It's the start
With an emphasis on professionalism and transparency, President of the Board of General Purposes Geoffrey Dearing wants to take Freemasonry to a new level of alignment
How would you describe your masonic progression?
It was a very slow burn. I helped to manage a law practice in East Kent and became a Freemason in 1974 when two of my partners, whom I respected, proposed and seconded me. I only used to go to four meetings a year as I couldn’t do more than that; I was very busy working around the courts. But I found that those four evenings were very relaxing, because you’re with different people who have a similar view of life.
I joined the Royal Arch in 1981. That was purely accidental: somebody’s son was a member of our lodge, and I got talking to his father, who turned out to be the Grand Superintendent for the Province of East Kent. But, again, I was very busy with the business, so nothing else happened until the end of the 1980s, when I was made a Steward in the Province in the Craft and the following year Senior Warden.
Along the way I spent a year as president of the Kent Law Society and became a Past Assistant Grand Registrar in 1994, which is a common office for a lawyer to take in Grand Lodge. But I wasn’t involved at all in the Province, as I had been made managing partner of one of Kent’s largest law firms. I just had no time for anything other than getting on with the business.
When did your focus change?
In 2004, I stepped down as managing partner. My firm very kindly kept me on as a consultant, and I found the change quite reinvigorating. When you’re responsible for two or three hundred people, you’re not able to do your own thing, because you are looking for consensus. I was able to go off and do things that interested me. I did a lot of lecturing on various legal-related bits and pieces and worked with some small companies.
By 2011, I had ceased to be a consultant and coincidentally received a telephone call asking if I would become Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for East Kent. I’ve never had any grand career plan; if I have been asked to do a job and think I can do it, I’ve done it, simple as that. So that’s really why I’m sitting here now – it was never my ambition.
How did you approach the PGM role?
I went in there entirely cold. I hadn’t been on the executive and knew nothing about how the office ran. But I had run a business. So, I went in there and started asking questions – it was not commercial, and there was a lot that I could bring to it that would make it work better.
I believe strongly that communication is fundamental. Most of the really big errors and some of the biggest claims as a lawyer that I’ve been involved in were avoidable. Things get to where they get to because of poor communication or, indeed, a total lack of it. So, when I started in East Kent in 2011, I supported a communications team.
We don’t tend to know enough about what Freemasons do for a living, but I found that we had web designers, we had people who really understood software and we had people connected with the media and the written word. It meant that when we had the Holy Royal Arch 200-year celebrations in 2013, we were able to interest the media, and ITV came down.
‘When you have to make big calls, you need as much information as possible in order to get it right’
How have you found becoming President?
You’re in touch with every single aspect of how the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) runs, which is fascinating. I’m trustee of the Library and Museum, I’m on the Grand Master’s Council and I’m involved with the External Relations Committee. All aspects of what’s happening in Grand Lodge are ultimately the responsibility of the Board. It gives you an insight into the entire picture, and very few have that privilege.
When you have to make big calls, you need as much information as possible in order to get it right. I think in order to get everything joined up, to get alignment, the communication with the Provinces is very important. What goes on outside UGLE is every bit as important as what goes on inside it, so coming from the background I’ve had, I know about what goes on around the country in the Provinces. I’ve dealt with the same problems that other Provinces have experienced; I’ve got some understanding and some sympathy.
What do you mean by alignment?
The biggest thing in terms of what I hope can be achieved is improving alignment. If you ask what Freemasonry is about, it might be expressed entirely differently if it’s in Cornwall, Durham, Carlisle or London, but it should be broadly the same message. This hasn’t necessarily been the case, because everyone’s in their own areas, not always talking to others.
After the Second World War, there was a period when you just didn’t talk about Freemasonry, and people thought that was the norm. That did us no favours at all. You’re always going to have a lot of conspiracy theorists, and if you’re not providing correct information, that’s their oxygen. If they put false accusations in enough newspapers and say it often enough, people will believe it. We have to communicate.
What role does communication play in alignment?
What you do with communications and how you address those people who are talking nonsense is important. If someone publishes a newspaper article that says Freemasons have a lodge in Westminster with many MPs in it, that’s untrue. So challenge it. You do it quietly, but you do it fairly. And you make sure there’s an audit trail. I know the truth is far less exciting, but why don’t we have transparency? Why don’t we have complete openness? Why aren’t we relaxed? Why don’t we encourage the Library and Museum to talk openly about Freemasonry to people who visit us? I think that’s exactly how it should be and how it should develop.
