To celebrate their lodge number in 2017 and the Tercentenary of Grand Lodge, the Duke of Portland Lodge No. 2017 held an emergency meeting in the Indian Temple (No. 10) at Freemasons’ Hall on Thursday 25th May 2017
Brethren and their ladies left from Goldsmith Street, Nottingham, by coach in the morning, accompanied by the Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire, RW Bro Philip Marshall and other guests.
On arrival at Great Queen Street, the party, which had been joined by brethren and ladies travelling from other parts of the country, received a guided tour of the Freemasons’ Hall and the Grand Temple.
At the meeting, the Worshipful Master W Bro William Randall, invited W Bro Tim Sisson PPrJGW to take his chair in order to initiate his son George Sisson into the lodge. Bro Edward Sisson, Senior Deacon, then acted as Junior Deacon to guide his brother around the Temple.
8 March 2017
An address by VW Bro John Hamill, PGSwdB, Deputy Grand Chancellor and Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry
Diane Clements: Ninety-nine years ago today, Charles Graham Robertson, a railway clerk from Dorking in Surrey, was fighting with the Royal Fusiliers on the Western Front. He realised that his position was being cut off so he sent two men to get reinforcements while he stayed at his post with one other man and a Lewis gun. He managed to kill 'large numbers of the enemy' but no reinforcements arrived and realising that he was now completely cut off he and his fellow soldier withdrew about ten yards. He stayed there for some considerable further time firing his Lewis gun but was again forced to withdraw. In this new position he climbed on top of a parapet with his comrade, mounted his gun in a shell hole and continued firing at the enemy who were pouring across the top of, and down, an adjacent trench. His comrade was killed and Robertson severely wounded but he managed to crawl back to the British line, bringing his gun with him. He could no longer fire it as he had exhausted all the ammunition. For his initiative and resource and magnificent fighting spirit which prevented the enemy making a more rapid advance, Robertson was awarded the Victoria Cross in April 1918. A few months later, after the end of the First World War, in February 1919, he was initiated in Deanery Lodge No. 3071 in London. He is one of over one hundred and seventy holders of the Victoria Cross who have been identified as freemasons, representing more than 13% of the total recipients.
John Hamill: The Victoria Cross was a product of the Crimea War. In many ways this was one of the first ‘modern wars’, reported from the battle field by newspaper journalists. The media, then as now, liked stories of heroes and villains, and it soon became apparent that there were many heroes but no award available to acknowledge the heroic actions of the ordinary British serviceman. Other European countries already had awards for their armed forces that did not discriminate according to class or rank. In 1856 with increasing public support, Queen Victoria ordered the War Office to strike a new medal which was made open to all ranks. The Victoria Cross is awarded for valour 'in the face of the enemy' to members of the British armed forces and to members of the armed forces of some Commonwealth countries and previous British Empire territories.
Many have been inspired by the stories of those such as Charles Graham Robertson but holders of the Victoria Cross were often modest men who didn’t make a fuss and many masonic researchers have worked hard to track down their masonic links, including the 2006 Prestonian lecturer, Granville Angell. Diane and I would like to acknowledge the efforts of all those researchers today.
The Victoria Cross was awarded 628 times for action in the First World War. Over 100 recipients have so far been identified as Freemasons of whom sixty-three were members of English Constitution lodges.
As many of you will know this building, now known as Freemasons’ Hall, was formally opened in 1933 as the Masonic Peace Memorial and it was, and is, a memorial to all those Freemasons who died in the First World War. Acknowledging this and as part of the Tercentenary celebrations, the United Grand Lodge is going to have a memorial pavement laid outside the Tower doors with details of all the English Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War. The date we have chosen for the ceremony is 25th April.
