Celebrating 300 years

It’s been 300 years since the well-known story of four London lodges who came together on St John’s Day, 24th June 1717 and founded the world’s first Grand Lodge

To commemorate the Tercentenary of this date, a commemorative stone has been unveiled outside the Tower Entrance of Freemasons’ Hall. 

Three of the four lodges who made this vital contribution to Freemasonry are still active today – Lodge of Antiquity No.2, Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No.IV, and Fortitude and Old Cumberland Lodge No.12. They are referred to as Time Immemorial lodges and have the unique distinctions of being allowed to operate without the requirement of a warrant, and of having a band of dark blue in their lodge officers' collars.

The occasion was marked by a joint meeting at Mansion House where the United Grand Lodge of England’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, was proclaimed as the Master of all three lodges.

Next time you walk past Freemasons’ Hall, make sure to cast your eyes over this commemorative stone and its history of four lodges coming together to found the Premier Grand Lodge.

Published in UGLE

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Norfolk is celebrating the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary with a public exhibition of Freemasonry at the Museum of Norwich

There will be displays on masonic history, the role of the craft in society and the path of a Freemason through his masonic career. There will also be a vast collection of masonic artefacts and items including the Provincial Grand Masters Chair and the Irish Apron.

A trail map is also available from the museum via the historic meeting places of Norwich Lodges from 1750 to 1879 (mainly sites of former public houses) to the Provincial Mason Hall and Office in St Giles Street, Norwich, where there is a further display of masonic history.

A preview evening was recently held, which was attended by the Lord Mayor of Norwich, Councillor Marion Maxwell and the Sheriff of Norwich, Richard Marks.

The exhibition runs Tuesday to Saturday, 10am – 4:30pm, at the Museum of Norwich until 22nd July. Entry for the whole museum is priced at £5.50 Adults, £4.40 children and £5.20 concession to Freemasons wearing a Tercentenary lapel badge.

The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, has unveiled a commemorative stone to mark the founding of Grand Lodge

It’s been 300 years since four London lodges came together on St John’s Day, 24 June 1717 to found the world’s first Grand Lodge. Three of the four lodges that made this vital contribution to Freemasonry still meet today: Lodge of Antiquity No.2, Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No.IV, and Lodge of Fortitude and Old Cumberland No.12. Referred to as ‘time immemorial’, these lodges operate without a warrant and have a band of dark blue in their lodge officers’ collars.

To honour the tercentenary of this date, a commemorative stone was unveiled outside the Tower Entrance of Freemasons’ Hall. The occasion was marked by a joint meeting at Mansion House, where the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, was proclaimed as the Master of all three lodges.

Next time you pass Freemasons’ Hall, be sure to cast your eyes over this commemorative stone, as it celebrates the history of four lodges coming together to found the Premier Grand Lodge.

Published in UGLE

A packed house descended on Freemasons’ Hall yesterday, as the Library and Museum of Freemasonry opened its doors for a Private View of ‘Rough to Smooth’ – an exhibition of contemporary artwork inspired by Freemasonry

Visitors were treated to an exhibition of new artworks celebrating Freemasonry and its continued role and relevance in society today. In attendance was Peter Lowndes, Pro Grand Master, Anthony Wilson, President of the Board of General Purposes, and Jacques Viljoen, the United Grand Lodge of England's very first Artist in Residence, who created the exhibition along with nine guest artists.

The ‘Rough to Smooth’ art exhibition will open to the public during this Saturday’s Open Day, which marks the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Premier Grand Lodge. It will be a day of exhibitions, music and architecture and the chance for visitors to view the new collection of art - many of which are for sale.

Anthony Wilson commented: 'What has struck me, above all else, is the amount of thought and work that has gone into each picture. The artists have demonstrated both an understanding of, and the variety of responses to Freemasonry, its values and, in particular, our splendid building.'

The exhibition continues next week from Monday June 26th until Saturday July 1st. Admission is free and Freemasons’ Hall will be open from 10am to 5pm, with last entry at 4:30pm.

Published in UGLE

After several months in the planning, the big day finally arrived for the Sussex Motorcycling Lodge No. 9871 Tercentenary Ride-Out

It was a wonderful, fun and incident free day in the sun, with over 60 Masonic and non-Masonic riders and pillions who helped to raise £800 for non-masonic Sussex charities.