How are you different to your predecessors?
I’m hugely respectful of tradition and history, but the success of Freemasonry will come from it being able to evolve. That’s how it has managed to survive for 300 years. My responsibility as President of the Board of General Purposes is to try to ensure that we stay relevant. It is our job to look at the big picture and the messages we put forward. We’ve got to get our thinking straight at the centre and then consider how to get the messages out there, making sure that all our organs of communication are going down the same lines.
The more we communicate, the better. David Staples is going to be a very good CEO for the organisation, and I think his approach to management has not been seen before at UGLE. But that is how it needs to be in the modern world. If we get the set-up, professionalism and the operation here as good as it can be, it’s the start.
Why should someone become a Freemason?
One of the attractions of Freemasonry is that it actually takes away a lot of insecurity, because it creates stability and has very good support mechanisms. If you think about the world today, a bit of consistency doesn’t go amiss.
If we can get alignment, I think Freemasonry will become more normal, more accepted and more understood. And that’s a good thing. It’s not for everybody; a lot of people don’t like the ceremonial that goes with it, but others do.
I don’t think it’s any accident that those who have been involved in the armed services or organisations that have a certain disciplinary culture find Freemasonry very attractive. I absolutely get that, but we all have different reasons. For me it’s actually about the people. I have met some terrific people along the way, and it’s been my privilege to know them and to spend time with them.
‘I’m hugely respectful of tradition and history, but the success of Freemasonry will come from it being able to evolve’
Where do you want masonry to be in five years?
It’s a big question. I don’t have a burning ambition for massive change, but I do have a goal to improve and evolve. The basics would be that we have good alignment within UGLE, including the Library and Museum and the Masonic Charitable Foundation. They’re separate and independent operations, but they’re both masonic and are golden opportunities for communication with the wider world.
I mentioned relevance before, because if Freemasonry is going to regenerate and be here in another 50 or 100 years, staying relevant will be part and parcel of that journey. Then there’s the way in which we communicate what we’re about – we have to do this in a much better way in order to strengthen our membership. It’s a big ambition, and I’m not sure that it can be achieved in five years, but we can certainly start the process.
We have a fantastic opportunity here. Today is not going to repeat itself tomorrow, or any other time, so we need to make the most of it. I always have the ambition that, every day, something constructive gets done.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
13 June 2018
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 14 March 2018 were confirmed.
The Minutes of the Annual Investiture of 25 April 2018 were confirmed.
Death of a former President
The Board had learned with great sadness of the death on 14 May of RW Bro Anthony Wilson, PSGW, who served as a member of the Board from 1995 to 1999 and again from 2001 until 31 December 2017, during the last thirteen and three-quarter years of which he was its President.
2019: The Board recommended that the annual dues (including VAT) payable to Grand Lodge in respect of each member of every Lodge for the year 2019 shall be:
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
2019: The Board recommended that the fees (exclusive of VAT) payable for registration, certificates and dispensations should be increased in line with inflation to:
A Resolution to put this into effect was approved.
Contribution to the Masonic Charitable Foundation
Under Rule 271 of the Book of Constitutions Grand Lodge must fix each year the annual contribution payable to the Masonic Charitable Foundation. After consultation with the Trustees of the Masonic Charitable Foundation it was agreed to recommend that for 2019 the annual contribution would remain at £17 in respect of each member of a Lodge in a Metropolitan Area or a Province, or in England and Wales that is unattached.
A Resolution to put this into effect was approved.
(I) 2017 The Grand Design
The Lecturer, Dr J.W. Daniel, had informed the Board that in addition to the four official deliveries to Lodge of the Grand Design, No. 6077 (Surrey); Worcestershire Installed Masters’ Lodge, No. 6889 (Worcestershire); Old Elizabethans’ Lodge, No. 8235 (East Lancashire); and The London Grand Rank Association, the Lecture was also delivered on seven other occasions throughout the Constitution. The Board expressed its thanks to Bro Daniel for the considerable time and effort he has spent in this connection.
(II) 2018 A Good Workman Praises his Tools: Masonic Metaphors in the Ancient World
The Prestonian Lecturer for 2018 is C.P. Noon. Four official Prestonian Lectures for 2018 have been or will be given under the auspices of: Stuart Lodge, No. 540 (Bedfordshire);
Durham Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 4441 (Durham); Derbyshire Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 8509 (Derbyshire); and Berkshire Lodge of Enlightenment, No. 9946 (Berkshire).
