Free talk at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Sir Alfred Robbins: Prime Minister of Freemasonry and the First World War

Thursday 2nd October 2014 
Freemasons’ Hall, London

Dr Paul Calderwood will talk about Sir Alfred Robbins and his role in Grand Lodge from 1913 to his death, looking in particular at the impact of the First World War. 

The evening will include a private view of the new Library and Museum exhibition on Freemasonry and the First World War which opens in September 2014. 

Wine will be served.

Free but please reserve your place by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in More News
Thursday, 05 June 2014 01:00

The Craft in black and white

Pressing matters

In his Prestonian Lecture, Paul Calderwood traces Freemasonry’s faltering relationship with the press throughout the twentieth century. Andrew Gimson finds out why things have started to improve

Why did Freemasonry’s public image change so much for the worse during the twentieth century? This question struck Paul Calderwood many years before he delivered the 2013 Prestonian Lecture on the subject. He became a Freemason in the early 1970s and towards the end of that decade began to notice the declining tone of newspaper coverage: ‘By the 1980s, it was pretty dire. I was amazed at the things I read in newspapers. These reports didn’t match my experience.’ 

On investigating the image of Freemasonry, Paul found that it had ‘a very positive profile in newspapers in the late nineteenth century. It was very much part of the public sphere’. How and why did things go wrong? On retiring from business, Paul decided to conduct a scholarly inquiry into this question, and enrolled at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he researched and wrote a doctoral thesis, which has now been published.

‘Throughout 1900-1940, the largest part of the fraternity’s press profile was derived from the strong involvement of the Royal Family, which played a key role in the administration of the Order,’ explains Paul. ‘Three of the four kings of twentieth-century Britain were Past Grand Masters of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) – as were kings of Sweden and Denmark. They provided Freemasonry with publicity on a lavish scale.’ 

Thanks to its royal favour, Freemasonry drew eminent people from many different walks of life. Archbishops, aristocrats, government ministers, judges and mayors flocked to become Freemasons, commending the fraternity as ‘the key to model citizenship’.

But Paul has identified another, less obvious factor that contributed to the positive image: the openness of Freemasonry itself. ‘There can be little doubt that the raised masonic profile between 1916 and 1936 was directed by the most senior members of UGLE,’ says Paul. ‘The nature of the press coverage – its detail, frequency and, above all, volume – are clear indications that the in-trays of the leaders of the Order were being officially scanned on a daily basis for news items.’ During those twenty years, the number of masonic articles in the national press increased fourfold. Indeed, there were times when as many as four articles appeared on the same day in the same newspaper.

‘Throughout 1900-1940, the largest part of the fraternity’s press profile was derived from the strong involvement of the Royal Family.’ Paul Calderwood

News outlets including the Press Association, The Times and The Daily Telegraph employed masonic correspondents. Lord Ampthill, who in 1908 became Pro Grand Master of UGLE, had a high opinion of journalism, while Alfred Robbins, who in 1913 became President of the Board of General Purposes, was a well-known journalist. Robbins knew exactly what journalists needed, and he had a network of contacts through whom it could be supplied. Freemasonry in these years did not fear the press; it embraced it. Paul, who himself worked in public relations, sees UGLE as a pioneer of these methods that we now take for granted.

A step backwards

So what went wrong? Robbins died in 1931, but his network continued to function for a few years. Ampthill’s death in 1935 led to the decisive change: ‘There was a change in leadership at Grand Lodge, to people with a very different attitude to communications, and they effectively withdrew from the public sphere.’

The abdication in 1936 of King Edward VIII showed that publicity ‘can be a two-edged sword’. The high profile of Freemasonry had been maintained by his active participation during his years as an immensely popular Prince of Wales, and now, in Paul’s words, ‘his reputation went into free-fall, and an asset proved more of a liability’. The rise of fascism on continental Europe, with Freemasons facing persecution, was taken in England as confirmation of the wisdom of keeping a low profile.

In the years after World War II, Freemasonry in England continued to grow substantially in numbers, only levelling off in the late 1970s and then, in common with most membership organisations, going into decline. But the press no longer carried masonic stories. Paul observes that news values had changed; editors were less interested in printing reports about such bastions of the establishment as Freemasonry. 

Some of the churches, too, having once welcomed Freemasonry as an ally, now began to see the Order as a rival. But the greatest single factor in the decline in coverage was the decision by Freemasonry itself not to make news available, and to be an organisation that jealously guarded its privacy.

