Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:46

Tracing New Zealand’s Masonic Roots

Roger Marjoribanks looks to his family tree to follow the masonic life of Stewart Marjoribanks and his role in the creation of New Zealand as we know it today

In New Zealand, many of Wellington’s citizens will be aware of a perfectly ordinary road called Majoribanks Street running out of town from Courtenay Place. They may perhaps know that it should correctly be spelled Marjoribanks and pronounced Marchbanks. However, they are less likely to know that it commemorates a man who, although having never visited the island country in the Pacific, may truly be numbered among the founding fathers of the nation.

Stewart Marjoribanks was the third of five sons of Edward Marjoribanks of Lees, just north of the Scottish border with England, all of whom distinguished themselves in their various fields. The eldest brother, John, remained in Scotland, became Lord Provost of Edinburgh (twice), an MP and Depute Grand Master of Scotland. Campbell, Stewart and Edward all came to London around the turn of the century, while James became a judge in India.

Campbell twice became chairman of the East India Company, Stewart a most successful owner of a fleet of merchantmen and Edward a senior partner in Coutts & Co. Bank. It is, incidentally, perhaps in the family friendship with Thomas Coutts that the key to their extraordinary and sudden prominence lies. They were in any case a very talented group, but a helping hand never comes amiss.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to pin down Stewart’s early career to precise dates, but a letter from 1820 mentions that in that year he was expecting to be returned unopposed as MP for Hythe. This election conferred on him the ancient title of ‘Baron of the Cinque Ports’ (founded originally to defend the coast from the French) and the right to bear the canopy at the coronation of George IV while girt with a sword (which is still in possession of Watford Lodge).

Involved and Influential
Stewart’s masonic career began in February 1811, when he was initiated into the Lodge of Friendship, No. 6, a ‘Moderns’ lodge of great prestige meeting in Bond Street. Although the final achievement of the union was still a couple of years in the future, concrete steps were already being taken, in which members of this lodge took a leading part. Stewart made his masonic reputation as a member of this lodge, for he became Senior Grand Warden in 1823, the year before joining the equally prestigious Royal Alpha Lodge. This is traditionally the lodge of the Grand Master and in due course Stewart served as Deputy Master to the Duke of Sussex.

Much more is known about Stewart’s membership of Bamborough Lodge, No. 580, which he joined in 1830, and which was eventually renamed and numbered as Watford Lodge, No. 404. Here he is well remembered as an assiduous, authoritative and kindly member, and can be recalled physically through his portrait by John Lennell, which still hangs in the Temple in the west. He came to Watford when he and Campbell bought Bushey Grove House as their country seat. Stewart joined the Royal Arch in Cyrus Chapter, No. 21, in 1813 and became a founder of the Chapter of Friendship, No. 3 (now No. 6), in 1824, in which year he became Assistant Grand Sojourner (AGSoj).

As a member of Watford Lodge, Stewart was a distinctly big fish in a moderate pond. He apparently introduced a number of well-known men to the lodge, culminating in the agreement of the Duke of Sussex to become an Honorary Member. He was Worshipful Master for two consecutive years from 1835 to 1836 (the lodge numbered some seventy-one masons) and was elected again in 1841, although ill health appears to have prevented his installation. He is said to have been regular in attendance except when his Parliamentary duties kept him away, though with advancing years he was unable to play a very active part after turning seventy. He married a lodge widow, Lady Rendlesham, but the union produced no children. He appears to have been a popular and effective member of the lodge and promoter of its interests.

Expanding Apace
It is worth remembering that Stewart’s masonic career coincides with the first generation of the United Grand Lodge of England after the resolution of the schism between the Moderns and the Ancients which had so marred the half century previous to 1813. The Duke of Sussex, as Most Worshipful Grand Master, must have felt that Stewart, with his easy personality and well-reputed integrity, was an ideal friend and support.

Meanwhile, Stewart’s business expanded apace from his premises in King’s Arms Yard. At first it appears that he traded mainly with India and China, which fitted in well with the interests of his brother Campbell and Thomas Coutts; but before long he turned to the Australia run (he invested substantially in the Australian Agricultural Company) and the growing interest in New Zealand through the New Zealand Company. We have evidence from one of his captains  – Cole of the ‘Mellish’ in 1822 – that he was very much looked up to as a model for emulation, while in 1826 his captains clubbed together to present him with a gift of silver plate ‘in view of his much appreciated way of conducting himself towards them’.

