Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Built to last

John Hamill looks back on the construction of Freemasons’ Hall from the perspective of those who worked there

Despite the economic problems, the 1920s was a period of great expansion for Freemasonry. It appealed to those coming back from the war – both as a means of continuing the camaraderie they had experienced on active service and giving them a sense of stability and tradition in a much changed world.

With the growing popularity of Freemasonry, the great project of building the present Freemasons’ Hall in London was undertaken as a memorial to those who had given their lives in the First World War. Changes of this magnitude and the increased work in raising money for the new building put enormous strains on the small office run by the Grand Secretary.

In 1919, the office consisted of the Grand Secretary, Assistant Grand Secretary, sixteen permanent clerks, four junior clerks and two ‘lady typewriters’, Miss Haig and Miss Winter. The two ladies had come in towards the end of the war as temporaries but were to spend the remainder of their careers in the Hall as secretaries to the Grand Secretary and his assistant.

The daily running of the building and the letting of lodge and committee rooms was under the charge of the Grand Tyler, who lived in the hall. He had an assistant, two porters, a night watchman, a ‘furnace man’ who looked after the primitive heating system and the open fires in the offices and committee rooms, and a floating number of cleaners.

Six of the boys taken on between 1925 and 1929 – some of whom came directly from the old Royal Masonic School for Boys – were each to spend forty-nine years in the service of the Grand Lodge: Gerry Winslade, Harold Brunton, Llew Hodges, Bill Browne, Derek Chanter and Bob Hawkins.

Dickensian is probably an overused adjective, but it aptly describes the conditions under which the clerks worked. Freemasons’ Hall had been extended in the 1860s and what were termed commodious offices had been provided for the Grand Secretary and his clerks. Even the provision in 1906 of two new rooms in a house attached to the west end of the old Hall did little to give proper working space.

As the steel work for the new building began to rise in 1927 it gradually became apparent that much would have to change in the future. It was to cover two and one quarter acres with four principal floors, a large basement area and mezzanine floors in various parts of the building. Routine maintenance would be of ‘Forth Bridge’ proportions, to say nothing of security.

Not surprisingly, many of those who had been involved in raising the building applied for jobs and spent the rest of their working lives caring for it, some of them working into their mid-seventies. Carpentry, electrical and engineering workshops were set up in the basement, together with a paint shop and upholstery department. When the time came to demolish the Victorian Hall, the office was transferred to temporary accommodation in what was to be one of the new lodge rooms so that the administration could continue. The conditions were far from ideal but they knew that before long they would be moving to what one of the clerks described as a ‘demi-paradise’.

The new office for the clerks was built in the undercroft of the Grand Temple and matched it in size. Unlike the Grand Temple, it had enormous windows allowing much natural light to come in from the light well which surrounds it. Unlike the cramped Victorian offices, it was open plan giving a great feeling of airy lightness and space. Visitors came in through large glazed bronze doors to find a long enquiries counter, always manned by a senior clerk who could deal with their enquiries or quickly fetch the appropriate clerk who dealt with the particular matter. While waiting to be served, the visitor had a view over the whole of the office.

At the back of the room was a mezzanine floor where the cashier and his clerks had their office. The sensitive nature of their work dealing with Grand Lodge finances and staff payroll was carried out without any fear of being overlooked by staff or visitors. In those halcyon days it was the only part of the office where the doors had locks, the rest of the office was always accessible even when the clerks had left for the evening.

In time, as the Craft continued to expand – particularly after the Second World War – the office again became crowded. In addition, areas had been partitioned off to provide small offices for individuals and the whole open-plan design had been submerged. When a major structural reorganisation of the Grand Secretary’s office took place in 1999 the old partitions were torn down and the feeling of light and space returned. Apart from the modern furniture and the computers, were one of the 1932 clerks to return to the office today they would find it little changed from that ‘demi-paradise’ they were the first to occupy.

Published in Features

History in the making

From searching the archives to helping Freemasons rejoin the Craft, there’s more to the UGLE registration office than records, as manager Andy Croci tells Miranda Thompson.

