Sir John Soane (1753–1837) symbolises Britain’s architectural heritage of the late Georgian period at its best – the end of which coincided with his death in 1837. It is a period that gave England some of the nation’s most beautiful buildings and Soane’s unique style in some of them is still in evidence today.
John Soane, during his long and distinguished career, became involved with Freemasonry before his initiation. When invited to join, he was put through the three Degrees in one single afternoon and he remained dedicated to the Craft and enthusiastic for the remainder of his life.
He was born on 10 September 1753 near Reading in Berkshire and immediately after primary school his education was directed toward architecture. At 15 he joined George Dance the Younger (1741–1825), from the distinguished family of architects. Soane continued his training from 1772 under the equally celebrated architect Henry Holland (1745–1806), whose fame, among many other buildings, rests with the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and the Royal Opera House.
The young John Soane’s talents were soon to manifest themselves. In 1771 he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Art aged just 18 and within a year one of the drawings he submitted to the Academy’s competition won him the Silver Medal award. Four years later he received the prestigious Gold Medal, as a result of which he was introduced to George III by Sir William Chambers (1723–1796), the influential architect who was Soane’s patron.
There were several ramifications, some Masonic, following this encounter. Soane’s extraordinary achievements induced the King to sponsor and fund him, through the Academy, on a three-year travel scholarship to Italy, from which Soane profited to the fullest. This was also the start to a Royal connection – later enhanced by Soane’s appointments as Clerk of the Works to St. James’s Palace and the Houses of Parliament (1791) and Deputy Surveyor to His Majesty’s Woods and Forests (1797) – which Prince Augustus Frederick, later the Duke of Sussex, the King’s penultimate surviving son and future Grand Master, would have noted.
Intellectually armed with vast knowledge of fine ancient and renaissance buildings, in addition to well placed contacts in Europe, Soane returned to England in 1780 to set up his own business. His career took on a most positive turn when he followed in the footsteps of Sir Robert Taylor (1714–1788) as the newly appointed Architect to the Bank of England, in which capacity he continued until 1833.
His vision and execution of the new greatly enlarged Bank of England building – of which today only the surrounding outer wall commonly referred to as ‘the curtain’ survives – is still considered a masterpiece of architecture. Sir Herbert Baker’s Bank of England, completed in 1928, which demolished most of Sir John Soane’s earlier building, has been described as “the greatest architectural crime, in the City of London, of the twentieth century” (Pevsner).
In 1802 he became a full Royal Academician and was made the third Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy in 1806, a post that he held until his death.
In his long and illustrious career John Soane was responsible for many remarkable works. Among some of the notable ones are the dining rooms of both numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street, some buildings in Westminster and Whitehall, the Royal Hospital in Chelsea and Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street, London, which had originally been built by Thomas Sandby (1721–1798), a Freemason and the first Professor of Architecture at the Academy, in 1775–76.
As the agreement for a Union of the two Grand Lodges (achieved on 27 December 1813) was reaching its final stages in October 1812, Grand Lodge, under the supervision of the Deputy Grand Master, the Duke of Sussex, decided on the acquisition of properties next to the existing Freemasons’ Hall.
The first step was for a survey and valuation of the property involved and the Grand Treasurer at the time, John Bayford, was instructed to approach John Soane for that purpose. Prior to March 1813, when Bayford finally made contact with Soane, there is no evidence at all to suggest that the architect had any interest in becoming a Freemason.
He would have certainly had a passing knowledge of some of his eminent colleagues and predecessors having been members of the Craft. However, considering this was a time when Soane was at the peak of his professional career, the chances of his finding time for Freemasonry were clearly very limited.
Nonetheless, on 19 November 1813, James Perry, Past Deputy Grand Master (1787–90) and a radical journalist and friend of Soane and Thomas Harper, Deputy Grand Master of the Antient, or Atholl Grand Lodge, proposed and seconded John Soane into Freemasonry in the Grand Master’s Lodge No. 1.
At an emergency meeting held on 25 November 1813 at Freemasons’ Hall, London, Soane was Initiated, Passed and Raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason during the course of the same evening. Two other candidates, Jonathan Parker and Hymen Cohen Junior, were also bestowed the three Degrees at that meeting.
The first Masonic meeting that Soane attended as a new member, was a rather important one. On 1 December 1813, in anticipation of the election of the new Grand Master of the Antients Grand Lodge, the Duke of Sussex became an "Antient" Mason, thus allowing him to attend the installation of his brother, the Duke of Kent. The ceremony included several members of the Duke’s entourage of Grand Officers, which was later to facilitate the ceremony of the Union that took place later in the month.
His meteoric rise in the ranks of Freemasonry continued. It was undoubtedly induced by the Duke, who involved himself in all aspects of the running of Grand Lodge. The Grand Master-elect met Soane personally in August of the same year when the latter’s Initiation, Passing and Raising, as well as his Grand Rank may well have been discussed and agreed upon.
Having followed in the footsteps of his teacher and mentor, Thomas Sandby, as Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy, Soane would have been attracted by the invitation to follow in Sandby’s footsteps as a highranking Freemason.
Some time in December, Soane was appointed Grand Superintendent of Works and declared as such by the Duke of Sussex, (1773–1843), the first Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), on 27 December. He was reappointed in 1816 and held the same rank to his dying day. He was made President of the Board of Works in 1814, to enable him to supervise the building of the new Freemasons’ Hall.
On 4 June 1823 Soane was elected to the UGLE Board of Finance for a four-year period and exactly five years later, in 1828, he was nominated to the Board of General Purposes, where he served for the next seven years.
