To bring the union of the Grand Lodges into being, Articles of Union were agreed that laid the foundations of the United Grand Lodge of England. As such an important document, it was to be carried into each Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge by the Grand Registrar. Sir John Soane (1753-1837) offered to produce an ‘ark’ to stand in front of the Grand Master’s throne into which the document could be safely placed while the meeting was in progress
Soane was one of England’s greatest architects. He became a Freemason and, after the union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, was the first person to hold the new office of Grand Superintendent of Works. As such, he was the professional adviser overseeing the maintenance and development of Freemasons’ Hall in London.
The first work Soane produced for Grand Lodge was what became known as the Ark of the Masonic Covenant. It was an impressive piece of furniture, triangular in shape with an Ionic, Corinthian or Doric column at each corner and surmounted with a dome topped by Soane’s signature lantern.
The ark stood in front of the Grand Master’s throne from 1814 until 1883, when disaster struck. A fire broke out in the old Grand Temple, gutting its interior and destroying the portraits of former Grand Masters, as well as most of the furniture and Soane’s ark. Much was done to reconstruct the interior of the room and reinstate the paintings and furniture, but the ark was not replaced.
One of Soane’s 20th-century successors as Grand Superintendent of Works was architect Douglas Burford, who hoped one day to persuade Grand Lodge to have a replica constructed. It took 30 years for that dream to finally become a reality, and Burford was delighted to learn that, as part of the Tercentenary celebrations, Soane’s ark was to be reconstructed.
The project was one of cooperation between The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Sir John Soane’s Museum, the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation and master wood carvers Houghtons of York. Their combined efforts produced a superb and accurate reconstruction of one of the lost treasures of Grand Lodge.
After appearing in an exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum, the ark was transported to the Royal Albert Hall for the great Tercentenary celebration, where it was dedicated by the Grand Master. Afterwards, like the original, it took its place in the Grand Temple as a permanent memorial.
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 Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall hosted the largest gathering ever of Grand Masters from all around the world
Grand Masters from more than 130 foreign Grand Lodges were welcomed by UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, who addressed all those present, ‘Ladies, gentlemen and brethren, I am delighted that so many of you have been able to come to London to celebrate our Tercentenary anniversary with us. Indeed, I am advised that this is the largest gathering of Grand Masters there has ever been.
‘I am so pleased to have this opportunity to greet you all this morning in the relative peace and tranquillity of our magnificent Temple within Freemasons’ Hall, and it is most important to me that I meet you all.’
Dressed in their formal regalia, the Grand Masters brought kind words and greetings to commemorate the Tercentenary. Many gifts were presented to the Grand Master, who then spent time inspecting the selection, which included Russian dolls depicting the Grand Master himself. The gifts have now been put on display in The Library and Museum of Freemasonry for everyone to see.
Events continued into the evening when the Grand Masters, along with their guests, attended a reception held at the Mansion House, with a welcome by the then Lord Mayor of London Andrew Parmley and Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes.
‘I am so pleased to have this opportunity to greet you all in our magnificent Temple' HRH, The Duke of Kent
International concert organist, Richard Hills, FRCO, will be playing the organ of the Grand Temple at Freemasons' Hall on Wednesday 13th June, 7:15pm
Part of the preparation for the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary was the overhaul and enhancement of the 1933 Willis III organ in the Grand Temple to coincide with a series of free, public organ concerts. This will be the first organ concert of 2018 to be given by London-based organist Richard Hills.
Richard’s musical background began when he commenced classical organ studies at Rochester Cathedral, before he became Organ Scholar at Exeter College, Oxford. Richard has numerous awards to this name alongside national and international TV and radio appearances, and is Organist at St Mary's Bourne Street in London.
The Organ Concert is free to attend, with doors opening one hour beforehand – to book your place, please click here.
A special invitation
From flapper girls and casinos through to big band orchestras and silent discos, The Grand Ball was a night to remember for the guests coming to Freemasons’ Hall
On the evening of Saturday, 30 September 2017, more than 2,000 Freemasons, their families and guests braved the autumnal weather to attend The Grand Ball at Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street.