How did you come to work at UGLE?

I began my career working in the catering industry, and it looked like it was somewhere I’d end up. But in 1985 I knew someone working at Freemasons’ Hall who told me about the computerisation process that was going on in the registration department, where the records were being transferred from ledgers to computers. I’d always wanted to work with computers so after hearing about a vacancy as a registration clerk I thought I’d go for it.

What does the registration department do?

We deal with all aspects of membership – a member’s record can hold more than a hundred pieces of information. We work with the Provinces to try and build a complete picture of someone’s masonic record. We’ll confirm new members and then update their records as they go through all the relevant degrees and join other lodges, and record the offices they hold. We also issue the Grand Lodge Certificates, and if someone goes into the Royal Arch, we’ll issue them with a Grand Chapter Certificate. We often receive requests from other departments within UGLE to verify or update a membership record too.

Why did you become a Freemason?

I became a Freemason after I started working here because I wanted to find out what it was all about. I recently became secretary of my mother lodge, which has definitely given me an extra dimension. When a secretary contacts me now, I can understand their point of view and I feel I can empathise with members more. We get more people nowadays who are interested in joining Freemasonry, and we often get contacted by people saying they were a Freemason and want to find out how to get back into it.

Why are records so important for UGLE?

Any reputable membership organisation wants to keep a record of its members, and we’ve been doing it for the past three hundred or so years. Our Library and Museum has reliable and continual records going back to circa 1760. From a historical perspective, it’s important that we maintain our records because the Library and Museum gets around five hundred genealogical enquiries every year. I always think that people will be looking at our records in fifty or a hundred years from now, if not more, so in a way, the registration office is history in the making.

How else are the records useful?

We work with the masonic charities too. They have a certain level of access to our database, but when they receive an enquiry from, say, the widow of a member, we or the Library and Museum can investigate further. Charities need to be able to confirm that a late husband, or whoever, was a member before they can give financial aid, so we can help them with that. Often we’ll get enquiries from people who are looking to rejoin the Craft. I love those enquiries because I know I’m actually helping someone get back into Freemasonry.

At the moment, I’m helping a Freemason who was a member of one of our lodges in the Caribbean but now lives in America. His son and grandson are joining an American lodge, and he wants to be there for the initiation as well as possibly rejoin, but he needs to prove his membership. I put him in touch with the right people, and now hopefully he’ll be there. That’s the rewarding part of my job.

What are the challenges of running the department on a day-to-day basis?

One of the challenges is dealing with the sheer number of enquiries we receive. People go that extra mile every day to make records as complete as they can, like going down to the archives and checking old ledgers. And working here, you appreciate how worldwide Freemasonry is. You can get enquiries from any part of the globe and someone can ask the same question half a dozen different ways, but I really do enjoy finding a solution to a problem.

How has the department changed since you started working?

When I first started, the office was completely different – when I look back, I can’t quite believe it. We were still working with the old ledgers while also adding information onto the computer. Before we computerised the records a secretary would send us a handwritten list of members. That list would then be checked against our records, which was really time consuming. New initiates were fine –you’d just write them in, but joining members would have to be cross-referenced with the other lodges that they’d been members of. So you’d have to find the records of, say, ten different lodges in different ledgers.

Has technology made a big difference?

Computerisation has changed everything. My department has halved in size, from sixteen to eight. We also had another three or four people who were employed to change over the records from the ledgers to the new computers – they started with the computers in 1983 and when I came here in 1985 they were halfway through. They finished around 1988, and that was a big moment for us all. I feel quite lucky that I was able to witness the old way of doing it.

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Bike ride with a difference

In November 2006, John Donoghue of St Aldhelm’s Lodge No.2559 in Dorset was admitted to Guy’s Hospital, where he donated a kidney to his daughter Tara. For John, it was a life-changing experience seeing first-hand the suffering of so many young people. Since then, John has participated in many fundraising ventures. Last year it was Freemasonry and the RMBI in particular that benefited.