At the ceremony on 27 December an Ark of the Masonic Covenant was centrally placed in the temple and played a focal point in the proceedings when the two Grand Masters and their respective deputies advanced toward it to perform the symbolic act of Union of the two Grand Lodges. The Ark, an idea conceived by the Duke of Sussex, had been built by John Soane and presented to newly formed United Grand Lodge, at his own expense.
The first Minutes record: “…the ark of the Masonic Covenant, prepared, under the direction of W. Brother John Soane, Grand Superintendent of the Works, for the Edifice of the Union and in all time to come to be placed before the Throne.” Sadly, the Ark was burnt and destroyed in the disastrous fire of 5 May 1883.
His initial association with the Craft may have been on a purely business basis, which he had almost neglected. It took several letters from one of the joint Grand Secretaries, William Henry White, following on the Grand Treasurer’s initial approach, for Soane to submit finally his valuations, which were gratefully received and faithfully applied.
Existing correspondence shows that in all transactions with Grand Lodge, there were delays in execution of the contracts and the final payments to Soane were delayed because of a shortage of funds in Grand Lodge. This caused considerable embarrassment to Grand Lodge and some concern to Soane, as recorded in his diaries.
His involvement with the valuation and acquisition of the adjacent properties at 62 and 63 Great Queen Street extended to negotiations of price and counselling Grand Lodge on the excessive cost required by the vendors. On his advice alone, Grand Lodge refused to pay the price demanded.
The two properties were placed in auction on 23 June 1814 and bid for and purchased on behalf of Grand Lodge by Soane, for less than one-third of the original price.
Furthermore, the payment for the acquisition was made by Soane personally, who began to finance Grand Lodge.
At one stage Soane was convinced that he would not be paid at all for the work. These were no mean sums of money and it took until 1820 for Grand Lodge to disburse their debts to him in full – far longer than it should have done.
In 1833, John Soane bequeathed to the nation, by a private Act of Parliament, his house at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields in central London which contained his museum and library. He had made extensions to his home during a period of 30 years since 1794, having purchased the two adjoining properties.
This allowed him to fulfil, in practice, architectural concepts with which he wanted to experiment, whilst allowing for the housing of his vast and growing collection of classical antiquities and architectural paraphernalia salvaged from historical sites, all objects worthy of the British Museum.
They are on view today at his museum: a sarcophagus of Seti I, Pharaoh of Egypt of c.1294 BC, dramatically situated beneath the dome; Roman bronzes from Pompeii from 79 AD; several Canalettos and a collection of paintings by Hogarth, including An Election which came directly from Hogarth’s family through the estate of David Garrick, among many other fascinating objects and paintings.
The culmination of his achievements are reflected in the knighthood he received in 1831 and the special gold medal presentation made to him, three years after his retirement in 1835, by his colleagues in the newly founded Royal Institute of British Architects. Grand Lodge presented him with a Certificate of Thanks in March 1832, signed by the two Grand Secretaries. In the same year, he commissioned John Jackson to paint a full length portrait of himself in full Masonic regalia as Grand Superintendent of Works. The painting hangs prominently today in the Picture Room of the John Soane Museum.
On 20 January 1837 Sir John Soane, now 84 years old, died, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Pancras Old Church in the vault which he himself had designed for his wife and himself in anticipation of their inevitable mortality.
The design of the vault was a direct influence on Giles Gilbert Scott’s (1880–1960) design for the red telephone box of 1926 – a permanent and visual tribute to a long and distinguished professional and Masonic career.
Credits and Bibliography
My sincerest thanks to Bruce Hogg for his kind skilled improvements to my written words. Also John Bhone, whose unpublished article submitted to QC’s London Education Initiative in June 2002 has been of assistance.
Burford, Douglas, The Ark of the Masonic Covenant, AQC 105 (1992).
Stroud, Dorothy, Sir John Soane, Architect, De la Mare, 1996.
Taylor, John E., Sir John Soane: Architect and Freemason, AQC 95 (1982).
Thornton, Peter and Dorey, Helen, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Laurence King, 1992.
Now living quietly at Brighton in Sussex, Reg Moores has led a varied life – inventor, entertainer, ice skater and theatrical agent in ‘theatreland’ in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue. But his main claim to fame is to have invented the radio microphone in 1947
A member of Adur Lodge No. 2187, which meets in Brighton, his Masonic career was constantly interrupted by being on tour in different parts of the world, but he has been in the Craft for 52 years.
The history of radio microphones predates the Second World War. As Reg, a life-long amateur radio enthusiast, explains: “One of the greatest thrills was with a simple one-valve unit, and high resistance headphones, listening to police cars in New York and Philadelphia, and only using about a three-feet long piece of wire – and indoors at that!”
It was in his role as entertainer, particularly at charity ice shows and exhibitions that the idea came to him to put ‘voices’ to what were ‘dumb’ shows using wireless microphones – to get the spoken word over to the public announcement system.
“I then set about designing what were to be super-small transmitters, with what materials and components could be obtained, mostly from ex-government surplus equipment. Many problems presented themselves, such as the frequency to be used, modulation and battery life, remembering that at the time only valves were available, being long before the advent of the transistor.”
The final model was the ‘frame’ type, with the microphone suspended from the corners of a square metal frame, which can be seen on old films such as Pathé newsreels, but in this case the frame was the actual aerial, with a socket in which could be placed a ‘whip’ for longer range.