DC: On 25th April 1915 a battalion of over 1,000 men from the Lancashire Fusiliers landed on a beach at Gallipoli. During the landing, the men were met by very heavy and effective fire from the Ottoman Empire troops defending the beach and lost over half their number. The survivors, however, rushed up and cut the wire entanglements and managed to gain the cliffs above the beach. Amongst them were Major Cuthbert Bromley, Lance Corporal John Grimshaw, Private William Kenealy, Sergeant Alfred Richards, Sergeant Frank Stubbs and Captain Richard Willis. The courage of these six men was recognised by the award of the Victoria Cross to each of them and the event was hailed in the Press as '6 VCs before breakfast'. Three of these men were Freemasons.
Richard Willis had joined St John and St Paul Lodge No. 349 in Malta in 1901. He retired from the army in 1920 and took on an education role within the RAF before working as a teacher. Cuthbert Bromley, who had been a member of Invicta Lodge No. 2440 since 1909, was wounded during the landing and sustained further wounds over the next two months. He was evacuated to Egypt to recover and in August 1915, whilst returning to the Gallipoli peninsula aboard a troopship, he was killed when the ship was torpedoed. After the war John Grimshaw became a recruiting officer for the army. He joined Llangattock Lodge No. 2547 in 1928. Frank Stubbs died during the landing. William Kenealy was seriously wounded in a later battle on the Gallipoli peninsula and died in June 1915. As a result of a wound sustained in the action Alfred Richards had to have his leg amputated and was discharged from the army as unfit for further service. Despite this he served in the Home Guard during the Second World War.
JMH: Also as part of this year’s Tercentenary celebrations a Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire will be unveiled next month on 18th April. Since planting began in 1997, the National Memorial Arboretum has become a special place honouring those who have served, and continue to serve, our nation in many different ways. It’s not a cemetery but covers 150 acres of trees and planting, a peaceful place of remembrance. There are more than 300 dedicated memorials on the site acknowledging the personal sacrifices made by the Armed Forces, the Police, and the Fire and Rescue and Ambulance services. The idea of a Masonic Memorial Garden was the millennium project of a group of Provinces led by Staffordshire. Realising the project was not without its difficulties but, assisted by additional finance from Grand Lodge, has now been fully realised. The garden is entered between two pillars, topped with globes, leading to a squared pavement on which are two large ashlars. The Province of Staffordshire held a service in the garden on Armistice Day last year.
DC: I am sure that many of those here today are familiar with the name of Toye, Kenning and Spencer, one of the country’s oldest companies still in operation and, of course, the manufacturer of masonic regalia and the Tercentenary Jewel. The company also has a long tradition of making military decorations although not the Victoria Cross. It may not be so widely known that the grandfather of W Bro Bryan Toye, Alfred Toye, was awarded the Victoria Cross, at the age of twenty for his actions on the Western Front in March 1918 when he established a post that had been captured by the enemy, fought his way through the enemy with one other officer and six men, led a counterattack and was able to re-establish the line. Continuing his military career after the war, Brigadier Toye, as he became, joined Freemasonry in Grecia Lodge No. 1105 in Egypt in 1930.
Following the Armistice on 11th November 1918 which ended most of the actual fighting, a series of peace treaties were negotiated between the two sides. The Treaty of Versailles with Germany was signed on 28th June 1919 and it was registered by the Secretariat of the newly formed League of Nations in October that year. The First World War had led to the fall of several empires in central and eastern Europe, the first of which was the Russian Empire overthrown in an internal revolution by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in 1917 and which led to civil war. Britain and her allies got caught up in this and were forced to send a Relief Force to North Russia in June 1919. Three men were awarded the Victoria Cross during this action. One of them was Royal Navy Commander Claude Dobson who led a motor boat flotilla to the entrance of Kronstadt harbour. In his 55 foot boat he passed through heavy machine gun fire to torpedo a Russian battleship. In 1925 Dobson joined Navy Lodge No. 2612. As the action in which he was involved falls within the period of the First World War and its treaties, he will be included on the memorial.
