Director of Special Projects John Hamill considers the unique status of time immemorial lodges and their vital contribution to Freemasonry
As is well known, on 24 June 1717, four London lodges came together and elected a Grand Master. They agreed to revive the annual feast and to hold quarterly communications, in effect bringing the first Grand Lodge into existence. While much has been said of this now-momentous event, little has been said of the lodges that brought Grand Lodge into being.
According to James Anderson in the 1738 Constitutions of the Free-Masons, the four lodges were at the Goose and Gridiron Ale House in St Paul’s Churchyard; the Crown Ale House in Parker’s Lane, near Drury Lane; the Apple Tree Tavern in Charles Street, Covent Garden; and the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Channel Row, Westminster.
Of those lodges, the Crown Ale House ceased meeting circa 1736 but the other three still meet today. Because their dates of origin are unknown, and they predate the formation of Grand Lodge itself, they have the status of being ‘time immemorial’.
Today, the lodge at the Goose and Gridiron is now Lodge of Antiquity, No. 2. It was certainly in existence in 1691 and may well have been the lodge within the London Masons Company that Elias Ashmole attended in 1682. It became No. 1 of the premier Grand Lodge in 1717 and until 1760 was known by the name of the tavern at which it met.
In 1760, the lodge took the name of American & West Indian Lodge but in 1770 assumed its present name. When the two former lists of lodges were combined after the Union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, lots were drawn and Grand Master’s Lodge of the Antients Grand Lodge became No. 1 on the new United Grand Lodge register, with Lodge of Antiquity the No. 2.
From 1809 until his death in 1843, HRH The Duke of Sussex was permanent Master of Lodge of Antiquity. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his taking office, he permitted the lodge to have its officers’ jewels made in gold.
The lodge at the Apple Tree Tavern is now Lodge of Fortitude & Old Cumberland, No. 12. For reasons lost in time, the lodge accepted a constitution from Grand Lodge in 1723 and became No. 11 on the first numbered list of lodges in 1729. As a result it lost its time immemorial status and, despite attempts in the 19th century to regain that status, it wasn’t until the run-up to Grand Lodge’s 250th anniversary in 1967 that it was restored. The first Grand Master, Anthony Sayer, was a member of this lodge.
The lodge at the Rummer and Grapes in Channel Row is now Royal Somerset House & Inverness Lodge, No. 4. Named Old Horn Lodge in 1767, it united with Somerset House Lodge in 1774 and took that name. In 1828 it united with Royal Inverness Lodge, the first lodge warranted under the United Grand Lodge, and took its present name.
Despite the Great War, a celebration of the bicentenary of the formation of Grand Lodge was held at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 23 June 1917. Members of the three original lodges were processed into the hall to mark their status. At the meeting it was announced that to commemorate their actions in 1717, the officers’ collars of the three lodges would have the addition of a central garter blue stripe, and their Masters were called up to be invested with their new collars by the Grand Master. Later in the year the Duke of Connaught further honoured them by becoming the permanent Master of the three lodges.
At the celebrations for the 250th anniversary in 1967 and the 275th in 1992, the Masters of the time immemorial lodges were processed into Grand Lodge. The Master of Royal Somerset House & Inverness Lodge presented the Bible to the Grand Master; the Master of No. 12 presented the square and compasses; and the Master of No. 2 presented the Wren maul.
Today, to mark the part played in 1717, the present Grand Master will assume the office of Master of the time immemorial lodges at a joint meeting of the three in June. It is a fitting tribute to these distinguished lodges without whose actions in 1717 we might not be celebrating this year.
'Because they predate the formation of Grand Lodge itself, these lodges have the status of being “time immemorial"'
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.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
8 March 2017
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 14 December 2016 were approved.
Election of the Grand Master
HRH The Duke of Kent KG was re-elected as Grand Master.
Grand Lodge Register 2007-2016
The tables below show the number of lodges on the Register and of Certificates issued during the past ten years.
Charges for Warrants
The Board recommended that for the year commencing 1 April 2017 the charges (exclusive of VAT) shall be as follows:
The recommendation was approved.
The Board had received reports that the following lodges have resolved to surrender their Warrants: Totteridge Lodge, No. 6130, in order to amalgamate with Old Elizabethans Lodge, No. 7987 (Hertfordshire); and Sherborne Conduit Lodge, No. 9484, in order to amalgamate with Lodge of Benevolence, No. 1168 (Dorset).