Shortly after the war, Reg contacted the impresario Tom Arnold’s organisation and their producer, Gerald Palmer, who thought that the invention would be a wonderful idea for musicals on ice, but was concerned that skaters might have problems using it.
Reg redesigned the unit as a belt in a demonstration for Palmer at the Brighton Ice Rink, with television producer Richard Afton present. Each costume had its own microphone attached to a specially designed ‘voice’ funnel sewn into the underside of the costume. A small split was cut into the costume so that the semi-circular funnel could catch the voice and direct it to the microphone.
The musical which was chosen to try out the new device was Aladdin on Ice, at the Sports Stadium Ice Rink for its Christmas show in 1949, an ideal venue to test out the capabilities and reliability of the system. The microphones worked perfectly during the entire run of the pantomime, with no loss of signals or interference. The radio microphone was born.
Tom Arnold decided to try out the microphones again, this time on a major production of Rose Marie on Ice, with world skating champion Barbara Anne Scott, Michael Kirby – partner to the legendary skater Sonja Henie – and a large supporting cast and chorus. Reg had to produce and operate at least six radio microphones for this show.
However could these wonderful skaters put over their voices as required while skating? Tom Arnold decided it was too risky, so the ‘mikes’ were dropped and professional ‘dubbers’ employed, including Shaw Taylor.
However, Reg was still active in his other roles as a unicyclist, stilt skater, fire eater, barrel jumper and ice comedian – he had already made his appearance as a star in Ice Fantasia for the BBC, the world’s first televised studio ice show on 8 April 1949.
The radio microphones were presented to the Science Museum, London in 1972.
These devices are now an accepted part of entertainment as well as serious programmes including interviews. In 1959, Bruce Forsyth adopted one of these devices for his popular London Palladium Sunday night programmes. It is difficult to imagine modern television without them.
But, indefatigable as ever, Reg went on to the field of molecular spectroscopy, and one of his nuclear quadrupole resonance spectrometers was on continuous working display for many years in the physics section of the Science Museum.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has handed down a landmark judgment under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights – prohibition of discrimination – in an application involving public appointments brought by the Grand Orient of Italy
The decision was taken by six votes to one. Under Article 41 of the Convention, the court held, unanimously, that the finding of a violation constituted sufficient just satisfaction for non-pecuniary damage.
They awarded the Grand Orient of Italy 5,000 euros (£3,400) costs and expenses.
The Grand Orient of Italy, which is not recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England, had complained about a law laid down by the Region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia regarding rules to be followed for nominations to public offices for which the Region was the appointing authority.
In particular, this law, enacted in February 2000, required candidates for such posts to declare whether they were members of a Masonic or, in any event, a secret association.
The absence of a declaration constituted a ground for refusing appointment. In a note of 15 September 2005, the regional council showed that only one of the 237 candidates for a post on the executive board of a company in which the Region was a stakeholder, had declared they were a Mason. This individual eventually got the job.
Regarding the negative effects that the obligation to declare one’s membership of a Masonic Lodge might have on the image and associative life of the Grand Orient of Italy, the court held that it could claim to be a ‘victim’ of a breach of Article 11 of the Convention.
The ECHR added: “That conclusion meant that there had been an interference with its rights to freedom of association. It followed that the facts in question fell within the ambit of Article 11. Article 14 of the Convention was therefore applicable.”
Furthermore, the court observed that the provision in question distinguished between secret and Masonic associations, membership of which had to be declared, and all other associations.
Members of the latter were exempted from any obligation to make such a declaration when seeking nomination for public office. They could not, therefore, incur the statutory penalty for an omission.
Accordingly, there was a difference of treatment between members of the Grand Orient of Italy and the members of any other non-secret association.
Regarding whether there was an objective and reasonable justification for such a difference, the court reiterated that it had already held that the prohibition on nominating Freemasons to public office, introduced to ‘reassure’ the public at a time when there had been controversy surrounding their role in the life of the country, had pursued the legitimate aims of protecting national security and preventing disorder. The court considered those requirements remained valid.
On Article 11, the ECHR found that the prohibition on nominating Masons to certain public offices for which the Region was the appointing authority was not “necessary in a democratic society.”
Penalising someone for their membership of an association was unjustified, since that fact was not in itself legally reprehensible.
The Grand Orient of Italy had previously complained about another Region, in which the court had delivered a judgment in August 2001. In the present case, being a Freemason did not automatically bar a person from nomination for a public office, because the only candidate for a particular job, declaring himself to be a Mason, had nevertheless been appointed to the post.
However, the ECHR found that those considerations, which might be relevant under Article 11, were not so important where the case was examined – as in this case – from the standpoint of the nondiscrimination clause.
In Friuli-Venezia Giulia, only Masons were under an obligation to declare their membership when they sought nomination to certain public offices for which the Region was the appointing authority.
As such “no objective and reasonable justification for this difference in treatment between non-secret associations had been advanced by the government.”
Accordingly, the court held that there had been a violation of Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 11 of the Convention.
Chamber judgment: Grande Oriente D’Italia di Palazzo Giustiniani v Italy (No. 2) (Application No. 26740/02)
Over two hundred academics and Masonic researchers attended the first International Conference on the History of Freemasonry held at Freemasons’ Hall, Edinburgh, over the last weekend in May
The conference patrons were the Grand Master Mason of Scotland (Sir Archibald Orr Ewing, Bt), the Pro Grand Master of England (Lord Northampton) and the Grand Master of Ireland (George Dunlop), who jointly opened the conference and attended many of the lectures.