JMH: Armistice Day in November 1920 was a day of mellow sunshine. It was the second time that the Armistice had been marked but was to be especially significant as it was on that day that the King, George V, unveiled the cenotaph in Whitehall and also the day that the Unknown Warrior was interred in Westminster Abbey. The coffin carrying the Unknown Warrior was carried into the Abbey between two lines of men, who had been awarded the Victoria Cross during the war or otherwise distinguished themselves by special valour. They were known as the 'Bodyguard of Heroes'. Sixteen of this honour guard have been identified as Freemasons.
One of them was Captain Robert Gee who had been a member of Roll Call Lodge No. 2523 in London since 1907. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 30 November 1917 in France when an attack by the enemy captured his brigade headquarters and ammunition dump. Gee, finding himself a prisoner, managed to escape and organised a party of the brigade staff with which he attacked the enemy, closely followed by two companies of infantry. He cleared the locality and established a defensive flank, then finding an enemy machine-gun still in action, with a revolver in each hand he went forward and captured the gun, killing eight of the crew. He was wounded, but would not have his wound dressed until the defence was organised.
One of the names to be marked on a paving stone outside is Eric Archibald McNair, who was initiated in Apollo University Lodge No. 357 in 1913. He was awarded the Victoria Cross at the age of just 21 in 1916. On 14 February 1916 on the Western Front in Belgium, Lieutenant McNair and a number of men were flung into the air when the enemy exploded a mine, several of them were buried. Although much shaken, the Lieutenant at once organised a party with a machine gun to man the near edge of the crater and opened rapid fire on the enemy who were advancing. They were driven back. Lieutenant McNair then ran back for reinforcements, but as the communication trench was blocked he went across open ground under heavy fire. His action undoubtedly saved a critical situation. Sadly Lieutenant McNair did not survive the war but died in August 1918. His name is amongst those included on the Roll of Honour that is been displayed at the Shrine in the vestibule outside the Grand Temple.
It seems fitting that, in this Tercentenary year, the building is adding a further memorial to those that fought in the First World War. It would also be fitting, I believe, to stand for a moment in remembrance of those sixty-three men of valour whose names will be a part of this building for so long as it shall stand.
Painting in the reverse
The acquisition of a painting of the Prince of Wales by the Library and Museum reveals the Chinese art of glass painting
The Library and Museum’s collection is extensive, but just occasionally there is an opportunity to add more objects or books to its world-class displays. One such occasion occurred in November 2016 when Library and Museum staff noticed that a painting of the Prince of Wales (who would become King George IV) was being sold at auction. And unusually, this was a painting on glass.
The Chinese practice of reverse-glass painting dates back to the early 1700s. In Europe the fashion for such pieces became popular in the 1750s but, given their fragile nature, few examples survive.
In this case, the glass artist copied a portrait of the Prince of Wales in masonic regalia with the breast star of the Order of the Garter, seated on the Grand Master’s throne. The Prince was Grand Master of the Moderns Grand Lodge from 1790 to 1813. The glass painting is now on display at the Library and Museum.
The original painting, circa 1802, is by Edmund Scott (1758-1815) and is held in the collections of the Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries – but Scott also drew and engraved a print of the portrait, a copy of which was already held by the Library and Museum.
With soldiers from across the world meeting and sharing values during World War I, Diane Clements looks at how this period shaped New Zealand’s relationship with Grand Lodge
The armed forces of many different countries fought in World War I between 1914 and 1918, with their experiences often being pivotal in the formation of national identities. But what of the effect these nations had on each other as they fought side by side? The experiences of masons as they travelled to new countries provide an intriguing window into how the war helped to develop the links between Grand Lodges across the world.
In 1914 there were 1,700 lodges across England and Wales, with a further 1,300 spread throughout the British Empire. As British colonies had become independent from the mid-1800s, they had established their own masonic jurisdiction or Grand Lodge. The relationship between the English Grand Lodge and the overseas Grand Lodges strengthened during World War I and was marked at celebrations of the Grand Lodge’s bicentenary in 1917 and of the peace in 1919.
