient copies will be dispatched to District Grand Secretaries for distribution to lodges in the Districts. Lodges abroad not in a District will receive their copies direct.
Prestonian Lectures for 2012
The Board has considered applications for the delivery of the official Prestonian Lectures in 2012 and has decided that these should be given under the auspices of the following: Humber Installed Masters Lodge, No. 2494 (Yorkshire, North and East Ridings), Authors Lodge, No. 3456 (London) and North Notts. Masters Lodge, No. 9525 (Nottinghamshire).
The Lecturer, W Bro A.D.G. Harvey, states that the title of the Lecture will be: Scouting and Freemasonry: two parallel organisations?
Following the presentation on mentoring given in Grand Lodge in March 2008 very many lodges, as well as the Metropolitan Area of London, Provinces and Districts have adopted a mentoring scheme. In recognition of this the Book of Constitutions was changed in the following year to allow for an office of Provincial or District Grand Mentor, and the Metropolitan Grand Master was given the power to make a similar appointment in London.
At that time the Board did not contemplate a formal office at the level of a private lodge, taking the view that mentoring was an informal role: the choice of a Brother to undertake that role would be determined in each case by the needs of the individual candidate, so that in any lodge several, if not many, members would be acting as individual mentors.
It has been represented to the Board that in order to give impetus to the scheme a formal office is desirable, and the Board, having considered the matter, accordingly recommends that the Master of a lodge should have the option of appointing a Brother as Mentor, to rank immediately before the Senior Deacon, to co-ordinate mentoring within the lodge.
It is intended that where an appointment is made the Brother appointed to the office should ensure that every candidate (and any other Brother within the lodge requiring mentoring) is allocated a personal mentor, and that the work of the personal mentors so allocated is co-ordinated and organised. He should be able to provide guidance to the personal mentors on their responsibilities.
While he would not be precluded in an appropriate case from acting as a personal mentor himself, that should emphatically not be his primary function, which is to act in a co-ordinating role. The Board hopes that when the Mentor is invested the new Master will remind him of the duties attached to the office. The emblem (to be designed) would be two chisels in saltire.
Notice of Motion to amend the Book of Constitutions accordingly appeared on the paper of business.
Recognition of a Foreign Grand Lodge
The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska
The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska and its Jurisdiction was consecrated by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington on 6 September 1969, from three lodges operating in Alaska, which it had warranted in 1965. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington was recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England on 10 December 1997.
The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska shares jurisdiction with the Grand Lodge of Alaska, which has already granted it recognition and has also confirmed that it would have no objection to our doing so.
A Resolution was accordingly approved.
The Board has received reports that the following lodges have resolved to
surrender their Warrants: Salisbury Lodge, No. 3228, in order to amalgamate with Lodge, No. 767 (Hertfordshire); Rossendale Forest Lodge, No. 4138, in order to amalgamate with Lodge of Amity, No. 283 (East Lancashire); Lodge of Good Companions, No. 6091, in order to amalgamate with Jordan Lodge, No. 201 (London); Ionic Lodge, No. 6983, in order to amalgamate with Jubilee Lodge, No. 9475 (Hertfordshire); Triton Lodge, No. 7738, in order to amalgamate with Peace and Friendship Lodge, No. 7414 (London); and Lodge of United Brethren, No. 9529, in order to amalgamate with Owen Falls Lodge, No. 9447 (East Africa).
The Board accordingly recommended that the lodges be removed from the register in order to effect the respective amalgamations. A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Erasure of Lodges
The Board had received a report that 28 lodges had closed and surrendered their Warrants. The lodges are: St John’s Lodge, No. 673 (West Lancashire), Mount Edgcumbe Lodge, No. 1446 (London), Viator Lodge, No. 2308 (London), Marcians Lodge, No. 2648 (London), Harlow Lodge, No. 2734 (Essex), Assheton Egerton Lodge, No. 2793 (Cheshire), Whitley Lodge, No. 2821 (Northumberland), Saltwell Lodge, No. 3000 (Durham), Brooklands Lodge, No. 3671 (Cheshire), Paton Lodge, No. 3738 (West Lancashire), St Mary’s Lodge, No. 3987 (Northumberland), Astley Lodge, No. 4370 (Cheshire), Elfrida Lodge, No. 4497 (London), Filia Unitatis Lodge, No. 4658 (London), Remus Lodge, No. 4760 (London), St Mildred Lodge, No. 5078 (South Wales) and Oliver Goldsmith Lodge, No. 5924 (London).