Seventy-two speakers from around the world gave presentations covering an enormous range of Masonic topics from early Scottish Lodges to historical surveys of Freemasonry in Europe, the Middle and Far East, North, Central and South America. More specialist presentations covered Freemasonry and the Enlightenment, fraternalism, religious and ethical connections, symbolism, secularism, architecture, leisure, music, journalism, publishing, women and sociability.
There were five plenary lectures given by major academics. Professor Jan Snoek from Germany opened the conference with a stimulating lecture Researching Freemasonry; where are we? Professor Margaret Jacobs from California, whose writings on Freemasonry in the 1980s brought the subject back to academic respectability, spoke on Benjamin Franklin and Freemasonry.
Professor J. A. Ferrer Benimelli, President of the Centre for Historical Studies of Spanish Freemasonry presented a survey of relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Freemasonry. Professor David Stevenson of St Andrew’s University spoke on Working class Freemasonry in Scotland and Professor James Stevens Curl ended the conference with a lecture on Freemasonry and garden history: ideas, allusions, fabriques and the Enlightenment.
There was a great diversity of subjects, but there was a certain frustration that with three sessions running in parallel each day, choosing which to attend was difficult and Murphy’s law often operated – two speakers or subjects you wanted to hear being presented at the same time!
To be fair, however, the conference organisers, Supersonic Events Limited, did a tremendous job of organising over 200 people within the limited confines of Freemasons’ Hall, running sessions to time and ensuring that coffee and lunch breaks kept the body going whilst the mind was being feasted.
As with all conferences, equally important to the formal sessions was the opportunity of meeting old and making new friends and having the opportunity to sit down, or more often stand with a drink in hand, to discuss pet theories, new insights and new information provided in many of the formal presentations. It was certainly to the benefit of both the academics and the Masonic researchers to have this great opportunity of meeting together and comparing notes.
The social side was as well planned as the formal sessions, including a gala dinner followed by a traditional ceilidh at the stunning Royal Museum of Scotland.
The Conference had been preceded on the Thursday evening at the Freemasons’ Hall by the final of the Scottish Youth Orchestra’s Young Musician of the Year Competition.
Three very talented young musicians – two violinists and a clarinettist – played two pieces each and quite how the adjudicators were able to sort them out into first, second and third places, so well had each played, remains a mystery to the delighted audience. The three Patrons of the conference presented the prizes.
The Grand Lodge of Scotland is to be congratulated on promoting and supporting this first major conference. The organisers and the Local Organising Committee (Robert Cooper, Curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, James Daniel, former Grand Secretary of England, and Professor Andrew Prescott, formerly of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry, Sheffield University), learned a great deal about running such a major event and are not daunted by the prospect of future Conferences. Indeed, thought is already being given to having a second conference in 2009 to tie in with the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns!
Historic: a man of solid foundations
The remarkable career of scientist, philanthropist and Freemason, Henry S. Wellcome, is revealed by Yasha Beresiner
Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853–1936) was a remarkable man with many facets to his complex character: a scientist, businessman, philanthropist, archaeologist, collector and Freemason. He left behind a legacy that has immortalised his name in each of the fields in which he excelled with equal success.
His philanthropy is manifest in The Wellcome Trust, established as an independent research-funding charity, as required in his will, on his death on 25 July 1936. Two years earlier he had witnessed the opening of the present Wellcome Building in Euston Road, London, much of it designed to his own specifications.
In business, as recently as March 1995, Glaxo took over Wellcome for the staggering sum of £9.4 billion, in what was then the biggest merger in UK corporate history. And in January 2000, Glaxo Wellcome announced its merger with SmithKline Beecham to form the world’s largest pharmaceutical company.
All this began in 1880 when Henry Wellcome, then just 27, left the United States to join his college friend Silas Burroughs in London and form the pharmaceutical company, Burroughs Wellcome. The firm flourished from the start, marketing and later manufacturing American compressed tablets.
Burroughs was a Freemason, initiated in Clapham Lodge No. 1818, but more importantly, he had employed as an accountant an English Freemason of standing and ability, Robert Clay Sadlow, whose subsequent life-long friendship with Henry Wellcome is the catalyst that brought Wellcome into Freemasonry.
Henry Wellcome’s 17th century ancestors were French Protestants named Bienvenue, who fled religious persecution to seek asylum in England, changing their name to Wellcome.
They emigrated to New England in 1640, settling in Massachusetts. Solomon Wellcome, Henry’s father, married Mary Curtis in 1850 and Henry Solomon, their second son, was born in a Wisconsin log cabin on 21 August 1853.
It was almost natural for Henry to adopt England as his mother country. He was nationalised in 1910, received his Knighthood, following on many other honours, in 1934 and he died an octogenarian in London in 1936. His initial partnership with Burroughs unfortunately ran into difficulties within two years of its formation, and litigation ensued culminating in an 1889 court case, which found in favour of Henry Wellcome.
Notwithstanding the tensions between them, the company continued to prosper. When Burroughs died suddenly from pneumonia in 1895, Wellcome found himself in total control to implement his many whims – scientific and philanthropic – unhindered by financial or other restrictions.
It is a reflection of Wellcome’s enthusiasm for Freemasonry, that during this troublesome period in his life, he pursued his Masonic activity well beyond its basic needs and principles. He was initiated into Lodge of Fidelity No. 3 on 11 of February 1885, and his passing and raising ceremonies, which were carried out in the same year by Robert Sadlow, was reportedly at Eastes Lodge No. 1965.