For the soldiers, the experience of travelling to foreign countries, the comradeship and the trauma of war were significant in their personal development. For many, informal links with Freemasons were widened and reinforced, and the bond formed between New Zealand masons and their English brethren is a prime example of how the Craft came together during wartime.
The first masonic lodge in New Zealand was formed in 1842 and each of the English, Irish and Scottish Grand Lodges all formed lodges there. In 1890, 65 lodges established the Grand Lodge of New Zealand, with Henry Thomson as the first Grand Master. A medal was produced in 1900 to mark its first 10 years. The three ‘home’ Grand Lodges also maintained District and Provincial Grand Lodges in New Zealand.
William Massey, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, sent a telegram on the outbreak of war in 1914, saying: ‘All we are and all we have is at the disposal of the British government.’ He travelled to Britain several times, both during and after the war, and attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, signing the Treaty of Versailles on behalf of his country. Massey was installed as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand in November 1924.
In 1914, the population of New Zealand was about 1.1 million and 100,000 New Zealanders served overseas in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), which went first to the Middle East and fought at Gallipoli and then to the Western Front. Around 18,000 New Zealanders died in or because of the war, with more than 41,000 wounded.
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry collection includes a gavel with a head made from the stock of a German rifle found on the Somme battlefield in 1916 during an advance on Flers by the NZEF. It was then taken to New Zealand where it was mounted and polished.
The NZEF Masonic Association was formed in France by Colonel George Barclay in 1917. According to an article in The Freemason in April 1918, the association developed from an informal meeting of serving New Zealand troops near Armentières in June 1916.
The association’s original objective was to hold meetings to promote fraternity among its members, with branches formed in various camps, depots and hospitals. One branch was formed in Egypt and Palestine in May 1917 by Brigadier-General William Meldrum (1865-1964), the officer commanding the mounted division. This group held a meeting in the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in April 1918. The association’s meetings included lectures and discussions and its members were encouraged to visit other local lodges.
NZEF soldiers came to England for rest, recuperation and training, with Wiltshire’s Sling Camp functioning as their chief training ground, while in London, the NZEF Masonic Association organised visits to Freemasons’ Hall. The association was active along the south coast of England and correspondence between Grand Lodge and Jordan Lodge, No. 1402, in Torquay from December 1917 provides a fascinating glimpse into the interaction between the troops and local lodges.
The Lodge Secretary, Stanley Lane, wrote to London about a candidate, Eric George Rhodes, a corporal in the New Zealand Paymaster’s department: ‘There has been a large camp of discharged New Zealanders near Torquay, this being the convalescent base before embarking for home… several of the officers have visited Jordan Lodge many times.’ Rhodes’ candidacy was supported by a letter from George Barclay himself who was then based at Boscombe.
By the end of the war the NZEF Masonic Association had about 1,500 members. Its members’ jewel was in three grades: metal, silver gilt and gold. In 1919, one of these gold jewels was presented to the Grand Lodge in London to commemorate the association’s wartime work and it remains a treasure of the collection.
The title deeds of the Craft
Director of Special Projects John Hamill traces the origins of the Antient Charges and what they reveal about masonic values
On the first occasion on which a brother is installed as Master of a lodge he is required to give his assent to a Summary of the Antient Charges and Regulations, read out to him by the Secretary. This summary first appeared in print in the second edition (1775) of William Preston’s Illustrations of Masonry, in which he outlined the installation ceremony and since 1827 has formed part of the Book of Constitutions.
For something to be called a summary begs the question: ‘Of what?’ The charges and regulations are predominantly based on The Charges of a Freemason, first published in the first edition of the Constitutions, compiled by the Rev Dr James Anderson in 1723 and printed in every subsequent edition of the Book of Constitutions. They are divided into six sections: Of God and Religion; Of the Civil Magistrate; Supreme and Subordinate; Of Masters, Wardens, Fellows and Apprentices; Of the Management of the Craft in Working; Of Behaviour (with six subsections).
