Held at the end of 2013, the University Lodges’ Ball not only harks back to a bygone era of masonic tradition but also shows the modern face of Freemasonry
Recalling a time when the masonic lodges of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge staged lavish social events, the University Lodges’ Ball, sponsored by Aerice, was held on 23 November in the glamorous surroundings of the Honourable Artillery Company’s Armoury House. Hosted by the university lodges in conjunction with Freemasons from across London, the night proved to be a glittering celebration of masonic social tradition.
In the autumn of 2012, the Secretaries of Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, and Isaac Newton University Lodge, No. 859, Chris Noon and Alistair Townsend, both – independently – had the idea of reviving the ball tradition. ‘We used to hold balls every year or two in the nineteenth century and we realised that 2013 would be the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the greatest ball that we ever held: the Grand Ball, which was in commemoration of the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark, both of whom attended the event,’ explains Chris.
Held by Apollo in 1863 at Christ Church, attendance at the Grand Ball was large and the catering was lavish. After World War II, however, Freemasonry followed the rest of the country into austerity and the balls fell into abeyance. Chris and Alistair decided to plan a grand event so that the masonic ball might regain its rightful place as the highlight of the social calendar.
With five hundred and fifty guests attending, the ball featured the best of British music, entertainment and hospitality, and also raised money for military charity Combat Stress and the Royal College of Surgeons. ‘We are delighted to be able to benefit from this amazing event,’ says Uta Hope, director of fundraising and communications at Combat Stress.