The ride departed from Whiteways Lodge Cafe in Arundel and, following a ride through the Sussex countryside, arrived at Sinnis Motorcycles in Portslade to assemble for the unique group photo you see above.

Riders and bikes were arranged into the shape of the Square and Compasses and an aerial photograph was taken from a professional drone.

Sussex Motorcycling Lodge extended its thanks to several groups for making the ride out possible including West Sussex Advanced Motorcycles, Serv Sussex, Photec Studios in Worthing, Purple Signs in Goring, Chandlers BMW Bikes in Portslade, Sinnis Motorcycles in Portslade, Whiteways Cafe in Bury Hill, Brighton City Airport in Shoreham and Charmandean Centre in Worthing.

Harrogate and Ripon Freemasons have turned to “flower power” to help celebrate key milestones in the fraternity’s history

Three floral displays – located on Harrogate’s Montpellier Hill, within the Valley Gardens and in Ripon’s Spa Gardens – have been created by Harrogate Borough Council’s Parks & Environmental Services Department to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Premier Grand Lodge and the bicentenary of the Province of Yorkshire West Riding.

The official unveiling of the beds, which feature the masonic symbols of the square and compasses and the white rose of Yorkshire, was performed by the Mayor of Harrogate, Coun Anne Jones, Ripon Mayor Coun Pauline McHardy and the Provincial Grand Master David S Pratt.

The flower beds, containing around 7,500 plants, were the brainchild of Doug Mills, Charity Steward of The Spa Lodge No. 7609, who came up with the idea that the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England and the Bi-centenary of The Province of Yorkshire West Riding, could be celebrated by a floral display in Harrogate.

He approached Harrogate Borough Council to see if they would support planting out beds to mark the two landmarks, which it readily agreed to and added Ripon to the mix.

Doug Mills commented: 'These three flower beds are simply stunning and they look absolutely fantastic. Six months ago it was merely an idea and now it is reality.'

Rt W Bro David S Pratt, who presented commemorative hand trowels to the mayors, said: '2017 is a very special year for Freemasonry in England and Wales, and in particular for our Province as we are also celebrating our 200th birthday.

'We very much welcome the support of Harrogate Borough Council, as without them Doug’s floral tercentenary and bicentenary tributes would never have seen the light of day. Thanks to the skills of the parks team, thousands of people walking in the three locations will be able to enjoy these stunning flower beds throughout the summer months.'

The Treasurer of The Spa Lodge, W Bro Peter Dodds, facilitated the manufacture and supply free of charge of four powder coated stainless steel display cases from In Stainless Engineering Ltd together with graphic boards provided by Signs Express that detail the history of the United Grand Lodge of England and the Province.

Grand announcement by Freemasons of Yorkshire, West Riding

An explosion of sound and a cascade of glitter to the background of Purcell’s music and a montage featuring activities during the festival culminated in the amazing total being dramatically revealed at an impressive banquet at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

Some 600 brethren, their wives and partners, shared in the celebrations and delight as the outstanding result, kept under wraps until the night, was greeted with acclaim and great satisfaction by all present.

RW Provincial Grand Master David Pratt was, for once, lost for words. The £3,300,300 raised was fitting recognition to mark the 300th anniversary of the formation of the first ever Grand Lodge.

RW Bro Pratt paid tribute to all the members of the Province and their families for their contributions and support throughout the festival. He also reflected on the work of RW Bro John Clayton, his predecessor, who had launched the festival as its President in 2012, with a clear vision of how it should be managed through to a successful outcome.

VW Bro Sir Paul Williams, Chairman of the RMBI Care Company, thanked the Province for the manner in which it had supported the Festival. He commented that Yorkshire, West Riding had not only done themselves proud but also done it in style, with passion, commitment and a lot of fun along the way.

Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master, in proposing a toast to the Festival President thanked everyone in the Province for their tremendous support, which had resulted in such an outstanding achievement. He is proud to be a member of the Province.

 

300 years young

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is organising an Open Day at Freemasons’ Hall on Saturday 24 June to mark the 300th birthday of the first masonic Grand Lodge in the world – which met in London 300 YEARS ago TO THE DAY!

