Celebrating 300 years

Regular Convocation

11 November 2015
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes

Companions, I am very pleased to see so many of you present today to witness the Installation of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race as Second Grand Principal. On behalf of all of you I wish him a long and happy tenure in this important role.

It is to the future that we should now look, but I would like to repeat my thanks to Most Excellent Companion George Francis for his many achievements and tireless work in raising the profile of the Holy Royal Arch since his own Installation in November 2005.

Companions, today, apart from celebrating the Installation of a new Second Grand Principal you will all be aware that it is also Armistice Day when we commemorate those who gave their lives in two World Wars. The observant amongst you will have noticed that a poppy wreath has been laid at the memorial shrine in the first vestibule to this Grand Temple, in front of the casket which holds the roll listing over 3,000 of our members who gave their lives on active service in the First World War.

I think it is worth reminding ourselves, however, that it is not just the shrine which is the memorial but the whole of Freemasons’ Hall itself. Indeed, during the planning stages in the 1920s and the first years of its existence, the building was known as the Masonic Peace Memorial.

As a memorial it was originally intended that the building should be reserved solely for masonic purposes but time and economics and the fact that the building is now Grade 2* listed both internally and externally have gradually led to the building being opened for non-masonic events and filming.

I would assure you however, companions, that our excellent and hard-working in-house events team take great care to ensure that outside events, especially filming, are consistent with the building’s origins and core purpose. We have a building of which we can be justifiably proud which is recognised as one of the landmark buildings of London.

Today we remember not only those in whose name the building was raised but also the many other thousands of our members who gave their lives during the Second World War and the other conflicts that have taken place since then. Although we have already stood in memory of recently departed members, in particular Most Excellent Companion Iain Bryce, Past Second Grand Principal, I believe that on this special day we should stand again to remember those who gave their lives to preserve those ideals which allow Freemasonry to flourish.

Companions, on September 30th this year, a packed Grand Temple enjoyed a magnificent Inaugural Concert to celebrate the refurbishment of our organ and when Supreme Grand Chapter is closed I am sure you will enjoy the talk by Ian Bell, Organ Consultant entitled ‘Achieved is the Glorious Work or Proof of the Pudding’, with musical illustrations played by Excellent Companion David Cresswell, Grand Organist.

Thank you, companions.  

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A Fantastic Evening of Family Entertainment

Advent, Christmas, Hanukkah and Diwali are all just around the corner so it's time to book for our Family Festive Concert.  It takes place on Thursday 10 December from 6.30pm to 8.00pm in the Grand Temple at Freemasons Hall, Great Queen Street.

Returning from their triumphal performance last year are St Anne’s College Camerata, the Oxfordshire Youth Brass Ensemble, the Oxfordshire Schools’ Choir and the Celtic London Pipes and Drums.

In addition this year, we will hear the refurbished Grand Temple organ in all its glory and a steel band. Father Christmas will also be there with presents for all the children attending.

This is the chance to celebrate in music and song the Festive Season of many faiths. It is also a chance to bring wives, family, friends and potential candidates to see the splendour of the Grand Temple. 

Our compere this year is that well-known Freemason and traveller in the skies, Stratton Richey.

Tickets are £10 for adults and £5 for children under 16 years.

Book your tickets now: https://event.bookitbee.com/3855/family-festive-concert-10-dec-2015/ 

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National conference for young masons

An invitation has gone out from the Connaught Club and other ‘light blue’ organisations to take part in the first ‘New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference’ at Freemasons’ Hall in London on Saturday, 24 October 2015.

Each club will present any ideas they have, explain which events have worked well for them, and discuss best practices. The two-hour conference will include time to meet other members. Representatives from Provinces without a young masons club are also encouraged to attend.

After the conference, guests are invited to the installation meeting and Festive Board for the Connaught Club’s lodge, Burgoyne Lodge, No. 902. 

For full details and to register, go to www.connaughtclub.org/nymcc2015

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Our borough has a birthday

We were very pleased to be invited to take part in this film put together by LoveCamden, celebrating the 50th birthday of Camden – the home borough of Freemasons' Hall. You can see our Grand Temple at 0:38.

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Thursday, 30 July 2015 11:57

New website for Letchworth's Shop!

Slick new look for masonic shopping website

We're very pleased to announce a brand new website for Letchworth's Shop: http://letchworthshop.co.uk/

The shop, based in Freemasons' Hall in Covent Garden, sells gifts, stationery, postcards and souvenirs, a wide range of official publications, books and magazines and Craft and Arch regalia. Other regalia can be obtained to order.

It also offers a range of items which can be personalised for individuals, lodges or chapters.

All major credit cards are accepted.

Telephone orders: 020 7395 9329 (during opening hours)

Members of the London Grand Rank Association staff the Shop on a voluntary basis working with the Shop Manager, Kevin Duffy.

Opening Hours:

Monday to Friday 10.30am to 5.30pm
Saturday 10am to 2.30pm

Except Bank Holiday weekends, Christmas and Easter when Freemasons' Hall itself is closed.