John and his friend Trevor Woodford set off on their touring bikes from Gibraltar to Poole, a formidable distance of 1,500 miles. John raised funds for the 2014 RMBI Dorset Festival and Trevor for Cancer Research UK. The final total was more than £3,000 – approximately £2 per mile. The RMBI encourages everyone within the Festival to think of ways to raise money and is committed to offering as much support to all fundraisers as it can. When it comes to fundraising, John’s motto is very clear: ‘I believe that it’s an honour to be a mason and it’s our duty to try and make a difference to those less fortunate than ourselves.’

Published in RMBI
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Was Sir Christopher Wren a Freemason?

Was St Paul's Cathedral built by a mason?

With Christopher Wren’s membership of the Craft remaining disputed, Dr James Campbell explains why he chose this subject for his 2011 Prestonian Lecture

Sir Christopher Wren is so well known he hardly needs an introduction. He is England’s most famous architect, the designer of St Paul’s Cathedral. Indeed, up until the age of the railways he was England’s most prolific architect, designing more buildings in his 90 years than any other.

But what makes Wren really fascinating is that he turned to architecture rather late, having already made a considerable name for himself as a mathematician, astronomer and experimental scientist. He was a founding member of the Royal Society and later its president. He carried out the first intravenous injection, was one of the three men who suggested to Newton that gravity obeyed the inverse square law, and was a professor of astronomy at the age of 26. His contemporaries universally described him as startlingly brilliant. Indeed, the more you learn about Wren the more engaging he becomes.

My interest in Wren dates back to 1987, when I first arrived as an undergraduate in Trinity College, Cambridge, and discovered the magnificent library he built there. It sparked a lifelong interest in Wren and another in the architecture of libraries. An interest in Wren served me well and I eventually did my PhD on him and became an architectural historian. One topic kept coming up in my research on Wren: that of his link with Freemasonry. Authors were completely divided on the subject. Many, of course, simply ignored it entirely, but others could not make up their minds whether he was or was not a Freemason, let alone whether it had any effect on his architecture. That uncertainty continues to this day.

A CONTESTABLE TOPIC

If you go on the UGLE website and look at the lists of famous Freemasons, Wren’s name is nowhere to be found. Writers on the subject have also varied in their opinions. John Hamill said in The Craft that the case is ‘unproven’; David Stevenson has said in the past that there is no evidence; while Lisa Jardine, Wren biographer and distinguished historian, is in no doubt that he was. When you look further back – at the eighteenth century – the books of the time all state that Wren had not only been a Freemason, he had been the Grand Master. Some even go so far as to claim that Wren initiated Peter the Great of Russia and William III of England.

The Prestonian Lectures is the only series of lectures officially sanctioned by UGLE. Every year a new lecturer is appointed by the Trustees and announced in Grand Lodge. They choose their own topic. The subject should be suitable for delivery in open lodge or to a wider audience and should be of the broadest possible interest. Wren’s membership of the Craft seemed to me to be ideal and I am pleased that the Trustees agreed.

William Preston (1742-1818), after whom the Prestonian Lectures is named, had been interested in Wren. Preston was convinced Wren was a Freemason and wrote on the subject. He even went as far as buying what he thought was a portrait of him for his lodge. It is now known to be a portrait of the architect William Talman, and it still hangs in Freemasons’ Hall with a plaque wrongly labelled as Wren.

The lectureship Preston founded went into abeyance in the nineteenth century and was revived in its present form in 1924. Since then there have been eighty-two Prestonian Lecturers. Each is entitled to wear a distinctive jewel bearing Preston’s image. In their year of office they give ‘official’ deliveries to lodges chosen by the Board of General Purposes and unofficial deliveries to any lodges that ask for them.

Wren’s membership of the Craft has never been a subject of a Prestonian Lecture before, but is not an infrequent subject of masonic lectures. Most of those I have read are, I am afraid, rather confused.

