Following several months of building work, the new refurbished Berkshire Library and Museum of Freemasonry has been opened by their Provincial Grand Master Anthony Howlett-Bolton, in the presence of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton
Also in attendance for the opening was Dr Vicky Carroll, Director of the Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons’ Hall in London, the Mayor of Wokingham and a number of invited guests.
The Library and Museum was started in 1896 at the Masonic Hall in Reading. It was created by the members of Grey Friars Lodge No. 1101 with assistance from members of other lodges in Reading. It was moved to the Berkshire Masonic Centre in Sindlesham in 1969, but space was not available, so all the contents were put into storage.
By 2002, a small, somewhat pokey, room was found and part of the contents were put on display, however, space was still at a premium, so the majority of the contents were kept in storage. This has all now been consolidated into two rooms in Sindlesham with state of the art display and racking with additional modern storage space developed elsewhere in the building.
When the Library and Museum moved to Sindlesham, it was funded by the sale of regalia donated to the Province and donations from individual masons and lodges. The then Librarian and Curator, Roger White, was still purchasing artefacts as when they became available so add to the collection.
The museum collections contain items of ceramics, glassware, regalia, jewels and a lot of other items such as horse brass, gavels, watches, paperweights, cufflinks and similar memorabilia. There is even have an American casket handle. There are about 3,500 items altogether some of which are more than 200 years old.
The library itself houses over 20,000 books on Freemasonry, including many rare editions – making the collection one of the largest in England. In addition to books, there are over 3,000 certificates, prints, postcards, photographs and other archival items, as well as a reference database in excess of 90,000 records. These collections continue to increase in size and provide a very valuable resource for reference and research by masons and non-masons alike.
Although the library was primarily established for the interest, education and information of its own members, it is also used by members of the general public wanting information on Freemasonry, or those researching the masonic membership of their ancestors. Equally, over the years, they have had a number of students using their resources to research materials for their academic degrees.
Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Berkshire’s Provincial Grand Master, said: ‘Whilst it has been something of a rollercoaster challenge to bring this project to fruition over several years, I am delighted that we have now succeeded in establishing this new facility and indeed as a consequence the provision of disabled access throughout the whole building.
‘All of this is a direct result of a very generous bequest from a former stalwart librarian Robin White whose unbounded enthusiasm resulted in the increase of the number of books from a few hundred to the sizeable number we hold today.’
Sir David Wootton, UGLE’s Assistant Grand Master, said: ‘In London, we are also of the firm view that it is important that we ensure that the history of Freemasonry and its rationale is more widely understood both by Freemasons and the wider community alike. To this end, we are taking significant steps to ensure that we play our part in raising the positive profile of Freemasonry with the full understanding that we have, have always had and will continue to have an important role to play in civil society as a whole.
‘With this in mind, it is pleasing to see that you have taken the opportunity to rationalise and fresh these facilities so as to make them more accessible to all. I understand that you have firm plans in mind to ensure that the inter-connected Library and Museum are open on a regular basis for much wider use and that whilst your library catalogue is already online, you intend to explore further the use of modern technology to enhance the users experience.’
A different view
In the first of our photo series revealing Freemasons’ Hall through a lens, John Revelle speaks to photographer Kenji Kudo about his passion for this iconic building
What inspired you to start taking photos?
As a boy, I had a toy pinhole camera that had been given away with a photography magazine. I was also developing and printing my own photos from a very young age, I think around five years old. It was a wonderful experience – and one which sparked my lifelong love of photography. It’s difficult to believe that was almost half a century ago now.
What do you like to photograph and why?
We get used to seeing the things around us, the familiar objects of the everyday. I try to make those things strange and unusual. Renew them.
When did you first come to Freemasons’ Hall and why did you want to photograph it?
My first visit was in 2011 when I was shooting for a book to be published in Japan. At the time, masonic buildings there were largely inaccessible to the public. But when I asked if I could shoot here I was told that, although it was an unusual request, it would be no problem and the friendly staff let me do my work.
What made you come back last summer to take this second batch of photos?
After that first shoot I was hooked. Some time later, I was looking back over all my photos and Freemasons’ Hall stood out as the most exciting subject I’d ever worked on.
And then Jody at UGLE found some of my photos on Instagram and got in touch, asking if he could repost them on social media. I of course agreed. He also said that if I was ever in London he would personally take me round the building for another shoot and give me full access to all the lodge rooms. I was on a plane the next month.