Anderson stated that he had ‘digested’ them from a series of old documents relating to masonry in England, Ireland, Scotland and ‘lodges overseas’. The latter was something of a pious fiction as there were no lodges overseas until the late 1720s.
These documents used to be known as the Old Manuscript Constitutions and are now, collectively, the Manuscript of Old Charges. More than 130 versions of them have survived (many now in the Library and Museum of Freemasonry) and more than 20 other versions have disappeared. Many of them are parchment rolls almost six feet in length and up to nine inches wide.
‘Some of the versions from the late 1600s in the final section begin to give us our first glimpses of ritual.’
The two oldest versions – The Regius Poem circa 1390 and the Cook manuscript circa 1420 – are in the British Library and their content applies only to stonemasons. The next oldest is the Grand Lodge No. 1 manuscript, which carries the date 1583 and includes elements relating to speculative masonry. The majority of the extant versions can be dated to the 1600s when we begin to get evidence of speculative lodges, and a small group are from the 1700s and appear to have been copied out of antiquarian interest.
There are differences between the surviving versions, but they have a common tripartite form. They begin with an invocation to God, followed by a history of the mason Craft, and end with a series of charges, that is the duties that a mason owed to God, the law, his employer, his family and society in general. Some of the versions from the late 1600s in the final section begin to give us our first glimpses of ritual and ceremonial.
Making a mason
In the custom of the times during which they were written, the historical section is an amalgam of legend, biblical stories, folklore and some facts tracing masonry almost back to Adam in the Garden of Eden. It includes many biblical, historical and legendary figures as at least promoters of masonry, if not in fact Grand Masters. When Anderson digested his version of the history he made no difference between operative and speculative masonry, giving birth to the idea that Freemasonry was a natural outgrowth from the operative Craft, an idea that has been much disputed by masonic historians over the past 50 years.
It is clear from some of the later versions of the Old Charges that reading of them was a part of the original ceremony of making a mason. Indeed, some masonic historians have characterised them as the ‘title deeds’ of the Craft. Their importance to us today is not only that they are the originals of the Antient Charges that we all subscribe to, but as evidence that the fundamental principles and tenets of the Craft are truly time immemorial, immutable and unchangeable.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 37 SPRING 2017
I was interested to read in ‘The Title Deeds of the Craft’ by John Hamill (winter issue) that the Old Charges were, at one time, read as part of the ceremony of making a mason.
My lodge, together with many others in Plymouth, uses a ritual known as ‘A Common Sense Working of the Ceremonies of Craft Masonry’, also known as ‘The Plymouth Working’.
Immediately before the candidate for initiation advances to the pedestal to take his obligation, he is addressed by the Worshipful Master with the words of section one of The Charges of a Freemason, beginning ‘A mason is obliged, by his tenure…’ This address is included in ritual books going back as far as the sixth edition in 1921 and must be presumed to have existed well before this date; in fact, there is mention of the Plymouth Working as far back as 1832.
I would be interested to know if this is unique or if this address, or any other form of address based on the Ancient Charges, occurs in other rituals used in lodges under the umbrella of the United Grand Lodge of England.
Antony Ireland, St John the Evangelist Lodge, No. 4405, Plymouth, Devonshire
It is interesting to read how other lodges are presenting their initiates with extra useful items to make them feel welcome as they begin their journey in Freemasonry.
In my own lodge, when the candidate is handed the Book of Constitutions and lodge by-laws, we also give him
When we are at the Festive Board, we read out a poem called ‘His Initiation’, which is about the ceremony they have just completed. A personalised framed version is then presented to them as a reminder that ‘the best event in a mason’s life is his initiation’.