The Board had submitted a nomination to the Trustees of the Prestonian Fund and they had appointed Michael Karn as Prestonian Lecturer for 2019. Bro Karn stated that the title of his Lecture will be English Freemasonry during the Great War.
Arrangements for the delivery of the Lectures to selected Lodges will be considered by the Board in November and applications are now invited from Lodges. Applications should be made to the Grand Secretary, through Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretaries.
The Board desired to emphasise the importance of these Lectures, the only ones held under the authority of the Grand Lodge. It was, therefore, hoped that applications for the privilege of having one of these official Lectures would be made only by Lodges which are prepared to afford facilities for all Freemasons in their area, as well as their own members, to participate and thus ensure an attendance worthy of the occasion.
Grand Lodge of Albania
The Board reported to the Grand Lodge in March that the conduct of the Grand Lodge of Albania, in particular in relation to Kosovo, was giving rise to disharmony with other European Grand Lodges, and recommended that the Grand Lodge suspend relations with the Grand Lodge of Albania. The suspension of relations appears to have had little or no effect on the conduct of that Grand Lodge, and the Board therefore considered that it had no alternative but to recommend that recognition be withdrawn from the Grand Lodge of Albania.
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Erasure of lodges
The Board had received a report that sixteen Lodges had closed and had surrendered their Warrants. The Lodges are: First Lodge of Light, No. 468 (Warwickshire); Ryburn Lodge, No. 1283 (Yorkshire, West Riding); Captain Coram Lodge, No. 2737 (London); West Cheshire Lodge, No. 2977 (Cheshire); Lodge of Israel, No. 3170 (KwaZulu-Natal); Home County Lodge, No. 3451 (Surrey); St Ann’s Lodge, No. 3691 (London); Sincerity Lodge, No. 4424 (North Wales); St John’s Lodge, No. 4779 (Yorkshire, West Riding); Federation Lodge, No. 4807 (Warwickshire); Constancy Lodge, No. 6359 (Yorkshire, West Riding); Onward Lodge, No. 6528 (Cheshire); West London and Electric Lodge, No. 7404 (Middlesex); Frizington Lodge, No. 8082 (Cumberland and Westmorland); Concord Lodge of Monmouthshire Provincial Grand Stewards, No. 9010 (Monmouthshire) and Humanitas Lodge, No. 9261 (Middlesex).
A recommendation that they be erased was approved.
Grand Lodge accounts for 2017
The Audited Accounts of Grand Lodge for the year ended 31 December 2017 were approved.
Election of Grand Lodge auditors
The re-election of Crowe Clarke Whitehill LLP, as Auditors of Grand Lodge was approved.
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry
Grand Lodge received a talk by Dr Vicky Carroll, Director of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry.
List of new lodges
List of new lodges for which warrants had been granted by showing the dates from which their warrents became effective
26 April 2018
9962 Sewa Lodge Sierra Leone and The Gambia
9963 Phoenix Lodge Yorkshire, North and East Ridings
9964 Artemis Lodge Sussex
A Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge will be held at noon on Wednesday, 12 September 2018. Subsequent Communications will be held on 12 December 2018, 13 March 2019, 12 June 2019 and 11 September 2019.
The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on 24 April 2019, and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend. Full details were given in the Paper of Business for December Grand Lodge.
Supreme Grand Chapter
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter will be held on 14 November 2018, 25 April 2019 and 13 November 2019.
When John Hamill joined Grand Lodge as a librarian in 1971, he had no idea that he would go on to create a communications department, driving a policy of openness that has shaped modern Freemasonry
Can you remember a life before Grand Lodge?
I went off to university to read history and then went into librarianship before very quickly realising that the public library service was not what it used to be. At that time, if you had any sort of ambition, you went into administration, which is the last thing I wanted to do. Fortunately, when I was just about to start my postgraduate training, I saw an advert for a job at Grand Lodge. I came down and was interviewed, and despite the fact that I wasn’t going to be available for another nine months, they decided to appoint me.
That was in 1971, and I thought that I would probably have an interest for five or six years before moving off to some other sort of research library. But the interest never flagged, and I got hooked. Having said that, I thought I would have a quiet, academic life at the Library and Museum. If anybody had told me then about some of the things that I would be involved in over the next 45-odd years, I would have probably ordered the men in white coats.