The photos have been so popular, even gracing the cover of the last issue of this magazine. I’m very thankful to him for taking such an interest. I think Freemasons’ Hall is special because it’s not been ruined by changes or renovation. It has that majestic air of years ago.
Any advice for members wanting to take their own photos of lodge rooms or masonic architecture?
Use a wide-angle lens that lets in lots of light and work lightly and quickly to capture the emotion of what you see in your mind’s eye.
What projects do you have coming up in the future?
I would love to publish a glossy coffee table book of my photos of Freemasons’ Hall. Something permanent and high quality to truly honour the building for years to come.
Membership & modernisation
At the heart of UGLE’s membership system is the new Director for Member Services. Prity Lad takes us on a tour of Freemasons’ Hall and reveals UGLE’s forward-thinking support programme for current and future members
Prity Lad has just finished her photoshoot for FMT, which saw her leading the photographer around Freemasons’ Hall looking for the perfect location to sum up the welcoming nature of her new position, while being careful not to lose us in its labyrinthine interior. She’s worked in the building since 2007, but notes, ‘It’s rare that I have time to look around this amazing place. It’s vast.’
Prity’s time has been particularly precious recently, having taken up her new position as Director for Member Services. The role was created as part of the internal restructure of UGLE under Grand Secretary and Chief Executive Officer Dr David Staples.
‘There’s been a shift in the way we operate here at UGLE,’ explains Prity. ‘Departments originally reported directly into the Grand Secretary. Dr Staples has brought in a new level of senior management to develop a professional, fit-for-purpose headquarters for the benefit of our members and staff. I work closely with the Director of Masonic Services with whom I share an office. It works well, as there is a need for cooperation internally and communication externally to look after our members’ interests.’
Before taking up her new position, Prity had worked for UGLE as a software training consultant, focused on ADelphi, UGLE’s internal membership system. She had read law at university, after which there was a period of working in education and training, during which time she obtained a post-graduate certificate in education. In 2000, she changed tack and moved into the IT sector. Her role as a training manager for a software house involved implementing training and managing change for the Ministry of Defence, NHS and cruise sectors, both in the in the UK and overseas. She started working at Freemasons’ Hall in 2007, but left after a year to raise her family, before returning in 2012.
‘I had no prior knowledge of the world of Freemasonry,’ Prity says. ‘The attraction for me was working in IT in a unique business setting,’ she says. ‘I’ve learnt a lot about the Craft since then and I find it fascinating – the traditions, the values, things that don’t feature prominently in most working environments, and things that I have come to respect – I’m happy to be part of it.’
Prity’s role allows her to draw on her admiration for Freemasonry as she helps to develop new ideas and methods. Her department oversees three primary components: Registration, External Relations and District support. Part of this involves reaching out to people interested in Freemasonry. ‘Areas we want to focus on include attracting new members, but also finding better ways to engage with our existing membership. In order to do this, we want to identify and promote what Freemasonry represents and the values the organisation has,’ says Prity. ‘Respect, integrity and charity are core to Freemasonry and are the reasons many people join in the first place. We want to emphasise that, and show the inclusive nature of the organisation.’
That is only one element of Prity’s job. An overarching goal across the three departments is to streamline, simplify and modernise processes without making them inaccessible to Freemasons who might be less comfortable with technology. The registration team deal with all aspects of membership, enabling them to build a complete picture of somebody’s masonic record, ensuring it remains updated with the relevant degrees, offices and certificates. ‘The intention is to modernise the process,’ says Prity. ‘We want to eliminate paper and repetition, reduce delays and make it easier for the lodge Secretaries and, ultimately, the members themselves.’
When it comes to Districts, part of the focus recently has been on improving the administrative support supplied by UGLE. The Districts are experiencing annual growth of 10 per cent, and UGLE wants to support and amplify the work they do within their communities. As regards external relations, process and protocols must be followed to ensure UGLE’s polices are adhered to correctly. And this is one area where Prity’s IT background comes in handy.
‘We receive a lot of enquires from people around the world interested in Freemasonry, and the external relations team is looking at modernising that interface so people can get the information they need online,’ she says. ‘We are always here to support potential members, and want to make information accessible, such as automating some processes in a secure environment. That way, if somebody is interested in becoming a Freemason, they can visit the website, put in their information and we can advise them which Grand Lodge to contact depending on where they are located. We want to make the website more informative and easier to use. We don’t just want to modernise, we want to enhance what we offer without excluding any of our existing membership.’
