Celebrating 300 years

Along with much of the country, the lights went out and Freemasons' Hall was plunged into darkness at 10pm last night to commemorate the moment that Great Britain declared war on Germany one hundred years ago

A single candle illuminated the Memorial Shrine, which commemorates the 3,225 brethren, who died on active service in the First World War and in whose memory the building was raised.

Behind the shrine is the stained glass memorial window whose theme is the attainment of Peace through Sacrifice, with the Angel of Peace carrying a model of the tower of the building.

The bronze memorial casket, which was designed by Walter Gilbert, contains the memorial roll, at the corners of which are gilt figures representing the fighting services.

Images courtesy of Colin Clay Photography

Letters to the editor - No. 26 Summer 2014

Men of honour

Sir,

My grandfather was initiated on 9 November 1908 into Royal Rose Lodge, No. 2565, a military lodge formed by officers from the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). 

He appears on the masonic roll of honour.

Charles Arthur Murray was a volunteer soldier who fought in the Boer War for the Royal Fusiliers and subsequently in the Great War, where he was killed in 1915. Apart from his campaign medals, he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal just before he was killed by shrapnel. This was awarded as a result of his actions in preventing the slaughter of German troops who had surrendered when his battalion engulfed a German trench.

As a result of an email discussion with my cousin (sharing the same grandfather), we visited his grave last June. As part of the tour we had a personal trip to his marked grave in Windy Corner, Cuinchy, the Guards Cemetery in Northern France and we laid a wreath. We think we were the first family members to do so. It was very moving, as you can imagine.

This trip to France stimulated me to make further enquiries and I contacted the very helpful Secretary of Royal Rose Lodge, Colin Woodcock. His records also produced my grandfather’s brother, Henry Murray, who I discovered had been initiated and passed on the same dates as his brother, and who became Master in 1922. Colin Woodcock invited me to attend Royal Rose, which I did on 13 November in the company of eight members of my lodge, Sunbury Lodge, No. 1733. 

What a special occasion that was – to make the link going back over ninety years. 

A wonderful welcome was given to all of us by Royal Rose, which subsequently granted me the great privilege of honorary membership. My request to give the visitor’s speech was granted, as I wanted the opportunity to record how Freemasonry benefited me.

As a result of my grandfather being a Freemason, his three sons were enrolled in the masonic school and received a good education. This enabled them to become professionals in their employment and, in turn, give their own sons a good start in life. 

I would not be in a good position today if it were not for that.

We at Sunbury hope to welcome brethren of Royal Rose to our April meeting, where they will be gladly received.

John Murray, Sunbury Lodge, No. 1733, Staines, Middlesex

Charles Arthur Murray 1915

Charles Arthur Murray, 1915

Published in UGLE

Taking the right approach

Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes emphasises the importance of making ritual enjoyable and marks the Royal Arch’s achievements

Grand Rank does come with responsibilities. For example, you have a duty to be mindful of both recruitment and retention in the Order. On recruitment, I would first ask who among you does in fact recruit and, to those of you who do recruit new members, are you sensitive to the right time to approach each potential exaltee? This sensitivity is also a challenge to Royal Arch representatives in Craft lodges and emphasises the reason why this is such an important appointment. 

Those of you who do not recruit, why not? Recruiting to the Royal Arch is, after all, simply a matter of persuading someone to extend their knowledge about a subject of which they are already partly aware and enjoy. It is not introducing them to something completely alien.

On retention, you can help by actively showing your enthusiasm for and enjoyment of the Order. Also, by guiding the new Companion through the various stages of his progression, making sure that, wherever possible, the work is shared, so that the ritual is enjoyed by him and does not become a burden to him.

‘Those of you who do not recruit, why not? Recruiting to the Royal Arch is, after all, simply a matter of persuading someone to extend their knowledge…’

In October last year we celebrated the Bicentenary of the Holy Royal Arch. The First Grand Principal announced then that the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons had exceeded £2 million and that the appeal would remain open until the end of 2013. Companions, as you have already heard from the President of the Committee of General Purposes, the figure is now £2.5 million. This is a wonderful achievement and a great credit to the Royal Arch. 

I turn now to the Grand Temple organ restoration project, which is a Royal Arch initiative using existing funds. Designed and built by Henry Willis and Sons, the organ has been in place since Freemasons’ Hall was opened in 1933. It is possibly the largest complete, unaltered Willis instrument in full working order after eighty years. It is, however, in need of substantial restoration. 