I’ve always found that it is the little differences between lodges and different customs that keeps Freemasonry interesting. The more engaged our new members feel, the more they will want to learn, get more involved and want
Steve Adams, Kendrick Lodge, No. 2043, Sindlesham, Berkshire
From the Grand Secretary
It does not seem possible that I have already completed my first six months as Grand Secretary. I am extremely grateful for the first-rate support I have received from all the staff at the United Grand Lodge of England and the encouragement I have been given from all those who provide such tremendous support in their own time to make Freemasonry such a vibrant and relevant organisation.
We are in the process of preparing a comprehensive Communications Plan to ensure that we capitalise on the unique opportunity presented by our Tercentenary celebrations.
We start 2017 with the five-part Sky television documentary Inside The Freemasons. We then have a vast number of events planned throughout the Metropolitan, Provincial and District areas, indicating the tremendous enthusiasm that this milestone has generated.
Sense of continuity
In this issue of Freemasonry Today, Keith Gilbert discusses the precision planning going into the Royal Albert Hall and Battersea events that will be part of the central Tercentenary celebrations, with a 2017 calendar giving a flavour of the many activities taking place at a local level. Also marking our 300th year, we report on the opening of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s newest gallery, which explores three centuries of masonic history to show how our values of sociability, inclusivity, charity and integrity have stood the test of time.
With Sir Thomas Lipton best known as the man who brought tea to the British masses, our piece on this famous Freemason explores how he improved the lives of the tea blenders and pickers with increased wages. We find out why Lipton set sail in his steam yacht during World War I to report on the devastation wrought by the typhus epidemic in Serbia and how he helped to set up
a trust to provide meals to the poor of London.
Our profile of Wayne Ingram illustrates how the core masonic values typified by the likes of Sir Thomas Lipton are still alive and well. From organising charity football matches in a war zone through to a 13-year crusade to give a boy life-changing facial surgery, Wayne is a serial fundraiser who thinks nothing of putting other people’s welfare before his own. ‘I don’t really think about my involvement,’ he says of the many causes he’s supported. ‘I’m just glad it happened.’
As a new generation takes Freemasonry forward, we meet 26-year-old Alex Rhys, who has just conducted his first initiation. While keen to explore new ways of recruiting and retaining members, Alex believes that it is the sense of continuity found in Freemasonry that appeals to younger masons, who enjoy tapping into a tradition that stretches back to 1717.
I hope you enjoy our winter edition and wish you and your families a wonderful festive season.
‘I am extremely grateful for the first-rate support I have received from staff at UGLE.’
The grand tour
Each year, Library and Museum staff show more than 30,000 people around Freemasons’ Hall on daily tours. Have you been?
A tour of Freemasons’ Hall reveals a building rich in history and architectural detail. Visitors – whether they are members of the public or Freemasons – can explore the Hall’s impressive ceremonial areas, from the Grand Officers’ Robing Room to the Shrine and the Grand Temple on the first floor. The tour also offers an opportunity to see some of the Grand Lodge’s collection of portraits of royalty associated with Freemasonry, including George VI.
A visit to the Roll of Honour at the Shrine is always a highlight. Many visitors also do not realise beforehand that the interior of Freemasons’ Hall is richly decorated; the stained-glass windows and extensive use of marble often draw gasps of admiration. When the tour arrives at the Grand Temple, there is time to sit down and ask the guides questions about Freemasonry, then listen to the music of the Grand Temple organ, following its recent refurbishment.
If you haven’t been to look around, why not organise a trip in 2017? Tours are available Monday to Saturday. Or visit on an Open Day – the next London Open House event will be on Sunday, 18 September 2016 from 10am to 5pm.
The Library and Museum is now open from Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm
14 September 2016
An address by Diane Clements and Stephen Greenberg: 'From Concept to Reality: Creating an Exhibition about Three Centuries of English Freemasonry'
Diane Clements: As you may have read in the paper of business, the Library and Museum team has spent much of the last couple of years developing and installing a new gallery, with an exhibition called Three Centuries of English Freemasonry. This is one of the Library and Museum’s contributions to the celebrations of the tercentenary of Grand Lodge. The gallery is open now on the first floor.