Lodge of Companionship, No. 6270 (London), King Arthur Lodge, No. 6593 (Surrey), Poseidon Lodge, No. 6815 (London), Lodge of Stability, No. 6985 (Northumberland), Ewloe Lodge, No. 7447 (North Wales), Croydon Lodge of Integrity, No. 7730 (Surrey), Beverley Brook Lodge, No. 8137 (Surrey), St Lawrence Lodge, No. 8205 (Surrey), Harrock Lodge, No. 8233 (West Lancashire), Hyde Abbey Lodge, No. 8241 (Surrey) and Lodge of Academe, No. 9377 (Warwickshire).
Over recent years, the lodges had found themselves no longer viable. The Board was satisfied that further efforts to save them would be to no avail and therefore had no alternative but to recommend that they be erased. A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Yet More Of Our Yesterdays
There was a presentation on the Proceedings of Grand Lodge 200 and 100 years ago by VW Bro J.M. Hamill and VW Bro G.F. Redman, Assistant Grand Secretary.
Expulsion From The Craft
There was one expulsion from the Craft.
Meetings of Grand Lodge
14 March 2012, 25 April (Annual Investiture) 2012, 13 June 2012, 12 September 2012, 12 December 2012, 13 March 2013.
Meetings of Supreme Grand Chapter
25 April 2012, 14 November 2012, 25 April 2013, 16 October 2013 (subject to the approval of Supreme Grand Chapter).
REPORT OF THE BOARD OF GENERAL PURPOSES
WEDNESDAY, 8 JUNE 2011
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 9 March 2011 and of the Annual Investiture of 27 April 2011 were confirmed.
The Board has said goodbye with regret to David Jenkins, Past Provincial Grand Master of Somerset, who has served as a member since July 2003. The Grand Master has appointed Michael Penny, Provincial Grand Master for Devonshire, to succeed him.
The Board recommended that the annual dues (including VAT) payable to Grand Lodge in
respect of each member of every Lodge for the year 2012 shall be:
In a Lodge in England and Wales that is unattached . . . . . . . . . . . . . .£46.50
In a Lodge in a Metropolitan Area or a Province . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £28.00
In a Lodge in a District . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £6.80
In a Lodge abroad not in a District . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £11.50
The recommendation was approved.
The Board recommended that the fees (exclusive of VAT) payable for registration, certificates
and dispensations should be increased in line with inflation to:
(a) the Registration of :
1. A Grand Officer, present or past, on first appointment. . . . . . . . £103.00
2. A Deputy or Assistant Metropolitan Grand Master or a
Metropolitan Grand Inspector) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £57.00
3. A Deputy or Assistant Provincial or District Grand Master ........ £57.00
4. A holder of Overseas Grand Rank . . . . . . . . . . . . £22.00
5. A Mason, inclusive of Grand Lodge Certificate (initiation,
or joining from a Lodge not under the Grand Lodge)
In a Lodge in England and Wales that is unattached . . . . . . . . £57.00
In a Lodge in a Metropolitan Area or a Province . . . . . . . . . . . £50.00
In a Lodge in a District . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £31.00
In a Lodge abroad not under a District . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £43.00
(b) the replacement or amendment of a Grand Lodge Certificate . . £56.00
(c) a certificate for a Serving Brother . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £31.00
(d) a Dispensation by the Grand Master . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £29.00
a Dispensation by the Grand Master “nunc pro tunc” . . . . . . . . . . . £58.00
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
CONTRIBUTION TO THE GRAND CHARITY
It was recommended that for 2012 the annual contribution be raised to £15 in respect of each member of a Lodge in a Metropolitan Area or a Province, or in England and Wales that is unattached.
