The Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Kent, officially opened the Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s newest gallery
Part of UGLE’s Tercentenary celebrations, the ambitious project took several months to complete.
Among the beautiful treasures on show at the gallery are items belonging to such well-known masons as HRH Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex; Sir Winston Churchill; King Edward VIII; circus proprietor Billy Smart; and land speed record-holder Sir Malcolm Campbell.
Located at Freemasons’ Hall, the gallery includes the elaborate, monumental Grand Master’s gilded ceremonial throne, commissioned in 1790 for the Prince of Wales (later King George IV), the second royal prince to be a Grand Master.
The gallery opens up into a lodge room, where the Grand Master unveiled a new plaque renaming it the Kent Room.
‘The exhibition aims to explain Freemasonry’s values of sociability, inclusivity, charity and integrity, as well as its history and development to the general public,’ said Diane Clements, then director of the Library and Museum. ‘We hope it will also be an enjoyable way for members to explain to friends and potential new members what Freemasonry is all about.’
With the especial meeting at the Royal Albert Hall streamed online in the Grand Temple of Freemasons’ Hall, nearly 1,000 brethren and ladies – including the wives of official guests – were able to watch the ceremonies
After attending the screening, Ruth Wright from the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons commented, ‘I could feel that I was part of something very special. I cannot say how privileged I felt to be part of your special day. You could have heard a pin drop as everyone watched with great interest and when, spontaneously, most of the men joined in singing the hymns. It made you realise just how wonderful an organisation Freemasonry is.’
‘A wonderful meal – how on Earth could such splendid fare have been served to the thousands present with such style?’ David Pratt
The Grand Temple guests then attended a special dinner in the Grand Connaught Rooms, chaired by Earl Cadogan, who was assisted by senior members of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London.
Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 of the attendees from the Royal Albert Hall meeting were being bussed through London’s rush-hour traffic to Battersea Evolution for a special reception and banquet. Yorkshire, West Riding Provincial Grand Master David Pratt commented, ‘A wonderful meal – how on Earth could such splendid fare have been served to the thousands present and with such style? We then floated back to our hotel with so many stories to share. What a day.’
The general public were invited into Freemasons’ Hall to view Rough to Smooth, a showcase of art inspired by Freemasonry past, present and future
The exhibition featured work by the United Grand Lodge of England’s first ever Artist in Residence, Jacques Viljoen, who had been given unprecedented access to objects and spaces throughout the historic Grade II*-listed building.
All of Viljoen’s subjects were painted from life, using traditional techniques and absolutely no photography. His work presents a new look at the world of contemporary Freemasonry, showing intimate moments that might usually go unnoticed. ‘This has been an incredible opportunity to explore an organisation with an intricate and ancient history,’ he said. Alongside Viljoen, nine guest artists were also given unique access to Freemasons’ Hall, working in different media that ranged from oils to photography.
Renowned Norwegian oil painter Henrik Uldalen’s contemporary yet classic figurative art sat next to work by Lithuanian artist Elika Bo, who creates images by endlessly layering objects, while Nicholas Chaundy offered a technical homage to the painting techniques used in the many grand masterpieces that fill the Hall.
Then President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson viewed the artworks and 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 a variety of responses to, Freemasonry, its values and, in particular, our splendid building.’
‘This was an incredible opportunity to go and explore an organisation with an intricate and ancient history’ Jacques Viljoen
Grand Masters from more than 100 foreign Grand Lodges brought gifts from around the world to Freemasons’ Hall for the Tercentenary celebrations
The Tercentenary is over but not forgotten. When you visit the Library and Museum there is a colourful reminder in a display of some of the many gifts presented by overseas Grand Lodges.
A set of Russian dolls depicting the Rulers and the Grand Secretary caught the sense of fun and celebration on the day. In a very different vein, an antique collecting box from the combined Scandinavian Grand Lodges contained a scroll showing that every member had made a donation to the Masonic Charitable Foundation (£44,500 in all), emphasising the spirit of generosity that was present throughout the events.