As far as New Zealand was concerned, Stewart was very much the right man in the right place at the right time. He was well placed to win government contracts for the transport of troops and stores, but his major role seems to have been in implementing the official policy of encouraging emigration after the Treaty of Waitangi by transporting potential settlers of all classes, especially from Scotland. Here he was assisted by his distant cousin Alexander Marjoribanks of that ilk, chief of the family – it was not then recognised as a clan. Alexander’s prestige stood a great deal higher than his character warranted, but he did take ship to New Zealand and then on to New South Wales in 1840-41 and wrote very readable books about both colonies. To judge by the volume of Scottish settlers, the publicity gained was well worthwhile.

Round Peg in a Round Hole
As it happens, one of the ship’s officers kept a diary of the first leg of this trip and most entertaining it is – he makes clear that he is torn between respect for Alexander’s rank and contempt for his unworthy behaviour. He records with disapproval Alexander’s marriage on board to his maid and it is notable that no such marriage is officially recorded anywhere, nor did the lady proceed to New South Wales.

Bearing in mind the savagery of the Mãori wars that followed, one could be in two minds about the effects of Stewart’s work on New Zealand. However, the impression is of a diligent, conscientious and kindly businessman, ‘a round peg in a round hole’. As the 1840s progressed, ill health drove him into virtual retirement. Campbell had died in 1840 but Stewart lived on to the age of eighty-seven. Childless, he left Bushey Grove House to his nephew Edward (my great-grandfather), who promptly bankrupted himself by destroying it and building a monstrosity
in its place. And the explanation of the spelling and pronunciation of Majoribanks Street? A mystery, lost in the mists of history. Even the Marjoribankses themselves have no convincing explanation.
Published in Features
Sunday, 01 May 2011 16:31

The Masonic Museum In Brighton

Yasha Beresiner visits the Sussex Masonic Centre

Standing at the entrance to the Sussex Masonic Centre in the heart of Brighton, you can catch the smell of the sea just a few hundred yards away. This centre, containing both masonic temples and administrative offices, was established in 1898 and must be one of the most convenient in England; it is only a two-minute walk from Brighton Station.
The museum is under the capable administration of the curator and librarian, Reginald Barrow, who takes great pride in the artefacts that are displayed in the various rooms on three floors of interconnected buildings.

MEISSEN MOPS
Among the numerous important items in the museum’s extensive collection is an eighteenth century Meissen porcelain figurine representing Augustus II of Poland and Elector of Saxony (1670-1733). He is wearing a simple masonic apron and holding a scroll of the masonic constitutions in his right hand, indicating his authority. By his left arm, on a pedestal, stands a mops (pug dog). This dog represents symbolically how Freemasonry survived in Germany, Prussia and elsewhere in Europe under the adverse conditions following the Papal Bull of April 1738 forbidding Roman Catholics from joining the fraternity.
The secret Order of the Mopses was founded in 1740 by German Roman Catholics with the support of Augustus II, who became its Grand Master. Because his favourite animal was the mops, this became the symbol of the Order and gave it its name; the Order worked an elaborate, if somewhat outlandish, ritual which imitated Freemasonry. This rare and attractive figurine was made in the Meissen factory around 1740 and is attributed to the German sculptor Johann Joachim Kaendle (1706-1750), who sculpted exclusively for the Meissen factory and was known for his representations of animals.

HARRIS DESIGNS
The museum also preserves a folder containing the original proofs and completed drawings by the famous John Harris, whose tracing boards continue to decorate many lodge rooms throughout the country. John Harris, a painter of miniatures and an architectural draughtsman, came on the scene in 1815, two years after the union of the two Grand Lodges. He was initiated in 1818 and from the beginning was fascinated by the symbolic portrayals on tracing boards. He soon revolutionised the concept of the designs, which ultimately led to the standardisation of tracing boards throughout the constitution.
In 1823, somewhat business minded, Harris dedicated a set of his miniature tracing boards to the Duke of Sussex, the first Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. This act naturally popularised his designs and his tracing boards soon became fashionable and in demand by the majority of lodges. A true breakthrough, however, came in 1845 when an invitation by the Emulation Lodge of Improvement was made for artists to submit designs for tracing boards. John Harris’ designs won hands down and he never looked back.
In the same folder are several pages of printer’s proofs and hand-coloured manuscript designs of Harris’ efforts. Among the most striking images are two third degree miniature boards with evocative mortal emblems. These printed boards indicate on their margin that they won the third prize and were published in 1849.
The realistic rendering of the skull and bones within the coffin is decorated by a multicoloured ribbon brim which is further enhanced by the dark black shadow of the coffin. A scroll on the lower half depicts an intricate setting of the innermost shrine of the tabernacle, the Sanctum Sanctorum. Seven branched Menorahs decorate the aisles, whilst three figures – Hiram King of Tyre, Hiram Abiff and King Solomon – stand in front of the Ark of the Covenant on the chequered floor of the Temple. The reversed ciphers and Hebrew letters are characteristic of third degree tracing board. The question as to why Harris depicted the ciphers ‘3000’ in reverse has never been satisfactorily explained; he may have misunderstood the Hebrew tradition of writing from right to left. In any case, these tracing boards were never formally adopted.