Prity then turns to two initiatives that Grand Lodge would like to roll out to the Districts to help with learning and development. Solomon is a collection of online material facilitating the members’ learning – it contains presentations, essays and ‘nuggets’ of knowledge and information from a variety of sources that will help in any stage of a masonic career. ‘This has already been rolled out across our Provinces. It is our intention to introduce Solomon and The Members’ Pathway to the Districts,’ she says.
‘The Members’ Pathway was launched in 2017 and provides a series of steps that lodges and chapters can follow to attract, encourage and introduce new members. An important element of both initiatives is keeping current members engaged and adding value to help with their journey, to keep it relevant to them as they continue. It’s a different way of working and can help in the way they liaise with their members.’
That commitment to the members is central to everything Prity is doing, just as it is at the heart of what Dr David Staples and UGLE are working towards. ‘There’s a refreshing change taking place,’ she says. ‘There are so many ways to move forward and the senior team is bringing together a skill set with fresh ideas from which the members will ultimately benefit. That’s the long-term goal. It’s about our current members, what we can do for them to improve our services, but also for those who want to learn more about Freemasonry. There’s a vast amount of good work done in the Provinces that benefits the communities around them and we want to make potential members aware of that when they visit the website and read our literature. We want to raise the profile of the incredible work that members are engaged in – at all levels.’
‘We want to eliminate paper and repetition, reduce delays and make it easier for the lodge Secretaries and, ultimately, the members themselves’
Freemasons’ Hall – the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) – has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence for the fifth year running
Now in its ninth year, the achievement celebrates businesses that are consistently excellent, having earned great traveller reviews on the TripAdvisor website over the past year. As a result of earning a Certificate of Excellence every year for the past five years, Freemasons’ Hall has also qualified for the Certificate of Excellence Hall of Fame.
Freemasons’ Hall is a stunning Grade II listed Art Deco building in the heart of London’s West End and welcomes over 200,000 visitors from across the world every year. The building was originally built as a peace memorial between 1927 and 1933 to honour the 3,000 English Freemasons who fought and died during the First World War.
Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of UGLE, said: ‘This is a wonderful accolade to receive five Certificates of Excellence in a row for Freemasons’ Hall. The architecture and history of the building have made us an iconic landmark and we’re delighted with the many positive comments we’ve received.
‘We’re now busy working hard on a number of projects to enhance the experience for visitors – including taking part in the world’s largest architecture festival Open House this September – and continue to make us a popular tourist destination in London.’
The Certificate of Excellence accounts for the quality, quantity and timeliness of reviews submitted by travellers on TripAdvisor over a 12-month period. To qualify, a business must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, have a minimum number of reviews and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months.
Freemasons’ Hall is open to the public Monday to Saturday and includes free guided tours of the building, which incorporates the Museum of Freemasonry and the magnificent Grand Temple.
Read all the reviews of Freemasons’ Hall on TripAdvisor here.
United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has agreed to become the second rest stop for the charity event Walk the Night on Saturday 27 July 2019 – and is encouraging members and their friends to take part
You can either walk a marathon (26.2 miles) or a half marathon (13.1 miles) through the night. The event will start and finish at Granary Square in King’s Cross, with a warm-up and entertainment. The route will take you past many of the capital’s famous landmarks, including Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace.
UGLE also have a special discount code for members to use – FREEMASONSWTN25 – which will give you a 25% discount off the registration fee of £45. You would be expected to raise a minimum of £199 for the charities.
UGLE’s Communications & Marketing Director Michelle Worvell is one member of staff who is taking part. She said: 'UGLE is delighted to be taking part in this wonderful fundraising event. I’ll be walking a half marathon through the night and it would be fantastic to see as many of our members and their friends taking part – and even better in regalia!'
This is now the second year that the event is taking place, having raised £500,000 in 2018 for the charities.
Check-in will be open from 5pm to 7pm on the day, with walkers setting off in waves from 8pm.
After the huge success of last year’s event, Lifelites Chief Executive Simone Enefer-Doy is once again taking on an epic nationwide road trip to raise money for life-limited and disabled children in hospices
Simone left the office on Great Queen Street on the morning of 10 May 2019 in a London Fire Brigade BMW i3, kindly organised by the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London. She was also accompanied by Widows Sons outriders and a classic Ronart.