On 19 March 1891, Henry Wellcome was the founding Senior Deacon of Columbia Lodge No. 2397 (he resigned in 1904) and a year later he was serving as Master of his mother Lodge. This is the year that he began his Masonic activities beyond the Craft.
On 4 April 1892, he was exalted into the Royal Arch at the Old King Arms Chapter No. 28 and advanced in the Mark a year later. He was elected Master of Hiram Lodge of Mark Master Masons No. 13 on 25 March 1896, exactly three years after his advancement. He resigned the Mark in 1904.
On 9 November 1894, he was perfected into Tuscan Chapter No. 129 of the Ancient and Accepted (Scottish) Rite (Rose Croix), reaching the 30th Degree in that Order in July 1898. Rather unusually, he only became Sovereign eight years later, in August 1906 and resigned from this Order, too, in 1920.
He was also installed a Knights Templar in 1893 and took the Malta Degree in May 1895. By now he had become Master of the Columbia Lodge, in a ceremony again conducted by his good friend Robert Sadlow. This followed on his duties as First Principal of the Old King Arms Chapter, in 1897, the year of the foundation of the Columbia Chapter in which he was Second Principal.
He was also, in 1890, an honorary member of Savage Club Lodge No. 2190. Notwithstanding all this intense Masonic activity, his enthusiasm and devotion to the Craft during these two decades is most manifest in the extracurricular activities associated with the unattached Clarence Lodge of Instruction in which he was elected Treasurer in 1893, a post that he actively filled until 1904. The Clarence Lodge of Instruction was founded by members of the Bank of England Lodge and was effectively a daughter Lodge to the well-known and long-standing Emulation Lodge of Improvement.
Toward the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, the imagination of Victorian England was captivated by developments in Africa. Henry Wellcome had the flair and the money to do something practical about it. In 1884 he had met, and become close friends with Henry Stanley, the explorer, with whom he had a great deal in common.
It was his friendship with Stanley that was largely responsible for Wellcome’s great interest in Africa. He was among the first European civilians to visit the Sudan after the Battle of Omdurman in the winter of 1900. He later met Lord Kitchener, an equally enthusiastic and high-ranking Freemason. In November 1899, following the agreement reached between Britain and Egypt, restoring Egyptian rule in Sudan, Kitchener was simultaneously appointed Governor-General of the Sudan and the first District Grand Master of Egypt & the Sudan.
Sir Francis Reginald Wingate took over the Governorship from Kitchener, and much of Wellcome’s activities were coordinated through the auspices of Wingate. Henry’s first visit left such a strong impression on him that he spent a total of 14 active years in the area establishing the Gordon Memorial College and founding the Wellcome Tropical Research Laboratories in Khartoum, which placed Sudan in the forefront of tropical diseases research.
Wellcome was an enthusiastic collector and a keen archaeologist. His interests in the Sudan and Egypt extended to archaeological digs, most famously at Jebel Moya in the Sudan, where he hired over 4,000 people to excavate over a period of several years. Notwithstanding some controversy as to his treatment of the native workers, he was popularly known as Al Pasha by the local inhabitants.
His main collecting passion, however, was for medically related artefacts. He acquired a vast collection of scientific and other books and instruments – many of which are now on display in the Wellcome Gallery of London’s Science Museum or the Wellcome Institute Library. The Wellcome collection is vast, as Henry bought everything in sight that had anything whatsoever to do with medicine.
The collection includes, for instance, Napoleon Bonaparte’s toothbrush, Charles Darwin’s walking stick and Florence Nightingale’s slippers. In 1936, at the time of his death, the total Wellcome collection consisted of over one million objects of which some 125,000 items were medically related and formed part of the permanent collection.
The remainder of the items, including his Masonic possessions, were dispersed after his death by gift to other Museums and by auction. In one instance, on 21 March 1938, Harrods, Allsop & Co auctioned ‘by order of the trustees of the late Sir Henry Wellcome’ a total of nearly 200 books on Freemasonry in 11 lots (numbers 95 to 106).
These included a first edition of Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723, a 1745 edition of the French Exposure Ordre Des Franc-Maçon Trahi, a 1691 edition of a Knights Templar volume, among many other classical works. They were all purchased by a buyer identified only as Marks, for £4.10s.
It was in Khartoum in 1901 that Henry Wellcome met the beautiful, if somewhat impulsive, Gwendoline Maud Syrie and almost immediately fell in love with her. She was travelling with her father, Dr Thomas Barnardo (see MQ, issue 20), the famous founder of homes for orphan children and an old friend of Henry’s. Queenie, as she later became popularly known, was 21 and 27 years Henry’s junior. They married very soon thereafter and had one child, Henry Mounteney.
Initially all was well but their interests, emphasised by the difference in age, were at opposite ends of the social spectrum. Henry was energetic and enjoyed sport and travel, whilst Syrie preferred sedentary socialising in London’s sophisticated parlours and drawing-rooms. Their son, who lived into his eighties, was born with mild brain-damage and had a learning disability that kept him apart from his family from the age of three for most of his childhood.
Unable to identify with her husband’s work and activities and unhappy travelling with him, Syrie was soon having affairs, which included, though with scant evidence, the American-born magnate of the department store fame, Harry G Selfridge. In 1909, following a major quarrel, Henry and Syrie decided to separate. Syrie left for New York and they never saw each other again.
In an attempt to keep scandal out of the press, Henry agreed to a generous financial settlement. He was, however, outraged by Syrie’s relationship with the homosexual writer William Somerset Maugham. Syrie bore Maugham’s child in Rome, named Mary Elizabeth and nicknamed Liza, after Liza of Lambeth, the heroine of Maugham’s first book, written before she was born, giving her Wellcome’s surname.