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Erasure of lodges
Twenty-three lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. They are:
Hammersmith Lodge, No. 2090 (London); Royal Hampton Court Lodge, No. 2183 (Middlesex); Malden Lodge, No. 2875 (Surrey); Morpeth Lodge, No. 4176 (Northumberland); Plymouth Hoe Lodge, No. 4235 (Devon); Ceredigion Lodge, No. 4550 (London); Ashton Upon Mersey Lodge, No. 4654 (Cheshire); Concordia Lodge, No. 4793 (Sussex); Worcester Park Lodge, No. 5402 (Surrey); Simplicitas Lodge, No. 5704 (Surrey); Oaks Lodge, No. 5921 (Surrey); Lodge of Integrity, No. 6328 (Cheshire); Albany Park Lodge, No. 7432 (West Kent); Bywell Castle Lodge, No. 7739 (Northumberland); Lowther Lodge, No. 7809 (Cumberland and Westmorland); Warlingham Lodge, No. 7977 (Surrey); Owain Glyndwr Lodge, No. 8015 (South Wales); Huntercombe Lodge, No. 8264 (Buckinghamshire); Langdon Hills Lodge, No. 8477 (Essex); Bramble Lodge, No. 8541 (South Africa, Eastern Division); Prestbury Lodge, No. 8880 (Cheshire); Abridge Lodge, No. 9637 (Essex) and Lodge of Scribes, No. 9671 (Durham).
A Resolution to recommend that they be erased was approved.
Twelve brethren were expelled from the Craft.
For valour: Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War
A talk was given on this subject by Deputy Grand Chancellor John Hamill and Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry.
List of new lodges
Warrants have been granted to the lodges below with the dates from which their Warrants became effective, date of Warrant and Location/Area and No. and name of the lodge:
14 December 2016
9942 Dorset Sportsmen’s Lodge (Poole, Dorset)
9943 Collegiate Lodge (Coventry, Warwickshire)
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
A Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge is held on the second Wednesday in March, June, September and December. The next will be at noon on Wednesday, 14 June 2017. Subsequent Communications will be held on 13 September 2017, 13 December 2017, 14 March 2018 and 13 June 2018.
The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on the last Wednesday in April (the next is on 26 April 2017), and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend.
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter are held on the second Wednesday in November and the day following the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge. Future Convocations will be held on 27 April 2017, 8 November 2017 and 26 April 2018.
The red aprons
Director of Special Projects John Hamill explores the history behind the Grand Stewards, the lodge without a number
Like many membership organisations, Freemasonry relies on volunteers to run smoothly. One of the longest-serving groups of volunteers is the Grand Stewards, whose members, because of their privilege of wearing crimson collars and edging to their aprons, can cause confusion when they visit outside London.
The Grand Stewards’ prime function is to organise the Grand Festival, which immediately follows the annual investiture of Grand Officers on the last Wednesday in April each year. That has its origins in the famous meeting that took place on 24 June 1717 when the first Grand Lodge was formed. Indeed, for the first few years the annual feast and election of the new Grand Master appears to have been all that Grand Lodge did.
As the 1720s advanced and the number of lodges and members increased, organising the Grand Feast became more complex, so a number of individuals volunteered as stewards for the event.
In 1728, to formalise the arrangement, Grand Lodge invited 12 individuals to form a team to take on the preparations. This proved successful and the stewards became Grand Stewards, with their own jewel of office to be suspended from a crimson ribbon and the privilege of having their aprons lined and edged in the same colour. The original jewel was said to have been designed by William Hogarth, himself a Grand Steward in 1735.
The Grand Stewards received a further privilege in the same year when they were given a warrant as the Stewards Lodge. Originally they also carried a number but, in 1792, the Grand Stewards Lodge was formed, which was permitted to meet ‘without number, but first on the list of regular lodges’. Like the three time immemorial lodges, which formed the original 1717 Grand Lodge, the Grand Stewards Lodge meets without a warrant.
The Grand Stewards grew into a powerful body, with 12 representatives of the lodge entitled to attend and vote in Grand Lodge (usually only the Master and Wardens represented a lodge). The Grand Officers, for much of the 18th century, were chosen from among their number. Both these practices were lost after the Union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, although the Grand Stewards retained the right to occupy the front rows on the north and south areas of the Grand Temple.