Dubbed ‘Lift for Lifelites returns’, the 3,000 mile trip will see Simone visit a landmark in every Province in England and Wales in a variety of weird and wonderful modes of transport provided by Freemasons, Widows Sons and other volunteers.
Landmarks will include Bleinheim Palace, Goodwood and the National Space Centre, as well as some slightly quirkier venues such as the British Lawnmower Museum. Confirmed modes of transport so far include a Tuk Tuk, a steam train, a Lamborghini, a quadbike, a DeLorean, a classic Rolls Royce and many more.
All the money raised will go towards the charity’s work donating and maintaining life-changing technology to life-limited and disabled children in hospices across the British Isles. This technology gives them the opportunity to play be creative, control something for themselves and communicate, for as long as it is possible.
Simone said: 'We are a very small, but very hard working charity and are determined to do all that we can to impact the lives of children who don’t have the same opportunities that we do due to the confines of their condition. Every moment is precious for these children and their families, and we want to make sure they can make the most of every second. This is only possible with the support of the Provinces.
'We were absolutely blown away by the support we received last year. Provinces pulled out all the stops and we can’t thank them enough. Will this year be even bigger and better?'
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) welcomed members from across the globe to join the Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Kent, and Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, for this year’s Craft and Royal Arch Annual Investitures at Freemasons' Hall
Investiture week saw the District Support Team of Lister Park and Louise Watts taking the opportunity to organise a number of District-centric events. On 24th April 2019, new District Grand Masters and Provincial Grand Masters were given a guided tour of Freemasons’ Hall, followed by a presentation and luncheon with the Chief Operating Officer of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, Les Hutchinson, and Senior Grant Officers.
A Workshop for District Grand Secretaries filled the afternoon before the day was concluded by a Fellowship Gathering for all District members, with their wives and significant others, in the Vestibules area outside the Grand Temple. It was a relaxed and informal evening hosted by Dr Jim Daniel, UGLE’s Past Grand Secretary, who gave a short and amusing welcome speech, alongside Willie Shackell CBE, another Past Grand Secretary, the Rt Hon Lord Wigram, Past Senior Grand Warden, and Bruce Clitherow, Past Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies.
Following the Royal Arch festivities on 25th April 2019, District Grand Masters and their guests were then invited to join the Grand Secretary, Dr David Staples, for a relaxed drinks evening.
As a result of an organisational restructure at UGLE in January 2019, the department for Member Services, under the Directorship of Prity Lad, has a renewed focus on attracting new members and engaging with its existing membership.
Comprised of three key functions, the Registration Department, District Support and External Relations, they are committed to a common goal of making UGLE an organisation that is fit for purpose and an efficient headquarters for its members.
Prity Lad, UGLE’s Director of Member Services, said: ‘Being our first opportunity this year to welcome and entertain our District guests, these events were hugely important to us. It is our commitment to work in partnership with the Districts more closely than ever by creating a function of expertise, training and events and to support and raise the profile of the charitable work which our Districts are engaged in.
‘It was a huge honour for me to meet with many of those who attended and I look forward to working together over the next coming months. I would also like to give grateful thanks to Jim, Willie, Lord Wigram and Bruce for supporting this inaugural event, which we intend to be the first of many.’
The United Grand Lodge of England celebrated its epic Tercentenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall in 2017 – and a DVD to mark the occasion is now available from Freemasons' Hall
Over 4,000 Freemasons from Provinces and Districts were joined by representatives from over 130 sovereign Grand Lodges from around the world to mark 300 years since the founding of the world’s first Grand Lodge for Freemasons.
The audience witnessed a theatrical extravaganza which embraced the rich history and heritage of Freemasonry and featured a cast of renowned actors including Sir Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Sanjeev Bhaskar.
The DVD is free and available to anyone who visits Freemasons’ Hall – please ask for a copy at the front desk of the building. The DVDs were also distributed to Provincial Offices for all UGLE members.
Over 700 Freemasons packed the magnificent Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall to witness a world first creation of a new lodge for young Freemasons – Essex Cornerstone Lodge No. 9968
A number of years ago, the Essex Cornerstone Club committee started to think about the formation of a new lodge, specifically for young Freemasons. They had a dream of what its purpose would be and what it might achieve. There followed a long period of planning and preparation and as time went by and progress was made, the realisation dawned that the lodge really would become a reality.