Most lecturers rely heavily on Robert Freke Gould’s History Of Freemasonry (1883-87), which devotes over fifty pages to demolishing the previously held beliefs that Wren was a Freemason. Few lecturers bother to return to the original sources or look into more recent discoveries. This became my aim: to present clearly how the confusion had arisen and what we now know, and in presenting the evidence to allow the audience to make up their own minds.

Some history is straightforward. Through a series of reliable sources we are able to say unequivocally that something happened on a particular date. Other matters are not so straightforward – vital pieces of evidence are missing or unreliable. This is the case with Wren. The result is a fascinating story of detective work and of shifting views in history.

THE IDEAL SUBJECT

Wren lived around the time that Freemasonry emerged in the seventeenth century, so the question of his membership also brings up the issue of what Freemasonry was at the time he joined. It therefore provides a fascinating glimpse into the problems we have in studying all parts of early Freemasonry’s history.

Also bound up with this subject is the history of Lodge No. 2, the Lodge of Antiquity, which met near St Paul’s Cathedral. Preston was a member of this lodge in the late eighteenth century and it has a number of artefacts associated with Wren. A lecture on Wren is thus an excuse to go into the history of this wonderful lodge and its origins.

Lastly a lecture on Wren and Freemasonry is an ideal opportunity to ask the question of whether it had any effect on his architecture. Are there any masonic symbols hidden in the works of Wren?

These then were the reasons I chose Wren as the subject of the 2011 Prestonian Lecture and it was a most enjoyable year. I gave lectures all over the UK, and I even went as far as India. One highlight was being asked to give a lecture to the Christopher Wren Lodge in Windsor, which hired the town hall Wren designed for the occasion.

Modernising Wren’s hospital

The proceeds of the Prestonian Lecture and the booklet that accompanies it go to charity. Half of the proceeds from Dr James Campbell’s lecture are going to The Royal Hospital Chelsea. The hospital is undergoing a major restoration and is seeking funds to adapt Wren’s building to modern living. The other charity is the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. So far, James has raised more than £6,500 thanks to the generosity of the lodges who have supported the lecture. The sale of the booklet will hopefully raise more. Was Sir Christopher Wren A Mason? contains the complete text of Dr James Campbell’s 2011 Prestonian Lecture and is available from Letchworth’s in Freemasons’ Hall (letchworthshop.co.uk) for £7.99.

Published in Features
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Freemasonry and the Olympics

Gold doesn't tarnish

Susan Snell, Archivist and Records Manager for the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, reveals connections between the Craft and the Olympics

The London 2012 organisers revealed in 2011 that they received applications for more than 20 million tickets from 1.8 million people for the Olympic Games – more than three times the 6.6 million tickets available to UK sports fans. Compared with this mad scramble for tickets, attendances at the first London Games were low according to The Times on 18 July 1908. Expensive ticket prices, ranging from five shillings to a Guinea (£45 to £60 in today’s money) were blamed for poor sales. 

Thankfully, visits by the Royal Family boosted gate returns to the 1908 Games, with over 20,000 people attending the White City Stadium, constructed by the entrepreneur and Freemason, Imre Kiralfy. The masonic connections do not stop there. A keen sportsman and Freemason, Lord Desborough fenced at the unofficial Athens Games of 1906 and served as a member of the International Olympic Committee until 1913. Desborough was initiated in Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, Oxford, on 23 February 1875, the same day as Oscar Wilde.

The games begin

The 500 British athletes at the opening of the Olympic Games wore caps and blazer badges manufactured by the masonic regalia company, George Kenning & Son. Britons achieved sporting success in real tennis (jeu de paume), athletics, swimming, boxing, tug of war and cycling, with several masonic participants, including Richard Wheldon Barnett of St Alban’s Lodge, No. 29, London, who represented Great Britain in the rifle, military pistol class competition.

This was just the beginning of the 1908 success stories. A Great Britain team won the gold medal in the Olympic football competition, with Vivian John Woodward, an amateur player at Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur football clubs, scoring the second of two goals. Woodward, from Clacton, Essex, worked as an architect with his father and later designed the Antwerp stadium for the 1920 Olympics. Four years after his Olympic triumph, he was initiated in Kent Lodge No. 15, London.