‘Many members of the public saw a secretive organisation that did nothing to rebut the conspiracy theories that multiplied around it.’

Addressing the damage

Even when Freemasonry came under attack, no reply was made. ‘Critics had the field to themselves,’ explains Paul. ‘They were able to fill the vacuum with their insinuations.’ In the 1980s, a ‘witch-hunt’ developed, and for a long time no attempt was made to counter these stories. 

As Paul explains, the attitude of many Freemasons was: ‘Let them think what they want. We know we’re right.’

The problem with taking the high road was that many members of the public saw a secretive organisation that did nothing to rebut the conspiracy theories that multiplied around it. At length, the need for a policy of greater openness was seen. According to Paul, this was ‘quite controversial’, even though it was a return to the greater openness of 1916-1936. 

With so little material published about Freemasonry in the twentieth century, Paul has broken new ground both with his book and his lecture – which he has now given about thirty-six times in England and Wales: ‘There is a lot of interest in the subject of our public image and what can be done to improve it.’ Provinces in England and Wales have appointed publicity officers, who are trying to communicate better with the media, and many are also successfully using social media.

As a young man, Paul read history at the University of Leicester before qualifying as a journalist and working for a short time on local newspapers. He understands journalism and, from his days in public relations, has absorbed the lesson that ‘the prelude to understanding is communication’. What a pity it is that having learnt this lesson earlier than many other organisations, Freemasonry then forgot it for half a century.

To order a copy of the 2013 Prestonian Lecture, ‘As we were seen: The Press & Freemasonry’, from Amazon, visit 

Press talk comes to Beaconsfield

Bowen Lodge, No. 2816, which meets at Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, has hosted the 2013 Prestonian Lecture, ‘As we were seen: The Press & Freemasonry.’ Given by journalist and academic Paul Calderwood, the lecture was an historical account of Freemasonry’s relationship with the press over nearly three centuries. The event raised around £900 for various charities, including the National Autistic Society.

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
12 December 2012
Report of the Board of General Purposes


The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge of 12 September 2012 were confirmed.

Nomination of Grand Master

HRH The Duke of Kent KG was nominated as Grand Master for the ensuing year.

Annual Investiture of Grand Officers, 24 April 2013

So that sufficient accommodation can be reserved for those Brethren who are to be invested and their friends, admission to the Annual Investiture is by ticket only. Brethren to be invested for the first time may invite to be present with them three qualified Brethren, and those to be promoted two qualified Brethren. Allowance having been made for such an issue and for those whose presence in the Grand Lodge is essential, a few seats will remain.

Written application for these seats may be made to the Grand Secretary between 1 March and 31 March by Brethren qualified to attend the Grand Lodge: Past Grand Officers, Masters, Wardens (not Past Wardens) and Past Masters qualified under Rule 9, Book of Constitutions.

Applications should state clearly the name, address and Lodge of the Brother concerned and under which of the four categories mentioned his application is made. If necessary, a ballot for the allocation of seats will be held in early April, and tickets will be posted to successful Brethren on or about 8 April. Brethren who have been unsuccessful will be so informed.

Masonic Year Book

The next edition of the Masonic Year Book 2013–2014 will be available next summer. The charge remains at £12 per copy, plus postage and packing where appropriate. It is not proposed to produce a new edition of the Directory of Lodges and Chapters during 2013. Copies of the 2012 edition will still be available from Letchworth’s shop.

Every Lodge will receive one copy of the Masonic Year Book free of charge. The Board emphasises that these copies should be available to all the members of private lodges and not regarded as for the exclusive use of the secretary to whom, for administrative reasons, they are dispatched.

Metropolitan and Provincial Lodges: As in previous years copies will be dispatched direct to secretaries of lodges. Lodges Abroad: Sufficient copies will be dispatched to District Grand Secretaries for distribution to lodges in the Districts. Lodges abroad not in a District will receive their copies direct.

Prestonian Lectures for 2013

The Board has considered applications for the delivery of the official Prestonian Lectures in 2013 and has decided that these should be given under the auspices of the following: Jubilee Masters Lodge, No. 2712 (London), Bowen Lodge, No. 2816 (Buckinghamshire), Torbay Masters Lodge, No. 8227 (Devonshire).

The Lecturer, W Bro P.R. Calderwood, PSGD, states that the title of the Lecture will be: As we were seen – the Press and Freemasonry.

Deputy and Assistant Grand Chancellor

Since 2007 most of the functions previously exercised by the Grand Secretary in connection with the Grand Lodge’s relations with recognised Grand Lodges have been carried out by a Grand Chancellor.