Visitors will have the opportunity to view the Grand Temple and exhibitions about the history of Freemasonry. There will be opportunities to learn more about Metropolitan Grand Lodge and the Masonic Charitable Foundation. There will be free, informal musical performances throughout the day beginning with the Occasional Strings quartet in the morning, music on the Grand Temple Organ around lunchtime and the Art Deco Orchestra playing in the afternoon.

As part of the 300th anniversary Jacques Viljoen has been appointed Artist in Residence and has created an exhibition of new artworks to celebrate Freemasonry and its continued role and relevance in society today. This unique exhibition, 'Rough to Smooth', features ten artists in total and opens on 24 June.

Freemasons’ Hall Open Day
Saturday 24 June 2017
Free admission – no booking required
Open 10am to 5pm, last entry 4:30pm

Published in UGLE

Watch unique and unprecedented access to the Freemasons

To mark the Tercentenary of the founding of the Premier Grand Lodge, a Sky television crew were given unique and unprecedented access to discover what it means to be a modern-day Freemason

The five part documentary they made looked to go beyond the myth and legend and answer the questions – who are Freemasons and what do they do?

From our regalia to some lavish ceremonies, through to ancient rituals and bonds of brotherhood, there were many behind the scenes highlights to enjoy. This also included coverage of the biggest day of the masonic calendar, the Annual Investiture, the official consecration of the first masonic football lodge and a feature with Doctor David Staples, FRCP, DepGDC, who has recently been appointed as the United Grand Lodge of England's Chief Executive.

A special edition DVD is now available to buy, consisting of two DVDs which features all five episodes and 30 minutes of exclusive extra content.

You can buy the ‘Inside the Freemasons’ DVD from Letchworths Shop by clicking here

Published in UGLE

Quarterly Communication

14 June 2017 
An address by VW Bro John Hamill, PGSwdB, Deputy Grand Chancellor

MW Pro Grand Master and brethren, at a dinner party last year the conversation turned to the idea of time travel and, were it to become possible, which period we would like to go back to. I said that, for something I was involved in professionally, I would like to go back to a specific day and location in London to meet and ask questions of a particular group of people and that I would like to bring some of them to our time to see what they had given birth to on that day.

It will not surprise you to learn that the date I selected was St John’s Day in summer, the 24th June, in the year 1717 and the location was the Goose and Gridiron tavern in St Paul’s Churchyard. As we know, on that day representatives of four London lodges came together, elected a Grand Master and Grand Wardens and resolved to “revive” the Annual Feast and Quarterly Communications which it was claimed had fallen into desuetude due to the neglect of Sir Christopher Wren when Grand Master. As we also know today, that resolution was based on a pious fiction as there is no evidence for there having been any Grand Lodge or Grand Master before 1717.

To us, with the benefit of hindsight, the meeting on 24 June 1717 was a momentous and historical event – but put into the context of the time a different picture emerges. One of the problems of dealing with 1717 and the first few years of the Grand Lodge is the lack of hard facts to work with. It was not until 1723 and the appointment of William Cowper, Clerk of the Parliaments, as Secretary to the Grand Lodge that minutes began to be kept. Of the four lodges which came together to elect a Grand Master in 1717 three are still working today – the Lodge of Antiquity, the Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge and the Lodge of Fortitude and Old Cumberland – but their early minutes have long been lost so that, with the exception of those elected to the offices of Grand Master and Grand Wardens we have no records of whom their members were in the years 1717–1725, when the Grand Lodge first called for lodges to submit lists of their members, or who attended the meeting on 24 June 1717. What we can deduce from secondary evidence is that the meeting was not a huge assembly. The Goose and Gridiron survived until the 1890s and just before it was demolished an enterprising masonic historian drew sketches of its exterior and measured the room in which the Grand Lodge was formed. The room would have held less than a hundred people who would have had to stand very close to each other to fit into the room!

Our primary source for what happened in those early years is the history of the Craft with which Rev Dr James Anderson prefaced the Rules governing Freemasonry in the second edition of the Book of Constitutions he published on behalf of Grand Lodge in 1738. Because Anderson’s history of the Craft pre-1717 is more than somewhat suspect, some historians have cast doubts on his description of the events in Grand Lodge from 1717–1738. What they forget is that he compiled it on behalf of the Grand Lodge and that it was vetted by a Committee of the Grand Lodge before it went into print. Although writing 20 years after the events of 1717 there would still have been brethren around who were involved in those early years, not least Rev Dr John Theophilus Desaguliers Grand Master in 1719 and Deputy Grand Master in 1722, 1723 and 1725, who would have been very quick to point out any errors of fact in Anderson’s comments on the Grand Lodge.