English Heritage and Camden Council have agreed to the restoration plans with full completion in early 2015 – in good time for the Craft’s Tercentenary in 2017. Not only will this fine organ be restored, the Royal College of Organists will also be approached to investigate the possibility of encouraging young organists to use the Grand Temple Organ, as well as conducting organ recitals that are open to the public.

Published in SGC

Attention to retail

With Freemasons from across the world flocking through its high-arched doors, Letchworth’s is proving to be a popular draw for visitors. Manager Kevin Duffy reveals why the shop at Freemasons’ Hall offers so much more than souvenirs

What attracted you to the position of shop manager?

I applied to work in Letchworth’s eleven years ago. 

I’d managed high street stores before; I’m not a mason myself, but the idea of working for Freemasonry was intriguing. The shop was much smaller then, perhaps twelve foot by twelve foot with some cabinets and a till. There was nothing there really, but Diane Clements (Director of the Library and Museum) handed me the keys and said, ‘Off you go.’ It was the perfect challenge. 

How have things changed in the shop?

For one thing, it’s three times bigger! We’ve just completed our third refit to include a clothing section and a jewellery counter. What started as a modest collection of Grand Lodge publications has expanded into nine different product ranges, including regalia, homeware, audio and the usual quirky gifts like teddy bears, book lights and heraldic shields.  

Why has the shop been so successful?

The shop wouldn’t be anything without the knowledge of the Freemasons in this building. With so many products, it’s impossible to know everything about all of them, so I rely on the expertise of the people around me. Whether it’s a London Grand Rank Association volunteer relaying customer requests or somebody from the Library and Museum giving me advice about regalia, I listen to what they have to say. All that has come together to produce the incredible shop we have now; it’s been a communal effort to get to where we are. 

How has the internet affected sales?

Some people see it as a threat, but for Letchworth’s it’s been a massive advantage as so many members live outside London. Ever since we launched the website eight years ago, the number of overseas visitors has also grown tremendously. It’s been a fantastic resource for spreading the Letchworth’s name, as well as bringing in sales of its own. In 2007, online accounted for twenty per cent of all sales, but today it brings in just under half when combined with mail order. It’s fantastic when you get visitors from the other side of the world coming in and saying they wish they had something like this where they come from. They also spend more than the British customers; average spend for overseas masons is from £70 to £80, but for UK Freemasons it’s from £20 to £30. 

Is there competition in the world of masonic retail?

There’s a friendly rivalry with the external masonic shops, especially those based across the road from us. We all want Freemasonry to be a good experience. 

All the profits that we make in Letchworth’s are gift-aided to support the work of the Library and Museum. 

Are masonic items always high quality?

There are always some companies out there who try to get involved in any market in the cheapest way possible. You can tell in an instant if it’s a poor product, and we won’t touch it. If you stock bad-quality products, word will spread – one customer will tell ten others and then your business goes backwards. On the flip side, if you provide good products and great service, it cements a good reputation.

‘The shop wouldn’t be anything without the knowledge of the Freemasons in this building... it’s been a communal effort to get to where we are.’

How has Freemasonry changed over the past decade?

Freemasons’ Hall has become much busier, and that’s had a direct impact on the shop. Seven years ago, the building had maybe six lodge meetings on a Saturday; now there can be up to twenty-nine. There’s also a more open feel about the Hall. That’s probably down to the public tours and an increased international interest in Freemasonry. 

What’s your favourite part of working at the shop?

I love working here, but it’s the people who really make it. The camaraderie is what helps drive the business forward. I rely so much on the input of my staff and volunteers, especially when it comes to expanding the range. My performance as a manager is very much tied up with theirs, and fortunately we have a dynamic team. 

What does the future hold?

My ultimate goal is to keep developing the shop. 

You’ve always got to keep moving forward in business, and that’s what I strive to do by challenging the staff, volunteers and United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) to keep coming up with new ideas. We could easily fill a shop three times the size of what it is now. But we wouldn’t fill it with any old product; it would have to have good-quality stock that I would be proud to sell.