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Did you know we used to hold the record for largest ever sit-down meal?

HM The Queen is having a street party for her 90th birthday to be attended by 10,000 guests: http://bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33456400 

But for years it was Grand Lodge which used to hold the record for largest ever sit-down meal. The event was in aid of the Masonic Million Memorial Fund which raised money to build our beautiful Freemasons' Hall in London.

The historic lunch was held on Saturday 8th August 1925 at Olympia. Special trains were laid on to transport the over 7,000 members to the venue, who dined on five courses and coffee, served by 1,250 waitresses in just over an hour! 

Five miles of tables were laid with 50,000 plates, 30,000 glasses, 30,000 knives, 37,000 forks and 15,000 spoons. The assembled enjoyed salmon, lamb, chicken garnished with tongue and York ham. 

A central conning tower was erected in the gallery which was fitted with electrical signalling devices for the caterers to supervise the event. There was also a loudspeaker system with amplifiers that allowed all the diners to hear the speeches clearly. Music was provided by the band of the Welsh Guards. 

Books of matches were issued at the end of the meal, featuring an image of the event jewel on one side and the coat of arms of the United Grand Lodge of England on the reverse. Cigars and cigarettes packed in specially designed cases were also distributed.

Wow! And what an incredible image of the special day. I wonder what's in store for our tercentenary in 2017...

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Friday, 05 June 2015 01:00

Signed sealed delivered

Postal address

When Freemasons’ Hall welcomed actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Ian McKellen and Tom Hiddleston into the Grand Temple, Jessica Hopkins was in the audience to listen to messages of love and anguish in Letters Live

Without words we’d be forever fumbling in the dark; letters throw light wherever they are cast.’ And so opens a night of extraordinarily moving literary entertainment at Freemasons’ Hall.

It began as a simple idea: a website dedicated to photos of remarkable letters from the past, accompanied by transcriptions and introductions. Letters of Note then became something of a Twitter sensation before becoming a hardback anthology and then morphing into Letters Live. This year’s five-night live performance spectacular at London’s Freemasons’ Hall in April saw a glittering line-up of performers read against the glorious Art Deco backdrop of the Grand Temple. 

While events at Freemasons’ Hall do tend to be bespoke, one-off occasions, Letters Live offered the chance to do something quite different. ‘It was unique and like nothing we had done before,’ explains Karen Haigh, Head of Events at the Hall. ‘Even though I knew we could do it, I also realised that we had never done anything on this scale.’

With 7,500 tickets sold, more than 40 performers treading the boards and some 100 letters read aloud – not to mention an unexpected fire blazing beneath the streets of nearby Holborn – it was no small feat to pull off. When the Holborn fire forced Freemasons’ Hall to cancel the Wednesday performance, many of those scheduled to read that night came along to the Thursday show instead, creating a dream playbill: a who’s who of the stage and screen scene. 

Star-struck

The audience didn’t know who was performing until the moment they appeared on stage, so whoops of surprise and delight were heard as Sir Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott, Sir Ben Kingsley, Simon Callow, Sophie Hunter and Clarke Peters stepped up to the podium, to name but a few.

With opening and closing music by newcomer and one-to-watch Kelvin Jones, as well as a passionate solo cello performance by Natalie Clein, the evening – like the whole run – had been thoughtfully curated to match performers to letters. Subjects spanned the arts and politics, love and loss, family and friendship, longing and rejection.

There were letters filled with advice and encouragement, such as Kurt Vonnegut to Xavier High School, read with McKellen’s wise drawl: ‘Practice any art… no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.’

There were letters filled with furious rejection, like Hunter S Thompson’s to Anthony Burgess on receipt of a ‘50,000 word novella about the condition humaine…’ instead of the Rolling Stone thinkpiece he had commissioned. Performed by Dominic West and full of language far too colourful to reproduce here, it was one of the more spirited readings of the evening.

The Grand Temple buzzed with energy from the performers, while the splendour of the venue was equally captivating – visually beautiful and acoustically fantastic, it became an enhancer when it could have been a distractor. Those attending were left with the feeling of having witnessed something truly magical. It’s an effect Karen was keen to achieve: ‘We wanted people to enjoy the experience of going to the theatre but also be somewhere completely unique,’ she enthuses. 

It certainly didn’t disappoint. 

Evocative and emotional

For Virginia Woolf’s suicide letter to her husband, Leonard, the Grand Temple turned to darkness with only a single spotlight on reader Greta Scacchi: ‘I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time… Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer.’ A visceral, desolate performance.

Benedict Cumberbatch drew on his best David Bowie impression to read a letter written from the musician to his first American fan in 1967, when he had no sense of how famous and renowned he would become, which added to its innocent excitement and humility. In a duologue performance, Cumberbatch and Louise Brealey – facing one another across the Grand Temple and very much in-the-round – read letters from Chris and Bessie: two everyday British civilians who fell in love via ink and paper while separated during World War II. The collection showcased quite beautifully how letters written by ordinary people with passion and something to say can contain just as much poetry within their pages as those written by thinkers, artists and academics. 