From then on, the excitement and anticipation built and reached their peak on Saturday 2nd March 2019 – the day Essex Cornerstone Lodge was Consecrated. The Grand Temple was the stage for this special occasion with over 700 Freemasons from across the English Constitution travelling to witness the ceremony.
The sponsoring lodge, Essex Provincial Grand Stewards' Lodge No. 8665, started the proceedings by opening the meeting. UGLE’s Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton, and the Provincial Grand Master of Essex, Rodney Bass OBE, were then welcomed into the Grand Temple to rapturous applause.
The main event, the Consecration ceremony, was beautifully and memorably delivered by Rodney Bass, who commented: ‘This new lodge will encourage and support young Freemasons in their journey, providing a gathering place for young masons to increase their masonic knowledge and experience, and enabling Cornerstone Club Members to maintain strong relationships.’
The Founders of the lodge were presented to the Provincial Grand Master and reminded of their obligation to support and nurture their new lodge and uphold the values of Freemasonry for future generations.
Following this, those below the rank of Installed Master retired from the Temple which amounted to over 300 members. That included many from over 15 new and young masons’ clubs across England, who came to show their support and demonstrate the very essence of new and young Freemasons.
The Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Essex, Paul Reeves, then installed the Primus Master, Elliott Chevin, who went on to invest his officers. The Address to members was delivered by Sir David Wootton.
The Essex Cornerstone Lodge then presented a cheque for £2,022 to the Essex Festival 2022, making them Vice Patrons of the Festival.
The Provincial Grand Master then presented the lodge with a set of gavels, commissioned from an acacia tree from his own grounds. Following the meeting, a spectacular Festive Board was held for nearly 600 Freemasons where they experienced a musical treat including trumpeters, a string quartet playing modern music, and a unique performance of the Masters’ Song performed by a female singer acapella.
The members were also able to interact with a live photo mosaic display by uploading photos from the day and evening. The photos came alive culminating in a large mosaic of the Cornerstone Lodge crest, which provided a magnificent background to the banquet capturing memories of the historic event.
Perhaps the most unexpected part of the evening was when the waiters pouring coffee began to bang on the tables, then their coffee pots and they miraculously turned into a most impressive drumming act. Not only that, all 600 diners were given their own drum kit and in unison, joined together and delighted in a memorable and incredibly fun act.
By Morwenna Brett
Editor, StopPress, the RCO’s online magazine for organists and choral directors
Even in a big city like London, it can be difficult to find organ practice facilities, particularly if you are trying to fit organ practice around the day job. The United Grand Lodge of England have recently restored and enlarged the 1933 Henry Willis organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons' Hall, and also installed a new three-manual and pedal Viscount Classic digital organ in one of their meeting rooms there. They are generously offering practice time on these organs free of charge to RCO Members.
Freemasons' Hall is in Great Queen Street, WC2, and is well-staffed – so you can book your practice from 7am in the morning if you like, or up to 9pm in the evening, subject to availability.
I booked a session on both organs. The Willis is a joy to play, though it took some getting used to, after my small, bright, mechanical action parish machine. Plenty of warm 8' options all round as you would expect, with a pretty Cor de Nuit and Sylvestrina on the Choir. The reeds are mellow, and blend rather than stick out – apart from the 8' Grand Tuba (with its own blower in the basement) which would awaken the dead. The Crescendo pedal will take you by surprise if you confuse it with the Swell – Choir and Swell are both enclosed (though as with many English instruments, the action only really happens on the top third of pedal travel), and there is an abundance of couplers and accessories to explore.
I began with playing Bach, and of course it lacked the snap and sparkle that we have come to expect from modern organs. But try repertoire contemporary with the instrument and all makes sense. After years of trying to coax Stanford and Parry out of my own church instrument, suddenly I was doing their music justice: cruising over the keyboards in an easy legato, with loads of appropriate registration possibilities.
Freemasons' Hall is one of the finest Art Deco buildings in London, and the Willis fits the solemn and opulent surroundings – note that the gilded case above your head is new, designed for the Grade 2* listed interior by Harrison & Harrison when they enlarged the instrument in 2015.
There are regular public tours of the Grand Temple, so organists are asked to play quietly while these are on. If you want no disturbance, then book the 2017 three-manual Viscount Regent Classic which has everything you might need for a peaceful practice session.
It’s in a meeting room, but don’t be fooled – this is a large space (and the instrument is voiced accordingly), and it's warm and comfortable too! Just watch the roll top as it comes back down with a snap that could end your organ-playing career if you’re not careful.