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.
A renewal of pride
For Director of Special Projects John Hamill, the Tercentenary celebrations have been an opportunity to reflect on the past, enjoy the present and plan for the future
One thing that I hope will come through to readers of this special souvenir edition of Freemasonry Today is that not only were the celebrations successful, but also that the brethren, their families and friends who attended them had a great deal of enjoyment in taking part – whether it was at the dramatic performance and ceremonial at the Royal Albert Hall or one of the many smaller local events.
The activities that took place around the country and in our Districts overseas were worthy of such a notable anniversary. But the celebrations were not limited to our own members. Many of our sister Grand Lodges around the world regarded the anniversary not just as being the Tercentenary of the Grand Lodge of England, but also the Tercentenary of the start of the organised, regular Freemasonry of which they now form a part.
Throughout the year there was a steady stream of visitors from other Grand Lodges who came to Freemasons’ Hall in London, simply to be here during a very special year and to say thank you to the ‘Mother Grand Lodge’.
PLACE FOR HUMOUR
Sometimes we take ourselves a little too seriously and forget that Freemasonry is to be enjoyed. We take great pride in our work and carry it out with dignity and decorum, but even within the confines of a lodge meeting there are times when humour and gentle banter has its place.
We should keep in mind that part of the Address to the Brethren, given at each Installation meeting, in which we are reminded that we should ‘unite in the Grand Design of being happy and communicating happiness’. A great deal of happiness was communicated during the Tercentenary celebrations. That is something we should preserve and build on in the future.
When attending major celebrations as Pro Grand Master, the late Lord Farnham would often say that there were three things we should do at special anniversaries: reflect on the past, celebrate the present and plan for the future. Were he still with us, I think he would agree that we have followed his wish list during the Tercentenary year.
A RICH HISTORY
During the lead-up to the celebrations, we certainly reflected on the past. The history conference in Cambridge organised by Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, in September 2016; the new exhibition gallery at the Library and Museum in London; the splendid celebratory book The Treasures of English Freemasonry 1717 – 2017 and the amazing performance at the Royal Albert Hall will all be permanent records of that reflection. To this we should add the exhibitions that were mounted in masonic premises and public museums around the country, and the many talks given by masonic historians.
We celebrated in style, as the events recorded in this issue show. Our grateful thanks should go to everyone at both national and local levels who put so much work into making the celebrations a success. It was hard and, at times, exhausting work, but not without its moments and well worth the effort given the obvious enjoyment of those who attended.
As we reflected on our past, so we looked forward, too. The Membership Focus Group and its successor the Improvement Delivery Group, the University Lodges Scheme and the growing network of young masons groups across the country are all focused on the future.
As the Pro Grand Master said in his review of the year in December, we can now move forward from here with enormous self-belief. One of the intangibles that the Tercentenary celebrations has produced is a renewal of pride in Freemasonry among the members. These are all things that we should foster and build on so future generations can enjoy Freemasonry, as we and our predecessors have done.
‘The activities that took place around the country were worthy of such a notable anniversary’
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.’
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
13 December 2017
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Well Brethren, what a year, and if you are anything like me you are looking forward to putting up your feet over the Festive Season, and actually reconnecting with your family. Having said that it has been an enormous privilege to have been Pro GM during the Tercentenary year and I am sure that the Deputy and Assistant GMs will echo that sentiment in respect of their important contributions.
I do not propose to give you a résumé of the whole year. That would be impossible and you would never get to lunch. At the outset Provinces and Districts were asked to concentrate on coming up with events in their own jurisdiction which their Brethren could join in and enjoy. Dare I say, Brethren, they all did this in spades and I include our Groups of Lodges in that. Quite rightly there was often a significant charitable aspect to these events. I should add here that this was greatly enhanced by the imaginative input from the MCF with their multitude of grants across the Provinces. The Rulers and Past Rulers have endeavoured to meet your requests and you, Brethren, wherever we have been, have looked after us with incredible kindness and generosity, thank you so much.
Since our last Communication, we have had the Grand Ball and our major celebratory event at The Royal Albert Hall, at the end of October.
The events of the 29th to 31st October were a resounding success and I must congratulate and single out Keith Gilbert and his team for the superb administrative arrangements throughout. Diane Clements and the Museum staff who managed to collect, catalogue and display the many gifts brought by the 133 Grand Masters from around the world amazingly quickly, I think in under one hour! These are now all displayed in the Museum. And, finally, to James Long and his team who took us all by surprise at the Royal Albert Hall with an amazing and uplifting performance of Masonry across the three Centuries. The whole “London” experience was way beyond, certainly, my expectations and from the comments we have had since, it all simply astounded our hundreds of visitors from overseas. Well done indeed.
Brethren, has there ever been a better time to be a Freemason. I really believe that during the year we have learned so much about how to talk about our Freemasonry with non-members, helped enormously by the Sky Documentary which has opened our eyes and made the general public more receptive. I would love us to have had more editorial control over the end product, but that would, perhaps, have defeated the object. Nonetheless I think we can go forward from here with enormous self belief and pride
We look forward now to 2018, continuing the work of the Improvement Delivery Group and capitalising on the successes of this year, rewarding those who have worked so hard throughout the current year at our March Communications and remembering the fact that it is 100 years since the end of WW1 after which this magnificent building was built as the Masonic Peace Memorial to recognise the sacrifice of over 3,000 English Freemasons who fell in that war.
Brethren, thank you for all your endeavours this year and I wish you a most enjoyable and relaxing Christmas with your families and send you all my good wishes for 2018.
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is pleased to welcome Dr Vicky Carroll as its new Director
Carroll, who started at the end of November, replaces Diane Clements when she retires in December. Carroll has most recently been working for the City of London Corporation as the Principal Curator of Keats House in Hampstead and as the Head of the Guildhall Art Gallery.
She has also managed London’s William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, leading the delivery of its Heritage Lottery Fund-assisted redevelopment in 2011-13.
‘I am looking forward to this new challenge, building on the recent successful re-display of these wonderful Designated collections so that we can engage with an ever-wider audience,’ Carroll said.
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
The Library and Museum collection includes items that reflect the masonic celebrations of midsummer and midwinter
Feemasons have historically celebrated two feasts of Saint John: the feast of John the Baptist on 24 June, and that of John the Evangelist on 27 December, roughly marking midsummer and midwinter. Several important masonic events have taken place on those days, including the first meeting of the Grand Lodge on 24 June 1717 and the union of the two English Grand Lodges in London on 27 December 1813.
A few years ago, following the death of masonic author Frederick Smyth, the Library and Museum received a wooden block with a metal printing plate from his estate that he had used to create his own individual St John’s Day cards.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the members of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, produced a series of cards to mark the occasion, some of which are shown in the photo gallery above.
Grand Masters from around the world come bearing gifts
When Grand Masters from around the world came to Freemasons’ Hall as part of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations last week, many of them also came bearing gifts
Around 90 gifts were presented to the UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, who spent time inspecting this wonderful selection which ranged from a ceremonial sword and bronze stag, through to a collection of Russian dolls depicting the Grand Master himself.
The gifts have now been put on display in The Library and Museum of Freemasonry for anyone who visits Freemasons’ Hall to see.
As you can see from the gallery at the top, the array of thoughtful gifts was vast.
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.