Henry commenced proceedings, culminating in a divorce in February 1916, citing Maugham as co-respondent. The case was uncontested and Syrie gained custody of the child. Within three months she was secretly married to Somerset Maugham in New Jersey on 16 May 1916. They divorced in 1928.
A great deal of publicity brought intimate details into public attention. Syrie had claimed that Henry treated her with brutality, neglecting her with his endless travelling and his excessive Masonic activities. It was not surprising that he left her nothing in his estate, although he gave £500 to Dr. Barnardo’s homes for children.
In line with his impulsive, even if resolute nature, Wellcome’s Masonic interests waned after the highly concentrated period in which he had been so intensely active.
It is thought that a specific incident may have triggered something in his sensitive nature to cause his gradual resignation from specific Lodges and general withdrawal from the Craft. There is, however, one last gesture on his part, of lasting Masonic consequence. It is his gift of the impressive life-size painting of George Washington to the United Grand Lodge of England. It hangs in the first floor Lounge at Freemasons’ Hall in London.
As the centenary of the death of Washington in 1799 was approaching, Henry Wellcome offered Grand Lodge the portrait, which was gladly accepted. There was a delay due to the low quality of the first painting, and Wellcome commissioned the well-known American portrait artist Robert Gordon Hardie (1854-1904), writing to him on December 2nd 1901, as follows:
I feel that by changing my original plan you will have much greater scope in painting a really masterful picture, which I am sure you will take great pride in doing. If you think it desirable to introduce Washington’s coat of arms (which contain the stars and stripes) you might do so.
There are a great many portraits of Washington, which are excessively bad, and make him look more like George III than the true Washington. What is wanted in this picture is the type of Washington which you and I have known all our lives – our ideal! The great, wise and highly spiritual Washington – the true father of our country.
The painting was formally unveiled on 8 August 1902 by the American Ambassador, Joseph H Choate, in the presence of the Earl of Warwick, Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England and a small gathering of Brethren in the library of Freemasons’ Hall. Among others present were J R Robertson, Past Grand Master of Canada, Sir J Puleston, Alderman F Trehawke, Col Daly, District Grand Master of British Guiana as well as Henry Sadler, the Grand Tyler and Clay Sadlow and Henry Wellcome himself.
The portrait of George Washington is in the dress of the period with full Masonic regalia and, as requested, in the corner are the arms of the Washington family, which are the origin of the American stars and stripes. It is a permanent reminder and memorial to Wellcome’s remarkable life, his generosity and close involvement with the Craft.
Bibliography and Credits
Adeel, Ahmed: Henry Solomon Wellcome and the Sudan (On Line), September 2000
Church, Roy & Tansey, E M: Burroughs Wellcome & Co – Knowledge, Trust and Profit and the Transformation of the British Pharmaceutical Industry 1880–1940, Crucible Books, Lancaster, 2007
Sadler, Henry: Illustrated History of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, London 1904
Sutton, Michael (On Line): Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, ne1 8st.
I also extend my appreciation to Ross MacFarlane, Archivist of the Wellcome Foundation Papers, who so readily assisted me with his vast knowledge of the subject.
The link between Rahere Lodge and St Bartholomew's Hospital is explained by John M. Grange
One of the most awe-inspiring and atmospheric buildings in all of London is the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew-the-Great in Smithfield. Perhaps because it is hidden away from the hurly-burly of London life, this haven of peace and tranquillity is not nearly as well known as it deserves to be.
On the north side of the altar is a tomb on which are engraven the words “Hic iacet Raherus Primus Canonicus et Primus huius Ecclesiae” (Here lies Rahere, the first canon and first prior of this church). Today, Rahere is remembered not just as the founder of the Priory Church but also of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, popularly known as ‘Bart’s’. On June 29th 1895, a Masonic Lodge was consecrated at this great and famous hospital by the M.W. Pro Grand Master, The Earl of Lathom, in the presence of the M.W. Grand Master H.R.H. The Prince of Wales and the Crown Prince of Denmark, Grand Master of Danish Freemasons. This new Lodge was, very appropriately, named The Rahere Lodge.
Little is known of the origins and early life of Rahere. Much of what is known of him comes from a book called the ‘The Book of the Foundation of St. Bartholomew’s Church in London, the Church Belonging to the Priory of the Same in West Smithfield’ (or, more usually, ‘The Book of Foundation’). This was written in Latin by a canon of the Priory Church around the year 1180 (about 40 years after the death of Rahere) and a translation into modern English made in 1923 is available from the church.
Rahere probably came from a humble background but he had great personal charisma and charm, a rich sense of humour and a liking for the good things of life. He used his personal charms to gain a place in the court of Henry I, the son of William the Conqueror, where, according to the Book of Foundation, “…he made it his business all day long to attend spectacles, banquets, jests and the rest of the trifles of the court and, with shameless face betaking himself to the suite – now of the king, now of the nobles – he assiduously employed a complaisance that should please them and obtain with greater ease anything that it pleased him to seek.”
It is said, though not confirmed, that he held the high and influential office of Court Jester.
Despite his self-indulgent life style, there are hints that even then there was a more profound side of his character and he may have held a clerical appointment as the unusual name Rahere first appears in the list of Canons of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1115.
Certainly, he deeply admired Queen Matilda, a spiritual and charitable lady, and he was profoundly affected by her death in the year 1118. Two years later, in 1120, the king’s son and heir, William, and other members of the royal family and household perished when their ship sank in a storm in the English Channel.