Sir John Edward Kynaston Studd carried the British team flag and most track and field events were organised by the Regent Street Polytechnic, founded by Quintin Hogg. Studd became honorary secretary of the Polytechnic from 1885 and after Hogg’s death, president. Many sportsmen, including Studd, joined Polytechnic Lodge, No. 2847, after it was consecrated in 1901.

Studd and others formed Athlon Lodge, No. 4674, in 1924, the year Harold Abrahams won an Olympic gold medal in the 100 metres, as featured in the film Chariots Of Fire, beating an American, Charley Paddock, and another British athlete, the New Zealand-born Freemason, Sir Arthur Espie Porritt. Bronze medal winner Porritt, who later served as Governor-General of New Zealand, became a consultant surgeon and then chairman at the Royal Masonic Hospital from 1974 to 1982. Athlon Lodge member Abrahams and Porritt dined together on 7 July at 7pm every year to celebrate the anniversary of their double medal success in 1924, until the former died in 1978.

British sporting success

With the 1908 Games encouraging participation in competitive sports, Britons excelled at subsequent Olympic competitions. The Thames-based rower, Jack Beresford, won a silver medal in the single sculls at the 1920 Olympics and then won medals for rowing at each of the four subsequent Games. He carried the British flag at the opening and closing ceremonies of the controversial 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he won a gold medal in the double sculls. He was initiated as a Freemason in Argonauts Lodge, No. 2243, London, in 1944.

Forty years after its first visit to UK shores, the Olympics came to London again. Ernest James Henry ‘Billy’ Holt, who was initiated in Black Horse of Lombard Street Lodge, No. 4155, in 1922, served as director of organisation for the 1948 London Games. Holt, Master of Athlon Lodge in 1938, had coached the long-distance athlete, Gordon Pirie.

Cycling Freemasons, Gordon ‘Tiny’ Thomas, formerly of Lodge of Equity, No. 6119, Yorkshire West Riding, won a silver medal in the team road race and Tommy Godwin, formerly of Lodge of St Oswald, No. 5094, Worcestershire, won bronzes in the 1km time trial and in the team pursuit. Godwin coached the British cycling squad at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and will be an Olympic torchbearer in Solihull in July, aged 91. This blend of local and national interests, where Olympic and masonic aspirations combine, points to a time when members and non-members can enjoy the pleasure of a game well played, and a race well run.

 Sport by all
The Paralympic Games, which began at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1948 also have masonic ties. Professor Guttman, director of the National Spinal Injuries Centre at the hospital, encouraged WW2 veterans to play sport for rehabilitation. The Middlesex Masonic Sports Association has supported Paralympians, including Tracy Lewis, basketball, and Anthony Peddle, weightlifting, at the 1992 Barcelona Games, while the Grand Charity contributes to WheelPower (formerly the British Wheelchair Sports Foundation).
Game, Set and Lodge: Freemasons and Sport exhibition at the Library and Museum on Great Queen Street runs from 2 July-21 December 2012
Published in Features
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

changing of the guard

Freemasons pay tribute to retiring Grand Charity president Grahame Elliott’s ‘dedication and vision’, while welcoming his successor, Richard M Hone

Grahame Elliott, CBE, retired as president of the Grand Charity on 25 April 2012, and has been succeeded by Richard Hone, QC. The new president first joined the Council of the Grand Charity in 1997, initially serving for nine years during which time he was chairman of the Finance Committee and  was instrumental in bringing about a major revision of the charity’s constitution. After a gap of five years, Richard’s re-appointment in June 2011 was much welcomed by the other council members. Initiated in Apollo University Lodge in 1968, he is a senior circuit judge at the Central Criminal Court in London.

Grahame Elliott has served on the council for the past nine years, the first three as a member appointed by the Provincial Grand Master for East Lancashire, whose Province held the charity’s festival in 2004.

As president, Grahame has led the charity with much dedication and vision. He has joined with the other presidents of the central masonic charities to develop a closer working relationship, made easier by the charities’ move into Freemasons’ Hall. The Council of the Grand Charity wishes both Richard Hone and Grahame Elliott much success for the future.