I was the library assistant when I joined. In those days, we had a much smaller staff in the Library and Museum, but I hadn’t realised at the time that it was a very dynastic set-up. The then-librarian and curator was retiring 15 months after I joined, the assistant librarian would be taking over, and they were looking for somebody who was a potential successor to him. I had a wonderful 12 years where I could just open cupboards and drawers, look at files and read up on subjects. Then, in 1983, my mentor retired and I was appointed as the librarian and curator.
How did your job evolve in the 1980s?
As things began to change in Freemasonry, particularly changing public attitudes and growing interest by the press, we quickly realised that if we were going to better inform the public about Freemasonry, then the Library and Museum needed to have a key role. We opened up to the public in 1985 and held an exhibition in 1986. We went from being a very small group that maybe saw 7,000 or 8,000 visitors a year to managing about 28,000 to 30,000 visitors a year.
We are now regarded as a major cultural asset, as we have been roughly on this same site since 1776 – and there has been a reluctance to throw things out. We have probably got the best continuous archive in the country, and that is a huge resource for people who are interested in the history of ideas, social history and cultural history.
‘I’ve been lucky. As a retiree, I can say now that I have been one of those very fortunate people who has been paid a salary for doing a hobby’
Why did the Library and Museum decide to open up to the public?
The publication of The Brotherhood by Stephen Knight in 1984 was a real watershed moment for us. Up to that point, from the start of the Second World War, we had gradually withdrawn from society and didn’t engage with the media. In a sense, we shot ourselves in the foot; we allowed a mythology to grow, which hadn’t really been an issue before in this country. We had a pretty heavy time in the 1980s and right into the 1990s, when we were oftentimes a general whipping boy for the ills of society.
Because of the fact that I had gone out to communicate on behalf of the library, I suddenly found I was being drawn more into what is now called the Openness Policy, and I was made Grand Lodge spokesman, along with the Grand Secretary, in 1985. My introduction into the world of communication was an interview with John Humphrys, who wanted to interview somebody from Freemasonry on the Today programme. I remember it was at 7:05 in the morning, which is not my best time. I think it was something to do with the police, and I was really pushed into the deep end – there was so much going on at that time.
Does communicating with the press require a different skill set to that of a historian?
Yes and no. I was able to communicate as a result of things that happened to me during my life. I attended choir school, where we were taught how to use the voice and how to get as much out of the voice as possible. When I got involved in communications at Grand Lodge, I started to go out talking. It’s not exactly a skill – you can’t learn it. It’s something that you have inside you and that is brought out. When dealing with the media and being a spokesman, I just regarded it as being another way of telling people what we are doing.
In the late 1990s, we had a change of Grand Secretary, and it was an opportunity to do something that hadn’t been done for a couple of generations, which was to look at how the office was structured. I was doing more and more of what I would now call the communications side, and I didn’t want the Library and Museum to suffer. When I was asked if I would formally set up a communications department I said yes, but added that I couldn’t run the Library and Museum as well.
We advertised for somebody to come in for the position at the Library and Museum, with the title changed to ‘director’. We were fortunate to get Diane Clements, who did a fantastic job establishing the systems as they are now. I set up the communications department and was its director for 10 years from 1999.
By 2008, we had changed Grand Secretary and I was getting a bit stale in the role. Nigel Brown, who came in as Grand Secretary, had some expertise in communications and took it back into the private office, which I was very happy about.
‘The Pro Grand Master said at the end of 2017 that we have rebuilt confidence and pride in masonry at the grass-roots level over the past 30 years. That is a huge transformation’
What came after the communications department?
I think it was realised that I was an asset, so it was determined that I should have a job that would keep me around for when they needed to tap into my brain. In 2008, I became Director of Special Projects. I basically was the corporate memory at Grand Lodge. It is one of those roles that myself and the Deputy Grand Secretary Graham Redman do. We complement each other – there are areas I don’t know much about and he does, and vice versa. I formally dropped off the paid staff at the end of April, and Graham is continuing, but they’re still going to be benefiting from what’s in my brain after I cease formal employment.