How it all began

Past Junior Grand Deacon and long-time member of the UGLE team, Ken Garrett recalls Letchworth’s early days 

Our first purchases were very modest and in line with items that could be found in most museums and buildings open to the public – key rings, coasters and a set of postcards of sites within the building. We were able to back these up with the Grand Lodge publication Freemasons’ Hall, which had colour slides and an explanation of most of the photos.

We recruited sufficient brethren from the London Grand Rank Association to man the shop full-time, then we waited to see what the outcome would be. After a slow start the shop got accepted, first by visitors and then – somewhat reluctantly, it seemed – by members, who usually only made a quick visit before going to a meeting. We steadily increased the number of items for sale as demand arose.

From small beginnings, Letchworth’s has blossomed into a major shop and I trust fulfilled the hopes of all who recall its birth.

Published in Features

Gentlemen on the move

In January 2013, Freemasons’ Hall hosted its first menswear fashion show for heritage label Hackett. Miranda Thompson witnesses the transformation of the masonic headquarters into a grand hotel

You’re looking great!’ The shout cuts through the vestibule at Freemasons’ Hall, today lit softly in blue. A man takes hold of a luggage cart and trots through the high iron gates, twirling in his checked trousers as he reaches the end. 

Welcome to the Autumn/Winter 2014-15 Hackett menswear fashion show, the first time the clothing brand has ever displayed at Freemasons’ Hall. Today, the vestibule and its surrounding quarters are appearing as ‘Hotel Hackett’. ‘The Hall has one of the finest and most dramatic Art Deco interiors in London, reminiscent of the grand hotels of the period,’ says Jens Kaeumle, creative director at the menswear label. 

‘It felt a perfect fit to host the show, and the stunning backdrop is ideal for a collection inspired by the glamour of travel.’

It’s two hours before the first model walks and the vestibule is buzzing. Spotlights illuminate the intricate tiles before the Grand Temple as men with ponytails untangle wires and black-clad assistants carefully lay out branded goody bags on the white-block seats. In keeping with the travel theme, stacks of luggage are artfully arranged around the interior and bellboys in small hats and sharp suits line the stairs.

But the Hall’s Hackett makeover stretches beyond the vestibule. Classic tweed jackets hang in the Robing Room, where the steam hiss of an iron punctuates the calm atmosphere, while the Grand Dressing Room houses hair and make-up – models old and young sporting neat beards and shorn crops wait their turn for the mirror. In the corridor, a model is being put through his paces: ‘Walk, walk and turn,’ he’s instructed, his black shoes gleaming like the polished wooden floor.  

‘Doesn’t it look wonderful today? They’ve really used the building as a backdrop,’ says the Hall’s Head of Events, Karen Haigh, as she surveys the scene. ‘The lighting and the way they’ve set it out, it’s masculine but elegant. 

And the iron doors look amazing under those lights.’ 

Freemasons’ Hall is no stranger to high fashion: every February and September during London Fashion Week it hosts Fashion Scout, a platform for new creative design talent featuring a packed schedule of shows.

‘I’m very conscious that this is a peace memorial, a working building, and we have to be sensitive to members. We only take on events that are right for the building.’ Karen Haigh

‘It’s evolved into something quite special,’ Karen says. ‘Everyone knows Freemasons’ Hall houses the new designers. We used to have a few men’s events tagged onto the end of Fashion Week, but I think it’s great that they’re taking off like this.’ 

A perfect fit

What began as a side venture at Freemasons’ Hall has blossomed. When Karen was initially asked to investigate whether the hosting of external events could bring in extra revenue to benefit the building, nobody guessed the scale to which it would grow. In 2013 the Hall hosted one hundred and twenty-five events, among them daily conferences, the Aston Martin one-hundredth anniversary and even the UK Lingerie Awards

Why is the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) happy to hold events as eclectic as this? ‘They send out a message that the building is accessible. It gets rid of the myth of closed doors,’ Karen explains. And despite the mix of people filling the building today, it’s clear that the Freemasons are always the priority. ‘We’re very sensitive,’ she says. ‘We don’t want to disturb lodge members, so we work around them. We do soundchecks to make sure the rest of the building isn’t affected. And we’ve even run tours when there’s been filming.’