Up until the Union, the outgoing Grand Stewards had the right of nominating their successors, which naturally led to the office becoming associated with a small group of London lodges. Although the Antients Grand Lodge used stewards occasionally and had a Stewards Lodge (in effect, their Committee of Charity), they did not have a similar system of Grand Stewards.
After the Union in 1813, the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Sussex, began to formalise many of the pre-Union practices. In 1815, 18 London lodges were given the privilege of each year nominating one of their members for appointment by the Grand Master as a Grand Steward. Many of these lodges had previously provided Grand Stewards for the premier Grand Lodge.
The Grand Stewards were to assist at great ceremonials and the Quarterly Communication. In addition to organising the Grand Festival, they were to bear its cost. This later proved to be problematic and the present system was evolved, whereby Grand Lodge sets the ticket price for the Grand Festival and the Board of Grand Stewards makes its plans in the full knowledge that any costs exceeding those funds will fall on the board itself.
In making the new arrangements in 1815, the Duke of Sussex set up a curious anomaly. During their year of office, the Grand Stewards are Grand Officers. At the end of their year they become Past Grand Stewards and retain the right to wear their distinctive regalia but cease being Grand Officers – unless they are promoted or already hold Grand Rank.
On a number of occasions, I have seen consternation cross the brow of a lodge Director of Ceremonies when a Past Grand Steward visits his lodge. He does not fit into any of the conventional groups, so where does he go in the procession?
Is he saluted? And where does he fit in on the toast list…?
‘A Past Grand Steward does not fit into any of the conventional groups, so where does he go in the procession?’
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
The wider context
Director of Special Projects John Hamill reflects on the impact that broad trends within society have had on Freemasonry
We often comment on our hopes that the individual Freemason – by putting into practice the principles he learns in his lodge – will have a positive effect on the society in which he lives and works. However, we rarely look at how society, and the great changes it has gone through in the past 30 or so years, has impacted on Freemasonry.
Indeed, until the formation of the Membership Focus Group, whose ongoing work has been reported in recent issues of Freemasonry Today, there had been no major attempt to look at Freemasonry in the context of the society in which it currently exists.
At a recent meeting I had the privilege of presenting a memento to a lodge’s senior member who was celebrating the 75th anniversary of their initiation. Also present were his younger brother, who had just celebrated 68 years in the Craft, and his great-nephew, who has recently joined the lodge as the fourth generation of the family to do so.
It was one of the happiest meetings I have been to for a long time and stirred up one or two thoughts.
It took me back to my own entry into the Craft in 1970 in my father’s lodge on Tyneside, at which he and five of my uncles and three of my cousins were present. That might seem unusual today but in the context of the time it was not uncommon.
Indeed, from my work over the years with the membership registers and helping others compile lodge histories, I would argue that up to the 1970s, particularly outside the major cities, Freemasonry was very much a family affair. In many lodges with a history going back to Victorian times you see the same family names occurring. In small towns, family members would often be spread over several lodges meeting there, as was the case in my own family.
To my mind, family relationships and personal and professional friendships were the bedrock of Freemasonry and the major recruiting ground for new members. That began to break down in the 1970s because of gradual changes in society, particularly as the population became more mobile.
Research by sociologists has shown that up to the 1970s, most of the population were born, educated, worked and died within about 30 miles of where they were born. When education was complete, you looked for a job where you lived. The huge economic changes of the latter part of the 20th century, with the gradual disappearance of England’s industrial base, led to enforced mobility. You no longer worked where you lived; you moved to where you could find work.
That, in turn, had a great effect on family and community life, with families growing apart geographically and community organisations, such as Freemasonry, having a narrower base from which to draw members. Those factors, combined with a huge growth in new possibilities for leisure activities, meant that Freemasonry was no longer the first thing to come to mind when an individual was considering what to do with their free time.
Increased mobility also had an effect on existing members. When forced to move location for work they would try to maintain their links with their lodge but, almost inevitably, the ties would loosen and break. Sadly, Freemasonry at that time did not have systems in place to deal with such a situation or to introduce members to Freemasonry in their new area, and after a time their membership simply lapsed. Happily, that has all changed in recent years.
New thinking and new programmes such as the Membership Focus Group and the mentoring scheme should have an effect on future recruitment and retention of members. Key to it all, however, is good communication – but that is a topic for the future.
‘The huge economic changes of the latter part of the 20th century, with the gradual disappearance of England’s industrial base, led to enforced mobility… You moved to where you could find work.’