As well as getting involved in whatever projects happen to turn up from time to time, I have been running the Grand Chancellor’s office. I had been involved with the External Relations Committee since the late 1980s and have done a lot of travelling abroad. People very kindly invited me over to talk about masonic groups, so I built up a network of contacts. The Grand Chancellor needed a staff member, so they introduced the office of Assistant Grand Chancellor, of which I was the first. Two years ago, I was promoted to Deputy Grand Chancellor, which I will continue to be, although I won’t be in the office.
As you retire, what state do you feel you’ve left Freemasonry in?
One of the most difficult parts of the Openness Policy, from back in its early days in 1984, was firstly persuading members that they could talk about Freemasonry, and secondly giving them the tools to talk about it. We had been quiet for so long, people had lost the habit of talking about it. There was a huge educational process that had to go on within the organisation to say, ‘yes, it is all right to talk about Freemasonry, but make sure you are sending out the right messages.’
I think the dividends of that approach came through last year in the Tercentenary celebrations – local media and local people were very positive about Freemasonry because members were very happy to talk about it. The Pro Grand Master said at the end of 2017 that we have rebuilt confidence and pride in masonry at the grass-roots level over the past 30 years. That is a huge transformation, and it has been fascinating to be involved in the process. Freemasonry has a far more positive future now than in, say, 1999 or 2000. If you’d asked me then, I would have been fairly pessimistic, but the things that have been done since then have really made a difference.
What is your proudest achievement?
As well as being part of the Openness Policy, I’m most proud of transforming the Library and Museum into a charitable trust, combined with working with academia to rebuild our connections there. I’ve been lucky. As a retiree, I can say now that I have been one of those very fortunate people who has been paid a salary for doing a hobby. I’ve had the most extraordinary opportunities to meet people who I couldn’t imagine meeting in other circumstances. I’ve been able to travel. I’ve made some very good friendships around the world. It’s just been fun.
Displaying gavels and a collecting box made from the propeller of a fighter plane, the Library and Museum commemorates the wartime contribution of Ad Astra Lodge’s members
In 1918, the importance of the war in the air led to the creation of the world’s first separate air force, the Royal Air Force. From the outset, Freemasons had been involved in this aspect of the war. Ad Astra Lodge, No. 3808, was formed to bring together members of the Air Inspection Directorate who had come from all over the country to design aeroplanes for the war effort.
The lodge’s gavels and collecting box were made from the propeller of one of its designs, the FE2d two-seat fighter, and the jewel showed a rotary aircraft engine and biplane. All these items are currently on show in the museum. Those who gave their lives as members of the flying services are commemorated by one of the four figures on the Freemasons’ Hall shrine.
When Ad Astra Lodge erased, its massive tracing boards, mounted on aeroplane engine camshafts, were transferred to Royal Air Force Lodge, No. 7335. This lodge, formed for RAF personnel staying in London, was granted the rare privilege of using the RAF Eagle and motto on its jewel.
Events programme launch
The Library and Museum is hosting a new programme of public events. Recent highlights included a talk on James Parkinson, the first person to describe the disease that now bears his name, and a Museums at Night event on the theme of symbols of Freemasonry. Visit the Library and Museum website for details of upcoming events.
Grand Lodge regularly receives special visitors, and none were more welcome than a group of Chelsea Pensioners who were greeted by then-Grand Secretary Willie Shackell and Junior Grand Warden Sir Tony Baldry
On their tour of Freemasons’ Hall, the Chelsea Pensioners were taken around the Grand Temple, saw Winston Churchill’s masonic apron in The Library and Museum of Freemasonry and visited several lodge rooms.
Each was given the latest copy of Freemasonry Today, with some taking the opportunity to have a look around Letchworth’s, the masonic shop within the hall.
A letter written more than 250 years ago in Amsterdam, congratulating the new master of a Leeds Masonic Lodge, has been discovered amongst the pages of a book in the market town of Skipton in North Yorkshire
In the two-page letter penned in 1762, Lewis Bastide, a member of Golden Lion Lodge, also speaks of his experience with foreign lodges in the Dutch capital and his intention to form an English lodge in Amsterdam.
The correspondence was unearthed by Chris Hill, secretary of Craven Lodge No. 810, during an audit of historical books and documents, where it was found in an envelope tucked into an old copy of a Book of Constitutions.
From records held at The Library and Museum of Freemasonry in London, the Golden Lion Lodge was warranted by the Premier Grand Lodge of England on January 8, 1761, and numbered 258 on the Roll of Lodges, and initially called 'A Masters Lodge'.