From Anderson’s account in its first years the Grand Lodge met only for the Annual Assembly and Grand Feast to elect the Grand Master and Grand Wardens. From two other sources we can deduce that the Grand Lodge began to act as a regulatory body in 1720. Both the 1723 and 1738 editions of the Book of Constitutions include a postscript describing the ancient manner of constituting a new lodge as practised by the Grand Master George Payne in 1720. A very rare masonic book entitled “The Book M or Masonry Triumphant” published by a brother Leonard Umphreville in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1736 includes a report of a meeting of Grand Lodge in 1720 in which a Code of Rules for the government of the Craft compiled by the then Grand Master, George Payne, was adopted. The report was followed by the list of 39 Rules, which formed the basis of the Rules printed in the first edition of the Book of Constitutions published in 1723.

Some have questioned why there were no press reports of the event in 1717, but they have been looking at the past with the eyes of the present. In 1717 Freemasonry was largely unknown. The late 17th and 18th centuries were a great age of societies and clubs many of them meeting in taverns and the growing network of fashionable coffee houses in the Cities of London and Westminster. If noticed at all, the formation of Grand Lodge would have been seen as just another society. It was not until the early 1720s when Past Grand Masters George Payne and Dr Desaguliers began to attract members of the nobility and the Royal Society into Freemasonry that the press of the day began to notice Freemasonry, reporting on the initiations of prominent men of the day and the annual Grand Feasts of the Grand Lodge.

It was not until 1723 that the Grand Lodge became fully established as the regulatory body we know today. By that year, in addition to the keeping of minutes of Quarterly Communications and the publication of the first Book of Constitutions, the Grand Lodge had extended its authority outside the Cities of London and Westminster, issuing deputations to constitute lodges in the Provinces and bringing into the fold some independent lodges that had been meeting quietly in the northern provinces. The Rules compiled by Payne in 1720 and published in the Book of Constitutions in 1723 introduced the concept of regularity, stating that no new lodge would be countenanced as regular unless it had been personally constituted by the Grand Master or a brother deputed by the Grand Master to act for him.

At a conference sponsored by our premier lodge of research, Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, at the Queen’s College, Cambridge, last September two academics gave a paper suggesting that we were celebrating four years too early and casting doubts on the meeting in 1717. Having carefully studied their paper my response is that old fashioned polite English expletive: balderdash! Their thesis seems to boil down to an academic semantic argument as to what constitutes a Grand Lodge. They appear to think that we were not a Grand Lodge until 1721 because there is no evidence for any attempt at regulation before that date. It is beyond doubt that at the meeting on 24 June 1717 Anthony Sayer, Capt John Elliot and Jacob Lamball were, respectively, elected Grand Master and Senior and Junior Grand Wardens – officers of a Grand Lodge. The academics appear to believe that, like Athene springing fully armed from the head of Zeus, for the meeting in 1717 to be accepted as the formation of a Grand Lodge it should have immediately acted as a regulatory body. Life rarely works that way!

In talking of time travel I said I would like to bring back from 1717 some of those involved in the meeting on 24 June. In their wildest imaginings they could not have envisaged what their simple and small meeting would give birth to: a worldwide fraternity of regular Freemasonry spread over the whole world. They would find some things that they would recognise from their practice of Freemasonry but would also find much that was very different. Over the last 300 years Freemasonry has developed and expanded in ways they could not have imagined. What English Freemasonry has demonstrated over the last 300 years is that it is a living organisation capable of changing its outward forms and adapting itself to the society in which it currently exists. It has had a wonderful knack of making those changes without in any way changing those fundamental and inalienable principles and tenets on which Freemasonry was founded and which would certainly be recognised by those who met in 1717. The more I study our ancient Craft the more I am convinced that whatever problems we may face from time to time, provided that we maintain that delicate balance between managed change and not altering our basic principles and tenets, Freemasonry will ride over those problems and future generations will be able to enjoy its fellowship and privileges as we and the many generations that have gone before us have done since that happy day in 1717 on which Grand Lodge was born.

Published in Speeches
Page 7 of 18

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