Published in The Grand Charity
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

discovering old london

Did you know that before the flashing signs of Piccadilly Circus, a lavish restaurant called Café Monico stood there? A catalogue of historical objects reveals London in constant flux

The sights of London attract millions of visitors from all over the world to the city every year. In an ongoing project, the Library and Museum has been shedding new light on how London used to look. With the support of The London Grand Rank Association Heritage and Education Trust, staff have been working to catalogue nearly 2,000 items, including glassware, banners, ceramics and lodge and chapter jewels – all with London links.

One of the catalogued jewels is a Past Master’s jewel for Temperantia Lodge, No. 4058. Founded in 1920, the lodge met until 1942 at the Café Monico in Shaftesbury Avenue. The jewel has a painted enamel of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, commonly known as Eros, which stood at the centre of Piccadilly Circus in front of the Café Monico.

Monico was established in 1877, and the masonic suite was on the second floor. In the 1950s the business was acquired by the Forte Group and the buildings demolished. The site, still known as Monico, is now occupied by Piccadilly Circus’s illuminated signage.

You can view the full range of items in the collection by searching the Library and Museum’s catalogue for ‘London On-line’.

Published in Features
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Recruitment in the fast lane

With many lodges struggling to recruit and retain members, Mike Hailwood Lodge No. 9839, is gaining candidates fast, as one would expect from a masonic body named after a world champion motorcyclist and racing car driver. 

The lodge was consecrated by Warwickshire Provincial Grand Master, Michael J Price, at Edgbaston, Birmingham on Friday 25 April 2008 with 31 founding members present. It now has 58 members including three from the Isle of Man – the scene of so many of Mike Hailwood’s triumphs – where the lodge holds its September meeting every other year.

The lodge’s very first initiate was David Hailwood, the son of the late Mike Hailwood. Their latest recruit, Phillip Carter, aged 78, was initiated by his son Tim in the presence of Alan Welling, Deputy Provincial Grand Master for Warwickshire.

The secret of the lodge’s success? Well, for a start, getting to race around the Isle of Man TT course. Such is the flow of initiates that the by-laws are to be changed to include an extra meeting to cope with the ceremonies. Warwickshire’s Provincial Grand Master also goes along with his wife, who attends the Festive Board with the other ladies.

Mike Hailwood, whose father Stan was a Freemason, won nine motorcycle world titles between 1961 and 1967, then turned to motor racing, becoming European Formula 2 Champion. He then embraced Formula 1, but his career ended abruptly in 1974 when he crashed his McLaren on Germany’s daunting Nürburgring track. Disabled by leg injuries, he retired to New Zealand, but by 1978, at the age of 38, he was back at the Isle of Man TT to take on and beat the entire field. His victorious return there has been described as one of the most emotional moments of twentieth-century sport.

For more information about Mike Hailwood Lodge No. 9839, visit www.mikehailwoodlodge9839.co.uk

Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Compassionate care in Kent

Six local hospices received cheques from East Kent Province on behalf of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity at a meeting of Maidstone’s Millennium Lodge of Charity No. 9730

Since 1984, the Grand Charity has donated £8.7 million to hospices in England and Wales, supporting the ongoing compassionate care that they give to patients and their families. Last year, £600,000 was distributed to 226 hospices, including an allocation of £100,000 specifically for services dedicated to caring for children. As well as supporting individuals who need hospice care, staff also support families and close friends during illness and bereavement.

Published in The Grand Charity
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Still going strong

The Lodge of Rectitude, No. 335, has celebrated its bicentenary. The lodge by-laws state that membership is limited to 60, and as far as practicable be recruited equally from among lodges meeting in Wiltshire and Somerset.

In addition, at the June installation, the new Master must also provide the strawberries and cream at the Festive Board. During the meeting a cheque was presented to Wiltshire PGM Francis Wakem for £1,500 towards the 2017 Festival for the Masonic Samaritan Fund.

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