MASONIC SCRIMSHAW
One object in the museum that brings to mind the widespread nature of Freemasonry is a scrimshaw drinking horn. The word immediately creates the vision of ancient mariners intent on painstaking and delicate etching on ivory or bone. The genre covers an enormous range of themes and it is only natural the symbolism of Freemasonry should also be represented. This excellent example of a horn, from around 1845, is in pristine condition with its intricate masonic emblems clearly visible.
Central to the design is an arch which appears supported by the square and compasses and headed by the all-seeing eye. In the centre the three masonic candlesticks are placed on the chequered floor and below are representations of the third degree coffin and the pentagram. Along the sides, emblems of various orders beyond the craft are identifiable; they have been carefully and clearly engraved. The detail of the carving is enhanced by crossed lines and deeper etching which creates shadows and contrasts further beautifying this rare object.
A prominent piece we saw on display is the apron worn by HRH the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) whilst attending meetings in Brighton. It is mounted in a lavish and heavy oak frame and above it is the unusual twisted Tyler’s sword, popularly referred to as ‘the flaming sword’, in allusion to the weapons carried by the cherubs guarding the entrance to Eden.

For those who may be interested in visiting the museum, the curator and librarian Reginald Barrow can be contacted at the centre on 01273 737404

Published in Features
Tuesday, 01 April 2003 01:00

Henry Sadler: the first Grand Librarian

Henry Sadler was a great Victorian Mason to whom Masonic researchers owe a great deal, says David Peabody

Masonic historians are familiar with the name of Henry Sadler, but many brethren of today are unaware of the debt of gratitude that all Freemasons owe him.

Henry Sadler was born on 19th October 1840 in the Village of Shalford, Essex, just north of Braintree. Little is known of his early life, but he became a merchant mariner at the age of 15, and by 1862 he was in London, where he spent two years as a commercial traveller.

It was at this time that Sadler's connection with Freemasonry began, when he was initiated in the Lodge of Justice No. 147. In 1865 Freemasons' Hall was greatly expanded, and Sadler was employed by the Grand Secretary's office as assistant to Charles Bryant Payne, the Grand Tyler, where he assisted in the arrangements for the quarterly meetings of United Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter.

Sadler's other duties at Freemasons' Hall included that of housekeeper, for which living accommodation was provided. He would arrange the letting and the booking of rooms, and maintain the Hall in general.

The census for 1881 confirms there were 12 people listed as residents in the Hall - Sadler, his wife Elizabeth, their six children, Elizabeth's older sister Ann, a servant, Eliza, the Irish door porter Nan Stanton, and Caleb Last, the house porter.

In 1879 Sadler became Grand Tyler and Grand Janitor, in which positions he assisted in many consecrations of Lodges and Chapters, thus becoming a well-know figure in London Masonry.

About this time, Sadler began his interest in the 'doings' of our Masonic predecessors, as he referred to it. As Grand Tyler and housekeeper, he had the ideal opportunity to look through all the old bookcases and cupboards and familiarise himself with their contents. At the same time, he started to catalogue the archives and collections that he came across.

He also began to make regular contributions to the Masonic press such as The Freemason and The Freemason's Chronicle.

This enabled him to share the information that he had found, and brought him into contact with the likes of leading Masonic figures such as R.F. Gould, G.W. Speth and John Lane, thus Sadler's reputation began to grow.

However, in 1883 a calamity affected Freemasons' Hall. In early May of that year a fire broke out in the main Temple, completely gutting the roof, with the loss of the magnificent portraits of the Rulers of the Craft.

The statue of the Duke of Sussex that stood at the back of the dais was recovered and repaired. Fortunately, it had only been affected by smoke and water. A report in The Daily Telegraph and reprinted in The Freemason dated 13th May 1883, read: 'It should be added that the regalia of Grand Lodge have escaped destruction as well as the throne used on special occasions when the Prince of Wales presides.

"As to the origin of the fire, there appears to be little doubt that it was owing to a high beam which ran through a flue communicating with the kitchen of the tavern, becoming ignited.

"It is due to Bro Henry Sadler, Grand Tyler, who resides on the premises, to say that but for his early discovery of the fire the whole of the buildings would in all probability have been destroyed."

