For the fourth year in succession, London Freemasons supported the Lord Mayor’s Show and the installation of the 684th Lord Mayor of London, Alderman David Wootton
This year’s float theme was the Metropolitan Masonic Charity’s appeal in support of the cancer-busting CyberKnife, currently in use and saving lives at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, which London masons are enthusiastically supporting.
Freemasons feel a particular bond with the City of London, as the history of English Freemasonry has many similarities with the structures, aims and appeal of the ancient Livery Companies of the City. The first-ever Grand Lodge was also founded in the City by London masons meeting in a coffee house in St. Paul’s Churchyard in 1717.
The Lord Mayor’s Show is the world’s oldest civic procession, reflecting nearly 800 years of London’s history and marching unscathed through everything from the Black Death to the Blitz. It is a day out for half a million people, with millions more watching on television. The modern procession is more than three miles long.
A new exhibition looks at how changes in society and its attitudes have affected the ways in which Freemasons have felt able to be part of the wider public life of the country
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is exploring the history of public masonic activities. There are few towns in England and Wales without a masonic hall and civic foundation-stone layings and processions frequently had a masonic component, with buildings as diverse as the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and Truro Cathedral enjoying masonic ceremonies at their beginnings. More recently, hundreds of Freemasons in regalia inaugurated the rebuilt Masonic Hall at Beamish Open Air Museum and Freemasons regularly feature in the Lord Mayor’s Show in the City of London.
Another example of the active role masons played in public life can be found in the building of the first bridge across the Wear river in Sunderland, which was an important factor in the area’s economic development. The foundation stone was laid by local Freemason and MP, Rowland Burdon, in 1793 and the stone itself records that the event was attended by Freemasons, magistrates and ‘principal gentlemen of the County of Durham’. Although the bridge only took 10 days to put up, the formal opening did not take place until three years later in a masonic ceremony attended by the Duke of Gloucester.