All of us working in the Library and Museum had appreciated for some time that we needed to do more to explain the concept and history of Freemasonry, both to the public and to members, than we had been able to do either via our existing displays, temporary exhibitions or regular public tours of this building.
In 2012 we worked with Stephen Greenberg and his colleagues at Metaphor on a feasibility study for upgrading the existing museum space and the displays there. This caught the imagination of the Library and Museum Council, and the Board of General Purposes, and we were instead allocated an additional 200 square metres of space near the Library and Museum to develop the scheme. I am delighted that Stephen has been able to join me today to talk about the project.
Stephen Greenberg: We are both exhibition designers and architects with a long experience working in listed and historic spaces. We were introduced to the Freemasons after our work at the Museum of the Order of St John just down the road in Clerkenwell. As soon as we began working with Diane and her team, we saw the spaces, the remarkable collections and heard the fascinating stories behind them we could see the potential. Being given the Prince Regent room to work with as well as the library is an added bonus, because it enriches the publicly accessible parts of the building, and when lodge meetings are not taking place the doors open up into the adjoining rooms.
DC: Two hundred square metres sounds like a lot of space – and it looked quite large to me when it was empty – but we soon realised as we worked closely with Metaphor that we were going to have to take some tough decisions about what to include in terms of what subjects we could cover and that would result in some difficult decisions about what objects, books and documents to choose.
However, we were determined that the exhibition should seek to explain Freemasonry’s values of sociability, inclusivity, charity and integrity as well as its history and development. In doing that we believe that the exhibition breaks new ground and we hope that it provides another mechanism by which members can explain to friends, contacts and potential new members what Freemasonry is all about and we can give our general visitors a better insight.
SG: Exhibitions work best when they come as a complete surprise and take your breath away when you enter, and then when they are wonderful vehicles for sharing passions, whether it is one of the Library and Museum team taking one down unexpected paths into Freemasonry and its history or enthusing with groups of young people or members explaining to friends and families
DC: The exhibition is, appropriately enough, in three sections. This approach was retained from the feasibility stage. At the beginning, visitors walk underneath the sign for the Goose and Gridiron tavern just as those first Freemasons attending Grand Lodge did on 24th June 1717. The first section explores the values of Freemasonry as well as its symbolism and ritual and includes a timeline tracing its history up to 1813. The second section looks at what a lodge room looks like, how a lodge works, and the social side of Freemasonry. Displays also show the three Craft degrees and masonic hierarchy and the Royal Arch, the only other order explored in any detail. Here we also cover the contribution of Provincial, District and Metropolitan Grand Lodges both in a case display and also in a short film about Freemasonry and public life. Freemasonry abroad is covered in the third section which brings the story up to date with the challenges that Freemasonry has had to face in the twentieth century. As Stephen has mentioned visitors also get the chance here to look into one of the twenty or so lodge rooms in this building.
The design that Stephen and his team developed proved to work well in terms of the content that we wanted to include even if we had to make some hard choices about what objects to leave out. The graphic element of the exhibition was also within their remit and I will admit that the limited word count that resulted was a tremendous challenge.
If you want to try this yourselves, try describing the history of Freemasonry in about 150 words!
SG: Leaving out artefacts is the hardest challenge – personally I love the writing table that has the model of the first temple concealed within it and a series of calculation tables revealed on the underside of the opening panels – and some of the many chairs. But what is exciting is that we can now move forward progressively with the refurbishment of the Library and Museum space giving many objects more space and bringing others out of store. There is the opportunity to make these accessible in interesting ways.
DC: For the first time the new gallery has enabled us to use more technology in the displays. There is a second short film about the history of this Great Queen Street site and the various Freemasons’ Halls.