On 6th February 1986, John Hamill, then Librarian, received a letter from a Miss Florence Watt, one of Sadler's granddaughters, informing him that she had been left some photographs of the fire by her mother.

She then made a visit to the Grand Lodge Library and Museum and donated three photographs, one of which was taken after the fire. Miss Watt then recalled a story of her mother remembering being carried down the main staircase by her father on the night of the fire.

In all probability this may have been young Florence, who would have been five at the time. In the last paragraph of the letter she states: "The Sadler family had a lucky escape when the fire broke out, which incidentally my grandfather was told was caused by the builders running a beam through the chimney of the boiler that heated the Temple, and it caught fire. The Temple almost backed on to the main building, and the family had to go down the staircase which was on that side of the building."

In 1887 Sadler was appointed sub-librarian of the United Grand Lodge of England in appreciation of all the work he had carried out in preserving the records and archives of Grand Lodge. In a 1904 publication, Sadler relates his story of the origins of the Library and Museum:

"As far back as the year 1837, the desirability of establishing a Library and Museum at the headquarters of the English Craft was enunciated by John Henderson, Grand Registrar and President of the Board of General Purposes, who at the Quarterly Communication on the 6th of September in that year, proposed 'That it is expedient to form a Masonic Library and Museum in connection with Grand Lodge.

"This motion, having been duly seconded, it was: 'Resolved that it be referred to the Board of General Purposes to consider and report on the mode of forming, preserving and regulating a Masonic Library and Museum.

"John Henderson may, therefore, be fairly designated the father of the valuable collection of books and relics of the past that form so attractive a feature of the buildings in Great Queen Street."

Sadler then informs us that it was Dr Robert Crucefix, vice-president of the Board of General Purposes, who made the first donation by presenting the Library with four volumes of The Freemasons' Quarterly Review, handsomely bound.

On 27th February 1838 the Board of General Purposes made the following statement: "That a room on the ground floor be set aside for the purposes of a Masonic Museum and Library. That a sum of money not exceeding £100.00 be placed at the disposal of the Board for the purpose of providing for the reception of books, manuscripts and objects of Masonic interest, and for commencing the formation of a Library and Museum. That for the present time it will be convenient to appoint the Grand Secretaries ex-official curators of the Library and Museum."

Dr George Oliver appears to have been the next contributor to the Library, when on 28th May 1838, he presented three volumes of his well-know works.

Sadler then tells us that on 5th September: "Brother George William Turner, Past Master of Lodges 53 and 87 had presented eighty volumes of books to the Library of Grand Lodge." The Lodges have now been renumbered Strong Man No. 45 and Mount Lebanon No. 73.

It was in 1887 that Sadler published his ground-breaking work on the origins of the Antients Grand Lodge. He had already rediscovered Morgans Register, the first register and minute book of the Antients, and the Charter of Compact.

However, it was in Masonic Fact and Fiction that he finally proved that there had been no schism with the Premier Grand Lodge, and that the Antients were mainly unattached Masons from Ireland. With the publishing of Masonic Fact and Fiction, Sadler's reputation grew, and by 1907 he had published six more books and many papers and other contributions.

On his retirement as Grand Tyler and Grand Janitor in 1910, an office he held for 31 years, he was appointed the first Librarian and Curator to Grand Lodge.

Sadler was a member of many Lodges and Chapters, and in 1903 he was elected a full member of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, the premier Lodge of Masonic research, for his achievements in Masonic research, becoming Master in 1911.

Unfortunately, Sadler died on 15th October that year, and was buried in the Great Northern Cemetery, New Southgate, London.

Of all the many eulogies and written obituaries on Henry Sadler, one in particular sums up the man, and was given on 8th November 1911 by Edmund Dring.

"It is difficult on this sad occasion for one so young in years, compared to our late Master. I remember well the occasion on which I first met Bro Sadler. It was now nineteen years ago, and the brusque manner in which he chided me for an unconscious indiscretion was distasteful to me, although it was deserved.

"When, soon afterwards, I got to know him more thoroughly, I wondered however I could have resented his fraternal caution, for I quickly found that beneath his epidermis brusqueness, there was a kindliness and paternal solicitude the extreme depth of which I never fathomed.

"His writings are already historical, his life and work will become historical, but future generations will unfortunately never be able to appreciate his deep modesty, to feel his affectionate regard, or realise that in all matters of vital and most questions of Masonic interest and antiquarianism, they have lost their expositor.

"His knowledge was so far-reaching and his extreme willingness to help real students at all times so well-known, that every Brother throughout the world who was interested in Masonic history must personally mourn his loss."

David Peabody is secretary of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, the premier Lodge of Masonic research.

Published in Features
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