In the words of Leonard Clark, in a booklet entitled The Story of Rahere (available from the Priory Church), “Sudden death and grief challenged Rahere, perhaps for the first time. He realised that there was much more to life than a round of pleasure and merrymaking.” Rahere therefore left the royal court and set out as a humble pilgrim on a long and perilous journey in the hope of finding enlightenment. After enduring great hardships, he arrived in Rome but while staying on the Island of St. Bartholomew in the River Tiber he became seriously ill with the ‘Roman Fever’ – possibly malaria. Fearful for his life, he made a vow to God that, in the event of his recovery, he would return to England and found a hospital for the poor.
He did recover and set out for his native land but on his journey he had a dreadful vision in which he was carried by a winged beast to the edge of a horrible abyss, into which he thought he was about to plunge.
As he cried out in terror a figure appeared beside him ‘bearing royal majesty in his countenance, of wonderful beauty and imperial authority’ who identified himself as St. Bartholomew and directed Rahere to found a church and hospital in his name at Smithfield. The saint also told Rahere that he should have no doubt or anxiety at all concerning the expenses of this work, but should merely apply himself diligently to his appointed task.
The cost of the promised building work proved no problem as Rahere received the patronage of the king and the Bishop of London and work commenced in the rather dreary and muddy land known as Smoothfield, or Smithfield, the site of a gallows. Beside the effigy of Rahere on his tomb is a small figure of a kneeling monk reading a bible. The words being read are from Isaiah 51:3, “Consolabitur ergo Dominus Sion, et consolabitur omnes ruinas ejus; et ponat desertum ejus quasi delicias, et solitudinem ejus quasi hortum Domini.” (For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord). It has been suggested that this refers to the new life brought to this desolate place by the building of the Priory Church and hospital.
The construction of the church, to become part of an Augustinian monastery, and the hospital, now the oldest active hospital in London, commenced in 1123.
Work must have progressed at a great pace, as both buildings were completed within 20 years. Rahere, by then an Augustinian canon, became the first Prior of the church and the first Master of the hospital, posts he held until his death in 1143.
The original church was much larger than the present-day building; indeed, it was larger than most cathedrals at that time. Sadly, after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, several parts fell into disrepair and others were used for different purposes. The now-restored North Transept, for example, was for some time a blacksmith’s forge.
In addition to founding the church and hospital, Rahere was given funding by the king to establish an annual cloth fair at Smithfield, running for three days from St Bartholomew’s Eve, August 23rd. The fair proved extremely popular and it became one of the great annual events in London and a public holiday. It eventually developed into a huge market, trading in many commodities other than cloth, including meat and livestock, and there was a myriad of entertainment – jugglers, fire eaters, jesters, minstrels, storytellers and many more, and Rahere himself would sometimes amuse the crowds with juggling.
Also, the operative guilds prepared and performed mystery plays but, alas, the collapse of the guilds and the puritanical attitudes fostered by Protestantism brought the mystery plays to an end but their tradition is perpetuated in Masonic rituals.
The fair was last held in 1855 but, to this day, there is a large meat market at Smithfield.
After his mystical experience Rahere devoted his life to preaching and teaching and, in the Christian tradition of those days, to healing. From the very beginning, miraculous events occurred. On one evening during the building of the church, as night was descending, many people witnessed a mysterious light over the church which remained for around one hour. Not long after the monastery was founded, there were claims that Rahere had gifts of healing and the sick and lame came on pilgrimages from afar in the hope of being healed. Even after Rahere’s death, people would lay prostrate in the Priory Church praying to St Bartholomew for healing. The Book of Foundation states that “many and innumerable tokens of miracles were performed, but on account of their abundance they were neglected and were handed down to memory by scarcely anyone” and so the author of that book resolved only to describe those he had personally witnessed. The many reports include healing of the blind, deaf, dumb and paralysed (in one well described case a girl who was blind, deaf, dumb and paralysed was healed) and also those with severe deformities, strokes, epilepsy, tinnitus, severe mental disorders, insomnia and dropsy.
Clearly, Rahere saw no conflict between healing of Divine origin in his church and curing by the ministration of the medical profession in his hospital.
Some 860 years after the death of Rahere, the church and hospital still stand, the former smaller than the original and the latter very much larger. Both have endured threats to their very existence – the hospital having recently survived attempts to close it. But the spirit of Rahere is stronger than those of mortal men and these great institutions, and the fine Masonic Lodge bearing his name, are active and flourishing today.
The author is grateful to W.Bro. Trevor Dutt, Honorary Archivist to the Rahere Lodge, for information on the consecration of this Lodge.
Masonry has always been attractive to Jews – there were Jewish Freemasons in England before the premier Grand Lodge, and the closeness of this connection still exists. Many of my friends are active in both Lodge and synagogue, several rabbis are keen Freemasons, and occasionally internal differences within the Jewish community can be bridged in and through the Craft.
There is no conflict between Judaism and Freemasonry. I view with bemused incomprehension the way that other faiths sometimes oppose the one major force in society that both shares their ideals and actively promotes them.
The connection between Judaism and the Craft was obvious to me from the night of my initiation. I remember being amazed that the tyler’s toast, almost word for word, is identical to part of the synagogue service.
As I progressed through the degrees and the offices, I realised that alongside my faith would stand my Freemasonry, not as a second religion, but as a “handmaid to religion”, as a support and an enhancement.
There is so much that is common to both Judaism and Freemasonry, and these two major influences on my life flow in parallel channels. The most obvious similarity is the use of the Volume of the Sacred Law and Biblical passages, and sometimes this can be more than just Bible stories.