Another challenge which I am sure many of you have faced is to try to explain symbolism and for this we created an interactive game which you can try either in the gallery or on our website. There aren’t any prizes because there aren’t any “right” answers. What we have tried to do is to convey the idea that symbols often have a multiplicity of meanings of which the masonic is just one.
The report on the Library and Museum in the paper of business mentions one of our other initiatives last year – our partnership with Ancestry to digitise membership records for 1.7 million Freemasons initiated between 1750 and 1921. We were keen that the new gallery should include both famous and not so famous Freemasons. We have the Duke of Windsor’s initiate’s apron alongside Sir Winston Churchill’s Master Mason’s apron alongside the membership certificate for the Duke of Windsor’s chauffeur – showing visitors that they were all members of the same organisation despite their very different status. In one of the final cases we have on display the regalia for two “ordinary” Freemasons and the regalia cases of many others. It’s designed to look a little bit like a lodge anteroom with all the cases – although possibly a bit tidier?
As Stephen said earlier creating the new gallery was just the first stage. It has also allowed us to start to redisplay the main museum space – to give some objects more prominence – such as the “mysterious masonic table” which Stephen referred to and to show some items which have long been in store. We aren’t stopping there of course as we are continuing to do temporary exhibitions in the Library area.
2017 is not a point to stop but a point from which to go forward. We are fortunate to work with Grand Lodge’s extraordinarily rich collection of objects, books and documents and there is lots more to do.
At the Quarterly Communication in June, the Pro Grand Master spoke about enjoyment as one aspect of what Freemasonry offers. In case Stephen and I have made the new gallery sound a terribly serious and worthy place perhaps we can just finish by mentioning a couple of the more playful objects and displays. When you visit don’t forget to look out for the masonic jelly mould, the masonic toast rack and the rather strange looking elephant on the jewel for Calabar Lodge.
There are 281 days to Grand Lodge’s 300th birthday next June so do please visit the new gallery today and then join our countdown to the 24th June on social media which features objects from the exhibition!
New library gallery celebrates tercentenary
To mark Freemasonry’s 300th anniversary, a new and permanent gallery space opens this year with highlights from lodges across the centuries, complete with interactive displays about masonic symbolism and films with ceremonial footage, images and information.
The new Three Centuries of English Freemasonry gallery at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in Freemasons’ Hall, London, is launched in September 2016.
It traces the development of Freemasonry from its origins in the early days of industrialisation, urbanisation and empire to the significant social institution it had become by the 19th century and explores how it fits into today’s world. This new gallery space, originally designed in the 1930s as the Reading Room, has been transformed to walk the visitor through 300 years of history.
Entering the gallery under the three-dimensional Goose and Gridiron tavern sign (a replica – the original is in the Museum of London), the first area features a timeline, an explanation of Freemasonry’s principles and masonic symbols. Then into the Victorian period, highlighting how Freemasons celebrated their membership by purchasing everyday items like furniture, china and glass for their lodges and homes.
Library and Museum Director Diane Clements commented: ‘We have gained about 30 per cent more space and that has given us the opportunity to show, sometimes for the first time, the most important, rare and often amazing pieces to their best advantage.’
Squire Hargreaves in London
Library and Museum of Freemasonry Director Diane Clements met with Alan Morris of Mariner’s Lodge, No. 249, to receive a large punchbowl and jug in Liverpool Herculaneum ware that the Library and Museum has acquired from the lodge, which has closed.
The punchbowl and jug were given to the lodge by Squire Hargreaves in December 1813, the month he was initiated into the lodge. Squire Hargreaves was a publican who ran a public house called The Saddle in Vernon Street, Liverpool. Squire was his name, not an office he held.
Clements commented: ‘It is always sad when a lodge closes, but on this occasion it has given us the opportunity to acquire some unique pieces with a great story attached. I would like to thank the members of the lodge for agreeing to allow these treasures to come to London.’