The Board has given consideration to increasing the number of Grand Officers to include a Deputy and an Assistant Grand Chancellor in order to provide support to the Grand Chancellor, particularly in visiting recognised Grand Lodges.

It now recommends that power be given to the Grand Master to appoint one or both of those additional Grand Officers. Notice of motion to amend the Book of Constitutions accordingly appeared on the paper of business.

Recognition of a Foreign Grand Lodge

The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri

The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri was formed in June 1866 from three lodges consecrated between 1858 and 1860 in Missouri by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio, which was recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England on 11 June 1997.

The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri shares jurisdiction with the Grand Lodge of Missouri, which granted it recognition in 2002 and has also confirmed that it would have no objection to our doing so.

It having shown that it is regular in origin and that it conforms to the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition, the Board has no reason to believe that it will not continue to maintain a regular path and recommended that the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri be recognised.

A resolution to this effect was approved.


The Board had received reports that the following lodges had resolved to surrender their Warrants:

Bury Lodge, No. 5119, in order to amalgamate with Lodge of Relief, No. 42 (East Lancashire); Howardian Lodge, No. 5317, in order to amalgamate with Llangattock Lodge, No. 2547 (South Wales); Rockhaven Lodge, No. 7649, in order to amalgamate with Horwich Lodge, No. 2324 (West Lancashire); and Oriel Lodge, No. 9023, in order to amalgamate with Lodge of St Andrew, No. 8934 (South Wales).

The Board accordingly recommended that the lodges be removed from the register in order to effect the respective amalgamations. A Resolution to this effect was approved.

Erasure of Lodges

The Board had received a report that 24 lodges had closed and surrendered their Warrants. The lodges are: Abercorn Lodge, No. 1549 (Middlesex), Rose Lodge, No. 1622 (London), Ravenscroft Lodge, No. 2331 (Hertfordshire), Woodstock Lodge, No. 2379 (S. Africa, WD), Wallsend Lodge, No. 2703 (Northumberland), Social Lodge, No. 3472 (West Lancashire), Borough Polytechnic Lodge, No. 3540 (London), St. Christopher’s Lodge, No. 4170 (London), Crofton Oak with Shooter’s Hill Lodge, No. 4277 (West Kent), Connaught Lodge, No. 4802 (Warwickshire), Mosaic Lodge, No. 5048 (London), Emanation Lodge, No. 5232 (London), City Lodge, No. 5287 (Northumberland), King David Lodge, No. 5719 (London), Tudor Lodge, No. 5994 (Middlesex), Optima Lodge, No. 7380 (Namibia), H. A. Mann Lodge, No. 7493 (Surrey), Oaks of Arden Lodge, No. 7601 (Warwickshire), Cheiron Lodge, No. 7775 (Buckinghamshire), Charter Lodge, No. 7834 (Zimbabwe), Posthorn Lodge, No. 8467 (London), St. Amphibalus Lodge, No. 9154 (Hertfordshire), Ex Cathedra Lodge, No. 9229 (Warwickshire) and Phoenix of the Metropolis Lodge, No. 9744 (London).

Over recent years, the lodges have found themselves no longer viable. The Board is satisfied that further efforts to save them would be to no avail and therefore had no alternative but to recommend that they be erased. A Resolution to this effect was approved.

List of New Lodges for which Warrants have been granted by the MW The Grand Master

12 September 2012: No. 9877 Silverstone Lodge (Silverstone, Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire) and No. 9878 Pax Hill Lodge (Eastleigh, Hampshire and Isle of Wight).


12 brethren were expelled from the Craft.

Still Yet More Of Our Yesterdays

A presentation was given on the Proceedings of Grand Lodge of 200 and 100 years ago by VW Bro J.M. Hamill, PGSwdB, and VW Bro G.F. Redman, PGSwdB, Assistant Grand Secretary.

Quarterly Communications

A Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge is held on the second Wednesday in March, June, September and December. The next will be at noon on Wednesday, 13 March 2013. Subsequent Communications will be held on 12 June 2013, 11 September 2013, 11 December 2013, 12 March 2014. The Annual Investiture will be held on 24 April 2013.

Supreme Grand Chapter

Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter are held on the second Wednesday in November and the day following the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge. Future Convocations will be held on 25 April 2013, 16 October 2013 (transferred to this date from 13 November by resolution of Supreme Grand Chapter, 26 April 2012) and 1 May 2014.

Published in UGLE

ugle logoSGC logo