In December 1996 I was founding senior warden of a Lodge that was consecrated in King Solomon’s quarries under the Old City of Jerusalem. The chisel marks of the masons who had quarried the stones are still visible, and since the stones were dressed where they were cut, it suddenly became very obvious why, at the Temple site itself, “there was not heard the sound of metallic tool”.
Both Judaism and Freemasonry provide a continual intellectual challenge. Neither is, nor ever can be, fully understood and interpreted, and each provides an ongoing field for study – the concept of a daily advancement in knowledge is a common ideal.
Occasionally there are parallels that cause much thought. The three verses of the priestly benediction have three, five and seven words respectively in the original Hebrew – is this merely a coincidence with the numbers needed to form, hold and perfect a Lodge?
Freemasonry is described as “illustrated by symbols”. Judaism emphasises the value of symbolic action for both faith and education. The importance of being free men forms the core of the major Passover home ritual. The synagogue service on the Day of Atonement re-enacts the actions of the people in Temple times on hearing the name of the Most High.
The description of charity – the Hebrew term Tzedakah also means both justice and righteousness – as a quality “that blesses him who gives as much as him who receives”, resonates with the Rabbinic comment that the highest form of charity is when neither donor nor recipient knows the identity of the other.
But the quality that appeals to me above all is the sense of brotherhood and toleration inherent in Masonry. Almost without exception, the regimes that have been intolerant to Jews are the ones that have also been prejudiced against Freemasonry.
Through Masonry I have come to know many wonderful people; without Masonry we would “have remained at a perpetual distance”. The wide circle of friendships that I have made in Masonry has enriched my life and that of my family.
Is there a conflict between Judaism and Freemasonry? Not at all.
Would I recommend a Jew to become a Freemason? Unhesitatingly.
I have found it a daily delight, and one of the greatest influences of my life.
Elkan Levy is Provincial Grand Chaplain for Middlesex and Metropolitan Deputy Grand Chaplain for London
Public service: serving the public
Pullman car veteran Tom Harding talks to John Jackson about his meetings with the famous
At 93, Tom Harding, a Mason for more than 50 years, is as sharp as when he dealt with Royalty and other VIPs on the famous luxury Pullman cars, where passengers were served their meals at their tables – no first or second sittings in restaurant cars for them.
Now living in the Masonic Housing Association home at Prebendal Close, Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, Tom still has vivid memories of his childhood. He was born the year the First World War began, and was brought up in the desperately poor area of Neath in south Wales, and so came to London, aged 14, to seek work.
Little did he know then that he would rub shoulders with some of the world’s most powerful and famous people – royalty, statesmen, film stars and other celebrities.
He recalls: “There was only one telephone in the village and that belonged to the local doctor. To see a motor car was a luxury. It is difficult to explain that to people today.”
Tom recounts how he came to work on the railways. “When I left Neath the whole village turned out to see me off. I had a board round my neck with my name on it and I was met at Paddington station and found work in various hotels and restaurants.
“One of the places I worked at was the Butler’s Head in the aptly-named Masons’ Avenue in the City of London. We would work there in the evening, often at Masonic events, for an extra sixpence plus a meal.”
Tom joined a club in Soho which was largely a meeting place for people seeking work, and vacancies would be posted on a board. He met one man who, through ill health, had to give up his job on the Pullman cars. Why not apply for his job, the man suggested?
After being taken on for a trial period, not knowing when he would be asked to leave, Tom adds: “It so happened I stayed 44 years.”
And, he has a large illustrated memento in his flat signed by the many senior railway figures who came to his farewell party.
But he had never forgotten his attendance as a waiter at Masonic festive boards, and in the 1950s became a Mason himself with Sprig of Acacia Lodge No. 3318 at Barnet in the Province of Hertfordshire, of which he is now an honorary member. Then, in 1979, he moved to Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire and joined a Lodge there. In addition, he was in Mark, Royal Arch, Mark Mariners and the Knights Templar.
But all this time he was travelling on the Pullman cars, on trains now legendary for their luxury such as the Brighton Belle, the Golden Arrow, which went from Victoria via the boat train to the Gard du Nord in Paris, and the Orient Express. His time on the Pullman cars ran from 1934 until his retirement in 1979.
During those years he met many famous people. “You read about them and saw their photographs in the paper, but being with them was an amazing experience. With the Royal family you were there as a servant of the Crown.”
Among his fondest memories are shaking hands with US President Harry Truman and meeting President Jimmy Carter, and receiving a menu card from Haile Selassie, known as the Lion of Judah, then Emperor of Ethiopia. Foreign royalty included King Baudouin of the Belgians and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. Other VIPs he met included General (later President) Eisenhower, Anthony Eden, then Foreign Secretary but later Prime Minister and another occupant of 10 Downing Street – Neville Chamberlain.
He would often, as the chef, prepare meals for these VIPs, and later ran the luxury cars himself. He adds: “You were never supposed to ask for autographs, but I did break that rule once. Churchill was in a carriage and had thrown a number of papers on the ground.
I picked them up and handed them back to him. Then I asked for his autograph.
‘Certainly not’ said Winston and returned to his work.”
Sadly, but with pride, he recalls how many years later he looked after the Churchill family when Sir Winston’s body was carried in a Pullman as part of his journey back to Bladon, in Oxfordshire, where he is buried.
But one of his most memorable occasions was when he arranged for five Pullman trains to escort the numerous VIPs to the Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales by the Queen at Caernarvon Castle in 1969.