In all, more than 100 Grand Masters from across the world made presentations, with the Library and Museum of Freemasonry team managing to have all their gifts unwrapped, listed and on display by the time the Grand Master arrived to view them after the welcome ceremony.
It was 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 & Inverness Lodge, No. iv; and Lodge of Fortitude & 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.
Devonshire Provincial Grand Master Ian Kingsbury handed a £500 cheque to John Austin, chairman of disability transport service Freedomwheels, in Cadogan Court, Exeter
The request for funding came from the Exeter & Topsham Masonic Widows Association, which relies heavily on Freedomwheels to enable their ladies to travel throughout the region and to their monthly meetings at the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution care home.
An earlier cheque of £200 was presented to them by members of Exeter-based Davie Lodge, No. 3721.
The bad weather may have put Southwark Lodge’s recent meeting on ice, but a cunning plan resulted in a £1,000 donation to homeless charity The House of St Barnabas
Southwark Lodge No. 879 in London was initially due to meet at Freemasons’ Hall on 2nd March, but with sufficient numbers unable to attend, it had to be abandoned – for the first time since the Second World War.
The meeting was due to be followed by a Festive Board at Browns, but rather than waste the hot dinners, members Simon Brown, James Innes and Anton Wheatley made the suggestion of taking with them a group of homeless people, in cooperation with an appropriate charity.
Despite a number of hasty emails and phone calls, time was very much against them and unfortunately, it ultimately proved impossible to make this plan work in the time available. However, Mitchells & Butlers, owners of Browns, were firmly on board with the plan and proposed, as a welcome alternative, a full refund of the £500 deposit paid, with those funds to be paid to a charity for the homeless instead.
The Lodge’s Worshipful Master Andy Butler acted rapidly to generously propose they match this donation to present the round sum of £1,000 to The House of St Barnabas. The charity, based in Soho Square, London, performs a vital service in helping London's homeless back into work.
James said: ‘Although our original goal was to make good use of our hot dinners and not have them go to waste, the ultimate solution is doubtless for the best in terms of providing longer-term support to those attempting to make the difficult transition from homelessness to paid employment – a cause which is close to my heart.’
Ceri Sheppard, Employment Academy Director of The House of St Barnabas, commented: 'I am delighted that Southwark Lodge is supporting our Employment Academy at The House of St Barnabas. Employment is the best route out of homelessness, and donations like this enable us not only to support people to get work, but crucially to help them keep that work.'
Over 500 Buckinghamshire Freemasons were present at Freemasons' Hall on 9th February 2018, where John Clark was installed as the Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Buckinghamshire
The Installation was conducted by the United Grand Lodge of England's Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence and the visiting Officers of Grand Lodge.
John Clark then Invested Hugh Douglas Smith as Deputy Provincial Grand Master and reappointed Graham Dearing and Phil Blacklaw as Assistant Provincial Grand Masters. Tony Robinson recited the Obligation and was also invested as Assistant Provincial Grand Master.
Alongside over 500 Buckinghamshire Freemasons, brethren from many other Provinces were also in attendance and following the ceremony enjoyed a banquet in the Grand Connaught Rooms.
Both the Deputy Grand Master and the new Provincial Grand Master thanked all those present for their attendance and delighted everyone with amusing speeches.
John Clark then presented Jonathan Spence with a pair of magnificent gold cuff links, replicating the Hall Stone Jewel.
During the ceremony, John Clark was also wearing the Hall Stone Jewel around his neck, with Buckinghamshire the only Province in possession of the gold and coloured enamel jewel on a dark blue collarette. This distinctive jewel was given to Buckinghamshire and the Districts of Japan (now defunct) and Burma (in abeyance) in recognition that every one of their lodges contributed an average in excess of five hundred guineas (£525.00) to the Masonic Million Memorial Fund.
This fund went towards establishing a memorial to the brethren who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First World War, which resulted in the erection of UGLE's current headquarters at Freemasons' Hall.
It is why Buckinghamshire is known as the only Hall Stone Province in English Freemasonry, and can boast the unique distinction of being the sole and proud wearer of such a jewel. Read more about the Hall Stone Jewels here.