A highlight of the Tercentenary social calendar, The Grand Ball was an opportunity for brethren of all ranks to enjoy a night of entertainment at UGLE’s headquarters. Lodge rooms were transformed into music venues, bars and even a tea room. The Grand Temple was unrecognisable following the installation of the largest raised dance floor in the capital.
Guests visiting from as far away as the US, Brazil, South Africa and Australia were treated to wine tasting, minigolf, arcade games, a giant Scalextric track and virtual-reality installations. The more active had a chance to dance to a jazz orchestra in the Grand Temple and a ceilidh in the Old Boardroom. Those heading up to Lodge Room 9, which had been transformed into a ‘rockaoke’ venue, had the opportunity to sing along with a live rock band.
Speciality gin, whisky and cognac bars, along with The Goose & Gridiron ale house, offered guests their favourite tipple, with more than 1,000 bottles of Champagne consumed by the end of the evening. Luckily, there was plentiful food available, including a seafood bar, world food stalls and an upmarket barbecue – all of which culminated in a breakfast served in time for the survivors’ photograph at 2.30am.
With an estimated 1,300 guests still partying the night away at 3am, the hardest part of the evening proved to be persuading them that it really was time to go as the doors were closing.
From the Grand Secretary
What a year that was – a year to look back on with a great sense of achievement and pride. The sheer number and variety of events held across Provinces and Districts is a testament to the vitality and relevance of Freemasonry today, and to your hard work.
It has been a year when we have opened up Freemasons’ Hall to a number of major events, including the unveiling of our VC Memorial, our Artist in Residence, Sky TV, two Open Days and two organ concerts. Not forgetting a Grand Ball, at which 2,000 or so revellers marvelled at the transformation of the Grand Temple and many other art deco rooms for a splendid night.
It was also a year when other Sovereign Grand Lodges from around the globe celebrated with us the 300th anniversary of the formation of the world’s first organised Grand Lodge, which was established in London in 1717. Indeed, we were greatly honoured that more than 130 Grand Masters from these Sovereign Grand Lodges travelled great distances, many with their wives, to be with us at the various events taking place from 29-31 October. All of which culminated in the spectacular celebration at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 31 October.
A TIME TO REMEMBER
How privileged we have been as Freemasons in the United Grand Lodge of England to have been part of such an important and influential organisation at this time; 2017 will long be remembered, and we must now capitalise on this success as we move forward into the next 300 years.
In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we feature the spectacle and fanfare at the Royal Albert Hall when the Grand Master was joined by more than 4,400 brethren for a very special meeting. A testimony to the enduring strength of Freemasonry, the event was a remarkable feat of organisation that saw members transported to a banquet held in Battersea, south London – all of which required some meticulous preparation and planning.
Yet amid the grand celebrations, the everyday business of Freemasonry continued. We report on this year’s New and Young Masons Clubs Conference at the Severn Street Masonic Hall in Birmingham, which welcomed 100 new and young Freemasons from across the country. With attendees discussing ways to ensure the Craft’s relevance in the 21st century, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales Gareth Jones emphasised the need for masonry to become more intertwined with everyday communities.
As John Hamill explains in his ‘Reflection’ column this issue, it is our contribution to communities that will stand the test of time. While the central core of our membership may not make the headlines, they do keep Freemasonry alive by following its principles and tenets. In the process, they make a difference to their communities and ensure our legacy. I hope that you and your families have a wonderful festive season.
‘It is our contribution to communities that will stand the test of time’
When memories are made
With the masonic world coming to London in October to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry, John Hamill reports on a very special meeting to honour the creation of the first Grand Lodge
The Tercentenary celebrations reached their peak on 31 October, when more than 4,400 brethren attended an especial meeting of the Grand Lodge at London’s Royal Albert Hall. In addition to brethren from overseas Districts, there were more than 130 Grand Masters from all parts of the world – the largest gathering of Grand Masters ever to have been held.