While it’s clear just how much UGLE enjoys welcoming these events, Karen always carefully curates the line-up. ‘I’m very conscious that this is a peace memorial, a working building, and we have to be sensitive to members,’ she explains. ‘We only take on events that are right for the building.’ So what made Hackett a good fit? ‘I think the brand ties in well with the heritage of the Hall,’ Karen says. ‘You’ve got a very old, traditional building that is something like a gentleman’s club, and then you’ve got the young men coming into it. It’s a nice juxtaposition. It shows we’re not fuddy-duddies – that’s the big thing. A lot of the younger members like that we’re not just seen as old-fashioned.’ 

Back in the vestibule, where every seat is filled and extra space absorbed by those standing, it’s time for the fashion to take over. Lights dim, conversation fades and faces crane toward the iron gates as a bellboy emerges on the catwalk, pushing the luggage carrier at just the right speed. Forty models follow him in turn, each cast from a roll-call of characters that you might encounter in the lobby of a glamorous hotel, from the nattily dressed CEO to the gentleman explorer, a nod to the age of adventure, and former rugby player Thom Evans, who steps out in a grey overcoat and tailored trousers.

The classic British attire on show spans a classic colour palette – warm blush jumpers, soft grey beanie hats, dark checks – and, of course, a selection of suitcases. 

In a matter of minutes, Jeremy Hackett himself takes to the catwalk, tipping his bowler hat to a roar of approval, and then it’s all over. It’s just as Karen says: ‘You’d never put Freemasons and fashion together, but isn’t it lovely?’ 

Not just men’s fashion

While Freemasons’ Hall provides a fantastic venue to showcase men’s fashion, it’s equally comfortable recognising the top names in the lingerie sector. Held at the Hall in December, the 2013 UK Lingerie Awards was a spectacular night of drama and entertainment in the company of industry stars and celebrities from across the country. Hosted by Sky Sports News presenter Millie Clode, the event crowned Debenhams the UK’s Favourite Lingerie Retailer of the Year.

 

Published in Features
Friday, 28 February 2014 00:00

Freemasons' Hall wins Cool Venue Award 2014!

We're delighted to announce that Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street, London, has won a COOL Venue Award 2014!

The star-studded industry event was held last night at Ministry of Sound, which was also the winner of the award for COOLest Bar and Club.

Freemasons’ Hall won the award for COOLest Venue for AGMs, beating off stiff competition from other nominees including the Savoy (who won the award last year), the Dorchester, Emirates Stadium, RSC Stratford-on-Avon, HAC, Indigo 2, Somerset House, the Corinthia, One Wimpole Street and the Magna Science Centre. 

Barry Seamen (pictured), Chief Executive of Richmond Creative Events accepted the award on our behalf.

 

Published in More News
Wednesday, 19 February 2014 11:37

London Fashion Week 2014 at Freemasons' Hall

Freemasons' Hall welcomes back London Fashion Week for 2014!

The great and the good of the fashion world were out in force over the past week for London Fashion Week. Here are a few images of what went on in and around Freemasons' Hall.

With thanks to Liz BlackFashion Scout and spaces photography for the kind use of their images.

Published in More News

New advert for Cadbury Dairy Milk features our very own Freemasons' Hall in a supporting role!

In the video, which was directed by Ben Winston, comedian James Corden lip-syncs to Estelle's Free. 

Arian Jessop from Ayton Lodge No 9595 has walked to Freemasons’ Hall in London from York, fundraising over £1,300 for his Province’s current Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) Festival Appeal

Covering 245 miles over 14 days, Adrian updated a daily blog and shared pictures of his journey online with masons from the Province of Yorkshire, North and East Ridings. He said: 'Now I have completed the walk, I feel absolutely elated. I have been bowled over by the support from my family, colleagues and friends, both masons and non-masons.'

'None of us know if or when we may need to call on help, suffer an illness or disability where treatment is limited or not available. This was my way of supporting a fantastic charity achieving great things by helping others. I have many lasting memories from this walk and I met many new friends along the way. Thank you to all that have followed my progress and supported me through sponsorship.'

Willie Shackell, President of the MSF said: 'Having watched his progress with great interest, we were delighted to welcome Adrian to the MSF’s office and offer our sincere thanks for his incredible effort on our behalf.'