Enough is Enough
A personal letter by Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of the United Grand Lodge of England. This has also been placed as a full page advert in The Times, Daily Telegraph and Guardian
At the United Grand Lodge of England, we value honesty, integrity and service to the community above all else. Last year we raised over £33 million for good causes.
As an organisation we welcome individuals from all walks of life, of any faith, age, class or political persuasion. Throughout our 300 year history, when people have suffered discrimination Freemasonry has embraced them into our lodges as equals.
The United Grand Lodge of England believes that the ongoing gross misrepresentation of its 200,000 plus members is discrimination. Pure and simple.
We owe it to our membership to take this stance, they shouldn’t have to feel undeservedly stigmatised. No other organisation would stand for this and nor shall we.
I have written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to make this case.
I appreciate that you may have questions about who we are and what we do, so over the next six months our members will be running a series of open evenings and Q&A events up and down the country. These will be promoted in the local media and on our website.
I am also happy to answer any queries directly. Please feel free to write to me here at Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AZ and I will come back to you.
Dr David Staples
United Grand Lodge of England
Complaint – Article published on Sunday 4 February
This is a complaint pursuant to your Editorial Code about an article published on Sunday 4 February on your website and in print on Monday 5 February. The article was headlined "Two Freemasons' Lodges Operating Secretly at Westminster" and Ian Cobain was credited with the byline. lt contained significant inaccuracies which created a substantially misleading article. The existence of the two lodges in question is not secret, they don't operate at Westminster and they don't have MPs or journalists in their respective memberships.
- The article claimed that "Two Freemasons' lodges set up for members of parliament and political journalists are continuing to operate secretly at Westminster". This is inaccurate. The Lodges do not operate at Westminster and only meet in Camden at Freemasons' Hall.
- The article stated "Exclusive: Lodges for MPs and journalists are so covert even lobby reporters do not know members". The Lodges in the article do not have any MPs or journalists as members.
- The Lodges are not secret. Their meeting place is open to the public all year and their meeting dates are published in the United Grand Lodge of England directory of Lodges and Chapters available for the public to buy from most Masonic retailers. Details of the founding of the New Welcome Lodge were published in the press including in the Daily Telegraph. The New Welcome Lodge and Gallery Lodge are referred to in Hansard and have had Wikipedia pages for 12 years. Both Lodges feature in publicly available academic articles (on Researchgate, among other resources) and press. A detailed history of Gallery Lodge, together with its past and present members, was published in 1968. lt is wilfully misleading for the Guardian to state that the Lodges operate secretly or to imply that their existence is "secret" or "covert".
- The article claimed that "The New Welcome Lodge has about 30 to 40 members ... only about four of the current members are MPs". This is fictitious, as anybody connected with the Lodge would know. New Welcome Lodge only has 22 members. There are no current MPs who are members of New Welcome Lodge.
We provided extensive information and quotes to Ian Cobain in answer to his questions about Freemasonry and he used this information in other contemporaneous articles about Freemasonry. He chose not to ask us about New Welcome Lodge and appears to have ignored all of the widely published and available information about it and Gallery Lodge. He did not provide us with any opportunity to correct the errors in his article. Instead, inaccurate information has been published to create a misleading impression of Freemasonry. The reader is deliberately left to infer that journalists and MPs meet in secret at Westminster as Freemasons, which is untrue and which the author must have known or suspected to be untrue. There is no evidence for, or truth in, these inferences in the article about Freemasonry.
By publishing inaccuracies which foster and promote popular prejudices against Freemasonry concerning corruption, power and control, the article damaged the reputation of the United Grand Lodge of England as a membership organisation and encouraged further discrimination against individual Freemasons.
We request that you publish a retraction of the article in an agreed form which confirms that journalists and MPs don't meet in secret at Westminster as Freemasons. We also request that you publish an apology to Freemasons for misleading the public about the nature of Freemasonry.
Dr David Staples
For and on behalf of
The United Grand Lodge of England