When history is written
Director of Special Projects John Hamill defends the accuracy of the documentation detailing Grand Lodge’s formation
Were it possible to travel back and forth in time, it would be fascinating to bring back some of those fewer than 100 brethren who came together at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in London on 24 June 1717 to elect the first Grand Master and bring into being the first Grand Lodge in the world.
The brethren can have had no conception of what they were starting and would be amazed that they were responsible for what has become a worldwide brotherhood, now existing in places that to them were unexplored spaces on the maps of their time.
Masonic historians lament the fact that there is so little documentary evidence for the period, forgetting that those who brought about the formation of Grand Lodge were not aware that they were taking such a momentous step. They did not keep records of their actions until the first minute book of Grand Lodge was begun in 1723. Indeed, had it not been for James Anderson producing his historical information to be incorporated into the 1723 and 1738 editions of the Book of Constitutions, we still might not have known what happened in 1717.
That lack of additional documentation in support of Anderson’s facts has caused some academics to question their veracity. My answer would be to repeat the mantra with which my history tutor began each of our tutorials in my first term as a student: you cannot look at the past with the eyes of the present, you can only look at it in the context of the period.
The four lodges that came together in 1717 became just another group among many other societies and clubs of the time. As no one of social consequence of the day appears to have been involved, it is not surprising that the event was not recorded in the primitive press that existed in the 18th century.
What seems to have been forgotten is that when Anderson wrote his histories there were still many around who would have attended or have known some of those who were present at the Goose and Gridiron in June 1717.
Not only that, Anderson’s writing was approved by a Committee of the Grand Lodge and I have no doubt that had he recorded recent facts wrongly it would have been forcefully pointed out to him and that they would have been corrected before the Book of Constitutions went into print.
Celebrate the past
To cast doubts on Anderson’s statements regarding 1717 because the rest of his early history contains undoubted errors of fact is to ignore how the current definition of what constitutes history has changed.
In Anderson’s day, rather than being a collection of carefully documented and verifiable facts, history was an amalgam of fact, folklore, biblical stories and mythology.
It was not until after the profound effect that Darwin’s On the Origin of Species had on Western intellectual life that historians began to apply the rigorous rules of scientific research to their studies.
Anderson does attempt to trace masonry back to Adam in the Garden of Eden and includes many biblical, legendary and historical figures as at least promoters of masonry if not actual Grand Masters. However, to cast doubt on events that Anderson records as taking place within the lifetime of his readers because of this ‘history’ is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Whatever academics might try to prove, I believe James Anderson. He had no reason to invent the meeting on 24 June 1717 and we have every reason to continue to celebrate it. More importantly, we should commemorate what has been built since that simple meeting elected a Grand Master to preside over an annual feast.
‘To cast doubts on Anderson’s statements regarding 1717 because the rest of his early history contains errors of fact is to ignore how the current definition of what constitutes history has changed.’
Place in the community
Director of Special Projects John Hamill recognises Freemasonry’s tentative steps back into the spotlight after decades of non-participation in public events
Pageantry is something for which the English are internationally recognised as being the masters. Be it a major state occasion such as the opening of Parliament, the Lord Mayor’s Show in London or a country town’s summer festival, we have a great sense of tradition, colour, precision and style.
Up until World War II, Freemasonry had a major part to play in that. Dr John Wade, in his 2009 Prestonian Lecture, gives a fascinating account of Freemasons ‘clothed in the badges of the Order’ taking part in public processions, either for masonic reasons or as part of national or local celebrations, throughout the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.
The earliest recorded masonic processions were in London in the 1720s and 1730s, when the installation of the Grand Master would take place at one of the City livery halls. They would be preceded by a procession from the Grand Master’s residence through the City, with the noblemen in their carriages and the brethren in regalia following on behind. The events were reported in the press of the day but became subject to attention from a group calling themselves ‘The Scald Miserable Masons’ who began to run a mock procession a few days beforehand. The Grand Lodge ceased holding the procession and issued a rule that in future brethren could only appear in public in regalia by dispensation of the Grand Master or his deputy.
‘Sadly, events in the late 1930s in Europe, the horrors of World War II and post-war austerity, as well as the resulting social changes, had their effects and Freemasonry became more inward-looking.’
Laying the foundations
Getting a dispensation was not a problem, as the many processions that took place demonstrated.