Past perfect

Perhaps the performance of the evening came from 87-year-old actor Joss Ackland, who read a letter he’d written to his future wife Rosemary, who was engaged to another person at the time. Either side of the reading he performed the part he was rehearsing when he first met her: Act II, Scene 2 of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo’s soliloquy from the Capulet’s orchard, ‘But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?’ 

‘I might be a trifle old, but I think this is the way I played it,’ he told the audience before reciting from memory a speech full of lust and longing. And then, after the letter: ‘This is how I would play it now, with Rosemary no longer with me.’ In a breathtaking performance, the longing remained, but it was cloaked in sorrow rather than driven by lust.

With considerable media coverage, Letters Live has been one of the more high-profile events hosted at Freemasons’ Hall, generating only positive sentiment according to Karen. ‘Events such as this are a way of saying to people that we’re not what you think we are,’ she explains. ‘Because when we open our doors people’s preconceptions are completely blown away.’

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Recognising our legacy

HRH The Duke of Kent explains how funding from the Royal Arch is supporting the Royal College of Surgeons and has helped to restore the Willis organ in the Grand Temple

 You will remember the generous £2.5 million raised for the 200th anniversary appeal to support the research work of the Royal College of Surgeons. A fundamental decision was needed as to how this sum should be invested and administered. 

It was decided that this would best be done together with the existing Grand Lodge Fund, launched for the Royal College in 1967, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Grand Lodge.

It has been agreed that the fellowships will be allocated to both the Craft and the Royal Arch in proportion to the contribution of funds. So, this will mean that there will be two Royal Arch Fellows in every five fellowships that are supported. 

As patron of the fund, I confirm that in order to reflect these important changes – notably that the funding for these fellowships has come from both the Craft and the Royal Arch – the name of the fund has been changed as of January 2015 to The Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research.

On the east wall of the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, the Willis organ has been renovated and greatly improved during the past year. You will be aware that Supreme Grand Chapter has funded this initiative from its reserves as the Royal Arch’s contribution towards the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England. In recognition of this contribution, the organ’s new case bears a triple tau at its top as well as on the front of the renovated console.

I am sure you would want me to congratulate all concerned with this project, which not only enhances this magnificent room, both audibly and visually, but also adds to the heritage of this building and the memory of those many Freemasons who died in World War I.

‘The renovation of the Willis organ is the Royal Arch’s contribution towards the Tercentenary of UGLE.’

Published in SGC

First concert for newly restored grand organ

Following an extensive Harrison and Harrison refurbishment and renovation of the very fine Willis Organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons' Hall an inaugural concert by Thomas Trotter, Organist of St Margaret's Westminster Abbey and Birmingham City Organist, has been planned to celebrate. Listeners are therefore cordially invited to this free event on Wednesday 30th September, 2015 at 7pm.

With works ranging from Bach and Mozart to Coates and Goss-Custard, the programme is very wide-ranging and designed to show off the brand new "Grand" Division of this versatile three-manual.

This event has now sold out.

Click on here to book your free tickets

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The New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference 2015

Please join the Connaught Club, and many other new and young masons' clubs, at Freemasons’ Hall, London, on Saturday, 24th October 2015, and take part in the first New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference

After a short introduction, representatives of each club will be given the opportunity to present any ideas they have, explain which events have worked well for their respective clubs, present best practices they’ve discovered and impart any event organising tips they might possess. Of course, no one and nothing is perfect, so tips for avoiding pitfalls will also be most welcome.

The event promises to be very insightful, informative and helpful for all clubs which attend. We believe by bringing many of the new and young masons' clubs together in this way, we can all gain from the shared knowledge and experience, and reach our shared objective – keeping new and young masons engaged with the Craft. With increased and continuous engagement with the Craft, we hope, in some small way, to prolong its existence.

We would encourage as many of the new and young masons' clubs from around the United Kingdom to attend this conference for the betterment of the masonic social clubs’ movement which is spreading, not just across the UK, but also around the world. We would also like to cordially invite any representatives from the various Provinces in the UK, which don’t currently have a ‘light blue’ or young mason club, to come along, and hopefully, be inspired to establish a club in their own Province.

The conference will start at 13.00 and last two hours, which will include time to mingle and chat to the members of other clubs, whilst enjoying some light refreshments.

After the conference, the Connaught Club’s lodge, Burgoyne Lodge No. 902, will be holding its Installation meeting, which you are most fraternally welcome to attend. The lodge will tyle at 17.00 and will be held in one of the many splendid temples at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street. Following the Lodge meeting, a three-course Festive Board will be enjoyed at a local dining venue.

If you would like to register your interest in attending the conference, please enter your details below and a member of the Club Committee will be in touch here: http://www.connaughtclub.org/nymcc2015/ 

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