These visitors and guests from other Grand Lodges met at Freemasons’ Hall on 30 October, where they were welcomed by and introduced to HRH The Duke of Kent, with many presenting gifts to mark the Tercentenary. These were displayed in the Library and Museum. Later that evening, guests attended a reception at Mansion House, official residence of The Lord Mayor of London, Dr Andrew Parmley.
Those able to get tickets for the Royal Albert Hall will long remember this special event. Proceedings began when Grand Lodge was opened and called off in a side room. Following the fanfare, the Grand Master entered the Queen’s Box to huge applause, accompanied by HRH Prince Michael of Kent. The visiting Grand Masters were then introduced, while their location and Grand Lodge seals were gradually added to a map of the world projected on two large screens.
As it was an especial meeting, there was no formal business, and entertainment was provided by actors Sir Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Sanjeev Bhaskar, with screen projections exemplifying the principles, tenets and values of Freemasonry. The performance gave insight into Freemasonry’s history over the last 300 years with reference to the famous men who have graced it with their presence. Those who organised this memorable performance deserve great thanks.
At the end of the evening, the Grand Master was processed onto the stage. The Deputy Grand Master read out a message of loyal greeting sent to Her Majesty The Queen, and the response received. With the assistance of the Grand Chaplain, the replica of Sir John Soane’s Ark of the Masonic Covenant was dedicated. The Pro Grand Master congratulated the Grand Master on his 50th anniversary in that role and thanked him for his service. In response, the brethren rose and gave the Grand Master a prolonged standing ovation. He was clearly touched. The Grand Master was then processed out of Royal Albert Hall with his Grand Officers.
Afterwards, nearly 2,000 attendees were bussed through London’s rush-hour traffic to Battersea Evolution for a reception and banquet, which will be long remembered. The activity at the Royal Albert Hall was streamed online to the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, where nearly 1,000 brethren and ladies (including the wives of our official guests) were able to watch the ceremonies. They 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.
It was a remarkable occasion, and all who were involved in organising it are due our grateful thanks for such a fitting celebration of the Tercentenary of the first Grand Lodge in the world.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 41 SPRING 2018
Inside the Albert Hall
There were many highlights for me in 2017, notwithstanding the Royal Albert Hall event followed by dinner at Battersea Evolution.
In my own Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight, we held a family fun day at Marwell Zoo, and to quote a famous brand catch line, ‘It did exactly what it said on the tin.’ We had a fabulous masonic family day with 2,500 tickets sold, including a number of lodges sponsoring local charities to bring worthy groups of youngsters to the event. We then closed our celebrations with a Provincial Grand Tercentenary Ball in November 2017, which was well attended and the perfect way to cap the year in style.
Paul Davis, Bishop’s Waltham Lodge, No. 8190, Southampton, Hampshire & Isle of Wight
Attending the Tercentenary celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall, it was lovely to be part of it all in my first year in Freemasonry as an Entered Apprentice. This was my first visit to the venue. It made it special to have such a grand ceremony to show me all the history of Freemasonry and how it is spread across the world.
A few months later I then had my second degree in January 2018, which was especially memorable as it was our lodge’s Past Masters night. I was duly passed to the rank of Fellow Craft and now look forward to the next step on my journey of Freemasonry.
Mark Daniels, Loyal Travellers Lodge, No. 2733, Birmingham, Warwickshire
I was so proud to have been present at the Royal Albert Hall. It was a superb experience, telling such a wonderful story.It was an honour to be part of a living, breathing performance of our 300 years of existence, which was worthy of the West End. I felt included and a part of the production. The singing at the end, and to hear and be part of a large choir, was something I will never forget. After 40 years as a Freemason, I have never felt prouder to be part of our wonderful fellowship.
Ian Hockney, Loyalty Lodge, No. 7154, Farnborough, Hampshire & Isle of Wight
I was thoroughly impressed by the whole event at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It was an incredible day, which was entertaining, informative, educational and moving. I was also particularly pleased by the historical elements and the very professional and suitably entertaining manner in which it was all delivered.