On occasion, the procession was part of a ceremony, where brethren would be invited to lay the foundation stone of a public building, church, docks or bridge.
A procession of local civic and religious dignitaries, the militia, the town band and representatives of the Province and the local lodges, all in their civic, religious, military or masonic regalia, would precede the ceremony, which was open to the public and would usually be concluded by a return procession and some form of refreshment.
Sadly, events in the late 1930s in Europe, the horrors of World War II and post-war austerity, as well as the resulting social changes, had their effects and Freemasonry became more inward-looking. In the 1960s and 1970s public processions tended to be protest marches rather than celebrations, with the exception of the annual Armistice Day observances and local civic ceremonies.
In recent years, however, there have been moves towards more public displays. During Freemasonry in the Community Week in 2002 the then Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton, said his most abiding memory was processing in full regalia with the brethren of Warwickshire from the masonic hall in Warwick to the collegiate church for a service of commemoration and rededication.
As its millennium project the Province of Durham helped to finance the rebuilding of a former Victorian masonic hall, previously in Sunderland, at the open-air Beamish Museum. The Provincial Grand Master was invited to lay the foundation stone and more than 500 brethren from Durham and neighbouring Provinces processed to the proposed site. The local media carried the event as a major news item.
When the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, attended to open the hall, again there was a huge procession to accompany the Grand Master and the Lord-Lieutenant in an open carriage to the site. A photograph of the procession appeared on the centre pages of the next day’s Guardian.
London brethren – particularly the City lodges – have provided a float for the past decade for the Lord Mayor’s procession each November, showing how much a part of the City community they are. Similar events have taken place in other parts of the country. While we are far from the halcyon pre-war days, these are small ways in which we can demonstrate Freemasonry’s place in our communities.
Come full circle
Stonehenge’s history has inspired many outlandish theories linking Freemasons and druids. John Hamill recounts the real life of Freemason Cecil Chubb, who bought the landmark on a whim 100 years ago
Considering its status as a World Heritage Site, it is strange to reflect that until 1918 Stonehenge was private property. Interest in it was stimulated in the early 1700s through the writings of an early Freemason, Dr William Stukeley, a clergyman and archaeologist, whose voluminous manuscripts are now preserved in the British Library and the Library and Museum of Freemasonry. The connection between Stonehenge and the druids is usually ascribed to Stukeley, who not only made a study of the order but was one of those responsible for its revival in 1717.
By 1800 Stonehenge was owned by the Antrobus family, but when the heir to the baronetcy was killed in action in 1915, the family decided to sell the stone circle and the surrounding 35 acres of land at public auction.
The sale took place at the new theatre in Salisbury on 21 September 1915. The purchaser was Cecil Chubb, who paid £6,600 (about £460,000 in modern terms) for the site. Family legend has it that he had gone to the auction to buy some chairs but having lived near Stonehenge for much of his life, decided to make the purchase to save it from a foreign buyer. Chubb bought the landmark as a gift for his wife, for which he was apparently not thanked.
In 1918, knowing that there had been government interest in the stone circle, Chubb contacted what was then the Office of Works and offered to give the site to the nation as a gift. He had three provisos to his bequest: that Salisbury residents should continue to have free access to it; that the entry charge should never be more than a shilling; and that no building should be erected within 400 yards of the ancient stones themselves.
The government accepted the gift with alacrity, and to mark his generosity, created a baronetcy: in 1919, Chubb took the title Sir Cecil Chubb, Baronet of Stonehenge in the County of Wiltshire.
From humble beginnings
Cecil Herbert Edward Chubb came from modest beginnings. Born in 1876 in the village of Shrewton, Wiltshire, where his father was the saddler and harness-maker, he was educated at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury. For a short period he was a teacher at the school before going for training at St Mark’s College in London. From there he went to Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he earned a first in natural sciences in 1904 followed by a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1905. Returning to London, he was called to the Bar from Middle Temple and began a successful law practice.
In 1902 Chubb married Mary Finch, and when her uncle died in 1910, she inherited the Fisherton House Asylum psychiatric hospital near Salisbury. Chubb gave up law and moved back to Salisbury to run the asylum, which was one of the largest in the country.
Chubb made a great success of the asylum and introduced innovative treatments to make the patients’ lives easier and return them to their families. Fisherton House also gave great service to military casualties affected by the horrors of trench warfare, to the extent that Chubb used his own home, Bemerton Lodge, as an overflow for the main asylum. It became a limited company in 1924 and part of the National Health Service in 1954.