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
2010: Music in Masonry and Beyond
The Lecturer, W W.B. Warlow, has informed the Board that in addition to the four official deliveries to Lathom Lodge, No. 2229 (West Lancashire), Guildhall School of Music Lodge, No. 2454 (London), Old Wycombiensian Lodge, No. 6754 (Buckinghamshire) and Proscenium Lodge,No. 9059 (South Wales), the Lecture was also delivered on 13 other occasions as well as to the Sheffield Masonic Study Circle. Overseas deliveries were made in New York and Toronto. The Board expressed its thanks to Bro Warlow for the considerable time and effort he has spent in this connection.
2011: Was Sir Christopher Wren a Freemason?
The Prestonian Lecturer for 2011 is Dr J.W.P. Campbell, Five official Prestonian Lectures for 2011 have been or will be given under the auspices of Isaac Newton University Lodge, No. 859 (Cambridgeshire), Christopher Wren Lodge, No. 4855 (Berkshire), Archibald Campbell Lodge, No. 4998 (Madras), Alphin Lodge, No. 8461 (East Lancashire) and Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Lodge, No. 9812 (London).
2012: A.D.G. Harvey has been appointed as Prestonian Lecturer for 2012. The title of his Lecture will be Scouting and Freemasonry: two parallel organisations?
Arrangements for the delivery of the Lectures to selected Lodges will be considered by the Board in November and applications are now invited from Lodges. Applications should be made to the Grand Secretary, through Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretaries.
The Board emphasise the importance of these, the only Lectures held under the authority of the Grand Lodge. It is, therefore, hoped that applications for the privilege of having one of these official Lectures will be made only by Lodges which are prepared to afford facilities for all Freemasons in their area, as well as their own members, to participate and thus ensure an attendance worthy of the occasion.
RECOGNITION OF FOREIGN GRAND LODGES
The Grand Lodge of Cameroon
The Grand Lodge of Cameroon was formed on 15 September 2001 from four Lodges which comprised the District Grand Lodge of Cameroon under the National Grand Lodge of France.
The Grand Lodge of the Most Serene Republic of San Marino
On 3 April 2003 the Grand Lodge of the Most Serene Republic of San Marino was consecrated by the Grand Orient of Italy from three Lodges meeting there. Although the Grand Orient of Italy is no longer recognised by this Grand Lodge we have publicly stated that we accept that its Lodges are working regularly.
The Grand Lodge of Ukraine
The Grand Lodge of Ukraine was jointly formed from five Lodges on 24 September 2005, by the Grand Lodge of Austria and the National Grand Lodge of France.
Having shown that they have regular decendency and that they conform to the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition, the Board, having no reason to believe that they will not continue to maintain a regular path, recommended that these three Grand Lodges be recognised. The recommendations were approved.
Six Lodges had surrendered their Warrants in order to effect amalgamations and a proposal from the
Board that they be removed from the register in order to effect the respective amalgamations was approved.
ERASURE OF LODGES
The Board had received a report that 33 Lodges had closed and surrendered their Warrants. Over recent years, the Lodges had found themselves no longer viable. The Board recommendation that they be erased was approved.
Two Brethren were recently expelled from the Craft.
Grand Lodge Accounts 2010
The Audited Accounts of Grand Lodge for the year ended 31 December 2010 were approved.
Election of Grand Lodge Auditors
Crowe Clark Whitehill LLP were reappointed as auditors of Grand Lodge.
LIST OF NEW LODGES FOR WHICH WARRANTS HAVE BEEN GRANTED
Allegoria Lodge No. 9865 ((Limassol, Cyprus) from 9 March 2011.
QUARTERLY COMMUNICATIONS OF GRAND LODGE
14 December 2011, 14 March 2012, 25 April 2012 (Annual Investiture), 13 June 2012 and 12 September 2012.
CONVOCATIONS OF SUPREME GRAND CHAPTER
9 November 2011, 26 April 2012 and 14 November 2012