The cast was brilliant too. I haven’t met anyone who wasn’t inspired by the complete presentation – congratulations to everyone involved.
Paul Settle, Romney Marsh Lodge, No. 4743, Dymchurch, East Kent
Funds will buy two extended high-res lifts for London Fire Brigade
Metropolitan Grand Master Sir Michael Snyder surprised a packed Freemasons Hall on 2nd November 2017 when he announced the launch of a £2.5 million appeal to purchase two extended high rise aerial vehicles for London Fire Brigade
This took place at the annual London Grand Rank Investiture meeting of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, where a party from London’s Fire Brigade were welcomed into the Grand Temple, led by Steve Apter, London Fire Brigade Director of Safety and Assurance, and Dr Fiona Twycross, Chair of London Fire EPA. They were presented with the first instalment of a cheque for £375,000.
These appliances will be in addition to the extra resources for extended height aerial vehicles already requested by the Commissioner as part of a Mayoral review into the Brigade’s resources in July.
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton thanked Sir Michael Snyder for their generosity: ‘We are very grateful to Sir Michael Snyder and London Freemasons for this first donation and their commitment to raise the significant sum of money to buy such important equipment. It’s important that we have the most effective resources for the city environment in which we serve, so we not only have to consider the reach of our aerial appliances but whether they are agile enough to move around the capital’s narrow streets.
‘This has been an incredibly busy and emotional year for everyone connected with London Fire Brigade and we welcome this recognition.’
At the meeting Steve Apter, in his address to the members of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, commented: ‘They will be mobilised across London and used for both fighting fires and effecting rescues. They can reach 22-24 floors far higher than anything we currently have in service. This generous donation by London Freemasons provides a very large support to our tight public funds and financial capability.
'On behalf of The London Fire Brigade and the people of London, we thank you for your very kind offer and look forward to working with you in the future.’
Sir Michael Snyder then replied: ‘On behalf of every London Freemason, I am delighted to announce the launch of our latest charity appeal in support of the London Community. These extended height aerial vehicles will help better equip the busiest fire and rescue service in the country. The appeal is the latest step in the London Freemasons objective to support the London community and help make London a safer place to live and work.’
'It follows successive appeals to support London’s Emergency Services by the purchase a two-million-pound state of the art Cyberknife for Bart’s Hospital, five rapid responder cars for the London Ambulance Service, and the recent two million pounds donation to help fund London’s badly needed second Air Ambulance.’
The Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall was the setting for the largest gathering of Grand Masters from all corners of the world on 30th October
For the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations, Grand Masters from over 130 foreign Grand Lodges were welcomed by UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.
HRH The Duke of Kent then addressed all those present: 'Ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren, I am delighted that so many of you have been able to come to London to celebrate our Tercentenary anniversary with us. Indeed, I am advised that this is the largest gathering of Grand Masters that there has ever been.
'I am so pleased to have this opportunity to greet you all this morning in the relative peace and tranquillity of our magnificent Temple within Freemasons’ Hall, and it is most important to me that I meet you all.
'May I also thank you for your gifts which we will have the chance to see in the Museum after this meeting. Thank you again for your support.'
Dressed in their formal Regalia, they bought kind words and greetings – and some brought gifts to commemorate the Tercentenary – for the Grand Master, which the Library and Museum of Freemasonry will soon be putting on special display for visitors to see.
Events were then set to continue into the evening when the Grand Masters, along with their guests, attend a reception held at the Mansion House, with a welcome by the Lord Mayor of London Andrew Parmley and Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes.
The glitz and glamour of the Grand Ball took centre stage at Freemasons’ Hall on Saturday 30th September
Held in honour of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary, over 2,000 Freemasons and their partners and guests from across the country attended this lavish event.
Freemasons' Hall was transformed as part of the celebration, with a big band performance by the Oxford University Jazz Orchestra in the Grand Temple, which had been converted into one of the largest raised dancefloors in London.
Other musicians and entertainers performed throughout the building alongside ‘silent’ and normal discos and a casino, which ran long into the night.