Eye on the future
Chubb was also an astute investor, particularly in medical laboratories producing medications to aid the mentally ill. His careful financial management made him a rich man, enabling him to buy Stonehenge almost on a whim. He developed his own estate, keeping a notable breed of shorthorn cattle and had a number of very successful racehorses. In civic life, he served for many years on Salisbury City Council and was a Justice of the Peace.
Chubb came into Freemasonry in Salisbury, where he was made a mason in Lodge Elias de Derham, No. 586, on 26 October 1905, taking his second and third degrees in the two following months. He never sought office in the lodge or took part in any of the other orders of Freemasonry, being content to enjoy the company of his fellow lodge members as a backbencher and remaining a subscribing member of the lodge until his death.
There have been attempts to link Freemasonry with both the stone circle at Stonehenge and the druids who were reputed to have worshipped there. In reality the only true masonic connections are the figures of Stukeley, who did so much to bring Stonehenge to public notice, and Chubb, who had so much love for the stone circle that he bought and presented it to the nation so that it would be preserved as a part of our national heritage for all time.
‘Family legend has it that Chubb had only gone to the auction to buy some chairs.’
Set in stone
Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated and only surviving lintelled stone circle in the world:
• In its earliest form, the monument was a burial site. It is the largest late Neolithic cemetery in the British Isles.
• Two types of stone were used in its construction, both of which were transported over very long distances. The larger sarsens probably came from the Marlborough Downs 19 miles to the north, with the smaller bluestones coming from the Preseli Hills, more than 150 miles away.
• The stones were erected using precisely interlocking joints, unseen at any other prehistoric monument.
Director of Special Projects John Hamill discusses the appeal of formal dress for younger masons
A wide variety of questions and comments are received daily by email via Grand Lodge’s website. A recent one gave me pause for thought. The writer queried why we continued to insist on white shirt and black shoes with either morning dress or a dark suit as our standard dress for lodge meetings. He went on to say that because of the very relaxed attitudes to dress in the modern workplace, it could be embarrassing for an individual on lodge days to turn up to work formally dressed, and would certainly lead to questions as to why.
As with so many things in Freemasonry, there is an applied symbolism to the way we dress.
As has always been said, whatever an individual’s circumstances in life, within Freemasonry we are all equal. Certainly in the past one thing that showed an individual’s place in society was the cut and quality of his clothing. When, in early Victorian times, men’s clothing began to become less colourful and more standardised, Freemasonry began to adopt a particular style that gave little indication of the individual’s social standing.
Pictures of style
In masonic halls and collections around the country there is a wealth of photographic evidence from which we can trace the development of masonic dress. When evening dress (white tie and tails) became standard, it became the uniform of lodge meetings up to World War I. Similarly, when morning dress (frock or tail coats) became common, it was the dress normally adopted for daytime masonic events such as processions, church services and the laying of foundation stones.
‘As with so many things in Freemasonry, there is a symbolism to the way we dress. As has always been said, whatever an individual’s circumstances in life, within Freemasonry we are all equal.’
Because of the scarcity of material and rationing of clothing, both World Wars had their effect on masonic dress. During World War I, dress was relaxed to a dinner jacket and black tie, or uniform for those on active duty. After the war many lodges returned to evening dress but others preferred the more comfortable dinner jackets.
During World War II air raids became a nightly feature in many cities and ports, so Grand Lodge suggested that, where possible, meetings should be held during the day or late afternoon so that the brethren could get home safely before the air raids started. As normal day dress for those in the professions, clerical and service industries was a morning suit (short jacket), that soon became the unofficial dress for meetings and has continued to this day, particularly for those rewarded with Metropolitan, Provincial or Grand ranks.
The wearing of dinner jackets still continues in some lodges today, but from the 1970s when the wearing of morning suits dropped out of general usage, the wearing of a dark suit became acceptable in most lodges.
When Freemasonry began to look at ways of attracting younger men into the Craft 20 years ago, a regular comment was that formal dressing for lodge meetings would be seen as evidence of Freemasonry being somewhat ‘fuddy duddy’ and for older men. Surprisingly, the opposite has proved to be the case. Talking to many of those who have come into the organisation in the past few years, one of the attractions for them was the idea of formality both in meetings and dress, which is something they do not otherwise meet with in their daily lives.