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund
Monday, 11 November 2013 13:31

Freemasons mark Remembrance Day

If you have any photos from Remembrance Day you'd like us to share, please tweet them to us @UGLE_GrandLodge, or post them to our Facebook page

 

 

 

Published in More News
Thursday, 05 September 2013 01:00

John Vazquez is the Mr Fix-It of Freemasons' Hall

Behind the scenes

As the masonic adviser in the private office, John Vazquez is the Mr Fix-it of Freemasons’ Hall, providing all the expertise, support and sometimes regalia to make sure that lodge meetings go without a hitch

Q: How did you come to work at Freemasons’ Hall?

A: Before I was called up to national service in Spain in the 1970s, I was working for a retailer in Oxford Street. My mother used to work at Freemasons’ Hall cleaning the Grand Temple and when I returned to the UK, she said there was as a job going as a porter. I took the role in 1980 and thought I’d eventually get back into retail management, but here I am thirty-three years later. I got to know the people and enjoyed it. Back then it was very family oriented and sometimes you felt that you’d rather stay in the Hall than go home.

When I first walked into the building, I thought how wonderful it was – I was amazed by it and still am. It’s not what you expect; there are lots of cubby holes and even now I’m discovering new things. My favourite place is room seventeen; everyone likes the Grand Temple and room ten, but I like room seventeen’s old-fashioned wood panels and the antique furniture.

‘I am still amazed by the Hall. It’s not what you expect; there are lots of cubby holes and even now I’m discovering new things.’

Q: What was your first lodge?

A: I became a member of the staff lodge, Letchworth, after the bylaws had changed to allow ‘downstairs’ staff to become full members. I then joined the half English, half Spanish St Barnabas Lodge. It was a dying lodge, maybe fourteen or so members, but it’s up to around fifty-two now. I get to meet such a wide variety of people – that’s the great thing about Freemasonry.

Q: When did you start helping to run events?

A: After becoming foreman porter, my job changed to deputy lodge liaison officer. When Nigel Brown came in as Grand Secretary, it developed into the role I have now: using my knowledge to look after the masonic events in the building. From Grand Lodge through to Provincial lodge meetings, I’m always in the background making sure everything is working.

My job is to ensure each day is perfect. I help set up rooms, making sure all the props are there, as well as providing advice. I want to make all the masons watching feel comfortable and for them to walk out with a smile on their face, saying what a wonderful day they’ve had. I’m a calm person and I say to people when they come for a meeting, ‘Don’t worry. If I look anxious, then start worrying, but until then assume everything’s OK.’ I try not to get too stressed.

‘I don’t have an average day, it’s not like working in an office. One side of my job is practical – it’s a good thing I was in the Scouts.’

It doesn’t matter who you are, I will treat you in the same way. It goes back to the principles of Freemasonry and it’s a wonderful thing about the Craft. You do get individuals who think they’re special and need reminding of where they are, that this is not their building: it’s mine and they should behave! I’m lucky that I’ve been here a long time and people know me, so if I say something is going to happen, then it will.

Q: How would you describe your job?

A: I’m a Mr Fix-it. I don’t have an average day and it’s not really like working in an office. One side of my job is practical, like replacing broken chairs, and I’m responsible for all the regalia, making sure it’s clean and repaired – it’s a good thing I was in the Scouts. But my job is also about understanding Freemasonry, knowing what you can and can’t do in a ceremony. If I know I can’t do it, then I know someone else probably can’t either. A lot of people do take my recommendations, but it’s only advice.

When we started hosting non-masonic events at the Hall, the Grand Tyler Norman Nuttall and I used to organise them. As demand increased, the external events were given to Karen Haigh to oversee and I now work closely with her to make sure our masonic and non-masonic events don’t clash. When we first held things like Fashion Week here, there were a few raised eyebrows from masons coming to the Hall, but I think they’re used to it now.

Q: Have things changed since you joined in 1980?

A: Freemasonry has opened up quite a lot, as much as people think it hasn’t. When I first came here you weren’t allowed to go to the Library and Museum unless you were a mason or accompanied by one. While basic masonry hasn’t changed, the people around it have. Younger masons are looking at things in a different way, which is good.

Freemasonry was here before I came and it’ll be here after I’m gone – just like this building. To me it’s a privilege and honour to come and work here. It was fantastic to be part of the two hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary celebrations in 1992 at Earls Court. There was a lot to organise; we had to set the arena up as the Temple and two lodges, but we got it done. It’s the same with the three hundredth celebrations. I won’t panic and I’m actually looking forward to it. We will make masons proud.

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