The Warrant for Lodge No. 258 was issued by Lord Aberdour, Grand Master, and appointed Sir Henry Ibbetson to be Master, Lewis Bastide to be Senior Warden and George Lawman to be Junior Warden.
During the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, Sir Henry raised a corps of 100 men at his own expense and, in recompense for his loyalty, was created a Baronet.
Lewis Bastide was a prominent merchant in Leeds whilst George Lawman was a master Surgeon in the Army. The lodge met at various taverns in Leeds including, from 1766, the Golden Lion, Briggate, from which the Lodge took its name in 1772. However, it ceased to meet regularly from December 1780, and was erased on February 1, 1786.
The only information available about the Lodge’s members is a list of names which appears in a volume entitled List of Members 1770.
Chris Hill, Secretary of Craven Lodge in Skipton, said: 'This wonderful letter was found totally by accident when I was conducting an audit of lodge possessions.
'It was in a plain envelope and fell out of the pages of an old Book of Constitutions. Despite it being there for goodness knows how long, the letter is in remarkably good condition, and is now carefully preserved.
'The contents of the letter are fascinating and give an insight into Freemasonry in Leeds and Amsterdam more than 250 years ago. It’s just a shame the name of the Master Lewis Bastide was writing to congratulate is not known.'
Below is the transcribed letter in full:
To Golden Lion Lodge No. 285
Amsterdam - the 23rd March 1762
Dear Sir & Brother,
I should have troubled you before now with a few lines had my business allowed me the time to write them, which I hope you will excuse: the friendship and brotherly love reigns no less betwixt us for all that, at least on my side and I dare flatter myself of its being the same on yours.
It is with great deal of pleasure that I have heard by Brother Geo. Scott that the Brethren have elected you Master of our Lodge, of which I wish you joy. What pleases me the most and what I can say without flattery is to see that our worthy Brethren have recompensed your merits, and that they have done but what you justly deserv’d by the zeal you have always shew’d for the Craft, and the trouble you have taken in helping to make the Lodge upon a good footing and to maintain a good order in the same, which I doubt not but you’ll continue, especially now that you are at the head of it, and to which I take the liberty to exhort you and the rest of the Brethren , and to see our laws well observed by everyone in the Lodge. For what greater beauty and pleasure there can be than to see a good order kept in a Society? It is that only, that creates and maintains a good harmony and friendship amongst the members thereof.
You’ll have heard that I have had the pleasure of visiting some foreign Lodges, where there is such a good order kept that you would be charmed with if you was to see it. I was admitted to one in Amsterdam where the Baron of Boetzelaer, Grand Master of Holland assisted, and as I had the honour of being placed by him, he asked me several questions about our Grand Lodge at London and how Masonry went on in England to which I answered in the best manner I was able. They did me the honour of drinking our Lodge’s prosperity which I return’d in a proper manner. I have met with some Brethren in Amsterdam, whom were made in England and being desirous to work in the English way I instruct them in the same and am going to form an English Lodge in the said place having accordingly wrote for a Constitution to Bro. Spencer.
I further observe that you are increased in number, and that you are removed to the old Kings Arms. I must beg to tell you upon the first article that you should be very discreet in taking people in; you know what we had resolved upon before I left Leeds, and I hope if we keep them rules our Lodge will flourish and will be composed of good sorts of people. In regard to the other article, that is about changing the Lodge, I did the necessary for the same and paid 2/6d to Bro. Spencer for it which please to note in conformity.
I cannot say to have anything further to write at present but to wish you health, happiness & prosperity in all your undertakings, and to Salute you as well as to the rest of the Brethren, by the number only known of the Enlighten’d mortals and believe me always Dear Sir and Brother
Your most obed’t and Humble Serv’t, and Affectionate Bro.
PS: I am afraid I shall not be so happy as to be with you before May. If I can be of any service to you or to any other friend please to give your letters to young Tennant who will take care to forward them to me.
In particular, they need help from London Freemasons who have never visited the Library and Museum to participate in an audience forum from 6pm-9pm on Thursday 7th June.
The forum will involve an accompanied visit around the museum, short presentations on potential future exhibits and workshop activities to gather thoughts and feedback.
The aim of the forum is to help broaden the museum’s appeal and better satisfy the wants and needs of visitors.
All participants will receive a £50 incentive for their time.
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 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